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CANNOT STOP PARTIES MAKING PROMISES, BUT DEFINE WHAT IS FREEBIE: SC

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday said that it cannot prevent political parties from making promises during the election campaigns but the question is what constitutes right promises and what is the right way of spending public money.

A bench of Chief Justice of India N. V. Ramana, Justices J. K. Maheshwari, and Hima Kohli observed that it was essential to define what is a freebie as the issue pertaining to what constituted freebies and what doesn’t, has become increasingly complicated.

The bench observed, “We cannot prevent political parties from making promises. The question is what constitutes right promises. Can we describe the promise of free education as a freebie? Can free drinking water, minimum essential units of power etc. be described as freebies? Can consumer products and free electronics, be described as welfare?”

“The concern right now is what is the right way of spending public money. Some people say money is wasted, some say it is welfare. The issues are getting increasingly complicated. You give your opinions, ultimately, after debate and discussion, we will decide,” said the bench.

CJI Ramana said that even after making promises to the electorate, some parties were still not elected.

The bench cited an example of schemes such as MNREGA, which gave citizens “dignity of living”.

The apex court posted the matter for hearing on August 22 and asked parties in the case to file their suggestions by Saturday.The top court was hearing the plea filed by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay seeking direction to seize election symbols and deregister political parties that promised to distribute irrational freebies from public funds.

Political parties like Aam Aadmi Party, Congress, and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) have sought to intervene in the matter and opposed the plea.

Senior advocate P Wilson, appearing for DMK, contended that the petitioner is trying to convert India from a “socialist country to a capitalist country”.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, said, “If our understanding of social welfare is to distribute everything for free, then I am sorry to say but that is an immature understanding.”

Earlier, the Supreme Court had said that promising and distributing freebies by political parties during elections is a “serious issue” and an amount has to be spent on infrastructure etc. It had said that the economy losing money and the welfare of people, both have to be balanced.

The CJI also said that he is “strict orthodox” and doesn’t want to encroach on the areas meant by the legislature.Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Aam Aadmi Party, had opposed the PIL saying there is confusion between giving freebies and welfare schemes, and the word freebies is used in the very wrong manner.

AAP had filed an application stating that electoral promises such as free water, free electricity, and free transport are not ‘freebies’ but these schemes are absolutely essential in an unequal society.

Solicitor General had told the bench that if we say distributing freebies is the only way to achieve welfare schemes then it is a road to economic disaster and suggested that till the legislature is doing anything on freebies, Supreme Court can lay down guidelines.

On petitioner’s request for de-registration of political parties promising freebies, CJI had said he doesn’t want to enter the area of de-registering political parties etc. as its an “undemocratic arena” and “we are a democracy after all”. Election Commission in an affidavit had supported the top court’s decision to set up an expert committee to examine regulatory measures on freebies announced by political parties ahead of elections, however, declined to be part of the panel. The apex court had said that there is a need consisting of Niti Aayog, Finance Commission, ruling and opposition parties, Reserve Bank of India, and other stakeholders to make suggestions on how to control freebies by political parties.

Declining to be part of the expert body, the poll panel took objection to the apex court’s oral observations during a hearing where it had said that if the Commission had taken steps, this problem would not have arisen. The Commission said the remarks caused “irreparable damage” to its reputation built over the years.

The Commission had pointed out that it was the Supreme Court in its 2013 judgment which had held that promises made by political parties and candidates in their manifestos could neither be construed as a corrupt practice under the Representation of the People Act nor the violation of level playing field (Article 14).

The top court had also asked the Central government to take a stand on the need to control the issue of political parties promising to distribute irrational freebies.

The CJI had also sought the opinion of senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who was present in court for some other matter, on freebies by political parties.“It’s a serious issue but difficult to control politically. The Finance Commission when it does allocation to various states can take into account the debt of the state and the quantum of freebies. The Finance Commission is the appropriate authority to deal with it. Maybe we can invite the Commission to look into this aspect. The centre cannot be expected to issue directions,” Sibal had said.

The plea had claimed that political parties’ arbitrarily promises or irrational freebies for wrongful gain and to lure voters in their favor is analogous to bribery and undue influences.

It claimed that promise or distribution of irrational freebies from public funds before elections could unduly influence the voters, shake the roots of a free and fair election, and disturb the level playing field, besides vitiating the purity of the election process.

