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Govt waiver of compliance under PCPNDT rules, raises concerns of bigger threat

The notification has suspended some compliance needs, which could give a free hand for illegal sex determination

09 Apr 2020

Covid 19Image Courtesy:medicaldialogues.in

The outbreak of COVID19 in the country has put immense pressure on the healthcare sector. It was barely given any time to understand how it is to dealt with the novel coronavirus and it is quite natural that healthcare personnel are bearing the maximum burden of dealing with this health crisis. The government, in a bid to ease the pressure on the health sector, suspended the compliance of certain mandates of the Preconception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) (PCPNDT) Rules.

On April 4, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare issued a notification that effectively suspended implementation of Rule 8, Rule 9(8) and Rule 18A(6) of the Rules,1996 until June 30, 2020.

The notification states that this is being done “in view of the emergency situation arisen due to pandemic COVID-19, whereby entire country has been put under lockdown.” Calling it an unprecedented scenario, the notification identifies the compliance of Rule 8, Rule 9(8) and Rule 18A(6) of PCPNDT rules difficult.

The notification may be read here.

Rule 8 deals with application of re-registration of a genetic lab and clinic. The Appropriate Authority under the Act, after enquiry and examining whether the clinic etc has been complying with the PCPNDT Act and rules, can renew the registration for a period of 5 years.

Rule 9(8) requires each genetic or ultra-sound clinic or imaging centre to send complete report of all pre-conception and pregnancy related procedures conducted to the Appropriate Authority every month.

Rule 18(A) deals with the code of conduct to be observed by Appropriate Authority and requires the Appropriate Authority to send quarterly reports to the government in order to maintain full information of all registration in a specified form called Form H, among other things.

These specific regulations are the main facets of the law which keep these imaging centres and genetic labs in check, and prevent the occurrence of sex selection and eventually foeticide in the country. The main objective of the Act was to stop female foeticides in the country which have been rampant in a predominently patriarchal culture. Since this Act is being rigorously implemented, the country has seen a significant drop in cases of female foeticides.

Although this government notification does not technically allow sex selection practice in any manner, it effectively gives a free hand to clinics and imaging centres to carry out sex selection at the request of the patient and not having to maintain a record of it means there is no need for maintaining transparency. Waiving off these compliance requirements defeats the whole purpose of the Act.

The main contention against this move is that after dealing with a health crisis, or even while dealing with it, the government shouldn’t have to face another issue of illegal sex selection practice which could fast plummet to increase in female foeticide, in a country which already has a skewed sex ratio.

The All India Democratic Women’s Association has voiced its concerns on this move, “This suspension goes against the main purpose of the Act to stop sex selection by means of certain basic and vital compliances that genetic labs and clinics, etc. have to follow in keeping records and submitting these for scrutiny to the appropriate authority and for re-registration”.

Even Brinda Karat, the CPI(M) member raised her voice against this move and wrote a letter to union Health Minister, Harsh Vardhan saying, “It stands to reason that if the clinic is open and conducting tests and is duty bound to keep a record of such tests as mandated by the PCPNDT law and thus, suspending a rule that mandates that they keep records of such tests could lead to illegal procedures being conducted”.

Related:

Sonia Gandhi’s letter puts many official expenditures under the public scanner
Medical professionals forced to take to crowdfunding to source PPEs
Dharavi a ticking bomb after two fresh cases take positive Covid-19 cases up to 9?

Govt waiver of compliance under PCPNDT rules, raises concerns of bigger threat

The notification has suspended some compliance needs, which could give a free hand for illegal sex determination

Covid 19Image Courtesy:medicaldialogues.in

The outbreak of COVID19 in the country has put immense pressure on the healthcare sector. It was barely given any time to understand how it is to dealt with the novel coronavirus and it is quite natural that healthcare personnel are bearing the maximum burden of dealing with this health crisis. The government, in a bid to ease the pressure on the health sector, suspended the compliance of certain mandates of the Preconception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) (PCPNDT) Rules.

On April 4, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare issued a notification that effectively suspended implementation of Rule 8, Rule 9(8) and Rule 18A(6) of the Rules,1996 until June 30, 2020.

The notification states that this is being done “in view of the emergency situation arisen due to pandemic COVID-19, whereby entire country has been put under lockdown.” Calling it an unprecedented scenario, the notification identifies the compliance of Rule 8, Rule 9(8) and Rule 18A(6) of PCPNDT rules difficult.

The notification may be read here.

Rule 8 deals with application of re-registration of a genetic lab and clinic. The Appropriate Authority under the Act, after enquiry and examining whether the clinic etc has been complying with the PCPNDT Act and rules, can renew the registration for a period of 5 years.

Rule 9(8) requires each genetic or ultra-sound clinic or imaging centre to send complete report of all pre-conception and pregnancy related procedures conducted to the Appropriate Authority every month.

Rule 18(A) deals with the code of conduct to be observed by Appropriate Authority and requires the Appropriate Authority to send quarterly reports to the government in order to maintain full information of all registration in a specified form called Form H, among other things.

These specific regulations are the main facets of the law which keep these imaging centres and genetic labs in check, and prevent the occurrence of sex selection and eventually foeticide in the country. The main objective of the Act was to stop female foeticides in the country which have been rampant in a predominently patriarchal culture. Since this Act is being rigorously implemented, the country has seen a significant drop in cases of female foeticides.

Although this government notification does not technically allow sex selection practice in any manner, it effectively gives a free hand to clinics and imaging centres to carry out sex selection at the request of the patient and not having to maintain a record of it means there is no need for maintaining transparency. Waiving off these compliance requirements defeats the whole purpose of the Act.

The main contention against this move is that after dealing with a health crisis, or even while dealing with it, the government shouldn’t have to face another issue of illegal sex selection practice which could fast plummet to increase in female foeticide, in a country which already has a skewed sex ratio.

The All India Democratic Women’s Association has voiced its concerns on this move, “This suspension goes against the main purpose of the Act to stop sex selection by means of certain basic and vital compliances that genetic labs and clinics, etc. have to follow in keeping records and submitting these for scrutiny to the appropriate authority and for re-registration”.

Even Brinda Karat, the CPI(M) member raised her voice against this move and wrote a letter to union Health Minister, Harsh Vardhan saying, “It stands to reason that if the clinic is open and conducting tests and is duty bound to keep a record of such tests as mandated by the PCPNDT law and thus, suspending a rule that mandates that they keep records of such tests could lead to illegal procedures being conducted”.

Related:

Sonia Gandhi’s letter puts many official expenditures under the public scanner
Medical professionals forced to take to crowdfunding to source PPEs
Dharavi a ticking bomb after two fresh cases take positive Covid-19 cases up to 9?

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Sonia Gandhi’s letter puts many official expenditures under the public scanner

Most of these massive expenditures can be now seen as being too lavish and indulgent in the current economic situation

08 Apr 2020

LetterImage Courtesy:economictimes

No sooner was Congress President Sonia Gandhi's  advice to Prime Minister Modi made public, both critics and followers sat up and took notice. Social media, now fuelling news media more than ever, has made everybody online a political observer and commentator.  

Expenditure

Expenditure

The Congress President's response has the tone of a factual report and was a reply to suggestions sought by the prime minister himself. PM Modi had sought suggestions from Opposition parties at a time when the nation may be a few days away from the next stage of the Coronavirus pandemic. However, it has done something bigger. Each of the points she has raised, has put many expenditures under the public scanner. Most of these had been put on the back burner as all political, public, and media focus has been on the Coronavirus pandemic. 

She had suggested five steps, which according to her would help the government to save money and add the funds to the budget needed to deal with the pandemic. Her suggestions were not as simple as they seemed in writing. Each is a critique of massive expenditure that the Narendra Modi-led government has incurred so far, and planned for future projects that the opposition feels should not be a priority.

Topping her list of austerity measures was a “complete ban on media advertisements – television, print and online – by the Government and Public Sectors Undertakings for a period of two years.”  As reported in the Indian Express the only advertisements allowed should be Covid-19 advisories and those on issues relating to public health. “Given that the Central Government currently spend an average of Rs 1,250 crores per year on media advertisements (not including an equal or greater amount spent by PSUs and Government companies), this will free up a substantial amount to alleviate the economic and social impacts of COVID-19,” she is quoted in the IE. She has asked for a two-year ban on this expenditure.

This suggestion got a sharp response from the News Broadcasters’ Association (NBA) which has strongly opposed Sonia Gandhi’s suggestion. According to a report in the economic times the NBA has reacted strongly and issued a statement. The NBA has stated that her suggestion was “highly demoralising”, especially now when the media was out reporting on Covid-19. The statement was also shared by journalist Rajat Sharma, who heads the NBA, called it deplorable. “News Broadcasters Association (NBA) deplores Congress president Sonia Gandhi's suggestion for 2-year ban on govt ads to print, electronic, online media,” he stated.

Expenditure

Gandhi also pointed out the Rs 20,000 crore Central Vista ‘beautification’ project, and suggested that it be put on hold.

“At a time like this, such an outlay seems self-indulgent to say the least. I am certain that Parliament can function comfortably within the existing historical buildings. There is no urgent or pressing requirement that cannot be postponed until this crisis is contained. This sum could instead be allocated towards constructing new hospital infrastructure and diagnostics along with equipping our frontline workers with Personal Protection Equipment (‘PPE’s’) and better facilities,” she is quoted in news reports.

According to the IE report, Sonia Gandhi also asked the Prime Minister to 'order a proportionate reduction of 30 per cent in the expenditure budget of the Government'. She also pointed out that all the money collected for the ‘PM Cares’ fund be transferred to the ‘Prime Minister's National Relief Fund’. This brand new ‘PM Cares’ fund has been in the spotlight and questions have already been asked about the need for this second fund, and also how even government doctors were being ‘encouraged’ to ‘donate’ to it. Many celebrities, including actors, sports-persons, industrialists have made public declarations of their support and promised big donations to the fund.

Gandhi said “it seems like a waste of effort and resources to have and create two separate silos for the distribution of funds.” She added that the yet to be utilised Rs 3,800 crores of the  PM-NRF, and the additional money from the PM-Cares fund will ensure security to those who need it most urgently.

Her other suggestions also put a critical spotlight on the other big expenditures this government has undertaken on foreign visits by the prime minister, president, vice president and other union ministers, state chief ministers etc. One of the sharpest suggestions include the suspension of international travel by the Prime Minister, as well as other dignitaries. Gandhi put it on record once again that these international trips by the PM,and ministers had cost Rs 393 crore, in the past five years. She suggested that the PM allow travel in special cases, and the money saved can be used for anti-Covid-19 programmes.

Gandhi has, of course, supported the ordinance slashing the salaries of all Members of Parliament by 30 per cent. “Every single Indian has made great personal sacrifices to fight this disease. They have complied with every suggestion, instruction and decision taken by your office and the Central Government. It is time that the legislature and the executive reciprocate this trust and good faith,” she stated.

Sonia Gandhi’s letter puts many official expenditures under the public scanner

Most of these massive expenditures can be now seen as being too lavish and indulgent in the current economic situation

LetterImage Courtesy:economictimes

No sooner was Congress President Sonia Gandhi's  advice to Prime Minister Modi made public, both critics and followers sat up and took notice. Social media, now fuelling news media more than ever, has made everybody online a political observer and commentator.  

Expenditure

Expenditure

The Congress President's response has the tone of a factual report and was a reply to suggestions sought by the prime minister himself. PM Modi had sought suggestions from Opposition parties at a time when the nation may be a few days away from the next stage of the Coronavirus pandemic. However, it has done something bigger. Each of the points she has raised, has put many expenditures under the public scanner. Most of these had been put on the back burner as all political, public, and media focus has been on the Coronavirus pandemic. 

She had suggested five steps, which according to her would help the government to save money and add the funds to the budget needed to deal with the pandemic. Her suggestions were not as simple as they seemed in writing. Each is a critique of massive expenditure that the Narendra Modi-led government has incurred so far, and planned for future projects that the opposition feels should not be a priority.

Topping her list of austerity measures was a “complete ban on media advertisements – television, print and online – by the Government and Public Sectors Undertakings for a period of two years.”  As reported in the Indian Express the only advertisements allowed should be Covid-19 advisories and those on issues relating to public health. “Given that the Central Government currently spend an average of Rs 1,250 crores per year on media advertisements (not including an equal or greater amount spent by PSUs and Government companies), this will free up a substantial amount to alleviate the economic and social impacts of COVID-19,” she is quoted in the IE. She has asked for a two-year ban on this expenditure.

This suggestion got a sharp response from the News Broadcasters’ Association (NBA) which has strongly opposed Sonia Gandhi’s suggestion. According to a report in the economic times the NBA has reacted strongly and issued a statement. The NBA has stated that her suggestion was “highly demoralising”, especially now when the media was out reporting on Covid-19. The statement was also shared by journalist Rajat Sharma, who heads the NBA, called it deplorable. “News Broadcasters Association (NBA) deplores Congress president Sonia Gandhi's suggestion for 2-year ban on govt ads to print, electronic, online media,” he stated.

