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HP Govt re-shuffles 34 IAS officers amid ongoing plethora of assuarances to public

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List of HP IAS transfered

Shimla: The new Government of Himachal Pradesh, led by the Chief Minister Jairam Thakur, has re-shuffled 34 IAS officials on January 5, 2018. Amongh these 34 officials, 10 were posted as the Deputy Commissioners of various districts.

Vikas Labro and Yunus Khan were the only two IAS Officers, who were not transfered and still hold the post of DCs of Una and Kullu respectively.

While there is nothing new in re-shuffling officials occupying important positions with the change in the government, a different pattern was observed emerging for the selection of candidates for these positions.

For the most important positions, the party is picking up candidates with a strong right-wing ideological background,well-tuned with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and had served dedicatedly as full-timers for the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).

Other than this major decision to re-shuffle the administrative officials, the Chief Minister, Jairam Thakur, and his cabinet ministers continue to assure the public of delivering massive reforms in the governance and administration.

The Chief Minister, right after the swearing-in ceremony on December 27, had told the people that he would go after the ‘VIP Culture’. He had expressed consternation about the poor financial health of the Hill State, which is buried under a gigantic loan of Rs. 46,000 crores.

The biggest assurance is that the party and its ministers will imbibe and embody the concept of political equality as a way of life.

As Chief Minister is said to have hailed from a common farmer community, the people are expecting to witness a change in the feudal mindset of the politicians, ministers, and bureaucrats. The public thought this time all official formalities like the oath-taking ceremony, the usual cavalcade of luxury cars, and grand welcomes would be simpler instead of usual pompous display of power and privilege.

Grand Ceremony, Demand for Luxuries,  Transfers  

However, the ceremony came out to be pompous one in which a large number of so called VIPs including the BJP’s top guns Amit Shah and Narendra Modi and Chief Ministers of several states were invited.

Though, the Chief Minisiter denied it, the reports regarding the demand of the ministers for more expensive luxury vehicles and the quarrell over official residences are not going with the claims of ending VIP culture. 

Public Money Frittered Away on Bouquets

Other than that, as per a Hindi Daily Jagran, the Chief Minister was greeted at the State Secretariat by presenting him bouquets. The cost of these bouquets, said the daily, ranged between Rs. 300 to 1,000 depending on the quality and quantity of the flowers. However, the bureaucrats did not spend on these expensive bouquets from their own pockets, but from official accounts. A plethora of bouquets was seen at the Chief Minister’s Office or any place he visited.

After the news appeared in the paper, the Chief Minister issued directions that no official visiting him would present bouquets.  

The Chief Minister had fired all the re-employed officials after their retirement. The party has made the re-employment of retired employees a major issue prior to the elections. However, now the government has realized that in some cases, it can’t help it either.

In a cabinet decision taken yesterday, the service of 214 retired patwaris/kanungos engaged on contract basis were given extension till August, 2018 until the new batch of 1120 patwaris undergoing training will be recruited.

Further, the Chief Minister today proposed setting up more micro and small scale industries using the ample surplus land under Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB).    

Yesterday’s Assurances by CM and Cabinet Ministers

There would be zero tolerance towards the crime against women and corruption, said the Chief Minister while annoucing a 24×7 ‘Gudiya’ helpline today. The Chief Minister during his visit to the Press Club. To curb the corruption, the Atal Help Line will be provided, he said. 

The Cabinet Ministers are also conducting meetings with their concerned departments and assuring a revolution in work culture.

Industries Minister Bikram Singh 

Bikram Singh today assured he would make the state an industrial hub of the country in 100 days. As geographical variations have always limited the expansion of industries in the state, Bikram assured uniform industrialization by introducing a ‘New Industrial Policy’ focusing on ‘Rural Industrialization’.

He assured at the very least 80 per cent employments in up-coming industrial units to the youth of Himachal.

