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“When Our Country is Burning in Silent Phase”

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Poem on Citizen Amendment Act by Bharat Bhushan Sharma shimla f

2020 is upon in a haste
When our country is
Burning in silent phase
Our doors are closed on
A religion, few nations chosen
And you and I stand without treason

Yes, on the road a few
At work some unable to chew
This unconstitutional view
Our country’s regime
Has thought and holds due
Basing someone’s identity
On his attire
How shrewd will we be
Dear sire

You have the golden number
But fret the day
When we stand a count
Not long will you have a sigh
You’ll be heading to the door neigh
Power is yours
But not your virtue
In the helm you are
Take control but sanely
And uplift our glorious country

Your deeds have put us in upheaval
Steady the ship ‘coz
We’r not going to be for long in slumber
We choose not to see
But our eyes don’t wear a veil
If you choose to fail
Us again in this run
We have certain chutzpah
And it’s not going to be fun

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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 into the religious riots, had sharply condemned both the government and police on Wednesday. His scathing remarks questioned the working of the police. Videos of inflammatory speeches were played in the court to show them to the police officials.

“We want peace to prevail. We do not want the city to witness another 1984 riots. This city has seen enough violence and anguish. Let it not repeat 1984,”

stated a bench headed by Justice S Muralidhar.

Following it, orders for his immediate transfer came late at night the same day to the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

The judge on the day of the hearing a PIL on DELHI Riots had asked why there shouldn’t be FIRs against the four BJP leaders 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 Collegium & Sherlock Holmes

Former Supreme Court Judge Justice Madan Lokur had raised questions on the manner of functioning of the collegium. “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 a high court judge for the first time that he or she is sent out of the practising HC. 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 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 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 Feburary 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.
“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 as 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 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 public interest or in 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 clearly 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 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 spelled 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 to the people of India. Transfers without reason can instill fear in the minds of the judges, the first casualty of which would obviously 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.”

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HPPERC Chairman Flees Office When HPU Students Try to Meet Him in Wake of ‘Fake Degree Scam’

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Himachal Fake Degree Scam

Shimla-Schools and higher education institutions are ‘temples’ where the future of children and youth is shaped. Imparting quality education is elementary to strengthen the society of a democratic state. But corruption has plagued the education system and evidence of the same have shown up in the rather docile state of Himachal Pradesh.

Instead of becoming accessible, education is becoming inaccessible due to the government’s ignorance and apathy. Failure of the governments to ensure quality education in government schools has left no other option for parents but to opt for private institutions, which are generally unaffordable. Parents are helpless and have to pay the hefty fees for the future of their children because they don’t have faith in the government institutions and their education system.

To complement the situation, now it is official that private institutes have been selling fake degrees without attracting any action from the state government or the HP Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Commission. Lakhs of fake degrees have already been sold.

A huge question arises over the intentions of the government as it did not take any action despite the information provided by the University Grants Commission through a letter.

UGC had written a letter to the Government of Himachal Pradesh on August 30, 2019, informing that two private universities have sold nearly five lakh fake degrees during the past seven years. These two private universities mentioned in the letter are the APG Shimla University and Manav Bharati University, Solan.

The letter clearly said,

“APG Shimla University, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, has not sold Degrees this year but has sold more than 15,000 Degrees for almost all the courses they are offering in the campus. Even the courses where seats are limited, they have sold the Degrees which are restricted by Statutory Bodies like AICTE, NCTE, BCI.”

Regarding the involvement of Manav Bharati University, the letter said,

“Manava Bharati University, Solan, Himachal Pradesh, has sold more than 4.5 lakh Degrees during the last 7 years with the help of Agents from Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, UP, Bihar, Delhi, West Bengal and parts of South India. They never informed the HP Private Universities Regulatory Authority that they had sold so many Degrees.”

The letter further said,

“The Founder of this University made good money by selling the Degree of Jayasurya’s Open University for Complementary Medicine, Sri Lanka, by printing these Degrees himself without informing Lord Pandit Prof. Dr Anten Jayasurya.”

The Chairman of the Commission, KK Katoch, however, claims that he received this letter only in January 2020.

After the news broke out about a week ago, students affiliated to two major student organizations of HP University- Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and Student Federation of India- have come out to protest the failure of the state government to monitor and regulate private universities.

