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No favorable sign for RTI activist who had sought details of Priyanka Vadra’s controversial Shimla land purchase deal

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“The presiding High Court judge in the case was compromised due to a “conflict of interest” as his wife had contested the election for Shimla Municipal Corporation in 2012 on a Congress ticket.” 

SHIMLA- The Himachal Pradesh High Court has appointed a senior advocate, Raman Kumar Bawa, and an assistant as amicus curiae to represent the RTI activist Dev Ashish Bhattacharya in the ‘Priyanka Vadra land deal case’. The high-profile nature of the case has made things difficult for the RTI activist, who had sought details of the deal via which Priyanka, a non-resident of Himachal, was allowed to buy land in Charabara, 23 km from capital town Shimla.  The activist filed the RTI on July 2, 2014 seeking file noteings, copies of the sale deeds, relaxations etc. 

Reportedly, the previous lawyer, who was representing the case in the court, had declined to fight the case any further. The reason remained unknown and the lawyer referred to personal reasons, which he didn’t discuss with the activist.  Thereafter, no lawyer in Himachal dared to accept the case and represent the activist. 

Read: Lawyer steps back in high-profile Priyanka Vadra ‘land purchase case’, RTI activist requests HC to appoint Amicus Curiae

In between, a lawyer from Chandigarh expressed his will to represent the case in the Himachal HC, but was not allowed due to legal reasons.  The activist then pleaded assistance of the HC itself to bring the case to logical conclusion and do the justice. 

The court has appointed senior advocate R. K. Bawa who will be assisted by advocate Jivan.  Reportedly, Bawa has served as the Advocate General during BJP government.

Interestingly, the RTI activist was not made aware of this decision to appoint amicus curiae by properly informing through any official mean. He had to file another RTI to obtain the progress in the matter.

Video: All About Priyanka Vadra ‘Shimla Land Purchase Case (in Chronological Order)

 

The Section 118 of the Land and Tenancy Reforms Act, 1972 prohibits sale of the land to non-resident or outsiders except for agricultural purpose. However, Priyanka built a lavish Bunglow in Shimla despite fulfilling any such requirements.  The RTI activist had sought information regarding the relaxation provided to Priyanka under the Section 118 of the said Act.  

A report published on The Wire even said,

RTI activist said that the presiding judge in the case, was compromised due to a “conflict of interest” as Chauhan’s wife had contested the election for Shimla Municipal Corporation in 2012 on a Congress ticket. Following which, Bhattacharya requested that the case be transferred to Delhi to be tried by another judge.

Another interesting fact about the case is that district administration had denied information to the activist.  However, when the activist challenged it and approached the Chief Information Commissioner of Himachal Pradesh, the district administration was directed to provide the sought information under the RTI Act, 2005.

Read: RTI on Priyanka Vadra’s Shimla land deal wrongly rejected, disclose details within 10 days: HP Information Commission

Priyanka filed a petition to prohibit release of the sought information sighting security reasons and being a SPG protectee. But, the RTI activist proved that even this reason wasn’t enough to legally prevent him from obtaining the information.

Then, the activist had alleged the Public Relation Officer of the HC of releasing court orders to media prior to the official date. However, the PRO was given clean-chit without any proper inquiry and without recording statement of the activist, who had filed the complaint.  

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for March 2017.  The appointed senior counsel Bawa is believed to have strong political relationships in the State. So, there’s hardly any favorable sign for the activist. The court and Priyanka also seems to be in hurry and aiming to end the case as soon as possible. 

But at the same time, the image of judicial institutions and judges is on stake as a judge in district Mandi was caught red-handed by the Vigilance Department accepting bribe of Rs. 40,000 from one of the party in a check bounce case that involved lakhs of rupees.  This is the first time that people of Himachal read a news about a judge in their own state being booked for accepting bribe (of merely Rs.40K) . The people have now begun to wonder whether corruption and influence of high-profile people prevails in the judiciary too.  

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Madan has studied English Literature and Journalism from HP University and lives in Shimla. He is an amateur photographer and has been writing on topics ranging from environmental, socio-economic, development programs, education, eco-tourism, eco-friendly lifestyle and to green technologies for over 7 years now. He has an inclination for all things green, wonderful and loves to live in solitude. When not writing, he can be seen wandering, trying to capture world around him in his DSLR lens.

