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Requirements for admissibility of electronic evidence

The IT Act is based on the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law and the Model Law on
Electronic Commerce. The primary purpose of the Information Technology Act 2000 is to provide legal
recognition to electronic commerce and to facilitate filing of electronic records with the government.

Siddhant Mishra

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INTRODUCTION

The advancement of computers, the social influence of information technology and the ability to store information in digital form have all required Indian law to be amended to include provisions on the appreciation of digital evidence. In 2000 Parliament enacted the Information Technology (IT) Act 2000, which amended the existing Indian statutes to allow for the admissibility of digital evidence. The IT Act is based on the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law Model Law on Electronic Commerce. The primary purpose of the Information Technology Act 2000 is to provide legal recognition to electronic commerce and to facilitate filing of electronic records with the Government. The IT Act also penalizes various cyber-crimes and provides strict punishments (imprisonment terms up to 10 years and compensation up to Rs 1 crore). The IT Act was amended by the Negotiable Instruments (Amendments and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2002. This introduced the concept of electronic cheques and truncated cheques.

ELECTRONIC EVIDENCE IN THE INDIAN EVIDENCE ACT 1872, INDIAN PENAL CODE 1860

Changes Incorporated to the Evidence Act 1872 Although the Evidence Act has been in force for many years, it has often been amended to acknowledge important developments. Amendments have been made to the Evidence Act 1872 to introduce the admissibility of both electronic records and paper-based documents.

DEFINITION OF EVIDENCE

The definition of ‘evidence’ has been amended to include electronic records. Evidence can be in oral or documentary form. The definition of ‘documentary evidence’ has been amended to include all documents, including electronic records produced for inspection by the court. The term ‘electronic records’ has been given the same meaning as that assigned to it under the IT Act, which provides for “data, record or data generated, image or sound stored, received or sent in an electronic form or microfilm or computer-generated microfiche”.

ADMISSIONS

The definition of admission has been changed to include a statement in oral, documentary or electronic form which suggests an inference to any fact at issue or of relevance. Section 22A has been inserted into the Evidence Act which provides for the relevancy of oral evidence regarding the contents of electronic records. It provides that oral admissions regarding the contents of electronic records are not relevant unless the genuineness of the electronic records produced is in question.

STATEMENT AS A PART OF ELECTRONIC RECORD When any statement is part of an electronic record, the evidence of the electronic record must be given as the court considers it necessary in that particular case to understand fully the nature and effect of the statement and the circumstances under which it was made. Section 39 deals with statements that form part of a longer statement, a conversation or part of an isolated document, or statements that are contained in a document that forms part of a book or series of letters or papers. Admissibility of the Electronic Evidence New Sections 65A and 65B are introduced to the Evidence Act under the Second Schedule to the IT Act, 2000. Section 5 of the Evidence Act provides that evidence can be given regarding only facts that are at issue or of relevance. Section 136 empowers a judge to decide on the admissibility of the evidence. Section 65A provides that the contents of electronic records may be proved in accordance with the provisions of Section 65B. Section 65B provides that notwithstanding anything contained in the Evidence Act, any information contained in an electronic record (i.e., the contents of a document or communication printed on paper that has been stored, recorded and copied in optical or magnetic media produced by a computer (‘computer output’)), is deemed to be a document and is admissible in evidence without further proof of the original’s production, provided that the conditions set out in Section 65B(2) to (5) are satisfied. These provisions shall be analysed further in detail.

PRESUMPTIONS REGARDING ELECTRONIC EVIDENCE

A fact which is relevant and admissible need not be construed as a proven fact. The judge must appreciate the fact in order to conclude that it is a proven fact. The exception to this general rule is the existence of certain facts specified in the Evidence Act that can be presumed by the court. The Evidence Act has been amended to introduce various presumptions regarding digital evidence under Sections 81A, 85A, 85B, 85C, 88A and 90A.