Both organizations wanted to question the Chairman as to why he did not take any action despite having the information regarding this scam. The matter was already brought to his notice seven months ago through a UGC letter, they claimed.

On February 25, ABVP staged a protest at the Office of Regulatory Commission, Shimla, against fake degree scam by the two private universities. The Chairman of the Commission, KK Katoch, ABVP said, fled the office to avoid questions. ABVP alleged that other officials at the Commission told them that they faced pressure from the Chairman and were unable to discharge their duties adequately.

ABVP has demanded removal of Katoch from the post of Chairman along with a warning of larger protest if no proper action is taken against the private universities.

ABVP Protest Against Fake Degree Case

On February 26, SFI also staged a protest at the Office of the Commission. The Chairman remained absent from the office. SFI leaders accused the Chairman of escaping questions regarding the scam. SFI pointed out that the Commission has not even inspected the private institutes for the past several years. The Commission isn’t willing to move a muscle, it added. This is why instead of the Chairman or other officials; we are instead seeing a heavy police force.

It is only after the protest from the student bodies that the Commission has asked the State Police to hold an inquiry. The Director-General of Police, SR Mardi has confirmed that records and preliminary inquiry report are sought from the Commission relating to the scam.

There would be no wonder if these universities still continued to operate. This is how the unending cycles of corruption works in India.

There is no dignity left either in politicians or wealthy investors who establish private educational institute only to make money through unethical means. The ruling governments of both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress have been seen standing on the side of private institutes and encouraging privatisation of education.

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Be Careful About Fake News/Misinformation on Social Media: Education Minister

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HP Education minister Suresh Bhardwaj

Shimla-Education Minister Suresh Bhardwaj, while addressing youth at the 10th Bhartiya Chatra Sansad in New Delhi said, social media has many benefits like connectivity, easy access but there is a need to exercise caution while using this tool.

Sometimes social media spreads misinformation and fake news, we should be careful about what information we are consuming. We should learn to understand the difference between real and virtual life, he added.

The Education Minister also said that the youth should use their own identity and uniqueness and not rely too much on social media while making decisions.

The basic objective of education is to become a good citizen and to become successful in our professional and personal lives, he said.

The Education Minister was delivering a lecture on ‘Learn before you lean: Following social media and celebrities’ at the second session of the event which is being organised from 20th to 23rd February at Vigyan Bhavan New Delhi by Rahul Karad, Founder and Convenor of Bhartiya Chatra Sansad (BCS).

However, the degrading quality of education in the State’s government schools hardly suggests that the education minister is actually committed to create good citizens.

The massive fee hikes by Himachal Pradesh University are making education inaccessible. Private schools are prospering owing to poor quality of education in government schools. Parents are left with no choice but to pay hefty fees to private schools to ensure that their children get a better academic environment and basic facilities. At the same time, the ruling government in Delhi has proved that the academic environment and infrastructure of government schools can be changed for good easily.

Impressed with reforms in education in Delhi, during the United States President Donald Trump’s maiden visit to India next week, First lady Melania Trump is likely to visit a Delhi government school in South Delhi. As a part of various innovative steps to improve the education system, the Delhi government has introduced happiness curriculum. This curriculum was introduced for the students from Nursery to Class 8. Even some private schools later adopted it. Delhi government would be briefing Melania about the “happiness curriculum.”

Though politicians in India hardly follow what they preach, it is indeed the need of the hour that we filter what is being served on media and social media before believing it and making decisions based on it.

After witnessing unethical use of social media by political parties, during 2014 and 2019 General Elections, and lately in the recently concluded Delhi Assembly elections, for hate speeches, propaganda and spreading misinformation to manipulate voters, going completely against the ethics of politics, it is sarcastic to hear a politician asking people to beware of fake news and misinformation spread through social media. Not only politicians but mainstream media has also turned itself into a paid circus.

On some channels, journalists have even assumed the roles of judges instead of simply reporting facts. Together with paid media and social media, India’s politicians and religious organizations are experimenting with a divisive and communally polarizing politics. During the recent Delhi elections, journalists and politicians even turned themselves into jokers without caring about ethics and  their responsibility towards the nation.

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