The minister also assured the Mining Officers will conduct regular inspection and form a special flying squad to check illegal mining. H

e said the mining sites and quarries will be auctioned in a transparent manner.

Minister for Food, Civil Supplies Kishan Kapoor

Similarly, Kishan Kapoor, in a meeting of Officers of  Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs  Department at Shimla today, promised there will be no compromise on quality of essential commodities under PDS.

The officers will physically go in the field and conduct regular inspection of fair price shops, take samples and ensure reporting, he claimed.  

Kapoor assured all the ration cards will be linked with Aadhar Number within 100 days. A toll free numbers 1967 is already functioning to redress the grievances of consumers, he said.

The government is giving a subsidy of more than 220 crore on subsidized food in Himachal, and it is  the “duty of officers to ensure quality in this ration to provide best food to consumers in every nook and corner of the State,” he said.

Urban development, Housing and TCP Minister Sarveen Chaudhary

Minister Sarveen Chaudhary on January 5 presided over a review meeting of HIMUDA. She assured the concerned officials will complete all the developmental projects in a time bound manner. She said “no compromise will be tolerated in the quality of works and complete transparency should be maintained in the departmental affairs”.

The Minister gave the department 100 days for highlighting the priority of works with the projection of the cost and resource management. She said a cleanliness drive will be launched in the state, if the statement of the Minister is considered.

As per the Minister, so far, the HIMUDA has developed 17,229 houses, flats and plots.

The construction of 146 flats and development of 181 plots is in progress, while four housing colonies at Sheel, Dharmapur, Trilokpur and Rajwari are in pipeline, she said.

The minister is assuring construction of five clusters for solid waste management in Baddi, Hamirpur, Kangra, Shimla and Mandi. Vendor markets will be opened in different parts of the state and all possibilities of providing parking spaces will be explored.

The new government has promise fixing the errors in working of government departments. These sessions of claims and promises are likely to continue for a month or so.

The Chief Minister is repeatedly expressing gratitude towards the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the party high-command for giving him a chance to serve. He also assured the public that the foot-steps of PM Modi in the field of development will be followed in Himachal too.

Administrative Policy Paralysis

However, the biggest challenge for the government would be to do away with the administrative policy paralysis.

To the dismay of the public, there has been a major debate over the excess interference of legislature with the executive, which often prompted the judiciary to step in. The relation between the political class and the permanent executive hasn’t been so healthy.

It is evident from the repeated need of the intervention from the apex court to make the government work properly.

The court’s intervention comes in response to petitions by the vigilant section of the civil society, watchful media and the Right to Information Act.

In fact, with an intention to put a check increasing erratic and unresponsive executive power, the apex court had ordered formation of the Civil Service Board.

 

 

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Transfer of Judges – A Tool to Undermine the Institution of Justice

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Justice S. Muralidhar

Shimla- Justice S Murlidhar of Delhi High Court who was hearing a petition on Delhi Riots, had sharply condemned both the government and police on Wednesday. His scathing remarks questioned the working of the police. Following it, orders for his immediate transfer came late at night the same day to the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Earlier on 12th of February, a resolution of the collegium was passed deciding on transfer. Widespread protests were made by lawyers against the resolution of the collegium as the decision was unreasoned, unconventional, against past practices and had the potential to significantly affect the functioning of Courts.

Coincidently the judge on the day of the Center’s notification of transfer was hearing a PIL on DELHI Riots and had asked why there shouldn’t be FIRs against those who had indulged in hate speech before the riots occurred.  He told the Delhi Police chief to “seriously consider the consequences” of not registering the FIR.

The judge has been regarded by the DELHI Bar as one of the ‘citizen-friendly judges’ who is known for standing up for individual rights and for passing many orders for checking unconstitutional use of state power. The Judge has delivered several landmark judgments and was known to be impervious to pressure.

The Collegium & Sherlock Holmes

Former Supreme Court Judge Justice Madan Lokur had raised questions on the manner of functioning of the collegium. The Judge observed;

“The mystery behind the change in the appointment of the chief justice from one high court to another will need a Sherlock Holmes to unravel”.