CHANGES INCORPORATED IN THE INDIAN PENAL CODE 1860

A number of offences were introduced under the provisions of the First Schedule of the IT Act, which amended the Penal Code with respect to offences for the production of documents that have been amended to include electronic records. The range of additional includes: Section 172, Indian Penal Code: Absconding to avoid the production of a document or electronic record in, a court. Section 173, Indian Penal Code: Intentionally preventing the service of summons, notice or proclamation to produce a document or electronic record in a court Section 175, Indian Penal Code: Intentionally omitting to produce or deliver up the document or electronic record to any public servant Sections 192 and 193, Indian Penal Code: Fabricating false evidence by making a false entry in an electronic record or making any electronic record containing a false statement, and intending the false entry or statement to appear in evidence in judicial proceedings Section 204, Indian Penal Code: The destruction of an electronic record where a person hides or destroys an electronic record or obliterates or renders illegible the whole or part of an electronic record with the intention of preventing the record from being produced or used as evidence Sections 463 and 465, Indian Penal Code- Making any false electronic record.

ADMISSIBILITY OF THE ELECTRONIC RECORDS IN THE INDIAN EVIDENCE ACT

Among all the changes made in the provisions of the Indian Evidence Act 1872 thus recognizing the electronic records as a document u/s. 3 and electronic signatures under, the most important provisions are sections 65A and 65B of the Act. Section 65A lays down the special provisions as to the evidence relating to electronic record and Section 65B deals with the admissibility thereof. Section 65A provides that the contents of an electronic record may be proved in accordance with the provisions in section 65B.

ADMISSIBILITY OF ELECTRONIC RECORDS Section 65B.

Admissibility of electronic records:

(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, any information contained in an electronic record which is printed on a paper, stored, recorded or copied in optical or magnetic media produced by a computer (hereinafter referred to as the computer output) shall be deemed to be also a document, if the conditions mentioned in this section are satisfied in relation to the information and computer in question and shall be admissible in any proceedings, without further proof or production of the original, as evidence of any contents of the original or of any fact stated therein of which direct evidence would be admissible.

(2) The conditions referred to in sub-section (1) in respect of a computer output shall be the following, namely: the computer output containing the information was produced by the computer during the period over which the computer was used regularly to store or process information for the purposes of any activities regularly carried on over that period by the person having lawful control over the use of the computer; during the said period, information of the kind contained in the electronic record or of the kind from which the information so contained is derived was regularly fed into the computer in the ordinary course of the said activities; throughout the material part of the said period, the computer was operating properly or, if not, then in respect of any period in which it was not operating properly or was out of operation during that part of the period, was not such as to affect the electronic record or the accuracy of its contents; and the information contained in the electronic record reproduces or is derived from such information fed into the computer in the ordinary course of the said activities.

(3) Where over any period, the function of storing or processing information for the purposes of any activities regularly carried on over that period as mentioned in clause (a) of sub-section (2) was regularly performed by computers, whether— by a combination of computers operating over that period; or by different computers operating in succession over that period; or by different combinations of computers operating in succession over that period; or in any other manner involving the successive operation over that period, in whatever order, of one or more computers and one or more combinations of computers, all the computers used for that purpose during that period shall be treated for the purposes of this section as constituting a single computer; and references in this section to a computer shall be construed accordingly.

(4) In any proceedings where it is desired to give a statement in evidence by virtue of this section, a certificate doing any of the following things, that is to say,— identifying the electronic record containing the statement and describing the manner in which it was produced; giving such particulars of any device involved in the production of that electronic record as may be appropriate for the purpose of showing that the electronic record was produced by a computer; dealing with any of the matters to which the conditions mentioned in sub-section (2) relate, and purporting to be signed by a person occupying a responsible official position in relation to the operation of the relevant device or the management of the relevant activities (whichever is appropriate) shall be evidence of any matter stated in the certificate; and for the purposes of this sub-section it shall be sufficient for a matter to be stated to the best of the knowledge and belief of the person stating it.