Expenditure

Gandhi also pointed out the Rs 20,000 crore Central Vista ‘beautification’ project, and suggested that it be put on hold.

“At a time like this, such an outlay seems self-indulgent to say the least. I am certain that Parliament can function comfortably within the existing historical buildings. There is no urgent or pressing requirement that cannot be postponed until this crisis is contained. This sum could instead be allocated towards constructing new hospital infrastructure and diagnostics along with equipping our frontline workers with Personal Protection Equipment (‘PPE’s’) and better facilities,” she is quoted in news reports.

According to the IE report, Sonia Gandhi also asked the Prime Minister to 'order a proportionate reduction of 30 per cent in the expenditure budget of the Government'. She also pointed out that all the money collected for the ‘PM Cares’ fund be transferred to the ‘Prime Minister's National Relief Fund’. This brand new ‘PM Cares’ fund has been in the spotlight and questions have already been asked about the need for this second fund, and also how even government doctors were being ‘encouraged’ to ‘donate’ to it. Many celebrities, including actors, sports-persons, industrialists have made public declarations of their support and promised big donations to the fund.

Gandhi said “it seems like a waste of effort and resources to have and create two separate silos for the distribution of funds.” She added that the yet to be utilised Rs 3,800 crores of the  PM-NRF, and the additional money from the PM-Cares fund will ensure security to those who need it most urgently.

Her other suggestions also put a critical spotlight on the other big expenditures this government has undertaken on foreign visits by the prime minister, president, vice president and other union ministers, state chief ministers etc. One of the sharpest suggestions include the suspension of international travel by the Prime Minister, as well as other dignitaries. Gandhi put it on record once again that these international trips by the PM,and ministers had cost Rs 393 crore, in the past five years. She suggested that the PM allow travel in special cases, and the money saved can be used for anti-Covid-19 programmes.

Gandhi has, of course, supported the ordinance slashing the salaries of all Members of Parliament by 30 per cent. “Every single Indian has made great personal sacrifices to fight this disease. They have complied with every suggestion, instruction and decision taken by your office and the Central Government. It is time that the legislature and the executive reciprocate this trust and good faith,” she stated.

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Assam Detention Camps: Another plea in SC seeking release of those who have served two years behind bars

This plea is second of its kind, after the outbreak of COVID19 in India, the first one had asked for release of all detainees unconditionally

08 Apr 2020

Supreme CourtImage Courtesy: telegraphindia.com

A Supreme Court Bench headed by CJI SA Bobade has issued notice in a petition seeking release of those detainees who have completed two years in Assam's detention camps. There are six detention camps in Assam, all housed in district prisons, in which currently there are about 800 inmates. These detention camps house persons who have been “declared foreigner” by a Foreigners Tribunal.

The petitioner, Raju Bala Das, who himself is a detainee himself, has completed 2 years in detention and has appealed to the apex court to consider the issue of over-crowding in these detention centres which should be a matter of concern given the health crisis in the country due to COVID19 pandemic. While people are being advised to practice social distancing to save themselves from being infected by the novel corona virus, detainees are forced to live cheek-by-jowl in these camps. The petition states that the court should take into consideration the unhygienic and crowded living conditions in detention camps especially when there is no chance of the declared foreigners being deported in such times.

This petition comes close at the heels of another representation filed by an organization called “Justice and Liberty Initiative” seeking unconditional release of all the detainees languishing in detention camps. This plea had stated, “being human beings they also have at least the basic right to live and to not die of COVID-91 in the precincts of a prison, which has despicable living conditions”. It pointed out that the detainees are neither criminals, nor a threat to the society.

In May 2019, the Supreme Court had already given an order for release of detainees who have completed three years or more in detention camp. This release was however, conditional on execution of bond with two sureties of Rs. One lakh from Indian citizens and on providing verifiable address after release. After this order was passed, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) was successful in seeking release of eleven such detainees. This includes a family of three, husband, wife and son detained in Tezpur detention camp. Owing to poverty, Jainuddin, Hajira Bibi, and Kamal Ali were unable to file any bail application and CJP fought long and hard to help them get released. Further, two brothers, Samsul Ali and Abdur Rashid were also released from detention after CJP’s Assam team battled legal formalities for four months.

While these detainees have been fortunate enough to be released, there are as many as 802 people still living in detention camps, away from their families. Yesterday, a woman inmate, Robida Begum (60) died of cancer in the Kokrajhar detention camp. With her death, the toll has risen to 30 deaths since 2016. Her daughter is also an inmate of the same detention camp.

When even prisoners, who have been punished for criminal acts, are being released on parole, these detainees who are living in civil prisons in deplorable conditions feel they deserve to be released without having to go through tedious legal formalities in these times of crisis. Now that the apex court has issued notice to the government, there is still a ray of hope for these detainees. The court has scheduled the hearing for April 13.

Related:

Muslims in Assam fear they may have to bear the brunt of Tablighi Jamaat’s mistake
SC orders Teltumbde-Navlakha to surrender in one week
Bizarre letter to CJI seeks demolition of Markaz building, CBI probe in “COVID conspiracy”

Assam Detention Camps: Another plea in SC seeking release of those who have served two years behind bars

This plea is second of its kind, after the outbreak of COVID19 in India, the first one had asked for release of all detainees unconditionally

Supreme CourtImage Courtesy: telegraphindia.com

A Supreme Court Bench headed by CJI SA Bobade has issued notice in a petition seeking release of those detainees who have completed two years in Assam's detention camps. There are six detention camps in Assam, all housed in district prisons, in which currently there are about 800 inmates. These detention camps house persons who have been “declared foreigner” by a Foreigners Tribunal.

The petitioner, Raju Bala Das, who himself is a detainee himself, has completed 2 years in detention and has appealed to the apex court to consider the issue of over-crowding in these detention centres which should be a matter of concern given the health crisis in the country due to COVID19 pandemic. While people are being advised to practice social distancing to save themselves from being infected by the novel corona virus, detainees are forced to live cheek-by-jowl in these camps. The petition states that the court should take into consideration the unhygienic and crowded living conditions in detention camps especially when there is no chance of the declared foreigners being deported in such times.

This petition comes close at the heels of another representation filed by an organization called “Justice and Liberty Initiative” seeking unconditional release of all the detainees languishing in detention camps. This plea had stated, “being human beings they also have at least the basic right to live and to not die of COVID-91 in the precincts of a prison, which has despicable living conditions”. It pointed out that the detainees are neither criminals, nor a threat to the society.

In May 2019, the Supreme Court had already given an order for release of detainees who have completed three years or more in detention camp. This release was however, conditional on execution of bond with two sureties of Rs. One lakh from Indian citizens and on providing verifiable address after release. After this order was passed, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) was successful in seeking release of eleven such detainees. This includes a family of three, husband, wife and son detained in Tezpur detention camp. Owing to poverty, Jainuddin, Hajira Bibi, and Kamal Ali were unable to file any bail application and CJP fought long and hard to help them get released. Further, two brothers, Samsul Ali and Abdur Rashid were also released from detention after CJP’s Assam team battled legal formalities for four months.

While these detainees have been fortunate enough to be released, there are as many as 802 people still living in detention camps, away from their families. Yesterday, a woman inmate, Robida Begum (60) died of cancer in the Kokrajhar detention camp. With her death, the toll has risen to 30 deaths since 2016. Her daughter is also an inmate of the same detention camp.

When even prisoners, who have been punished for criminal acts, are being released on parole, these detainees who are living in civil prisons in deplorable conditions feel they deserve to be released without having to go through tedious legal formalities in these times of crisis. Now that the apex court has issued notice to the government, there is still a ray of hope for these detainees. The court has scheduled the hearing for April 13.

Related:

Muslims in Assam fear they may have to bear the brunt of Tablighi Jamaat’s mistake
SC orders Teltumbde-Navlakha to surrender in one week
Bizarre letter to CJI seeks demolition of Markaz building, CBI probe in “COVID conspiracy”

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Sedition charge slapped on Assam MLA for “objectionable” comments on quarantine facilities

The complaint was filed on the basis an audio clip which went viral and was allegedly shared by the MLA himself

08 Apr 2020

Sedition ChargeImage Courtesy:ndtv.com

On April 7, Assam MLA Aminul Islam was arrested on some serious charges of sedition after he allegedly made some comments about the quarantine facilities where the Tablighi Jamaat returnees were kept. The All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), the political party to which he belongs, immediately distanced itself from the comments made by Islam saying they are his personal comments and the party had nothing to do with it. The party in fact issued a statement that the party condemned his comments and that the law must take its own course.

The Telegraph reported that H.R.A. Choudhury, chairman of the Minorities Consultative Committee, Assam, an umbrella body of leading Muslim organisations, also said it was Islam’s personal comment and that the law would take its own course.

Islam, who is a senior opposition and hails from Dhing constituency was arrested on charges of Sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion), 124A (sedition) and 295A (outraging religious feelings) of the IPC. He has been sent to 14 days of judicial custody by a local court in Nagaon.

The complaint was made on the basis of a widely circulated audio clip of a conversation between Islam and an unidentified person. In this audio clip, Islam allegedly said that the quarantine centres in Assam were worse than detention centres and he allegedly blamed the state government for sending healthy Tablighi Jamaat returnees to quarantine and that the state government was trying to defame them by tagging them as COVID19 positive patients. Mr. Islam also allegedly accused the state government of conspiring against Muslims and further claimed that the medical staff in the quarantine were harassing the Jamaat returnees  and giving injections to healthy people.

Nagaon’s deputy commissioner Jadav Saikia claimed that the social media was misused by Islam for spreading wrong information. On questioning, Mr. Islam, reportedly confessed that the voice in the clip was his and that he was the one who circulated the audio clip through Whatsapp.

Why sedition?

The charge of sedition, however seems misplaced in this case. The offence is categorised as a non bailable offence for which the punishment is a minimum of three years and can go up to life imprisonment plus fine. 

Sedition, under section 124A of IPC is defined as follows:

Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards,  the Government estab­lished by law in India, shall be punished with im­prisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with impris­onment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine. 

This section within Indian criminal law has been widely misused by governments, especially of late. There has been much debate on the necessity of retaining a section in our law that harks back to the laws of the colonial era law when we were under a repressive regime under the British. How does such a section merit existence in a democracy? Does it not give unbalanced power to the state and its law enforcement? The charge of sedition was used by our colonizers, the British government, to discourage criticism of the government, severely curtailing both freedom movement and expression. The need of the law of sedition in a democracy, with a duly elected government is far from justified. Any valid criticism of the government may also be classified as sedition if it has a tendency to excite contempt towards the government.

In the recent past as well, charge of sedition has been arbitrarily used by governments, specially in the background of ardent protests across the country against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). For example, in the case of the Karnataka school play which criticised the Prime Minister, sedition was slapped on the principal of the school and a parent of one of the school children who participated in the play. Further, in Jharkhand around 3,000 people were slapped with sedition charge for carrying out a protest rally against CAA without taking requisite permission. This case was however dealt with by the state government by dropping the charge of sedition against the protesters.

In the present case, however, the statements of Mr. Islam may be perceived as being false news and wrong information being passed on by him. This is surely not a one-off incident where people knowingly or unknowingly pass on information which may be false and end up criticising the government basis the same. While this may deserve a rap especially at the time of national crisis that this pandemic has become, surely the charge of sedition is not justified. There are other laws that take care of such offences, especially in the current times when a few laws have been specially invoked to deal with the epidemic outbreak of COVID19.

The section 54 of the Disaster Management Act, under which COVID19 has been declared a “notified disaster” seems ideal in this case.

54. Punishment for false warning.—Whoever makes or circulates a false alarm or warning as to disaster or its severity or magnitude, leading to panic, shall on conviction, be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to one year or with fine. —Whoever makes or circulates a false alarm or warning as to disaster or its severity or magnitude, leading to panic, shall on conviction, be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to one year or with fine."

Given the current situation where the country is dealing with an unprecedented health crisis, the government’s focus should be on dealing with it by making use of suitable laws instead of invoking serious charges on relatively less serious offences. This will not only help the justice system to cope with the burden of cases but will also help the law enforcement focus primarily on enforcing epidemic related laws.

Related:

Woman inmate of Kokrajhar Detention Camp dies
Muslims in Assam fear they may have to bear the brunt of Tablighi Jamaat’s mistake
Nobody can intimidate India, nor threaten us: Opposition to PM

Sedition charge slapped on Assam MLA for “objectionable” comments on quarantine facilities

The complaint was filed on the basis an audio clip which went viral and was allegedly shared by the MLA himself

Sedition ChargeImage Courtesy:ndtv.com

On April 7, Assam MLA Aminul Islam was arrested on some serious charges of sedition after he allegedly made some comments about the quarantine facilities where the Tablighi Jamaat returnees were kept. The All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), the political party to which he belongs, immediately distanced itself from the comments made by Islam saying they are his personal comments and the party had nothing to do with it. The party in fact issued a statement that the party condemned his comments and that the law must take its own course.