As a rule of practice, It is only when a person is being appointed as a high court judge for the first time that he or she is sent out of his practising court. Once a permanent High Court judge is appointed and posted, he is transferred to another high court only upon elevation as Chief Justice. In the present case, there has been a departure from this rule of practice. In such circumstances where the norms are not being followed and an unconventional procedure is followed then it becomes imperative that reasons are recorded in writing stating the cause of such a departure. Not only reasons have to be recorded but even the consent of the judge needs to be taken. These principles flow from the basic structure of the constitution i.e “independence of the judiciary”.

However, the Notification affecting the transfer doesn’t mention the reasons for the decision, nor does the resolution of the Collegium passed on 12th February state any good reason for the transfer.

The Strike of Lawyers

The hurried manner in which the transfer is effected is troubling so much so that the Delhi High Court Bar Association (DHCBA) has condemned the transfer recommendation and also passed a resolution unanimously regarding this. The Bar Association had expressed dismay at the transfer of one of the finest judges by the collegium of the Supreme Court.

Expressing “shock” at the collegium recommending Justice Muralidhar’s transfer, the high court bar association hoped the decision would be recalled, saying such transfers were “detrimental” to the institution.

The resolution stated;

“Unequivocally and in the strongest possible terms, the Delhi high court bar association condemns the said transfers… Such transfers are not only detrimental to our noble institution but also tend to erode and dislodge the faith of the common litigant in the justice dispensation system. Such transfers also impede free and fair delivery of justice by the bench,” a resolution passed by the association said.
The association requested its members to abstain from work on 20 February 2020, “as a token of protest as the said transfer is a rarest of rare case, the majesty of our revered institution is at stake”.

Hon’ble Judge has been a part of important decisions as, disclosure of assets by judges under RTI, Legalization of Homosexuality and 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

Transfer of Judges – A Threat to The Independence of Judiciary

If the judiciary has to be a bulwark for the protection of the “rights of the individual” and mete out even-handed justice without fear and favour” then it should be independent.

Exercise of the judicial function is one which requires more than any other work a proper balance of mind and an undisturbed and peaceful life. Administration of justice cannot properly be done by a disgruntled judge. If transfer hangs over his head like a Damocles’ sword, the balance of justice slips out of his hand. An immediate and unnoticed transfer may cause so great inconveniences that it may compel him to quit rather than comply with the transfer order.

In the judges’ case, the Supreme Court held that the consent of the judge was not necessary for his transfer from one High Court to another. According to the Court, there are three safeguards against arbitrariness in the use of the President’s power to transfer judges under Article 222. They are:

  1. There must be full and effective consultation with the
    Chief Justice of India.
  2. The power of transfer can be exercised in the public interest only and not by way of punishment.
  3. Judicial review of the decision of the President to
    transfer a judge.

However, do these safeguards suffice to preserve the independence of the judiciary, one of the cardinal faith of the Constitution? Judges, unlike government servants, hold an office under the Constitution and there is no master-servant relationship between the government and the judge. A close study of Sankal Chand’s case and the Judges case would reveal that the Supreme Court has miserably failed to bring out the clear distinction between the transfers by punishment and transfers in the public interest or the present matter, as the order put it, “for better administration of justice“. These expressions are not capable of any precise definition and in a given set of circumstances may be applied differently by different people. In many cases, it would not be possible to rule out some elements of a penal character. The present procedure, as it stands, has instead of limiting the scope of transfers only enhanced its scope by giving a very elastic definition of public interest and ‘better administration of justice”.

Object /Reason and purpose of transfer needs to be spelt out in Orders

The great Mr Palkhiwala, after examining the Judges’ case had rightly pointed out that the dichotomy was not between transfer in the public interest and “for better administration of justice” and transfer by punishment, but the dichotomy was between transfer in’ public interest’ and transfers for ‘extraneous considerations’. According to him, the object of the transfer and not the result, or effect, of the transfer is the decisive factor. The object of the purpose needs to be clearly spelt out in such orders and this cannot be done in a slip-shod manner.