(5) For the purposes of this section: information shall be taken to be supplied to a computer if it is supplied thereto in any appropriate form and whether it is so supplied directly or (with or without human intervention) by means of any appropriate equipment; whether in the course of activities carried on by any official information is supplied with a view to its being stored or processed for the purposes of those activities by a computer operated otherwise than in the course of those activities, that information, if duly supplied to that computer, shall be taken to be supplied to it in the course of those activities; a computer output shall be taken to have been produced by a computer whether it was produced by it directly or (with or without human intervention) by means of any appropriate equipment. Explanation- For the purposes of this section any reference to information being derived from other information shall be a reference to its being derived therefrom by calculation, comparison or any other process.

JUDICIAL DICTA ON THE ADMISSIBILITY OF ELECTRONIC EVIDENCE

In Jagjit Singh v State of Haryana the speaker of the Legislative Assembly of the State of Haryana disqualified a member for defection. While hearing the matter the Supreme Court considered the appreciation of digital evidence in the form of interview transcripts from the Zee News television channel, the Aaj Tak television channel and the Haryana News of Punjab Today television channel. The court determined that the electronic evidence placed on record was admissible and upheld the reliance placed by the speaker on the recorded interview when reaching the conclusion that the voices recorded on the CD were those of the persons taking action.

In the case of State (NCT of Delhi) v Navjot Sandhu an appeal was preferred against conviction following the attack on Parliament on December 13 2001, in which five heavily armed persons entered the Parliament House Complex and killed nine people, including eight security personnel and one gardener, and injured 16 people, including 13 security men. This case dealt with the proof and admissibility of mobile telephone call records. While considering the appeal against the accused for attacking Parliament, a submission was made on behalf of the accused that no reliance could be placed on the mobile telephone call records, because the prosecution had failed to produce the relevant certificate under Section 65B(4) of the Evidence Act. The Supreme Court concluded that a crossexamination of the competent witness acquainted with the functioning of the computer during the relevant time and the manner in which the printouts of the call records were taken was sufficient to prove the call records.

The Court observed that: “According to Section 63, secondary evidence means and includes, among other things, “copies made from the original by mechanical processes which in themselves ensure the accuracy of the copy, and copies compared with such copies”. Section 65 enables secondary evidence of the contents of a document to be adduced if the original is of such a nature as not to be easily movable. It is not in dispute that the information contained in the call records is stored in huge servers which cannot be easily moved and produced in the Court. Hence, printouts taken from the computers/servers by mechanical process and certified by a responsible official of the service providing Company can be led into evidence through a witness who can identify the signatures of the certifying officer or otherwise speak to the facts based on his personal knowledge. Irrespective of the compliance of the requirements of Section 65B which is a provision dealing with admissibility of electronic records, there is no bar to adducing secondary evidence under the other provisions of the Evidence Act, namely Sections 63 & 65. It may be that the certificate containing the details in sub-Section (4) of Section 65B is not filed in the instant case, but that does not mean that secondary evidence cannot be given even if the law permits such evidence to be given in the circumstances mentioned in the relevant provisions, namely Sections 63 & 65.”

 Thus the Supreme Court made a remarkable observation when it held that although the requirements of Section 65B cannot be fulfilled, but then secondary evidence can always be given under Section 63 and 65 of the Evidence Act.

State of Maharashtra v Dr Praful B Desai involved the question of whether a witness can be examined by means of a video conference. The Supreme Court observed that video conferencing is an advancement of science and technology which permits seeing, hearing and talking with someone who is not physically present with the same facility and ease as if they were physically present. The legal requirement for the presence of the witness does not mean actual physical presence. The court allowed the examination of a witness through video conferencing and concluded that there is no reason why the examination of a witness by video conferencing should not be an essential part of electronic evidence.

In Dharambir vs. Central Bureau of Investigation, The court arrived at the conclusion that when Section 65-B talks of an electronic record produced by a computer referred to as the computer output, it would also include a hard disc in which information was stored or was earlier stored or continues to be stored. It distinguished as there being two levels of an electronic record. One is the hard disc which once used itself becomes an electronic record in relation to the information regarding the changes the hard disc has been subject to and which information is retrievable from the hard disc by using a software program. The other level of electronic record is the active accessible information recorded in the hard disc in the form of a text file, or sound file or a video file etc. Such information that is accessible can be converted or copied as such to another magnetic or electronic device like a CD, pen drive etc. Even a blank hard disc which contains no information but was once used for recording information can also be copied by producing a cloned had or a mirror image.