The Telegraph reported that H.R.A. Choudhury, chairman of the Minorities Consultative Committee, Assam, an umbrella body of leading Muslim organisations, also said it was Islam’s personal comment and that the law would take its own course.

Islam, who is a senior opposition and hails from Dhing constituency was arrested on charges of Sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion), 124A (sedition) and 295A (outraging religious feelings) of the IPC. He has been sent to 14 days of judicial custody by a local court in Nagaon.

The complaint was made on the basis of a widely circulated audio clip of a conversation between Islam and an unidentified person. In this audio clip, Islam allegedly said that the quarantine centres in Assam were worse than detention centres and he allegedly blamed the state government for sending healthy Tablighi Jamaat returnees to quarantine and that the state government was trying to defame them by tagging them as COVID19 positive patients. Mr. Islam also allegedly accused the state government of conspiring against Muslims and further claimed that the medical staff in the quarantine were harassing the Jamaat returnees  and giving injections to healthy people.

Nagaon’s deputy commissioner Jadav Saikia claimed that the social media was misused by Islam for spreading wrong information. On questioning, Mr. Islam, reportedly confessed that the voice in the clip was his and that he was the one who circulated the audio clip through Whatsapp.

Why sedition?

The charge of sedition, however seems misplaced in this case. The offence is categorised as a non bailable offence for which the punishment is a minimum of three years and can go up to life imprisonment plus fine. 

Sedition, under section 124A of IPC is defined as follows:

Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards,  the Government estab­lished by law in India, shall be punished with im­prisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with impris­onment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine. 

This section within Indian criminal law has been widely misused by governments, especially of late. There has been much debate on the necessity of retaining a section in our law that harks back to the laws of the colonial era law when we were under a repressive regime under the British. How does such a section merit existence in a democracy? Does it not give unbalanced power to the state and its law enforcement? The charge of sedition was used by our colonizers, the British government, to discourage criticism of the government, severely curtailing both freedom movement and expression. The need of the law of sedition in a democracy, with a duly elected government is far from justified. Any valid criticism of the government may also be classified as sedition if it has a tendency to excite contempt towards the government.

In the recent past as well, charge of sedition has been arbitrarily used by governments, specially in the background of ardent protests across the country against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). For example, in the case of the Karnataka school play which criticised the Prime Minister, sedition was slapped on the principal of the school and a parent of one of the school children who participated in the play. Further, in Jharkhand around 3,000 people were slapped with sedition charge for carrying out a protest rally against CAA without taking requisite permission. This case was however dealt with by the state government by dropping the charge of sedition against the protesters.

In the present case, however, the statements of Mr. Islam may be perceived as being false news and wrong information being passed on by him. This is surely not a one-off incident where people knowingly or unknowingly pass on information which may be false and end up criticising the government basis the same. While this may deserve a rap especially at the time of national crisis that this pandemic has become, surely the charge of sedition is not justified. There are other laws that take care of such offences, especially in the current times when a few laws have been specially invoked to deal with the epidemic outbreak of COVID19.

The section 54 of the Disaster Management Act, under which COVID19 has been declared a “notified disaster” seems ideal in this case.

54. Punishment for false warning.—Whoever makes or circulates a false alarm or warning as to disaster or its severity or magnitude, leading to panic, shall on conviction, be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to one year or with fine. —Whoever makes or circulates a false alarm or warning as to disaster or its severity or magnitude, leading to panic, shall on conviction, be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to one year or with fine."

Given the current situation where the country is dealing with an unprecedented health crisis, the government’s focus should be on dealing with it by making use of suitable laws instead of invoking serious charges on relatively less serious offences. This will not only help the justice system to cope with the burden of cases but will also help the law enforcement focus primarily on enforcing epidemic related laws.

Related:

Woman inmate of Kokrajhar Detention Camp dies
Muslims in Assam fear they may have to bear the brunt of Tablighi Jamaat’s mistake
Nobody can intimidate India, nor threaten us: Opposition to PM

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Nobody can intimidate India, nor threaten us: Opposition to PM

In fight against Covid-19, Indians have a first right over life saving drug hydroxychloroquine!

08 Apr 2020

MedicineImage Courtesy: deccanherald.com

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, who has served as  under Secretary General of the United Nations, has continued to keep the spotlight on India’s export of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), and other drugs, to the United States of America, in face of a possible ‘retaliation’ if the earlier ban continued.

Today, on April 8, Tharoor bounced the ball back in the court of  US President Trump and asked him to give something back in return for HCQ, “Mr President @realDonaldTrump, since India has selflessly agreed to give you the supply you seek of hydroxychloroquine, will you grant India first priority in sharing with us any #COVID19 vaccine that might be developed in US labs?”

On April 7, he had  also taken on Trump’s claim on the medication,  “Never in my decades of experience in world affairs have I heard a Head of State or Govt openly threatening another like this. What makes Indian hydroxychloroquine ‘our supply’, Mr President? It only becomes your supply when India decides to sell it to you.” he said.

Senior Congress leader and its working committee member  Randeep Singh Surjewala, had reflected a collective ire against the Centre’s decision to restart exporting hydroxychloroquine after  US Presidents said he may ‘retaliate’ if India did not comply. Surejewala’s short video that he posted on social media sums up the collective reaction Of the Opposition, as well as many citizens who were taken aback at how swiftly the ban was lifted on the slightest pressure from Trump.

Lifting the ban, Opposition parties have said that was a betrayal of Indians whose needs for medicines should be priorities before any exports are allowed. “No one can browbeat, pressurize or intimidate India. Smt. Indira Gandhi laid the template for future governments. In fight against #COVID, Indian have a first right over life saving drug hydroxychloroquine! Time to follow “Raj Dharma” & “India First” policy!” posted Surjewala. 

Prime Minister Modi’s quick response to the US President's statement is seen as a sign of weakness by many. Indian political leaders have said that the PM should have, in fact, stood up to the US president's intimidating words. According to CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, the statement by the US President was unacceptable and PM Modi had, “succumbed to the threat by allowing the export. That this happened after an expensive gala was organised for him by Modi, instead of preparing to contain Covid-19, shows how this government has let down India.”

According to news reports, Yechury also said that India should prioritise the medical  requirements of Indians first as the nation is fighting against Covid-19 pandemic. He said that India could not afford to risk any “shortages of crucial drugs here. There are no compromises in this struggle to protect Indian lives.”

Senior leaders, who themselves have been at the forefront of fighting the pandemic in their own states have also criticised the fact that the ban was lifted without even consulting state governments. According to a report in the Hindu, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has criticized the export of HCQ and said PPEs and other lifesaving equipment has also been exported by the Indian government recently. “A huge number of PPEs and ventilators were exported in the last few days. No details of this have been provided by the Centre yet. This is beyond our understanding,” he said. All the equipment, specially PPEs need to be stockpiled as the Coronavirus pandemic progresses to the next stages across India. According to Gehlot, the Rajasthan government may have to import  PPEs from China to combat the shortfall. “It is a question of life and death. The Centre will have to consider all the aspects. We have to save the lives of people. That should be the first priority,” he said.

Prime Minister Modi and President Trump have always showcased their interactions at massive political events, in India recently and in America before that, as ‘friendship’ between two nations. However is this the time to be friendship, or responsible leadership, is what many are asking. 

Why would Trump even mention ‘relailation if he was a friend of India?' was a point raised. Congress’s media in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala had said Trump has no right to threaten India or put pressure on Prime Minister Modi to lift the ban on import. “We hope Modi will take diplomatic measures against such language used by the US President and ensure the safety of Indians,” Surjewala said.

News reports quoted Congress leader and Member of Parliament, Rahul Gandhi saying that  retaliation should not be a factor, “India must help all nations in their hour of need but lifesaving medicines should be made available to Indians in ample quantities first,” he said.

The demand for the drug in the US has been fueled by the president himself mentioning it as a possible cure. However, leading american scientists, including White House coronavirus task force member Anthony Fauci, said the reports that the drug might work were “anecdotal, and said there needs to be further study before its use is encouraged.”

According to Bloomberg Indian manufacturers exported and fulfilled around 47%  of hydroxychloroquine requirements of the U.S, last year. This would have come to a standstill after the ban on the anti-malaria drug that had been “touted by President Donald Trump as a “game changer” for treating the coronavirus” said the report.

India’s export ban, it explained, was aimed at ensuring enough domestic supply for Indians to use. Trump’s personal endorsement of HCQ had set off a massive stockpiling of the anti-malaria medication around the world, said another Bloomberg report. Many countries had banned exports of various items, from food grains, to masks, to certain medication and equipment, to prioritise and meet domestic needs and demands first.

Related:

Shortage of PPEs, asymptomatic patients putting healthcare staff at risk?
ICMR revises Covid-19 testing protocol

Nobody can intimidate India, nor threaten us: Opposition to PM

In fight against Covid-19, Indians have a first right over life saving drug hydroxychloroquine!

MedicineImage Courtesy: deccanherald.com

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, who has served as  under Secretary General of the United Nations, has continued to keep the spotlight on India’s export of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), and other drugs, to the United States of America, in face of a possible ‘retaliation’ if the earlier ban continued.

Today, on April 8, Tharoor bounced the ball back in the court of  US President Trump and asked him to give something back in return for HCQ, “Mr President @realDonaldTrump, since India has selflessly agreed to give you the supply you seek of hydroxychloroquine, will you grant India first priority in sharing with us any #COVID19 vaccine that might be developed in US labs?”

On April 7, he had  also taken on Trump’s claim on the medication,  “Never in my decades of experience in world affairs have I heard a Head of State or Govt openly threatening another like this. What makes Indian hydroxychloroquine ‘our supply’, Mr President? It only becomes your supply when India decides to sell it to you.” he said.

Senior Congress leader and its working committee member  Randeep Singh Surjewala, had reflected a collective ire against the Centre’s decision to restart exporting hydroxychloroquine after  US Presidents said he may ‘retaliate’ if India did not comply. Surejewala’s short video that he posted on social media sums up the collective reaction Of the Opposition, as well as many citizens who were taken aback at how swiftly the ban was lifted on the slightest pressure from Trump.

Lifting the ban, Opposition parties have said that was a betrayal of Indians whose needs for medicines should be priorities before any exports are allowed. “No one can browbeat, pressurize or intimidate India. Smt. Indira Gandhi laid the template for future governments. In fight against #COVID, Indian have a first right over life saving drug hydroxychloroquine! Time to follow “Raj Dharma” & “India First” policy!” posted Surjewala. 

Prime Minister Modi’s quick response to the US President's statement is seen as a sign of weakness by many. Indian political leaders have said that the PM should have, in fact, stood up to the US president's intimidating words. According to CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, the statement by the US President was unacceptable and PM Modi had, “succumbed to the threat by allowing the export. That this happened after an expensive gala was organised for him by Modi, instead of preparing to contain Covid-19, shows how this government has let down India.”

According to news reports, Yechury also said that India should prioritise the medical  requirements of Indians first as the nation is fighting against Covid-19 pandemic. He said that India could not afford to risk any “shortages of crucial drugs here. There are no compromises in this struggle to protect Indian lives.”

Senior leaders, who themselves have been at the forefront of fighting the pandemic in their own states have also criticised the fact that the ban was lifted without even consulting state governments. According to a report in the Hindu, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has criticized the export of HCQ and said PPEs and other lifesaving equipment has also been exported by the Indian government recently. “A huge number of PPEs and ventilators were exported in the last few days. No details of this have been provided by the Centre yet. This is beyond our understanding,” he said. All the equipment, specially PPEs need to be stockpiled as the Coronavirus pandemic progresses to the next stages across India. According to Gehlot, the Rajasthan government may have to import  PPEs from China to combat the shortfall. “It is a question of life and death. The Centre will have to consider all the aspects. We have to save the lives of people. That should be the first priority,” he said.

Prime Minister Modi and President Trump have always showcased their interactions at massive political events, in India recently and in America before that, as ‘friendship’ between two nations. However is this the time to be friendship, or responsible leadership, is what many are asking. 

Why would Trump even mention ‘relailation if he was a friend of India?' was a point raised. Congress’s media in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala had said Trump has no right to threaten India or put pressure on Prime Minister Modi to lift the ban on import. “We hope Modi will take diplomatic measures against such language used by the US President and ensure the safety of Indians,” Surjewala said.

News reports quoted Congress leader and Member of Parliament, Rahul Gandhi saying that  retaliation should not be a factor, “India must help all nations in their hour of need but lifesaving medicines should be made available to Indians in ample quantities first,” he said.