Consent OF the Judge must be sought

Justice Bhagwati in Sankal Chand’s case and reiterated in the Judges case that the “transfer is made consensual” was the only effective safeguard for a judge against arbitrary transfer and only if such an interpretation is accepted, the noble concept of independence of the judiciary can be preserved. This view is shared by many eminent jurists, judges, lawyers etc. The Lord Chief Justice of England, Hon. Lord Lane, speaking on “Standards of Judicial Independence” expressed the view that a judge ought not to be liable to be transferred from one High Court to another without necessarily seeking his consent. Justice H. R. Khanna, a former judge of the Supreme Court, regretted that the Law Commission’s recommendation that no judge should be transferred without his consent unless a panel consisting of the Chief Justice of India and his four seniormost colleagues find cause for such a course has fallen into deaf ears.

The Hon’ble judge not only ‘did not give his consent‘ but had also taken a critical view of the functioning of the police and remarks made by the members of the ruling party. The timing of the transfer during the pendency of such a sensitive matter is highly suspicious and can have a chilling effect upon judges and judicial functioning.

Better administration of justice can be achieved by providing detailed reasons to the Hon’ble judge and the people of India. Transfers without reason can instil fear in the minds of the judges, the first casualty of which would be the justice itself.

The constitutional provision (Article 222) on the transfer of judges has a direct and proximate connection with the independence of the judiciary. This provision, like many other constitutional provisions, can be made use of for achieving many useful purposes as well as evil purposes until a clear and reasonable interpretation is given to the Article keeping in view the principle of “independence of the judiciary”  in mind. Its abuse will have many dangerous effects on the judiciary and its independence. If the judiciary loses its independence and becomes subservient, the net result would be that the Constitution will lose its prominence. Justice Khanna has aptly put it like this:

“Once the independence of the judiciary is undermined and the seats of Justice came to be occupied by men with pliable conscience’ and subservient to the political wing of the State, the first casualty would necessarily be the supremacy of the Constitution, for it, would be open to every branch of the State to ride roughshod over the provisions of the Constitution.”
(The post was first published in https://lawumbrella.wordpress.com/ )
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EC Orders Removal of Anurag Thakur from BJP’s Star Campaigner List for Provocative Sloganeering

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Anurag Thakur Removed from BJP Star Campaigner list

Shimla– Ahead of elections to the Delhi Assembly in February 2020, the Election Commission of India has ordered the removal of Union Minister Anurag Thakur’s removal from the list of BJP’s star campaigners after he was caught on camera raising shockingly incendiary slogan. It is an embarrassment that Thakur has brought upon for Himachal Pradesh and his party.

His act was criticized by majority of people, especially because Thakur holds a constitutional post with the Union Ministry and is expected to not act according to the office he holds. People from his home-state also expressed shock and condemned his act.

The order came a day after a notice was served to Anurag seeking an explanation over his slogan. The EC found the comments made as prima facie violative of Model Code of Conduct (MCC).  The EC clearly mentioned that the removal should be done with “immediate effect and until further orders.”

In its notice, the EC said that it was prima facie of the view that the comments made by Anurag “have the potential of disturbing communal harmony and aggravating existing social and religious communities.” The EC said, thereby, it is a violation of MCC which is in effect since January 6.

In the notice, the EC referred to Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act, dealing with attempts to promote enmity or hatred between different classes of citizens on the grounds of religion, race, caste, community or language.

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Along with Anurag Thakur, EC also ordered the removal of Lok Sabha member Parvesh Singh Sahib from BJP’s star campaigner list. Parvesh had made a shocking remark in which he said, “lakhs of people gather there (Shaheen Bagh), they will enter your houses, rape your sisters and daughters, kill them.” It was followed by an appeal to elect Modi (BJP to power) to remain safe.