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Congress stalwart in himachal Harsh Mahajan joins BJP, says ‘Congress leaderless’

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In a major jolt to the Congress ahead of the Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections later this year, the party’s state unit working president, Harsh Mahajan joined the Bharatiya Janata Party on Wednesday. Mahajan joined the BJP in the presence of Union Minister Piyush Goyal in the national capital. While joining the BJP, he said that Congress has become “directionless and leaderless”.
He further added, “At the national level, the Congress Party stands directionless and lacking in vision, faced with a crisis of leadership, tainted by sycophancy and corruption. This has translated into a diminishing of its numbers, with some of the tallest leaders and stalwarts of the Grand Old Party being compelled to leave its ranks despite years of dedicated service to the organization.”
“That the party lacks democracy is a given, with ‘pick and choose’ stooges calling the shots – the politician- bureaucrat- businessman nexus that runs it has sealed its fate with scams and high levels of corruption rampant on every front. The people of India have seen through the party and have repeatedly voted it out of power, which is why its political space has been occupied by others at both the National and State levels,” the veteran leader said in a written statement.
“Rahul Gandhi has proved to be lacking in both acumen and maturity. Since the party continues to be a family fiefdom, the party today stands fossilized and lacks credibility.

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Centre extends free ration scheme for 3 more months, PM says ‘will benefit crores’

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Narendra Modi

The government on Wednesday extended Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana (PMGKAY) for three more months so that poor and vulnerable sections are supported for the major festivals including Navratri, Dussehra, Milad-un-nabi, Deepawali, Chhath pooja, Gurunanak Dev Jayanti and Christmas.
In a tweet, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi later said the Union Cabinet’s decision to extend the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana (PMGKAY) will benefit crores of people across India and ensure support during this festive season.
“Today’s Cabinet decision to extend the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana will benefit crores of people across India and ensure support during this festive season,” PM Modi said in a tweet.
The scheme will continue till December this year. Briefing reporters after a meeting of union cabinet, Information and Broadcasting Anurag Thakur said the Cabinet has approved the extension of the PMGKAY scheme for another three months.
He said the scheme, which was ending on Friday, will now run through 31 December 2022, Anurag Thakur said.
An official release said at a time when the world is battling with the effects of Covid on its decline and insecurity due to various reasons, India has been successfully maintaining food security for its vulnerable sections while taking necessary steps to keep availability and affordability for the common man.

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Lt General Anil Chauhan (retd) new Chief of Defence Staff

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The government on Tuesday appointed Lt General Anil Chauhan (retired) as the new Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). He had retired as the Eastern Army Commander in May last year and was serving as the Military Advisor to the National Security Council.
This is the first time that a retired officer has been appointed at this position for which a gazette notification was issued to announce the change in rules for the appointment. In a career spanning over nearly 40 years, Lt Gen Chauhan has held several command, staff and instrumental appointments and had extensive experience in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and northeast India.
He will also function as Secretary to the ­Government of India, Department of Military Affairs with effect from the date of his assumption of charge and until further orders, an official release said.
Lt General Anil Chauhan (retired) will be the second CDS of the country after Gen Bipin Rawat who died in a helicopter crash in December last year in Tamil Nadu.
Born on 18th May 1961, Lt Gen Anil Chauhan was commissioned into the 11 Gorkha Rifles of the Indian Army in 1981.
He is an alumnus of the National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla and Indian Military Academy, Dehradun.
In the rank of Maj General, the officer had commanded an Infantry Division in the critical Baramula sector in the Northern Command.
Later as Lt General, he commanded a corps in the North East and subsequently went to become the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Command from September 2019 and held the charge until his retirement from the service in May 2021.
In addition to these command appointments, the officer also tenanted important staff appointments including the charge of Director General of Military Operations.
Earlier, the officer had also served as a United Nations mission to Angola.
He superannuated from the Indian Army on 31 May 2021.
Even after his retirement from the Army, he continued to contribute to national security and strategic matters.
For his distinguished and illustrious service in the Army, Lt General Anil Chauhan (retired) was awarded the Param Vishisht Seva Medal, Uttam Yudh Seva Medal, Ati Vishisht Seva Medal, Sena Medal and Vishisht Seva Medal.

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Maken’s ‘right briefing’ to high command could have averted Rajasthan crisis