The demand for the drug in the US has been fueled by the president himself mentioning it as a possible cure. However, leading american scientists, including White House coronavirus task force member Anthony Fauci, said the reports that the drug might work were “anecdotal, and said there needs to be further study before its use is encouraged.”

According to Bloomberg Indian manufacturers exported and fulfilled around 47%  of hydroxychloroquine requirements of the U.S, last year. This would have come to a standstill after the ban on the anti-malaria drug that had been “touted by President Donald Trump as a “game changer” for treating the coronavirus” said the report.

India’s export ban, it explained, was aimed at ensuring enough domestic supply for Indians to use. Trump’s personal endorsement of HCQ had set off a massive stockpiling of the anti-malaria medication around the world, said another Bloomberg report. Many countries had banned exports of various items, from food grains, to masks, to certain medication and equipment, to prioritise and meet domestic needs and demands first.

Related:

Shortage of PPEs, asymptomatic patients putting healthcare staff at risk?
ICMR revises Covid-19 testing protocol

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Woman inmate of Kokrajhar Detention Camp dies

Robida Begum was suffering from cancer, her daughter is also a detainee at the same camp

08 Apr 2020

Detention campImage Courtesy:telegraphindia.com

Robida Begum alias Roba Begum, a 60-year-old woman inmate of the Kokrajhar Detention Camp in Assam, is the latest detainee to die in the state. She was suffering from cancer of the bladder. Kokrajhar is only one of the six detention camps that operate out of makeshift facilities in local prisons in Assam. With her death, the toll for inmate deaths since 2016 stands at 30. 

Robida Begum hailed from Dima Hasao district and had been lodged at the Kokrajhar camp since February 2018 after being declared foreigner.

The Telegraph reported that a doctor at the RNB civil hospital, Kokrajhar, confirmed the death on Tuesday. He said that the woman was suffering from gall bladder cancer for a long time and was admitted to the hospital on March 22. He added that her body was sent for a post-mortem to Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed Medical College and Hospital, Barpeta, on Monday.

He said, “She underwent treatment at B. Barooah Cancer Institute in Guwahati and Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed Medical College and Hospital in Barpeta before her death at the Kokrajhar civil hospital.”

Dasarath Das, Inspector General of Prisons told The Hindu, “She was from Krishnanagar in Hojai district and had been undergoing treatment for cancer and other ailments for a long time. She spent some time at the B. Barooah Cancer Institute in Guwahati and the Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed Medical College and Hospital in Barpeta before her death at the Kokrajhar Civil Hospital.”

Mentioning that the local administration had made arrangements for the body of the deceased to be taken to her village for a burial he said, “We expect to get the deceased’s medical history after the post-mortem is done at the Barpeta medical college today (Tuesday).”

Islamuddin (30), one of Begum’s grandsons who works as a daily-wage labourer in Lumding town of Hojai district, told The Indian Express over the phone that his mother (Begum’s daughter) Mina was also in the same detention facility. “My mother and grandmother were picked up the same day. Now, my grandmother is gone, and my mother is alone there. She was suffering for a long time from cancer.”

“We have not filed an appeal against the Foreigners’ Tribunal in the High Court. I could not even afford transportation of my grandmother’s body to Lumding and government officials arranged for it,” he added.

He also informed that along with him, his three brothers and one sister too had been left out of the NRC. However, all his uncles were included in the NRC.

Roba Begum’s death is the second in Assam in 2020. Before her, Naresh Koch, a daily wager from Tinkoniapara village, who was detained in the Goalpara detention centre since March 2018 died in January this year.

Many organizations like, the Amnesty International and the Justice for Liberty Initiative have written to the Supreme Court of India asking that it order the release of more than 800 people in the six detention centres on humanitarian grounds in light of the dangers during the Coronavirus outbreak.

CJP's efforts to assist detainees

Meanwhile, CJP is helping people who have completed three years in detention camps get released on bail. This is in line with a May 2019 Supreme Court order. So far, 11 people have been released on bail with CJP's assistance. CJP undertook the painstaking process of helping collect and authenticate documents of sureties required for applying for the bail. The process is tedious and time consuming often requiring running from pillar to post for months together! In fact in two out of these eleven cases, CJP also bore all expenses related to document collection and submission.

Related:

CJP helps secure release of two brothers from Assam detention Camp
Anxiety in Assam: Hurdles in releasing detention camp inmates
NRC related fears claim one more life in Assam

 

Woman inmate of Kokrajhar Detention Camp dies

Robida Begum was suffering from cancer, her daughter is also a detainee at the same camp

Detention campImage Courtesy:telegraphindia.com

Robida Begum alias Roba Begum, a 60-year-old woman inmate of the Kokrajhar Detention Camp in Assam, is the latest detainee to die in the state. She was suffering from cancer of the bladder. Kokrajhar is only one of the six detention camps that operate out of makeshift facilities in local prisons in Assam. With her death, the toll for inmate deaths since 2016 stands at 30. 

Robida Begum hailed from Dima Hasao district and had been lodged at the Kokrajhar camp since February 2018 after being declared foreigner.

The Telegraph reported that a doctor at the RNB civil hospital, Kokrajhar, confirmed the death on Tuesday. He said that the woman was suffering from gall bladder cancer for a long time and was admitted to the hospital on March 22. He added that her body was sent for a post-mortem to Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed Medical College and Hospital, Barpeta, on Monday.

He said, “She underwent treatment at B. Barooah Cancer Institute in Guwahati and Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed Medical College and Hospital in Barpeta before her death at the Kokrajhar civil hospital.”

Dasarath Das, Inspector General of Prisons told The Hindu, “She was from Krishnanagar in Hojai district and had been undergoing treatment for cancer and other ailments for a long time. She spent some time at the B. Barooah Cancer Institute in Guwahati and the Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed Medical College and Hospital in Barpeta before her death at the Kokrajhar Civil Hospital.”

Mentioning that the local administration had made arrangements for the body of the deceased to be taken to her village for a burial he said, “We expect to get the deceased’s medical history after the post-mortem is done at the Barpeta medical college today (Tuesday).”

Islamuddin (30), one of Begum’s grandsons who works as a daily-wage labourer in Lumding town of Hojai district, told The Indian Express over the phone that his mother (Begum’s daughter) Mina was also in the same detention facility. “My mother and grandmother were picked up the same day. Now, my grandmother is gone, and my mother is alone there. She was suffering for a long time from cancer.”

“We have not filed an appeal against the Foreigners’ Tribunal in the High Court. I could not even afford transportation of my grandmother’s body to Lumding and government officials arranged for it,” he added.

He also informed that along with him, his three brothers and one sister too had been left out of the NRC. However, all his uncles were included in the NRC.

Roba Begum’s death is the second in Assam in 2020. Before her, Naresh Koch, a daily wager from Tinkoniapara village, who was detained in the Goalpara detention centre since March 2018 died in January this year.

Many organizations like, the Amnesty International and the Justice for Liberty Initiative have written to the Supreme Court of India asking that it order the release of more than 800 people in the six detention centres on humanitarian grounds in light of the dangers during the Coronavirus outbreak.

CJP's efforts to assist detainees

Meanwhile, CJP is helping people who have completed three years in detention camps get released on bail. This is in line with a May 2019 Supreme Court order. So far, 11 people have been released on bail with CJP's assistance. CJP undertook the painstaking process of helping collect and authenticate documents of sureties required for applying for the bail. The process is tedious and time consuming often requiring running from pillar to post for months together! In fact in two out of these eleven cases, CJP also bore all expenses related to document collection and submission.

Related:

CJP helps secure release of two brothers from Assam detention Camp
Anxiety in Assam: Hurdles in releasing detention camp inmates
NRC related fears claim one more life in Assam

 

Related Articles


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Changing the Domicile in Jammu and Kashmir

BJP’s long-term plan to colonise Kashmir?

07 Apr 2020

J&K

That the Modi Government will bring in a law altering the definition of resident or domicile in Jammu and Kashmir was a foregone conclusion. During his election campaign in 2019, Modi had promised to abrogate Article 370. The RSS could not live with the fact that Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is a Muslim majority region and that its Muslim majority status was protected by law, i.e. Article 370 and its section 35 A. The fact that it waited nearly eight months to make this change is surprising. Presumably, the country wide agitation caused by the enactment of CAA and the proposed NPR and NRC had made them pause. Now that the country is in a lockdown, thanks to the dreaded Corona Virus, people are in quarantine and police are out there to ensure no one can come out to protest, it has brought in the new law.

As Prof. Siddiq Wahid, former Vice Chancellor of J&K Islamic University said, “I think it illustrates clearly that some will not stop from politicking during coronavirus."  All political parties of Jammu and Kashmir have opposed the new domicile law. Civil society groups have condemned it. Retired Air vice Marshal Kapil Kak, who has challenged the abrogation of Article 370 in the Supreme Court, told Al Jazeera " (it is) a permanent resident by stealth". "It should worry the Kashmiris … The effect of this notification would be felt in [the] Jammu [region] because there are not many people who have come into Kashmir in the last 15 years."

Even the BJP blessed, J&K Apni Party president Altaf Bukhari, said, “This order in its entirety is a casual attempt, cosmetic in nature, to hoodwink the people of J&K who genuinely believed that post October 31, 2019, their rights and privileges in the matter of employment and other rights would remain as it had been.” And speaking about double speak and lies, on March 15, 2020, when a group of Kashmiri political leaders had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi, on the issue of domicile in statehood, both of them had issued statements later, reiterating their commitment to protecting rights of J&K people.

According to the new law all those who have lived in J&K for 15 years, as well as those who studied there for at least seven years and appeared for Class 10 and 12 exams from an educational institution in Jammu and Kashmir will be recognised as a domicile. The new law has expanded the definition to include “children of those central government officials, all India services officers, officials of Public Sector Undertakings children of Central government employees, PSUs and autonomous body of central government, public sector banks, officials of statutory bodies, officials of central universities and recognised research institutes of central government who have served in Jammu and Kashmir for a total period of ten years or children of parents who fulfil any of the conditions…” Under this law, now the “Tehsildar” has been given the power to issue domicile certificate. Earlier it was the Deputy Commissioner who was empowered.

However, Jammu and Kashmir is not the only state where special laws meant for preserving the identity are in force. Nagaland has Article 371A and outsiders need a special permit to enter the state. Similarly, the neighbouring state of Himachal Pradesh has a domicile law which prevents outsiders to purchase land there. Himachal Pradesh is ruled by the BJP and Nagaland’s government is supported by BJP. Yet, when it comes to implement the one India slogan in letter and spirit, states like Nagaland and Himachal are forgotten.

Until now, state government jobs in Jammu and Kashmir were reserved for the permanent residents of the state as defined in section 6 of the J&K Constitution. The J&K Constitution has been repealed. Through the new law, the Centre has repealed the Jammu and Kashmir Civil Services Special Provisions Act. Initially only Class IV category of government jobs, such as junior assistants and peons, have been reserved for residents, or domiciles, of J&K with pay up to Rupees. 25,500 per month. All other category of government jobs, including judicial services were opened to people from all over the country. 

However, after the law was criticised by almost all J&K political parties and social organisations, including supporters of BJP in Jammu and the newly formed Kashmiri political party which was blessed by the BJP, the government on April 3, decided modify the order. Now all jobs under the J K Administration are reserved only for those certified as domiciled in Jammu and Kashmir. The press conference addressed by the IGP of Kashmir, threatening to, “arrest those instigating people against the new domicile law” shows that  despite the lockdown, people of J&K were giving expression to their anger and opposition to this sneaky mid-night move of the Central government to take away the protection of “State Subjects”. According to the IGP of J&K, posting messages opposing the new domicile law is misuse of social media and punishable under the orders of the government. Clearly, in Jammu and Kashmir, the people do not have any rights, and criticism of the government is illegal. Mr. Bukhari, the leader of J&K Apni Party changed his tune after the Central government modified the rules and extended reservation to all categories and classes of jobs.

The whole purpose of revoking Article 370 was to settle outsiders here and change the demography of the state. Now this law has been created to provide the modalities to settle many categories of Indians in Jammu and Kashmir. As Siddiq Wahid said, “it is an attempt to change the demographics, not only change but flood it. It will lead to demographic flooding." The abrogation of Article 370 and 35 A in August 2019 and the changing of the domicile law is the other side of the strikes across the border after Pulwama massacre. It is a direct assault on the people of Jammu and Kashmir, for what the BJP calls internal rectification required for “full and complete integration of Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of India.”

