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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.  

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

Avalanche in Kinnaur buries soldiers, 1 killed, 5 missing and feared dead

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Kinnaur- An avalanche along the India-China border in Namgya region of Kinnaur district on Wednesday killed one soldier while five others were buried and still missing. The body of one soldier has been recovered. The rescue operation was underway at the time of writing.

The district administration and Superintendent of Police, Kinnaur, confirmed the news.

Jawans of Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and district police are carrying out an extensive search and rescue operation.  

As per initial reports, which are not clear, about 10 jawans of ITBP were hit by a massive avalanche at about 11 AM on Wednesday while they were moving from one post to another. Five to six jawans were buried. Remaining jawans rescued one of them who later died on the way to the hospital in Pooh.  

Verification of more details is still awaited.

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Left Out Eligible Voters in Himachal Can Enroll on 23rd and 24th Feb: HP CEO

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Left Out Voters in Himachal Pradesh can apply

Shimla-In view of the general election for the Lok Sabha 2019, special camps will be organised at every polling station on 23rd and 24th February 2019, for enrolment of left out eligible voters in the State, informed the Chief Electoral Officer of Himachal Pradesh, Devesh Kumar.

He asked all Booth Level Officers (BLOs) to remain present in the camps along with the copies of final electoral rolls 2019. A copy of the electoral rolls will be available in the polling station so that electors can check their names in the rolls. The electoral rolls would be read out publically during the camp to facilitate illiterate voters. BLOs were asked to keep adequate copies of Forms 6, 7, 8 and 8A with him/her to facilitate filling up forms by interested persons.

Devesh Kumar said that all recognized political parties should depute their Booth Level Agents (BLAs) to remain present in camps. In case their name does not exist in the roll for some reason, the Electoral Photo Identity Card (EPIC) holders must also check their name in electoral rolls and fill up Form 6. The EPIC is only identification document and does not guarantee franchise if the name of the person is not included in the electoral roll of the concerned polling station.

He said that all forms received during these campaign days would be disposed of by  March 7, 2019. BLOs were directed to immediately complete the physical verification and then submit a report to the Electoral Registration Officer (ERO). The ERO should complete the due process of law and dispose-off the forms received during the camps within 11 days.

 Devesh Kumar said that registration can also be made through NVSP Portal by visiting the link (www.nvsp.in.) For inquiries, he said, electoral can also call on Toll-free number 1950.

Assembly constituency-wise data in respect of forms received during camps would be uploaded on the website of the commission at CEO’s portal by February 25, 2019. Information about the disposal of forms would be given through the website by March 7, 2019.

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Mandi Police Warns Miscreants Promoting Malice Against Kashmiris, Urges People to Maintain Peace

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Kashmiri people in Himachal Pradesh

Mandi-The District Police, Mandi, on Tuesday, issued a warning to miscreants who were trying to incite violence against and promoting malice against Kashmiri people living in the State.

“The public is informed that following the suicide bombing in Pulwama of Jammu and Kashmir, some miscreants are making appeals to the people on social media to throw Kashmiri labourers, hawkers, lumberjacks etc. out of State’

said the notice issued by the district police.

The police has warned that a stringent action against will be taken against anyone who is found preaching malice towards Kashmiri citizens through such messages/comments on social media or causing any sort of vandalism.

The police urged the people to beware of such hatemongers and miscreants and maintain peace in the society.  

On Tuesday, tension mounted in a panchayat of Mandi district when the villagers passed a resolution to ban Kashmiri citizens in their area. The villagers reportedly told the Kashmiris living in rented quarters to leave the State by Wednesday. Meanwhile, some miscreants reportedly pelted stones on their quarters. Scared Kashmiris had to take shelter at local police station, said reports.

In another instance, an unverified video was doing rounds on social media, showing two groups of students clashing inside the campus of a private university in Mandi. To incite fear, it was rumoured that the scuffle took place between Kashmiri and local students.  

Earlier, the campus of the UHF, Nauni, in Solan district, witnessed tension after police booked two of its students for alleged anti-national activities on social media. The booked students were allegedly supporting the suicide bomber responsible for the ghastly Pulwama attack, in which 40 CRPF jawans were martyred.

Following this news, right-wing outfits in Himachal Pradesh had made calls for a boycott of Kashmiris. Similar tension was reported from other parts of the nation too. A large number of Kashmiri students, who were studying outside their home state, were returning home for fear of violence being incited by miscreants.

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