Supreme Court in S. Ravindra Bhat and V. Ramasubramanian, vide judgment dated July 14, 2020, overruled the Shafhi Mohammad case for being in teeth of the judgment in Anvar P. V. Further, judgment in Tomaso Bruno was declared per incuriam, for not laying down the law correctly and the legal position was clarified as under:

The certificate required under Section 65B(4) of the Act is a condition precedent to admissibility of evidence by way of electronic record. Oral evidence in place of such certificate cannot possibly suffice as Section 65B(4) of the Act is a mandatory requirement of the law.

The non-obstante provision of Section 65B(1) of the Act makes it clear that when it comes to information contained in an electronic record, admissibility and proof thereof must follow the drill of Section 65B, which is a special provision in this regard, Sections 62 to 65 being irrelevant for this purpose.

The law laid down in Anvar P. V. does not need to be revisited. However, last sentence in Anvar P.V. (supra) which reads as “…if an electronic record as such is used as primary evidence under Section 62 of the Evidence Act…” is to be read without the words “under Section 62 of the Evidence Act…”

The required certificate under Section 65B(4) of the Act is unnecessary if the original document itself is produced. This can be done by the owner of a laptop computer, computer tablet or even a mobile phone, by stepping into the witness box and proving that the concerned device, on which the original information is first stored, is owned and/or operated by him. Such proof however, cannot be adduced if the device cannot be physically brought to court in cases where the computer happens to be a part of a “computer system” or “computer network”. In such case, the only means of providing information contained in such electronic record can be in accordance with Section 65B(1), together with the requisite certificate under Section 65B(4) of the Act.

Where the requisite certificate has been sought from the person or the authority concerned, and the person or authority either refuses to give such certificate, or does not reply to such demand, the party asking for such certificate can apply to the court for its production under Section 165 of the Evidence Act, Order XVI of the Code of Civil Procedure or Section 91 and 349 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Once such an application is made to the court, and the court directs that the requisite certificate be produced by the person to whom it sends a summons in this regard, the party asking for the certificate has done all that he can possibly do to obtain the requisite certificate.

The court observed that Section 65B is silent with regard to the stage at which such certificate is be furnished to the court. It was observed in  Anvar’s case  that such certificate must accompany the electronic record when the same is produced in evidence. This is when such certificate could be procured by the person seeking to rely upon an electronic record. In cases where either a defective certificate is given, or in cases where such certificate has been demanded and is not given by the concerned person, the judge conducting the trial must summon the person(s) under Section 65B(4) and require that such certificate be given by such person(s) exercising discretion depending upon facts of each case. This ought to be done when the electronic record is produced in evidence without the requisite certificate. In so far as criminal trials are concerned, the requisite certificate can be directed to be produced by the court at any stage, so that information contained in electronic form can be relied upon in evidence.

Furthermore, the court issued general directions to cellular companies and internet service providers to maintain CDRs and other relevant records for the concerned period in a segregated and secure manner if a particular CDR or other record is seized during investigation in the said period. Concerned parties can then summon such records at the stage of defense evidence, or in the event such data is required to cross-examine a particular witness.

Lastly, Supreme Court was of the view that suitable rules and directions should be framed in exercise of the Information Technology Act, 2000, for the retention of data involved in trial of offences, their segregation, rules of chain of custody, stamping and record maintenance, for the entire duration of trials and appeals, and also in regard to preservation of the meta data to avoid corruption.

Likewise, appropriate rules for preservation, retrieval and production of electronic record, should be framed after considering the report of the committee constituted by the Chief Justice›s Conference in April 2016.

Siddhant Mishra – Advocate at Lucknow High Court

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Opinion

SELF-RELIANCE THROUGH THE USE OF INDIAN LANGUAGES ​​IN AI

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Indian knowledge tradition is a broad concept. It helps in developing a broader dimension and approach. Artificial intelligence, which is prevalent in today’s time, if defined by understanding it in the real sense, is the cloning of the human brain. The machine itself is non-living, but the resultant output of the input that the human brain provides to it through software and programming is visible to us in the form of applications of artificial intelligence. It is, as much as its creator, intelligent. If the scientists of this field understand the functioning of the brain via emotional manifestations, then the robot made by them can also be emotional. The artificial intelligence that is being talked about nowadays has some limitations, such as a robot can do as much work as its program or software will command it to do.