The Background

The State Subject Law, which was enacted in 1927 by Maharaja Hari Singh is an integral part of Kashmiri people’s struggle for equality and democratic rights. The State Subject movement had a distinctive feature of its own as it amalgamated both the regions on this issue i.e. Jammu under Dogra Sadr Sabha and Kashmir under Pandits. One of the annual conference of Dogra Sadr Sabha held at Srinagar on October 1926 in which Pandit Jia Lal Kilam moved a resolution, demanding that only those persons whose ancestors had been residing in the state since the time of Maharaja Gulab Singh should be considered as the hereditary State Subjects and be given preferential treatment in the state-services to such persons. Finally, the issue came up again towards the beginning of the Maharaja Hari Singh’s regime. The Maharaja appointed a commission under the chairmanship of Major General Janak Singh, the then revenue minister, to define the term. The commission comprised officials and non-officials including the natives and the outsiders. The constitution of the State-Subject Definition Committee was broad based and the representation was given to all the sections of the population of the state including the Kashmiris, the Dogra and the Punjabis. The definition of state subject and law was framed in 1927 under the rule of Maharaja Hari Singh. It was the Kashmiri Pandits who had played an important role in getting the legislation framed as the issue was largely irrelevant to Kashmiri Muslims, who were shut out of the employment pool almost entirely, due to their comparative socio-economic disadvantage and the communal nature of Dogra rule.  

The worst feature of the Dogra rule was its communal outlook. It discriminated against the Muslims on the basis of their religion and also interfered in their religious affairs. The Dogra State was actually a Hindu State and its rulers tried their best to broaden its Hindu nature. As a result Kashmiri Pandits, the Hindu community of the valley, were associated with it and the Muslims were marginalised. In the field of education, Kashmir was lagging behind in the whole subcontinent. Though modern education began in Kashmir in 1880, but it was the Kashmiri Pandits who took advantage of it. The Pandits were advanced in education because of the facilities provided by the Government which were not provided to the Muslims. As the Muslims were mostly uneducated, they were not employed in the state’s public service.

With the turn of the century the Muslims became conscious and started thinking about their community. They sent petitions and requested the Government to establish the schools in their areas, but were turned down.  Muslims outside the state also highlighted the grievances of Kashmiri Muslims and supported them through their organisations, press and other means. Under pressure of growing public opinion, Maharaja Pratap Singh, in 1916 invited Sir Henry Sharp, the Educational Commissioner, and Government of India, to examine the educational system in Kashmir and to advise the future policy, and also to recommend the development of education of the Muslims. Mr. Sharp recommended the expansion of the primary schools, scholarships for the Muslims. Though Pratap Singh accepted these recommendations, his Hindu officials ignored these recommendations as they did not want Muslims to be appointed in the State services, which they considered their monopoly.

In 1920, the silk factory workers struck work to call for a pay raise. Four years later, they launched an even bigger agitation due to poor working conditions. The Reading Room Party from Srinagar agitated for improved education facilities and more administrative work opportunities for Muslims. In July 1931 Kashmir's Muslims launched their first massive protest against the unfair Hindu administration of Dogra regime. On July 13, 1931, several Kashmiri Muslims protesting the arrest of Abdul Qayyum, had taken out a procession demanding his release. To counter the spreading rebellion of Kashmiri masses, Maharaja Hari Singh passed an Ordinance which empowered troops to enforce brutal laws. Through this draconian Ordinance the city was handed over to the military and civil administration was suspended. The Rajput soldiers of Maharaja took full benefit of the Ordinance Raj over the days. The Ordinance gave troops a free hand. Soldiers entered homes, looted and raped the women. Several cases of rape were reported to Middleton, Enquiry Officer of Riots Enquiry Commission. Shopkeepers were asked to open their shops, and when they did it, they were arrested. In their absence the shops were plundered. People were forced to salute the military officers in the streets of the town.

On October 5, 1931, during the celebration of his birthday, Hari Singh asserted “I believe I am voicing the general feeling when I say that we are deeply grateful to the troops for their devotion to duty and self-restraint they have shown in maintaining the public peace and authority of law during last three months.” (The same praise is often heaped on Indian security forces, by India’s mainstream political parties, despite their horrible human rights record.) The protests gained momentum after the killings and Maharajah Hari Singh was forced to institute the Glancy Commission to inquire into the Muslim complaints.

The Glancy Commission found that in 1930 in the state’s bureaucracy, Hindus and Sikhs held 78 per cent of gazetted appointments compared to the Muslims who held only 22 percent of the jobs. The Glancy Commission submitted its report to the Maharaja on March 22, 1932.The Hindus felt that its recommendations were not in the interests their community. They started a movement against the recommendations of the Glancy Commission called “Bread Movement” asking the Maharaja not to employ Muslims in large numbers in the government. The divide between the Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmir Muslims can be traced back to this movement of Kashmir Pandits, when instead of supporting their Muslim brethren, they opposed them. This was the time, when Kashmir witnessed its first communal violence and communal killing

In 1930, the Kashmiri Muslim had only 22 percent of the gazetted jobs. Let us look at the community wise distribution of jobs in Jammu and Kashmir in the 1990s, sixty years after Glancy Commission’s recommendations. As on July 1, 1987, in J & K, nearly 57 percent of Gazetted jobs were held by Hindus and Sikhs, while the Kashmir Muslims held 41.71 percent of these positions. About one third of all persons employed in state owned corporations, undertakings, autonomous bodies and banks in J&K were Hindus. When we look at the community wise breakdown of employment in Central government establishments in Jammu and Kashmir in 1989, we see that in the “Officer”, Hindu employees constituted about 83 percent while only about 6 percent of the “Officers” were Muslim. Considering that Hindus and Sikhs together constituted about 36.5 percent and the Muslims comprised of 64.15 of the population of J & K (1990/91), it clearly shows that the Kashmiri Muslim never enjoyed a monopoly over jobs in the government of J & K, even under the rule of the Abdullahs. (India’s Kashmir War, Tapan Bose, Dinesh Mohan, Gautam Navlakha Sumanta Bannerjee; Economic & Political Weekly, March 31, 1990)

A document, which according to a government official, provided the rationale for the removal of special status of Jammu and Kashmir was published by the Hindu on August 5, 2019. The document clearly spells out BJP’s reasons and objective for removal of Article 370 and 35 A. It says, “There exists an unnecessary chasm between citizens of Kashmir and the rest of India.” The document also claims that, “… (in) Kashmir the positive discrimination has tended to be insidious. … If Indians (non-Kashmiris) cannot invest in land or property, how can manufacturing firms or multinational corporations? The moves might have provided jobs to the young people of Kashmir. It also stopped public colleges such as medical colleges from adequately fulfilling vacancies. Professors cannot be hired from outside the State except in extremely low quotas. These and many more ensure that unemployment increases, which make the advent of radicalization, more viable. Hence, Article 370, the pernicious basis of Article 35-A must go.”

Tail Piece:

The Afghan rule in Kashmir which continued for 67 years was probably the worst ever seen by the inhabitants of the valley. The stories of brutalities of the Afghan rulers make people shudder even now. Kakkar Khan, a man with flowing white beard was thought to be pious man. He was appointed Governor of Kashmir. As Kakkar Khan’s entourage reached Baramulla a funeral was passing by. The governor asked them to stop. Kashmiris were happy thinking the pious man is going to offer fateh to the departed soul. On the contrary he asked them to open the coffin and bit the ear of the deceased and shouted, “Tell the dead in the next world that Kakkar Khan has arrived in Kashmir!”

Changing the Domicile in Jammu and Kashmir

BJP’s long-term plan to colonise Kashmir?

J&K

That the Modi Government will bring in a law altering the definition of resident or domicile in Jammu and Kashmir was a foregone conclusion. During his election campaign in 2019, Modi had promised to abrogate Article 370. The RSS could not live with the fact that Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is a Muslim majority region and that its Muslim majority status was protected by law, i.e. Article 370 and its section 35 A. The fact that it waited nearly eight months to make this change is surprising. Presumably, the country wide agitation caused by the enactment of CAA and the proposed NPR and NRC had made them pause. Now that the country is in a lockdown, thanks to the dreaded Corona Virus, people are in quarantine and police are out there to ensure no one can come out to protest, it has brought in the new law.

As Prof. Siddiq Wahid, former Vice Chancellor of J&K Islamic University said, “I think it illustrates clearly that some will not stop from politicking during coronavirus."  All political parties of Jammu and Kashmir have opposed the new domicile law. Civil society groups have condemned it. Retired Air vice Marshal Kapil Kak, who has challenged the abrogation of Article 370 in the Supreme Court, told Al Jazeera " (it is) a permanent resident by stealth". "It should worry the Kashmiris … The effect of this notification would be felt in [the] Jammu [region] because there are not many people who have come into Kashmir in the last 15 years."

Even the BJP blessed, J&K Apni Party president Altaf Bukhari, said, “This order in its entirety is a casual attempt, cosmetic in nature, to hoodwink the people of J&K who genuinely believed that post October 31, 2019, their rights and privileges in the matter of employment and other rights would remain as it had been.” And speaking about double speak and lies, on March 15, 2020, when a group of Kashmiri political leaders had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi, on the issue of domicile in statehood, both of them had issued statements later, reiterating their commitment to protecting rights of J&K people.

According to the new law all those who have lived in J&K for 15 years, as well as those who studied there for at least seven years and appeared for Class 10 and 12 exams from an educational institution in Jammu and Kashmir will be recognised as a domicile. The new law has expanded the definition to include “children of those central government officials, all India services officers, officials of Public Sector Undertakings children of Central government employees, PSUs and autonomous body of central government, public sector banks, officials of statutory bodies, officials of central universities and recognised research institutes of central government who have served in Jammu and Kashmir for a total period of ten years or children of parents who fulfil any of the conditions…” Under this law, now the “Tehsildar” has been given the power to issue domicile certificate. Earlier it was the Deputy Commissioner who was empowered.

However, Jammu and Kashmir is not the only state where special laws meant for preserving the identity are in force. Nagaland has Article 371A and outsiders need a special permit to enter the state. Similarly, the neighbouring state of Himachal Pradesh has a domicile law which prevents outsiders to purchase land there. Himachal Pradesh is ruled by the BJP and Nagaland’s government is supported by BJP. Yet, when it comes to implement the one India slogan in letter and spirit, states like Nagaland and Himachal are forgotten.

Until now, state government jobs in Jammu and Kashmir were reserved for the permanent residents of the state as defined in section 6 of the J&K Constitution. The J&K Constitution has been repealed. Through the new law, the Centre has repealed the Jammu and Kashmir Civil Services Special Provisions Act. Initially only Class IV category of government jobs, such as junior assistants and peons, have been reserved for residents, or domiciles, of J&K with pay up to Rupees. 25,500 per month. All other category of government jobs, including judicial services were opened to people from all over the country. 

However, after the law was criticised by almost all J&K political parties and social organisations, including supporters of BJP in Jammu and the newly formed Kashmiri political party which was blessed by the BJP, the government on April 3, decided modify the order. Now all jobs under the J K Administration are reserved only for those certified as domiciled in Jammu and Kashmir. The press conference addressed by the IGP of Kashmir, threatening to, “arrest those instigating people against the new domicile law” shows that  despite the lockdown, people of J&K were giving expression to their anger and opposition to this sneaky mid-night move of the Central government to take away the protection of “State Subjects”. According to the IGP of J&K, posting messages opposing the new domicile law is misuse of social media and punishable under the orders of the government. Clearly, in Jammu and Kashmir, the people do not have any rights, and criticism of the government is illegal. Mr. Bukhari, the leader of J&K Apni Party changed his tune after the Central government modified the rules and extended reservation to all categories and classes of jobs.

The whole purpose of revoking Article 370 was to settle outsiders here and change the demography of the state. Now this law has been created to provide the modalities to settle many categories of Indians in Jammu and Kashmir. As Siddiq Wahid said, “it is an attempt to change the demographics, not only change but flood it. It will lead to demographic flooding." The abrogation of Article 370 and 35 A in August 2019 and the changing of the domicile law is the other side of the strikes across the border after Pulwama massacre. It is a direct assault on the people of Jammu and Kashmir, for what the BJP calls internal rectification required for “full and complete integration of Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of India.”

The Background

The State Subject Law, which was enacted in 1927 by Maharaja Hari Singh is an integral part of Kashmiri people’s struggle for equality and democratic rights. The State Subject movement had a distinctive feature of its own as it amalgamated both the regions on this issue i.e. Jammu under Dogra Sadr Sabha and Kashmir under Pandits. One of the annual conference of Dogra Sadr Sabha held at Srinagar on October 1926 in which Pandit Jia Lal Kilam moved a resolution, demanding that only those persons whose ancestors had been residing in the state since the time of Maharaja Gulab Singh should be considered as the hereditary State Subjects and be given preferential treatment in the state-services to such persons. Finally, the issue came up again towards the beginning of the Maharaja Hari Singh’s regime. The Maharaja appointed a commission under the chairmanship of Major General Janak Singh, the then revenue minister, to define the term. The commission comprised officials and non-officials including the natives and the outsiders. The constitution of the State-Subject Definition Committee was broad based and the representation was given to all the sections of the population of the state including the Kashmiris, the Dogra and the Punjabis. The definition of state subject and law was framed in 1927 under the rule of Maharaja Hari Singh. It was the Kashmiri Pandits who had played an important role in getting the legislation framed as the issue was largely irrelevant to Kashmiri Muslims, who were shut out of the employment pool almost entirely, due to their comparative socio-economic disadvantage and the communal nature of Dogra rule.  

