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Dissolution of Shimla MC haunts BJP as opposition lays tempting bait for its Councilors

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Shimla MC Dissolution

The opposition has reportedly told vulnerable BJP Councilors that the two top positions would be given to them if they join hands to support a no-confidence motion.

Shimla: The town is still recovering from the acute water-scarcity it faced during last month. The government claimed that the town was receiving increased supply now, but SMC is still following the schedule prepared for town’s three zones for supplying drinking water after every three days.

Despite it, the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Shimla remained missing from their offices on Monday and Tuesday. The Mayor reportedly escaped to some cultural function on Tuesday. Her absence enraged the people and Councilors who had come with their grievances to see her.

The attention of media, as well as their readers, has also now shifted from water scarcity to opposition Congress’s political move to dethrone Kusum Sadret and Rakesh Sharma from the chairs of the Mayor and Deputy Mayor. As per the inside sources of the opposition, the bait laid for the BJP Councilor of Engine Ghar, Arti Chauhan, has worked.

She has agreed to use the support of the Congress-Councilors if she is given an opportunity to become the Deputy Mayor, said unofficial sources. It was further reported that about five Councilors of Congress have signed a written assurance to the BJP Councilor.

The Congress and BJP had won 12  and 17 seats respectively out of total 34 in the SMC elections held in 2017. Four seats were claimed by independent candidates while one went to the CPI(M).

BJP was one mark short of a majority and had poached one of Congress-supported independent Councilor, Sanjay Parmar, who had won elections from Ghora Chowki Ward. Sanjay was even thrashed for shifting his loyalty, and a video of the same had gone viral on social media.

Currently, owing to the failure to deal with water scarcity and Mayor’s poor performance, Congress is now at 16 – just short of two Councilors, which it is trying to poach from BJP. If opposition succeeds, then it can move a no-confidence motion to derail the current MC.

The opposition has reportedly told vulnerable BJP Councilors that the two top positions would be given to them if they join hands to support a no-confidence motion.

Congress’s choice for the Deputy Mayor is Arti Chauhan while poaching is still going on for the new Mayor. In simple words, currently, the eligibility for a highly important post of  Mayor is to shift loyalty.

It is to be seen whether BJP could prevent this one unidentified Councilor from falling to the temptation of sitting on the Mayor’s chair.

It would be a huge embarrassment for the ruling government as it was the first time in the history of SMC that people had given a chance to the BJP to run the Corporation.

The SMC has not completed its first year and it would be a great opportunity for Congress to propagate incapability of the BJP in running SMC and managing its own Councilors.

The acute water-scarcity and inequitable distribution of available drinking water to facilitate VIPs and influential have put the BJP on the target of not only the people but also on its own Councilors.

The opportunity for Congress is most suitable as the mismanagement and poor response of the current MC to the water scarcity had forced more than half-a-dozen of its own Councilors to come out on streets to protest against the Mayor, who had opted to disappear from the scene for an opportunity of a foreign tour.

The Councilors of the Engine Ghar and Dalli Wards had even sat on a dharna in front of the SMC Office. They didn’t listen to the Deputy Mayor at all, and the High Command had to intervene to silence them by evening.

The Legal Cell of the Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee has already submitted a memorandum to the Governor Acharya Devvrat on June 4 urging him to direct dissolution of the SMC under Section 404 of the Shimla MC Act 1994.

Further, the public, too, doesn’t seem to be satisfied with the performance of the current Mayor, who could soon repent choosing China visit over being present among the people.

Go through the comments made by the people on a post regarding the reason given by Mayor behind the urgency of her visit to China:

But it is the public that is sandwiched between the ruling government and opposition. This is why the political parties and their leaders do not get time to think about the welfare of the people.

Sadly, the MC currently does not require professional politicians but leaders with a scientific attitude and knowledge of technicalities crucial to running a town.  

Shimla town is an ecologically fragile hill station and requires a scientific approach in order to sustain itself amid rapid environmental degradation and haphazard, unplanned construction.

Misc News/Press Release

Himachal: 80% Voter Turnout in 2nd Phase of Panchayat Polls

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Second phase of Panchayat elections in himachal pradesh

Shimla-Himachal Pradesh Election Commission informed that the elections for 1208 Gram Panchayats were held today in the second phase in which around 80 percent polling was registered.

Overall, 75 COVID-19 patients and persons in isolation cast their votes as per the standard operating procedures.

The highest polling has been registered in Nandpur Gram Panchayat of Nalagarh developmental block of Solan district where the voter turnout was reported to be 96 percent.

The poll was held peacefully and there was no report of any untoward incident in the state. The counting of votes for Pradhan, Up-Pradhan and members was under the process and the results were awaited till late evening. The counting of votes for Zila Parishad and Panchayat Samiti will be held on 22 January 2021 at block headquarters.

Election-related process and results have been uploaded for the general public on sechimachal.nic.in.

The election for third and final phase for 1137 Panchayats would be held on 21 January 2021.

The first phase of elections to Panchayati Raj Institutions in Himachal Pradesh was held in 1228 Gram Panchayats on January 17, 2021. The overall polling percentage in the first phase was reported to 77.50%.

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Misc News/Press Release

77.50% Voter Turnout in First Phase of Himachal’s Panchayati Raj Polls: EC

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Panchayat elections in himachal pradesh

Shimla-The first phase elections to Panchayati Raj Institutions in Himachal Pradesh was today held in 1228 Gram Panchayats, informed a spokesperson of State Election Commission.

According to the information received till 7 PM, the overall polling percentage was 77.50%. As many as 123 COVID-19 patients and isolated voters cast their votes as per the Standard Operating Procedures, he informed.

Gram Panchayat Rihada in development block Naggar of Kullu district recorded the highest voter turnout (94 %). Counting of votes for Pradhan, Up-Pradhan and members will be completed today. Counting of votes for Zila Parishad and Panchayat Samiti will be held on 22nd January 2021 at block headquarters.

Further, 103-year-old Shyam Saran Negi, the first voter of independent India, cast his vote at a polling booth in Kalpa of Kinnaur district.

Election-related process and results have been uploaded for the general public on sechimachal.nic.in., the spokesperson said.

The second phase of polling for 1208 Panchayats will be held on 19th January followed by the third phase on 21st January 2021.

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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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