Generally, these programs are built based on many facts, applications, and examples. If the conditions are changed, then these machines or robots will work to the extent that the situations have been programmed in them. It is to be noted here that the ideas come to us originally in our languages. There may be any other language, but in the abstract or latent state, the conceptual process is relative to the native language of the person. It is to be noted here that while moving from one linguistic level to another in the form of expression of ideas, they gradually become less in terms of their intensity and originality. More linguistic transfer destroys their original feeling. From this point of view, it will be possible to make more efficient machines using artificial intelligence using the original language of thoughts. People learn from their experiences, the wider their experiences, the more will be their thinking power.

There are three main components of artificial intelligence— thinking power, software, hardware. Wherever work is going on, on this subject all over the world, all three components work separately. The main component of this work is to clone the thinking power or mental emotions.

The work of software can be done by any skilled software engineer, and the work of hardware can be done by any company. Therefore, its core lies in cloning mental impulses. The data of a person’s thoughts or thinking acts as a raw material or main component in it. There is no match of countries like India, China, Japan all over the world in the efficiency of behavior and quick diagnosis of situations. China is famous to copy a product immediately. Thinking power and inclination to the knowledge of India and the technological brains of Japan is also noteworthy. Therefore, the main component of artificial intelligence is most available in countries like India, China, Japan.

India is not able to use it fully, because it is not aware of the importance of its knowledge in an integrated way, and unorganized Indian talent. With the desire to earn more money through migration, that knowledge is continuously being given to the country which is very advanced in terms of software. It can be explained to a nonprofessional through an example as if food is the need of every person, but the process till the food is made is a complex set of components. The farmer does the farming, the agent buys it from the market, the agent retails it, sells in the market, the customer buys it from the retailer and prepares food. The agent has the system, which is necessary for the management between the customer and the farmer. Therefore, neither the farmer earns the profit equal to his hard work, nor the customer. The middleman, the highest-earning agent, and the customer suffer the impact of inflation. The same tendency is with any technology in the world, technology is lobbying for the one who benefits the most. Therefore, by developing a system through our languages, by stopping the drain of the brain, a speedy pace can be made towards self-reliance.

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Opinion

Revealed: Secret US government psychic research programmes

In order not to rock the foundations of contemporary civilization, and also to hold fast to any applicable uses of the transcendent discoveries of military intelligence, the concerned authorities in the USA kept their investigations and insights secret and at times formally denied their existence or validity.

COME CARPENTIER DE GOURDON

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When I first entered the United States in June 1983, for a long sojourn I have recounted in my book of a few years ago, A Shining City on a Hill, I did obviously not know that on that same day a 29-page classified technical report was submitted to the US Army Intelligence and Security Command (USAISC) at Fort Mead, (Army Operational Group Commander DET 0) on the secret CIA research programme codenamed Gateway and dedicated to investigations about consciousness and their potential scientific and military applications.

McDonnell’s report (CIA-RDP96—00788R001700210016-5) confirmed the validity of the research into para-psychological and sophrological phenomena and their reality, generally deemed as inexistent and related to “magical mind tricks” or misleading erroneous impressions. The report, integrating the experiments of Israeli-American inventor and yoga/TM practitioner Itzhak Bentov (who had died in a plane crash in 1979), was not made accessible to the public as it contained challenging claims which partly overturned many current scientific theories and observations about the nature of reality and life. It was only released under FOIA on the 10th of September 2003, with the exception of page 25 which was withheld for reasons that will be alluded to in this article.