The worst feature of the Dogra rule was its communal outlook. It discriminated against the Muslims on the basis of their religion and also interfered in their religious affairs. The Dogra State was actually a Hindu State and its rulers tried their best to broaden its Hindu nature. As a result Kashmiri Pandits, the Hindu community of the valley, were associated with it and the Muslims were marginalised. In the field of education, Kashmir was lagging behind in the whole subcontinent. Though modern education began in Kashmir in 1880, but it was the Kashmiri Pandits who took advantage of it. The Pandits were advanced in education because of the facilities provided by the Government which were not provided to the Muslims. As the Muslims were mostly uneducated, they were not employed in the state’s public service.

With the turn of the century the Muslims became conscious and started thinking about their community. They sent petitions and requested the Government to establish the schools in their areas, but were turned down.  Muslims outside the state also highlighted the grievances of Kashmiri Muslims and supported them through their organisations, press and other means. Under pressure of growing public opinion, Maharaja Pratap Singh, in 1916 invited Sir Henry Sharp, the Educational Commissioner, and Government of India, to examine the educational system in Kashmir and to advise the future policy, and also to recommend the development of education of the Muslims. Mr. Sharp recommended the expansion of the primary schools, scholarships for the Muslims. Though Pratap Singh accepted these recommendations, his Hindu officials ignored these recommendations as they did not want Muslims to be appointed in the State services, which they considered their monopoly.

In 1920, the silk factory workers struck work to call for a pay raise. Four years later, they launched an even bigger agitation due to poor working conditions. The Reading Room Party from Srinagar agitated for improved education facilities and more administrative work opportunities for Muslims. In July 1931 Kashmir's Muslims launched their first massive protest against the unfair Hindu administration of Dogra regime. On July 13, 1931, several Kashmiri Muslims protesting the arrest of Abdul Qayyum, had taken out a procession demanding his release. To counter the spreading rebellion of Kashmiri masses, Maharaja Hari Singh passed an Ordinance which empowered troops to enforce brutal laws. Through this draconian Ordinance the city was handed over to the military and civil administration was suspended. The Rajput soldiers of Maharaja took full benefit of the Ordinance Raj over the days. The Ordinance gave troops a free hand. Soldiers entered homes, looted and raped the women. Several cases of rape were reported to Middleton, Enquiry Officer of Riots Enquiry Commission. Shopkeepers were asked to open their shops, and when they did it, they were arrested. In their absence the shops were plundered. People were forced to salute the military officers in the streets of the town.

On October 5, 1931, during the celebration of his birthday, Hari Singh asserted “I believe I am voicing the general feeling when I say that we are deeply grateful to the troops for their devotion to duty and self-restraint they have shown in maintaining the public peace and authority of law during last three months.” (The same praise is often heaped on Indian security forces, by India’s mainstream political parties, despite their horrible human rights record.) The protests gained momentum after the killings and Maharajah Hari Singh was forced to institute the Glancy Commission to inquire into the Muslim complaints.

The Glancy Commission found that in 1930 in the state’s bureaucracy, Hindus and Sikhs held 78 per cent of gazetted appointments compared to the Muslims who held only 22 percent of the jobs. The Glancy Commission submitted its report to the Maharaja on March 22, 1932.The Hindus felt that its recommendations were not in the interests their community. They started a movement against the recommendations of the Glancy Commission called “Bread Movement” asking the Maharaja not to employ Muslims in large numbers in the government. The divide between the Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmir Muslims can be traced back to this movement of Kashmir Pandits, when instead of supporting their Muslim brethren, they opposed them. This was the time, when Kashmir witnessed its first communal violence and communal killing

In 1930, the Kashmiri Muslim had only 22 percent of the gazetted jobs. Let us look at the community wise distribution of jobs in Jammu and Kashmir in the 1990s, sixty years after Glancy Commission’s recommendations. As on July 1, 1987, in J & K, nearly 57 percent of Gazetted jobs were held by Hindus and Sikhs, while the Kashmir Muslims held 41.71 percent of these positions. About one third of all persons employed in state owned corporations, undertakings, autonomous bodies and banks in J&K were Hindus. When we look at the community wise breakdown of employment in Central government establishments in Jammu and Kashmir in 1989, we see that in the “Officer”, Hindu employees constituted about 83 percent while only about 6 percent of the “Officers” were Muslim. Considering that Hindus and Sikhs together constituted about 36.5 percent and the Muslims comprised of 64.15 of the population of J & K (1990/91), it clearly shows that the Kashmiri Muslim never enjoyed a monopoly over jobs in the government of J & K, even under the rule of the Abdullahs. (India’s Kashmir War, Tapan Bose, Dinesh Mohan, Gautam Navlakha Sumanta Bannerjee; Economic & Political Weekly, March 31, 1990)

A document, which according to a government official, provided the rationale for the removal of special status of Jammu and Kashmir was published by the Hindu on August 5, 2019. The document clearly spells out BJP’s reasons and objective for removal of Article 370 and 35 A. It says, “There exists an unnecessary chasm between citizens of Kashmir and the rest of India.” The document also claims that, “… (in) Kashmir the positive discrimination has tended to be insidious. … If Indians (non-Kashmiris) cannot invest in land or property, how can manufacturing firms or multinational corporations? The moves might have provided jobs to the young people of Kashmir. It also stopped public colleges such as medical colleges from adequately fulfilling vacancies. Professors cannot be hired from outside the State except in extremely low quotas. These and many more ensure that unemployment increases, which make the advent of radicalization, more viable. Hence, Article 370, the pernicious basis of Article 35-A must go.”

Tail Piece:

The Afghan rule in Kashmir which continued for 67 years was probably the worst ever seen by the inhabitants of the valley. The stories of brutalities of the Afghan rulers make people shudder even now. Kakkar Khan, a man with flowing white beard was thought to be pious man. He was appointed Governor of Kashmir. As Kakkar Khan’s entourage reached Baramulla a funeral was passing by. The governor asked them to stop. Kashmiris were happy thinking the pious man is going to offer fateh to the departed soul. On the contrary he asked them to open the coffin and bit the ear of the deceased and shouted, “Tell the dead in the next world that Kakkar Khan has arrived in Kashmir!”

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No real relief for NDTV as it receives fresh notice in alleged money laundering case

This notice comes right after SC quashed the last notice by IT Dept, for being time barred

07 Apr 2020

NoticeImage Courtesy:ndtv.com

The rat chase behind NDTV continues as the Finance Ministry wasted no time in issuing fresh notice in the NDTV Income Tax reassessment case. This was done shortly after the Supreme Court quashed the last reassessment notice issued by Income Tax Department for the year 2007-08, while still allowing issue of notice under another provision of the Act.

The notice was quashed in the apex court by a bench comprising of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Deepak Gupta on the grounds that the IT department failed to show “non-disclosure of facts” in its notice issued 4 years after the assessment year and hence it was deemed time barred by the court. However, the court clarified that it is not adjudicating on whether the IT department could take benefit of section 147 of the Income Tax Act in this case. The court said, “…the revenue may issue fresh notice taking benefit of the second proviso if otherwise permissible under law”.

According to the second proviso, the time bar of 4 years is not applicable to cases where “any income in relation to any asset located outside India has escaped assessment for any assessment year”. The case was decided in favour of NDTV, which went into appeal at the apex court against the said notice, since the notice is silent on whether it is invoking the second proviso on section 147 of the IT Act. The Court pointed out, “It is only while rejecting the objections of the assessee that reference has been made to the second proviso in the order of disposal of objections dated 23.11.2015”. The bench held that the assesee “should not be prejudiced or be taken by surprise. The uncontroverted fact is that in the notice dated 31.03.2015 there is no mention of any foreign entity”.

The court also noted that since the assessee has not gotten adequate opportunity to reply to the allegations which are now being put forth by the IT Department, the notice is deemed to be against the principles of natural justice. LiveLaw reported that the IT Department took the stand that NDTV had suppressed in the incomes it had raised in 2007-08 through foreign subsidiaries in Netherlands and United Kingdom. According to the department, the transactions with the foreign subsidiaries were “sham transactions with a view to get the undisclosed income.”

A statement issued by NDTV on its website reads, “The Supreme Court has refused to allow the Revenue Department to reopen an assessment that was decided years ago. Tax officials had sought this in 2015 alleging that NDTV had concealed facts and round tripped money. The court today has disallowed that. The Supreme Court has proved that the rule of law prevails above all else.”

The Revenue Department has however countered this statement by saying that the apex court not given a clean chit to NDTV and has rather endorsed the government’s view that there are reasons to believe that undisclosed income worth Rs. 405.09 crore has escaped assessment, The Business Today reported.

Related:

30 per cent pay-cut for all Members of Parliament for a year
J&K govt orders 2G to continue, just when PIL seeking 4G internet is pending before SC
Kerala HC stays controversial decision of govt on home delivery of liquor
Muslim truckers assaulted in Arunachal Pradesh; reports of violence against minorities in other areas emerge

No real relief for NDTV as it receives fresh notice in alleged money laundering case

This notice comes right after SC quashed the last notice by IT Dept, for being time barred

NoticeImage Courtesy:ndtv.com

The rat chase behind NDTV continues as the Finance Ministry wasted no time in issuing fresh notice in the NDTV Income Tax reassessment case. This was done shortly after the Supreme Court quashed the last reassessment notice issued by Income Tax Department for the year 2007-08, while still allowing issue of notice under another provision of the Act.

The notice was quashed in the apex court by a bench comprising of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Deepak Gupta on the grounds that the IT department failed to show “non-disclosure of facts” in its notice issued 4 years after the assessment year and hence it was deemed time barred by the court. However, the court clarified that it is not adjudicating on whether the IT department could take benefit of section 147 of the Income Tax Act in this case. The court said, “…the revenue may issue fresh notice taking benefit of the second proviso if otherwise permissible under law”.

According to the second proviso, the time bar of 4 years is not applicable to cases where “any income in relation to any asset located outside India has escaped assessment for any assessment year”. The case was decided in favour of NDTV, which went into appeal at the apex court against the said notice, since the notice is silent on whether it is invoking the second proviso on section 147 of the IT Act. The Court pointed out, “It is only while rejecting the objections of the assessee that reference has been made to the second proviso in the order of disposal of objections dated 23.11.2015”. The bench held that the assesee “should not be prejudiced or be taken by surprise. The uncontroverted fact is that in the notice dated 31.03.2015 there is no mention of any foreign entity”.

The court also noted that since the assessee has not gotten adequate opportunity to reply to the allegations which are now being put forth by the IT Department, the notice is deemed to be against the principles of natural justice. LiveLaw reported that the IT Department took the stand that NDTV had suppressed in the incomes it had raised in 2007-08 through foreign subsidiaries in Netherlands and United Kingdom. According to the department, the transactions with the foreign subsidiaries were “sham transactions with a view to get the undisclosed income.”

A statement issued by NDTV on its website reads, “The Supreme Court has refused to allow the Revenue Department to reopen an assessment that was decided years ago. Tax officials had sought this in 2015 alleging that NDTV had concealed facts and round tripped money. The court today has disallowed that. The Supreme Court has proved that the rule of law prevails above all else.”

The Revenue Department has however countered this statement by saying that the apex court not given a clean chit to NDTV and has rather endorsed the government’s view that there are reasons to believe that undisclosed income worth Rs. 405.09 crore has escaped assessment, The Business Today reported.

Related:

30 per cent pay-cut for all Members of Parliament for a year
J&K govt orders 2G to continue, just when PIL seeking 4G internet is pending before SC
Kerala HC stays controversial decision of govt on home delivery of liquor
Muslim truckers assaulted in Arunachal Pradesh; reports of violence against minorities in other areas emerge

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PUCL writes to Gujarat CM, condemns notice to activist Lakhan Musafir barring him from 5 districts

The notice was served to Musafir, a noted environmental activist, by an SDM leveling allegedly defamatory charges against him

06 Apr 2020

GujaratImage Courtesy: counterview.net

The Gujarat government has served a notice to noted environmental activist Lakhan Musafir barring him from entering Narmada, Bharuch, Vadodara, Chhota Udepur and Tapi districts for two years.

The notice was issued by KD Bhagat, Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM), Rajpipla and it accused Lakhan Musafir of being “involved in anti-social and illegal organizing of people in the Kevadia area against the Statue of Unity and other projects”, not being into any “honest business or profession”, “organising violent attacks” and displaying a “communal mindset”.