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Ashok Gehlot

AICC General Secretary in charge of Congress in Rajasthan, Ajay Maken seems to have worsened and complicated the matter for the party in the state. After failing to control the situation, Maken’s image suffered yet another setback.
Rajasthan’s situation was bordering on what happened in Punjab and Delhi. It is the Congress legislators who finally came to rescue. After the truth came to the fore, all the senior leaders and the Gandhi family’s loyalist Sam Pitroda intervened and defended Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. All of them were of the view that the majority should not be ignored. That is why Congress interim chief Sonia Gandhi decided to meet Gehlot on Thursday. The final picture will be clear on the presidential election only after this meeting.  
However, Maken is being blamed, and rightly so, for whatever happened in Rajasthan over the last few days. Sources say that Maken could have prevented the situation from worsening if he had even a bit of political understanding. Amid the crisis, Maken on the contrary tried to somehow get the “one line resolution” passed.
After this, Maken’s role is now under suspicion. The question is why Maken was so adamant on passing “the resolution”. He got angry when MLAs refused to entertain any resolution. He did not even meet the Chief Minister, while senior leader Mallikarjuna Kharge lent Gehlot a patient hearing before returning to Delhi. Both Maken and Kharge had been appointed as observers by the leadership to douse the Rajasthan crisis.     
In fact, the MLAs’ anger was justifiable, given some revelations that took them by surprise later. They wondered how the Sachin Pilot’s faction knew about the CLP meeting quite before, whereas CM, PCC chief and chief whip were unaware of this meeting. There was a buzz that the swearing-in of a new CM will take place on 27-28 September. That’s not all, the MLAs were told in a threatening tone that they would not remain ministers after 28 September.
The banners reading, “Naye Yug ki Shuruvat” were seen at various places in the state. It is said that Sachin also called some MLAs to inform them that he was going to be the CM. The media also played its role in all that was happening, by almost confirming the transition of power in Jaipur. The MLAs were also a bit nervous at one point of time. Two years ago when the operation to topple the government was underway, these MLAs remained united and thwarted the ‘Operation Lotus’. They had outright turned down “the bribe of Rs 25-30 crore”, sources claimed.
So, this time round the MLAs were upset with the high command trusting Sachin Pilot despite his involvement in anti-party activities. As a result, these legislators boycotted the CLP meeting, and submitted their resignations to the Speaker. Their demand was that none of “the rebels” should be given the CM post. The opposition got an opportunity to tarnish the image of Gehlot, who has been the most trusted leader of the Gandhi family.
AICC general secretary in-charge of organisation, K.C. Venugopal has said on Wednesday that the situation will be normal in Rajasthan in the next couple of days. Hopefully, the situation will be normal after the nomination process for Congress the presidential poll. But Maken’s role in the entire development will continue to be questioned.
The party suffered a massive existential crisis in Delhi when Congress was being led by Maken.
The party’s miserable condition is no secret in Punjab where he was sent as an
in-charge of the state. He could not give the factual information about Rajasthan leading to worsening of the crisis there. All eyes will now be on what steps the party takes in days to come.     

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New Attorney General of India: Advocate R Venkataramani

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The Centre Government on Wednesday appointed senior Advocate R Venkataramani as the new Attorney General of India.
The appointment of Venkataramani is for a period of three years. The Centre Government issued a notification in regards to the appointment of a new Attorney General of India.
The notification issued by the Ministry of Law and Justice states, “The President is pleased to appoint R Venkataramani, Senior Advocate as Attorney General for India for a period of three years from the date he enters upon his office.
Senior Advocate R Venkataramani is an eminent advocate of the Supreme Court and has appeared in various matters as varied as constitutional law, environmental law, taxation, tribal rights, and child and women’s rights.
He has represented several state governments, the Union government, universities and public sector undertakings in major litigation in the Supreme Court and in High Courts.
Earlier, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi declined the central government’s proposal to be appointed as the next Attorney General for India.
On September 30, 2022, the term of Senior Advocate K.K. Venugopal as Attorney General of India is coming to an end.

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Gehlot to meet Sonia on Thursday, Rahul aide says matter to be resolved in a day or two

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Ashok Gehlot

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot will meet Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday afternoon following the rebellion by his party lawmakers in the state, in the run-up to the Congress presidential poll.
Pro-Gehlot Rajasthan Minister Pratap Khachariyawas said that the CM who is arriving in New Delhi on Thursday and will meet Sonia Gandhi. Congress is currently grappling with the political crisis in the state over leadership change after Gehlot emerged as the top contender in the party’s presidential polls for which the process of the nomination has already begun.
On Tuesday, Gehlot held an informal meeting with a few ministers and party MLAs at his residence in Jaipur, sources said.
Sachin Pilot, a former Deputy Chief Minister of the State is also in Delhi.
Amid the ongoing political turmoil in Rajasthan over the appointment of Ashok Gehlot’s successor, Congress leader K.C. Venugopal said that there is no drama in the state and everything will be clear in a day or two about who will be the next chief minister.
Venugopal said, “There is no drama in Rajasthan. Everything will be clear in a day or two. The media may see this as a drama but at least you are discussing the INC president election. You cannot discuss the presidential election of any other party in this country.” The Congress leader said that the party is carrying forward the election for the presidential poll in a “democratic manner”.
“Congress is doing it in a very democratic manner, it will end in two days smoothly,” he said.

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