Much of the research done under the GATEWAY/STARGATE protocols was related to the work of Robert Monroe, the founder and director of the Monroe Institute in Virginia whose discoveries I discovered back in the eighties and describe summarily in my aforementioned book. The findings of Monroe and the CIA-sponsored teams are more or less the same as they collaborated in their research. Several members of the US Armed Forces were sent to the Monroe Institute’s secluded facilities to undergo the tests and experimental processes designed to achieve paranormal insights by raising the level of consciousness according to methods derived from Carl Jung’s psycho-analytical therapies and more broadly from yoga, TM and other “eastern” meditational techniques.

The Italian website Omega Click has commented on some of the vast amount of documentary material created under the auspices of the GATEWAY/STARGATE programmes. Omega Click interviewed Professor Raffaele Renna, a psychologist, astronomer and expert on the subject. Renna highlights that, among the major conclusions drawn from that research, the mapping of cerebral functions has uncovered the virtually infinite powers of the mind to visualize all things beyond space and time and shown that the “brain capital” (which is actually outside the brain) survives death as it is located in non-local, entangled space-timelessness whereas “everything is omnipresent” and time is only a measurement for the motion of energy. In that light the brain is a receptor that decodes and interprets signals or algorithms originating in universal consciousness and produces the appearances that our senses make us regard as Reality,

All this may be regarded as a mere reiteration in contemporary scientific vocabulary of the “mystical’ teachings of ancient sages in many parts of the world. However, the salience of the GATEWAY report lies in the fact that it does not simply enunciate theories. It documents a scientifically tested method to reach elevated states of out-of-body “non-local consciousness” (more than twenty years before quantic interpretations of consciousness were first publicly ventured). Instead of psychedelic drugs or “spiritual” exercises the means used under the GATEWAY programme were specific sounds beamed to human subjects in isolation chambers through earphones at a different frequency for each ear, which leads the brain to syntonize them to produce Delta waves (4 Hertz), denoting deep meditational states. At a specific vibrational wavelength the brain exits “our” spacetime to access other dimensions or other worlds, so to speak. Physiologically this state amplifies fourfold the resonance of the heartbeat and generates a recurring sinusoidal wave ranging between 6.8 and 7.8 Hz. which echoes the earth’s own vibrational frequency.

The resulting condition is called “syntony” of the individual with the planet at wavelengths of 40,000 kilometers amplitude (corresponding to the earth’s diameter) and confers extraordinary powers (clairvoyance, remote viewing, telekinesis, time travel, ecstatic bliss) which ancient traditions called Union with the Divine, Moksha, Sunya, Satori, Tao, Illumination, Salvation and many other such names. This mapping of supramental ascent, described by Sri Aurobindo was experientially arrived at by Itzhak Bentov who described the phenomenon in his 1977 book Stalking The Wild Pendulum. On the Mechanics of Consciousness as summed up by Marc Seifer in Transcending the Speed of Light: Consciousness, Quantum Physics, and the Fifth Dimension. Inner Traditions – Bear & Company 2008. p. 49: “During normal breathing, the reverberations in the aorta are out of phase with the heartbeat and the system is inharmonious. However, during meditation and when the breath is held, the echo of the bifurcation of the aorta (where the aorta forks at the pelvis to go into each leg) is in resonance with the heartbeat and the system becomes synchronized, thus utilizing a minimum amount of energy. This resonant beat is approximately seven cycles per minute, which corresponds not only to the alpha rhythm of the brain but also to the low-level magnetic pulsations of the Earth.”

Monroe claimed that between the “normal” state of human awareness (comparatively the lowest) and the highest or “absolute” one there are innumerable degrees of consciousness inhabited by beings who are not perceptible through our physical senses but who can be interacted with at higher levels.

This last revelation concerns the “Aliens” of many types reported by millions of witnesses for centuries and now generally known as ETs and their “astral vehicles” classified as UAPs or “Alien Visitation Craft” in military parlance. Many of them at least appear to operate in other dimensions from which they enter our “universe” and to which they return at will.

The GATEWAY study seems to have corroborated Monroe’s contention that about 5% of all people are able to reach the highest state of realization by means of repeated use, over more or less lengthy periods of training, of the audio-sensorial process described above.