In this regard, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has written to the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Vijay Rupani and other members of the Gujarat government demanding this notice be withdrawn immediately and institute a high-level inquiry into how the notice came to be and on whose orders, apart from demanding immediate punitive steps against the issuing officer.

PUCL has claimed that the “charges” against Musafir are not genuine. It has alleged that the SDM merely “copied and pasted” a piece of fiction spun by a police constable, without any investigation and discerning action.

In its letter PUCL sheds light on the full-time Gandhian Sarvodaya activist’s life and work, how he worked in Vinoba Bhave’s Ashram and spent time working with and learning from noted Gandhian activist Dr. Dwarkadas Joshi. PUCL also stated Musafir’s work in Kutch and his contribution in youth camps, organic farming and other rural development initiatives. They also stated how he stayed back in Adivasi villages in Gujarat and helped build toilets and bathrooms from 1986 to 1989, much before the Swachch Bharat Abhiyaan of the Modi government, and how he initiated educational activities like balwadis and anganwadis in villages.

Musafir’s pet projects of organic farming and helping farmers augment their incomes apart from standing alongside small Adivasi landowners / farmers in their (state-sponsored) crises – Gurudeshwar Wier and the Kevadia Area Development Authority (KADA) were also brought to the CM’s notice by PUCL.

Media reports say that Musafir had caused a flutter last year by stating that the Gujarat government has acquired 1,100 acres out of 1,700 acres of tribal land from six villages - Navagam, Limdi, Gora, Vagadia, Kevadia and Mithi, for the Statue of Unity, by putting at risk the livelihoods of 8,000 village residents.

Earlier too, Musafir had been put into detention during a top dignitary’s visit to the state. In 2017 too he was detained illegally by the Gujarat police and kept in an unknown place.

PUCL in its letter states that Lakhan Musafir is a person who has worked throughout his life for the upliftment of the downtrodden by helping them from everything related to organic farming to education and hygiene rights. Labelling him as an ‘anti-social person’ and someone who has a ‘communal mindset’ or is not involved in ‘honest work’ is defamatory.

The organization mentions to the CM and other top officials that the notice serves as a trailer of an unhealthy precedent set in the CM’s term. It says, “Disagreements with issues or motives or social movements is an acceptable part of democracy, and debates, discussions and solutions can follow from that. But hurling defamatory charges at an individual and misusing the law or ones position to deny a person his fundamental rights is an illegal and malafide act. We have no reason to believe that this would have happened on orders from your government."

“If the above are not initiated (if the demands are not met) then it would mean one thing and one thing only: viz. the entire episode happened on the orders of your government. This case cannot stand in a court of law and may/can/will result in “bad press” for your government, within and outside Gujarat,” the letter added.

The entire letter by PUCL may be read below.

 

PUCL writes to Gujarat CM, condemns notice to activist Lakhan Musafir barring him from 5 districts

The notice was served to Musafir, a noted environmental activist, by an SDM leveling allegedly defamatory charges against him

GujaratImage Courtesy: counterview.net

The Gujarat government has served a notice to noted environmental activist Lakhan Musafir barring him from entering Narmada, Bharuch, Vadodara, Chhota Udepur and Tapi districts for two years.

The notice was issued by KD Bhagat, Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM), Rajpipla and it accused Lakhan Musafir of being “involved in anti-social and illegal organizing of people in the Kevadia area against the Statue of Unity and other projects”, not being into any “honest business or profession”, “organising violent attacks” and displaying a “communal mindset”.

In this regard, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has written to the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Vijay Rupani and other members of the Gujarat government demanding this notice be withdrawn immediately and institute a high-level inquiry into how the notice came to be and on whose orders, apart from demanding immediate punitive steps against the issuing officer.

PUCL has claimed that the “charges” against Musafir are not genuine. It has alleged that the SDM merely “copied and pasted” a piece of fiction spun by a police constable, without any investigation and discerning action.

In its letter PUCL sheds light on the full-time Gandhian Sarvodaya activist’s life and work, how he worked in Vinoba Bhave’s Ashram and spent time working with and learning from noted Gandhian activist Dr. Dwarkadas Joshi. PUCL also stated Musafir’s work in Kutch and his contribution in youth camps, organic farming and other rural development initiatives. They also stated how he stayed back in Adivasi villages in Gujarat and helped build toilets and bathrooms from 1986 to 1989, much before the Swachch Bharat Abhiyaan of the Modi government, and how he initiated educational activities like balwadis and anganwadis in villages.

Musafir’s pet projects of organic farming and helping farmers augment their incomes apart from standing alongside small Adivasi landowners / farmers in their (state-sponsored) crises – Gurudeshwar Wier and the Kevadia Area Development Authority (KADA) were also brought to the CM’s notice by PUCL.

Media reports say that Musafir had caused a flutter last year by stating that the Gujarat government has acquired 1,100 acres out of 1,700 acres of tribal land from six villages - Navagam, Limdi, Gora, Vagadia, Kevadia and Mithi, for the Statue of Unity, by putting at risk the livelihoods of 8,000 village residents.

Earlier too, Musafir had been put into detention during a top dignitary’s visit to the state. In 2017 too he was detained illegally by the Gujarat police and kept in an unknown place.

PUCL in its letter states that Lakhan Musafir is a person who has worked throughout his life for the upliftment of the downtrodden by helping them from everything related to organic farming to education and hygiene rights. Labelling him as an ‘anti-social person’ and someone who has a ‘communal mindset’ or is not involved in ‘honest work’ is defamatory.

The organization mentions to the CM and other top officials that the notice serves as a trailer of an unhealthy precedent set in the CM’s term. It says, “Disagreements with issues or motives or social movements is an acceptable part of democracy, and debates, discussions and solutions can follow from that. But hurling defamatory charges at an individual and misusing the law or ones position to deny a person his fundamental rights is an illegal and malafide act. We have no reason to believe that this would have happened on orders from your government."

“If the above are not initiated (if the demands are not met) then it would mean one thing and one thing only: viz. the entire episode happened on the orders of your government. This case cannot stand in a court of law and may/can/will result in “bad press” for your government, within and outside Gujarat,” the letter added.

The entire letter by PUCL may be read below.

 

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Maulana Saad’s error of judgement has put an entire community at risk

Tablighi Jamaat Turkman Gate faction had cancelled all their events well in time

06 Apr 2020

Tablighi JamaatImage Courtesy: thelogicalindian.com

A Tablighi Jamaat faction, Shura-e-Jamaat, headquartered at Turkman Gate, in Delhi displayed common sense and believed in scientific advice and cancelled all events as soon as news of Coronavirus pandemic was reported. All events planned here were cancelled even before the Delhi government banned large gatherings in the city, and much before the Prime Minister declared a nationwide lockdown on March 24.

However, even after this group of believers dispersed and restricted their prayers and reflections to their own home, across the city, leaders of the Jamaat faction at Alami Markaz Banglewali Masjid, Nizzamuddin continued their congregational activities. 

Ignoring all advice, including that from Muslim intellectuals, leaders and clerics, Maulana Muhammad Saad Kandhlawi, who heads the influential faction of the Jamaat, was adamant that programmes continue as scheduled. His error of judgement has resulted in endangering the lives not just of his followers, but also of all other Muslims who are not even involved in the Jammat but now fear being targeted by hate mongers. 

Delhi Police has issued two notices to Maulana Saad Kandhalvi already. Both notices are issued under Section 91 CrPC that allows courts and police to seek answers, including documents for investigation. The person asked to give documents has to do as directed. As reported by network TV 18, Maulana Saad has not been asked to appear before the police yet. According to reports his lawyer had submitted some documents in response to the first notice sent by Delhi Police. It was yet to be confirmed, till Tuesday evening, if Saad or his lawyers had replied to the second notice. What is confirmed is that he is now protecting himself.

After clearly putting the lives of those who attended at risk, he himself has claimed to be in self isolation somewhere in Delhi “on advice from doctors.” This is not against Islam, he says. These messages of self-isolation, self-care and taking precautions seem ironical considering that his earlier messages had allegedly dismissed all warnings of congregations being vulnerable and potential hotspots that could spread Coronavirus. Almost all religious places, and groups had suspended congregational prayers, and gatherings.

But Maulana Saad continued to allegedly tell his followers that it was not true that the virus, and Covid-19 could affect those who gathered in mosques. In a viral audio message, Saad allegedly gave his followers dangerous advice saying, “And even if some one dies after they come into a mosque. I say there is no better place to die than a mosque.” 

This has been his greatest disservice to his own followers, for many of whom Saad's word is the gospel truth. In another audio message Saad allegedly tells his Jamaat how the pandemic is a “curse” on people who have strayed from the true path of faith. Often selectively quoting from The Quran he says the pandemic was unleashed by god because people left mosques, and asked how can people still want to leave mosques/ prayers to fight the pandemic. “Think about it… what an opposite thought process,” he asks, calling it the “the work of the devil…”

Hopefully those aware enough will ignore what now sounds like dangerous brainwashing by a religious leader who wants to secure his own position in his congregation rather than be seen as someone who is listening to scientific advice by health experts. Those who follow him blindly will also not see the irony in his self-isolation and that he eventually says something like, "taking precautions is okay, and not against Allah,” or “cooperating with government and administration is important,” and “Wherever our jamaats are, they should obey the instructions given by the government.”

He is unlikely to appear before the authorities. Has bought himself time. Time, however, seems to be running out for many of his followers who may already have been infected with the virus,  and more so for those who are facing harassment from all sides. 

How Saad's actions are now affecting the entire community

Thousands of his direct followers now bear the biggest brunt of Maulana Saad’s lack of foresight, and his reluctance to listen to advice from his own community. According to community leaders Maulana Saad should have anticipated what was going to unfold, and acted proactively instead of waiting. “He is stubborn and ultra orthodox, he should have cancelled or at least postponed all events like their Turkman Gate faction did,” said a leading Muslim scholar.

“Maulana Saad did not use common sense, and went ahead because he probably waited for direct orders from the Government. There was no lockdown when the Markaz meeting was taking place. He only acted once the curfew was announced,” said another. By then of course it was too late in many respects and the law swooped down eventually on the Jammat’s HQ and sealed the neighbourhood around it.

The big mistake of the Tablighi leadership in India, was that they did not postpone all planned events, nor did they shut down the dormitory, as soon Covid reports came in months ago. However, Maulana Saad-led Jammat cancelled their events only when the Prime Minister announced a ‘junta curfew’ on March 22. “They went ahead as the government had not put in any restriction on visa/ travel when they landed. They just kept waiting for government announcements and decisions like anybody else, that has led to all this now,” said a Muslim lawyer who watched the events unfold. 

Similar events had been cancelled in Indonesia in a planned manner. According to a report from the Jakarta Post, the  South Sulawesi provincial administration cancelled an international event that was set to take place in Gowa regency over heightened concerns about COVID-19. “South Sulawesi Governor Nurdin Abdullah said the event, a grand tabligh (mass Quran recitation), was canceled because of the current public health emergency. It was imperative that the administration heeded President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo’s advice and suspended any form of mass gathering throughout the province,” the report stated.

The Markaz event that ended on March 15, was attended by thousands of members from across the country and abroad. More than half left the area once the meetings were over. The rest stayed on in the city as many sometimes do, making the most of the visit to meet people, visit shrines, be hosted by friends and families, see some tourist spots, and sometimes even shop in the big city.

Some Jamaat members from abroad have visas that allow them to stay in India for a few months. After meetings at their HQ, some travel inland and meet other Muslim groups, clerics and families. All their travel is registered, planned in detail, and bookings are made much in advance. In Delhi, they always visit two-three shrines with local hosts. Many are hosted for meals at private homes across the city as guests. Local mosques allot these meal hosting times, to those who ask. 

Jamaatis are allowed to stay a few days after events and do not have to pay for their food and lodging at the Jamaat’s comfortable, centrally located dormitory. Those who can afford local hotels, move there if they want to stay on for longer in the city. The nearly 20-year-old dormitory is in a building separate from the over 100 year old Banglewali mosque itself. The building has a common wall with the Nizamuddin Police station, and locals say the police is always aware of activities in the neighbourhood. This has been the case for years.

The Wire reports: “The TJ’s headquarters sees a steady stream of Jamaat workers throughout the year who pass through Delhi before and after embarking on preaching tours – known as ‘chilla’ – across India. These visits are scheduled well in advance and it is not unusual for the Markaz to play host – essentially as a hostel – to upwards of 8,000 people at any one time. While at the headquarters, they take part in ongoing instructional activities. The premises can hold up to 10-12,000 people,” the report quotes Mujib-ur-Rahman, a TJ representative.

“The international membership is rich and influential, and their agenda is to bring Muslims back to core spirituality. Most meetings are done inside Jamaat properties, they are not public events that need special permission,” he added, “after the lockdown they were unprepared and got stranded.”