Misc News/Press Release

Hamirpur college girl alleges local police of threatening her instead of acting against molester

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Hamirpur police saving molestor

Shimla: The image of Himachal Pradesh Police was badly dented by the case relating to the gangrape and murder of a minor schoolgirl in Kotkhai, Shimla, in July 2017. 

Now, in yet another case of alleged harassment and molestation, a girl enrolled in a private college in Hamirpur town has labelled serious allegation against the local police.

As per the sources, a person had been stalking and harassing the girl, who is living in a rented room in the town, for over a month. The person, whom she identified as a member of an influential family of Maunhi (मौहीं) village, crossed the limits, used abusing words, and even molested her on Friday.

On reaching the police station with her complaint on the same day, instead of taking action the police allegedly threatened her and forced to sign a blank paper.

As per the girl, the police allegedly pressurized her to compromise in order to hush up the matter as culprit’s family was an influential one.

Eventually, the girl has approached the Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), Balwinder Thakur, with her grieve complaint.The ASP has also given her an assurance that appropriate directions were given to the incharge of the station to take strict action against the culprit.  

Yesterday, a teacher of a private college in Hamirpur town was arrested for allegedly raping his pupil inside college premises. A video showing students and parents thrashing the accused publically also did rounds of social media.

The appearance of another case has put a big question mark over the law and order conditions of the town, the image of the police, and declarations made by the new government over the safety of women in Himachal.

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Brig. Satish Kumar appointed new HPSSC Chairman

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Shimla: Brig. Satish Kumar became the new Chairman of Himachal Pradesh Staff Selection Commission (HPPSC), Hamirpur as the Chief Secretary Vineet Chawdhry administered him the oath of office.

Born on May 27 in 1957, Brig. Satish Kumar belongs to village Biara of Tehsil Palampur, Kangra district. He was earlier appointed as Member of HPPSC, Hamirpur.

Earlier, Brig. Satish Kumar had rendered his services in various wings of Indian Army and has an experience of 35 years in various fields.

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HP Cabinet Decisions Feb 2018: Nod to hire 200 doctors through walk-in interviews, relief in MBBS tendering bond money

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HP Cabinet Decisions Feb 2017

Shimla: In a cabinet meeting of Himachal Pradesh Government held on February 17, 2018, the Government gave nod to fill 200 vacant posts of Medical Officers (MBBS) on local specific contracts through walk-in interviews, particularly in rural and far-flung areas.

The Cabinet decided to amend PG policy on tendering bond money for MBBS doctors pursuing higher courses, MD/MS degree or diploma, super speciality DM/MCH courses, DNB courses, Master Courses within and outside the State.

As per the government, it will help MBBS doctors undergoing PG courses in obtaining bank guarantees for their courses.

HP Govt to sign MoU with NCCF

The existing policy, provisions and method of procurement of pulses will also be revised to facilitate procurement of four pulses i.e. Dal Channa, Urd Sabut, Moong Sabut and Malka from National Co-operative Consumer’s Federation of India Ltd. (NCCF) under the state-subsidized scheme meant for procurement and distribution of pulses.

 It will save Rs. 2.63 crore per month only on account of purchase of pulses, the government claimed.

 The H.P. State Civil Supplies Corporation Ltd. and NCCF will execute a MoU for the same soon.

The government said it would seek more staff from Development Bank, Germany for the boosting the H.P. Forest Ecosystem Climate Proofing Project, which is being implemented in Chamba and Kangra districts.

The government said this project is covering 600 panchayats of said districts to minimize and mitigate the negative impacts of climate change by increasing biodiversity and sustained income in rural areas through sustainable management of forest resources.

List of HP Cabinet’s other decisions:

  1. Approved deployment of two medical physicists and four radiotherapist technicians on outsource basis at Government Medical College Tanda to operationalise the sophisticated cancer treatment equipment available there
  2. Gave nod to upgrade Community Health Centre Bagsaid to 50 bed Civil Hospital in Mandi district along-with creation of 29 posts of various categories in the hospital
  3. Consent to upgrade Civil Hospital Ani in district Kullu to 100 bed Civil Hospital along-with creation of 26 new posts of different categories
  4. Consent to fill up 20 posts of Junior Office Assistant (IT) in Dr Y.S. Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, Nauni in district Solan on contract basis
  5. Consent to fill up three vacant posts of Investigators in H.P. Institute of Public Administration (HIPA) on contract basis

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