This statement in a speech while campaigning for BJP’s candidate from Rithala on January 27 had attracted widespread criticism.

Footage of Thakur was shown by media widely and circulated on social media quickly. Targeting anti-CAA/NRC protests at Shaheen Bagh, which is going on for over 40 days now, Anurag can be seen shouting “Desh ke gaddaron ko”, which is completed by party workers by shouting “goli maro sa**on ko.” (Gun down the traitors).

Also Read: CAA and NRC – A Dissent on Grounds of Equality and Fraternity

However, the removal of Anurag from campaigner list doesn’t imply that he would not be able to campaign anymore. It just implies that expanses of his travel for campaigning would be added to the expanses of the candidate he campaigns for. Political analysts are calling it merely a slap on the wrist of BJP. The trick appears to keep media and people distracted from real issues such as the economic slumber haunting the nation.

Bharatiya Janata Party has apparently run-out of relevant agendas and ammunition against the Aam Adami Party in Delhi ahead of Assembly elections. The best trump card is to create a communal divide and scare people by telling them that the minority is trying to annihilate their society and the nation. The remaining gap is filled by spreading misinformation. There is no socio-economic issue in the speeches of its leaders and even star campaigners. Anti-national, tukde-tukde gang, traitors, and Pakistan are the only phrases that are being used repeatedly to cast opposition AAP and any other anti-CAA/NRC groups as anti-nationals.

Further, it has become a trademark of BJP’s tactic to bully and suppress any voices rising against decisions of its government by branding them anti-nationals and sympathizers of the minority community.

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Anurag Thakur Served EC Notice for Incendiary Sloganeering, Brings Undue Embarrassment to Hill State

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Anurag Thakur goli maro

Shimla-While foul remarks and hate-speeches from political leaders have become common, the standards of political sloganeering dipped to a level where a member of Council of Union Ministers joined the bandwagon. The Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur has stirred another controversy, which is aptly distracting media from real issues. Most of the criticism came considering the fact that nation’s economic health is in tatters and Anurag is the part of the team that is scheduled to present budget for this session since February 1, 2020.  

Anurag Thakur landed in a controversy after, while campaigning for Rithala candidate ahead of impending assembly elections in Delhi, he was seen targeting anti-CAA/NRC protesters and provoking party workers to shout “Desh Ke Gaddaron ko, Goli maro sa**on ko” (gun down the traitors). The video footage is now widely being circulated on social media.

Thakur drew criticism not only from oppositions but also from legal experts. The act was termed as a violation of the Model Code of Conduct. Faced with pressure from the opposition and people, the Election Commission of Delhi sought a report from the district electoral officer, which was submitted to the Election Commission of India on Monday. Following it Anurag was served a notice by the EC. 

The act fits in the series of branding voices of resistance against government’s controversial decisions as anti-nationals or as tukde-tukde gang. Most resistance came from educated youth, therefore, prestigious institutes like JNU were targeted and no stone was left unturned to brand students as anti-nationals and the institute as a hub of anti-nationals.  

So far, politicians of the ruling party in the peaceful Hill State had refrained from making controversial or incendiary remarks. Therefore, for the State of Himachal Pradesh, its rising leader has brought embarrassment as he showed indifference towards the dignity of his official position. Questions are being raised as to who would be responsible if any of party worker translates this slogan into reality.

The matter becomes more serious considering the fact that a huge protest has been going on in Delhi’s Shaheenbag against the CAA and NRC. These protesting people are being branded as anti-nationals and traitors.

The protest is going on for over a month now as women from almost every age group have come out of their homes to stage an indefinite protest. On January 26, 2020 – on the 71st Republic Day- tricolour was furled at the Shaheenbag with enthusiasm.

This protest is inspiring more such protests in other parts of India and become a headache for the Centre government.

Sources: News Agencies      

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