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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 9 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 the world around him in his DSLR lens.

Campus Watch

Enraged Over Suspension of 10 Students, ABVP Stages Protest at HPU Campus, Alleges Varsity of One-Sided Action  

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ABVP Protest at HPU over suspension of members

Shimla-The Himachal Pradesh University unit of Akhil Bhartiya Parishad today staged an aggressive protest at the campus over the suspension of its 10 members. The student organization alleged the university authority of one-sided action.

The unit secretary Ankit Chandel said that ABVP had held a protest at the campus on July 11, 2019 over delay and irregularities in the declaration of results of UG classes. For this protest, the varsity on Thursday suspended 10 students.
ABVP Protest at HPU over suspension of members 3

Chandel alleged that when the employees hold protests outside the office of Vice-Chancellor, no action is taken. However, on the other hand, when a student organization stages protest, then its members are suspended in a biased manner.

Earlier, ABVP entered the office of VC to submit their demand to declare results of UG classes. The organization said that the results for the second and fourth semester of UG classes have not been declared. As many as 5000 students were facing problems in their admissions due to this delay, ABVP said. However, when students did not find the VC or any other staff at the office to attend to them, they shouted slogans against the administration for over two hours.

Chandel alleged that the varsity is adopting various tactics to suppress the voices protesting against the irregularities in the working of the administration.  While thousands of students are facing huge inconvenience due to delay and irregularities in the declaration of results, the varsity is leaving no stone unturned to give itself a pat on its back, he said.
ABVP Protest at HPU over suspension of members 2

Chandel reminded that cases of irregularities in admissions to P.hD and MCA were reported about nine months ago. When students protested against it, their voice was suppressed instead of taking action.

ABVP has warned the varsity authority of not interfering with the working of the student organization and instead mind its own job.  The organization has also demanded to revoke the suspension of its members. Otherwise, it warned, a state-wide protest would be held against the varsity. ABVP also demanded to declare complete results of UG classes immediately.   

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Campus Watch

HP University Offers Special Chance to Complete UG Degrees

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HPU Special Chance for UG Degrees

Shimla– Himachal Pradesh University on July 17, 2019, issued a notification offering special chance to complete BA/B.Sc/B.Com and Shashtri degrees to candidates who had enrolled for academic sessions between 2000 – 2012-13 but could not complete their course in the given time period.

Such candidates can avail this special chance by paying a fee of Rs 5000 per year. The examination will be held in March 2020 in accordance with the old syllabus (2012-13).

Similarly, the candidates, who had enrolled for academic sessions between 2000-2014, can avail this chance to complete their BCA/BBA degrees by paying a fee of Rs 20, 000 per year. The examination for these degrees will be held in September 2019 in accordance with the old syllabus (2013-14).

The notification was issued after a few amendments in decisions taken by the HPU Executive Council in its meeting held on May 31, 2019.       

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Misc News/Press Release

HP Cabinet Decisions July 2019: Nod to ‘HP Construction, Demolition Waste Policy and Strategy’ & ‘HP Direct Selling Guidelines, 2019’

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HP Cabinet Decisions July 2019

Shimla– Himachal Pradesh Cabinet meeting was held on July 16, 2019, under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur

The cabinet has recommended the Governor to convene Monsoon session of Himachal Pradesh Vidhan Sabha from August 19 to August 31, 2019, with a total number of 11 sittings.

The Cabinet decided to provide State subsidy of 30 percent of system cost including installation of solar water heating systems of capacities 100 LPD and 200 LPD only to all the domestic consumers in the state.

HP Construction and Demolition Waste Policy and Strategy

It decided to frame Himachal Pradesh State Construction and Demolition Waste Policy and Strategy to avoid, minimise, reuse, recycle and dispose-off construction and demolition waste and avoid and minimize construction waste through design and construction management. This would help in checking the environmental problems that arise owning to open dumping of these wastes. Under the policy, suitable land would be provided for the dumping of construction and demolition waste and further its processing through private operators/agencies or by Urban Local Bodies.

 HP Direct Selling Guidelines, 2019

The Cabinet decided to approve Himachal Pradesh State Direct Selling Guidelines, 2019. The government claimed it would regulate the business of direct selling and multi-level marketing and strengthen the existing regulatory mechanism on direct selling and multi-level marketing. It’ll also prevent fraud and protect the legitimate rights and interests of the consumers, the government said.  

 The Cabinet approved the change of equity in favour of three power projects and also cleared a policy for imposing a penalty in case of change of equity and name without the approval of the government. Project developers would be given a period of 60 days when to get them approved without penalty.

 It accorded approval to

  •  Fill up five posts of Civil Judges in Himachal Pradesh High Court through direct recruitment to ensure speedy disposal of various cases
  • Fill up seven posts of Junior Office Assistant (IT) and 10 posts of Statistical Assistant in Health and Family Welfare Department on contract basis through Himachal Pradesh Staff Selection Commission, Hamirpur.
  • Open Health Sub Centres at Kashimblidhar in Gram Panchayat Kuklah and at Chunani in Gram Panchayat Kashaud in Tehsil Balichowki and in Gram Panchayat Tandi in Chachiot tehsil of Mandi district alongwith creation and filling up of requisite posts.
  •  Open Primary Health Centre at Shilhanu in Mandi district alongwith creation of two posts to man the centre.

 Other Decisions

 Honorarium of Water Guards Hiked

The Cabinet gave its nod to increase the honorarium of water guards from Rs. 2100 to Rs. 3000 and para fitters and para pump operators from Rs. 3000 to Rs. 4000 engaged in Irrigation and Public Health Department. This would benefit about 6220 water guards and about 500 para fitters and para pump operators.

The Cabinet decided to continue the Market Intervention Scheme (MIS) for procurement of apple during the current apple season. It also decided to enhance the procurement price under MIS from Rs. 7.50 to Rs. 8 per kg.  As many as 279 procurement centres would be opened in different parts of the state to facilitate the apple growers.

The Cabinet also decided that state-level function would be organized at Shimla on the birth anniversary of first Chief Minister Dr. Y.S Parmar on 4th August 2019.

 It gave its consent to accord District level status to Nalwar Mela Lambathach in Thunag tehsil of Mandi district.

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