According to a government press statement: “On March 21 , approximately 824 foreign Tabligh Jamaat workers were in different parts of the country for missionary work. Besides, around 216 foreign nationals were staying in the Markaz. In addition, over 1500 Indian TJ workers were also staying in the Markaz while around 2100 Indian TJ workers were touring different parts of the country for missionary work. Since March 23, lockdown has been strictly imposed by State authorities/Police across Delhi including in and around Nizamuddin and Tabligh work came to a halt.” The entire press release may be read here.

The cancellation of events on March 22 was unplanned, just like the nationwide lockdown was, and people found themselves stranded and without any help from any officials. Maulana Saad wrote to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on March 22 asking for buses to be arranged to evacuate those who remained in the dormitory after the city was in lockdown and movement restricted. There was no response from the CM’s office, said sources. The next day he went to the police station next-door, and again did not get any response or help in evacuation.

All options closed as curfews were enforced in Delhi, most Jamaatis were in the masjid. After the national lockdown their HQ was the only place they could stay. They are now caught in a crossfire even though Tablighi Jamaat has always been indifferent to politics and only focus their activities inwards. 

As reported in the National Herald this ignorance of the outside world has now cost the Jamaat dearly. “It was none of their concern, was the attitude. Whatever the Lord willed would follow in any case. They would rather take care of their after-life… They ignored warnings, held a congregation attended by a large number of visitors from abroad and paid the price by getting infected by the virus,” reported the publication.

However, this group’s error of judgement has also put all other Muslims at a risk bigger than what even the Coronavirus threatens. Tabligi Jamaat is in the news, national and international, almost every day. With headlines such as this from BBC: “Tablighi Jamaat: The group blamed for new Covid-19 outbreak in India.”

They are mentioned in daily press briefings held by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Health. The authorities share details of work done to ‘identify, isolate and quarantine COVID-19 positive Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) workers in India post their congregation in Nizamuddin, Delhi’. In fact the MHA said it shared details of TJ workers in India with all states on March 21, 2020 after COVID-19 positive cases had surfaced in Telangana. State Police had also been told to ‘examine visas of all these foreign TJ workers and take further action in case of violation of visa conditions.’ According to MHA , they had already issued guidelines that ‘they should not indulge in missionary work on tourist visa.’

The news headlines have all sounded similar with quoting MHA and Health ministry data. “Nearly 22,000 Tablighi Jamaat members and their contacts quarantined so far: MHA official.” or “1,023 COVID-19 positive cases with links to Tablighi Jamaat reported from 17 states till now”. 

Those now under treatment, or under quarantine have become fodder for fake news factories and hate mongers. So much so that police had to intervene and shut down rumours that alleged that Jamaat members under quarantine were misbehaving, or making special demands. A Tweet by Saharanpur Police in BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh clarifying that no Tablighi Jamaat under quarantine was demanding non-veg food,  is a case in point:

Related:

Centre’s counsel asks Delhi HC to hold officials responsible for lapse in Tablighi incident
Markaz Nizamuddin counters all allegations of contributing to spread of Covid-19
Communal forces using Covid-19 as fodder to target minorities?

Maulana Saad’s error of judgement has put an entire community at risk

Tablighi Jamaat Turkman Gate faction had cancelled all their events well in time

Tablighi JamaatImage Courtesy: thelogicalindian.com

A Tablighi Jamaat faction, Shura-e-Jamaat, headquartered at Turkman Gate, in Delhi displayed common sense and believed in scientific advice and cancelled all events as soon as news of Coronavirus pandemic was reported. All events planned here were cancelled even before the Delhi government banned large gatherings in the city, and much before the Prime Minister declared a nationwide lockdown on March 24.

However, even after this group of believers dispersed and restricted their prayers and reflections to their own home, across the city, leaders of the Jamaat faction at Alami Markaz Banglewali Masjid, Nizzamuddin continued their congregational activities. 

Ignoring all advice, including that from Muslim intellectuals, leaders and clerics, Maulana Muhammad Saad Kandhlawi, who heads the influential faction of the Jamaat, was adamant that programmes continue as scheduled. His error of judgement has resulted in endangering the lives not just of his followers, but also of all other Muslims who are not even involved in the Jammat but now fear being targeted by hate mongers. 

Delhi Police has issued two notices to Maulana Saad Kandhalvi already. Both notices are issued under Section 91 CrPC that allows courts and police to seek answers, including documents for investigation. The person asked to give documents has to do as directed. As reported by network TV 18, Maulana Saad has not been asked to appear before the police yet. According to reports his lawyer had submitted some documents in response to the first notice sent by Delhi Police. It was yet to be confirmed, till Tuesday evening, if Saad or his lawyers had replied to the second notice. What is confirmed is that he is now protecting himself.

After clearly putting the lives of those who attended at risk, he himself has claimed to be in self isolation somewhere in Delhi “on advice from doctors.” This is not against Islam, he says. These messages of self-isolation, self-care and taking precautions seem ironical considering that his earlier messages had allegedly dismissed all warnings of congregations being vulnerable and potential hotspots that could spread Coronavirus. Almost all religious places, and groups had suspended congregational prayers, and gatherings.

But Maulana Saad continued to allegedly tell his followers that it was not true that the virus, and Covid-19 could affect those who gathered in mosques. In a viral audio message, Saad allegedly gave his followers dangerous advice saying, “And even if some one dies after they come into a mosque. I say there is no better place to die than a mosque.” 

This has been his greatest disservice to his own followers, for many of whom Saad's word is the gospel truth. In another audio message Saad allegedly tells his Jamaat how the pandemic is a “curse” on people who have strayed from the true path of faith. Often selectively quoting from The Quran he says the pandemic was unleashed by god because people left mosques, and asked how can people still want to leave mosques/ prayers to fight the pandemic. “Think about it… what an opposite thought process,” he asks, calling it the “the work of the devil…”

Hopefully those aware enough will ignore what now sounds like dangerous brainwashing by a religious leader who wants to secure his own position in his congregation rather than be seen as someone who is listening to scientific advice by health experts. Those who follow him blindly will also not see the irony in his self-isolation and that he eventually says something like, "taking precautions is okay, and not against Allah,” or “cooperating with government and administration is important,” and “Wherever our jamaats are, they should obey the instructions given by the government.”

He is unlikely to appear before the authorities. Has bought himself time. Time, however, seems to be running out for many of his followers who may already have been infected with the virus,  and more so for those who are facing harassment from all sides. 

How Saad's actions are now affecting the entire community

Thousands of his direct followers now bear the biggest brunt of Maulana Saad’s lack of foresight, and his reluctance to listen to advice from his own community. According to community leaders Maulana Saad should have anticipated what was going to unfold, and acted proactively instead of waiting. “He is stubborn and ultra orthodox, he should have cancelled or at least postponed all events like their Turkman Gate faction did,” said a leading Muslim scholar.

“Maulana Saad did not use common sense, and went ahead because he probably waited for direct orders from the Government. There was no lockdown when the Markaz meeting was taking place. He only acted once the curfew was announced,” said another. By then of course it was too late in many respects and the law swooped down eventually on the Jammat’s HQ and sealed the neighbourhood around it.

The big mistake of the Tablighi leadership in India, was that they did not postpone all planned events, nor did they shut down the dormitory, as soon Covid reports came in months ago. However, Maulana Saad-led Jammat cancelled their events only when the Prime Minister announced a ‘junta curfew’ on March 22. “They went ahead as the government had not put in any restriction on visa/ travel when they landed. They just kept waiting for government announcements and decisions like anybody else, that has led to all this now,” said a Muslim lawyer who watched the events unfold. 

Similar events had been cancelled in Indonesia in a planned manner. According to a report from the Jakarta Post, the  South Sulawesi provincial administration cancelled an international event that was set to take place in Gowa regency over heightened concerns about COVID-19. “South Sulawesi Governor Nurdin Abdullah said the event, a grand tabligh (mass Quran recitation), was canceled because of the current public health emergency. It was imperative that the administration heeded President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo’s advice and suspended any form of mass gathering throughout the province,” the report stated.

The Markaz event that ended on March 15, was attended by thousands of members from across the country and abroad. More than half left the area once the meetings were over. The rest stayed on in the city as many sometimes do, making the most of the visit to meet people, visit shrines, be hosted by friends and families, see some tourist spots, and sometimes even shop in the big city.

Some Jamaat members from abroad have visas that allow them to stay in India for a few months. After meetings at their HQ, some travel inland and meet other Muslim groups, clerics and families. All their travel is registered, planned in detail, and bookings are made much in advance. In Delhi, they always visit two-three shrines with local hosts. Many are hosted for meals at private homes across the city as guests. Local mosques allot these meal hosting times, to those who ask. 

Jamaatis are allowed to stay a few days after events and do not have to pay for their food and lodging at the Jamaat’s comfortable, centrally located dormitory. Those who can afford local hotels, move there if they want to stay on for longer in the city. The nearly 20-year-old dormitory is in a building separate from the over 100 year old Banglewali mosque itself. The building has a common wall with the Nizamuddin Police station, and locals say the police is always aware of activities in the neighbourhood. This has been the case for years.

The Wire reports: “The TJ’s headquarters sees a steady stream of Jamaat workers throughout the year who pass through Delhi before and after embarking on preaching tours – known as ‘chilla’ – across India. These visits are scheduled well in advance and it is not unusual for the Markaz to play host – essentially as a hostel – to upwards of 8,000 people at any one time. While at the headquarters, they take part in ongoing instructional activities. The premises can hold up to 10-12,000 people,” the report quotes Mujib-ur-Rahman, a TJ representative.

“The international membership is rich and influential, and their agenda is to bring Muslims back to core spirituality. Most meetings are done inside Jamaat properties, they are not public events that need special permission,” he added, “after the lockdown they were unprepared and got stranded.”

According to a government press statement: “On March 21 , approximately 824 foreign Tabligh Jamaat workers were in different parts of the country for missionary work. Besides, around 216 foreign nationals were staying in the Markaz. In addition, over 1500 Indian TJ workers were also staying in the Markaz while around 2100 Indian TJ workers were touring different parts of the country for missionary work. Since March 23, lockdown has been strictly imposed by State authorities/Police across Delhi including in and around Nizamuddin and Tabligh work came to a halt.” The entire press release may be read here.

The cancellation of events on March 22 was unplanned, just like the nationwide lockdown was, and people found themselves stranded and without any help from any officials. Maulana Saad wrote to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on March 22 asking for buses to be arranged to evacuate those who remained in the dormitory after the city was in lockdown and movement restricted. There was no response from the CM’s office, said sources. The next day he went to the police station next-door, and again did not get any response or help in evacuation.

All options closed as curfews were enforced in Delhi, most Jamaatis were in the masjid. After the national lockdown their HQ was the only place they could stay. They are now caught in a crossfire even though Tablighi Jamaat has always been indifferent to politics and only focus their activities inwards. 

As reported in the National Herald this ignorance of the outside world has now cost the Jamaat dearly. “It was none of their concern, was the attitude. Whatever the Lord willed would follow in any case. They would rather take care of their after-life… They ignored warnings, held a congregation attended by a large number of visitors from abroad and paid the price by getting infected by the virus,” reported the publication.

However, this group’s error of judgement has also put all other Muslims at a risk bigger than what even the Coronavirus threatens. Tabligi Jamaat is in the news, national and international, almost every day. With headlines such as this from BBC: “Tablighi Jamaat: The group blamed for new Covid-19 outbreak in India.”

They are mentioned in daily press briefings held by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Health. The authorities share details of work done to ‘identify, isolate and quarantine COVID-19 positive Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) workers in India post their congregation in Nizamuddin, Delhi’. In fact the MHA said it shared details of TJ workers in India with all states on March 21, 2020 after COVID-19 positive cases had surfaced in Telangana. State Police had also been told to ‘examine visas of all these foreign TJ workers and take further action in case of violation of visa conditions.’ According to MHA , they had already issued guidelines that ‘they should not indulge in missionary work on tourist visa.’

The news headlines have all sounded similar with quoting MHA and Health ministry data. “Nearly 22,000 Tablighi Jamaat members and their contacts quarantined so far: MHA official.” or “1,023 COVID-19 positive cases with links to Tablighi Jamaat reported from 17 states till now”. 

Those now under treatment, or under quarantine have become fodder for fake news factories and hate mongers. So much so that police had to intervene and shut down rumours that alleged that Jamaat members under quarantine were misbehaving, or making special demands. A Tweet by Saharanpur Police in BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh clarifying that no Tablighi Jamaat under quarantine was demanding non-veg food,  is a case in point:

Related:

Centre’s counsel asks Delhi HC to hold officials responsible for lapse in Tablighi incident
Markaz Nizamuddin counters all allegations of contributing to spread of Covid-19
Communal forces using Covid-19 as fodder to target minorities?

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