It was stated earlier that page 25 of the McDonnell report was missing until last April when it was released by the Monroe Institute to an investigator from the Canadian Vice magazine. The contents of that page are indeed of critical importance because it lays out the “cosmic design” behind reality. It talks about a “cosmic egg” as a hologram, of which everything is a projection and which is itself a reflection of the undefinable Absolute “one step removed from it”. That hologram is also called in the text the Torus or spiral of Creation and identified as the “Holy Spirit” of the Christian Esoteric Trinity, The Adam Kadmon or Tree of Life of Kabbalah. In Vedic terminology we may equate it with the Viraj or Hiranyagarbha (from which the report under review here apparently borrowed the image of the “cosmic egg”) or the Vedantic Paramatman. For the Saktas and Shaivaites it is Mahadevi while the Greek Ephesians worshipped it as Artemis-Diana (Magna Mater) and the Middle Eastern Gnostics alluded to it as Sophia.

Another striking inference reached by the report is that western science is so far unable to attain this realization because of its left-brain controlled approach which ignores and rejects the right-brain’s influence guiding the so-called “spiritualists” since thousands of years of philosophical quest, at the root of the religions followed in most parts of the world. The “Gateway Experience” as it is called in the report, “releases the subject from the prism (and prison) of subjective perception and analysis. It is “a portal through which the individual may pass in his search to find himself”, an echo of the mantra Tat twam asi and of the universal sophic commandment: “know thyself” as our Self is indeed the mirror or hologram of the Whole.

The conclusion in a few lines is that Intelligence and military sponsored research led, four decades ago to the confirmation of the ageless teachings of Indian psycho-physical Knowledge (paravidya), shared with many other more or less esoteric or occult traditions all over the world. Presumably in order not to rock the foundations of contemporary civilization and also to hold fast to any applicable uses of this transcendent discovery military Intelligence, the concerned authorities in the USA kept their investigations and insights secret and at times formally denied their existence or validity. However it may well be that many scientific and technological breakthroughs that are transforming our lives and conditions like never before are outcomes of this accession by a few “initiates” to the higher reaches of the mind on the trail blazed by Bentov, Monroe, Puharich and others. The very Internet created in the last thirty some years is an electronic clone of the cosmic web of energy and life that binds all things and makes up the universe.

Apart from well supported rumors about the existence of hitherto undisclosed technologies for unlimited “free energy” generation from the “zero point” quantic field and for biological age reversal, instant healing and other “miraculous” uses, there are several reports about secret space missions conducted to other planets of the solar system and perhaps beyond it, made possible by the technologies developed in that “transcendental” frame of reference. One of the latest credible sources on this score is no other than General Haim Eshed, the veteran astrophysicist who was for thirty years the chairman of the space committee of the Israeli Council for Research and Development and the Director of the Space Programme of the Defence Ministry. He made these “extraordinary claims” in his 2020 book: Universe beyond The Horizon: Conversations with Professor Haim Eshed.

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Opinion

STAY OUT OF KASHMIR, SUPERMAN AND WONDER WOMAN

Renowned Justice League icon Superman apparently destroying Indian Air Force F/A-18D Hornets over Kashmir. India does not have any such aircraft. (Screengrab from Injustice)

Joyeeta Basu

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Something bizarre has happened in the DC Universe—for the uninitiated, DC Comic Universe where fictional characters such as Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and Aquaman dwell. Suddenly, out of the blue, in an animated movie by DC, Injustice, Superman and Wonder Woman are seen to be fighting the Indian military in Kashmir and disabling their aircraft and missiles to make the place an “arms free zone”. Moreover, Kashmir is mentioned as a “disputed region” in the film. Curiously, while the animated movie shows the superheroes fighting for peace in different fictional places, a real name has been inserted in between, that of Kashmir. In another clip, an Israeli flag has been used to show an Israeli leader signing a peace deal with someone behind whom there is a green flag. If the film has to be believed, the Indian military bombs civilians in Kashmir—an outrageous fiction. In fact, it is Pakistan, which regularly bombs its own people in the name of countering insurgents. Since we do not know how geopolitical experts such as Superman and Wonder Woman have come to the conclusion that Kashmir is a “disputed” area and the Indian military bombs its own civilians, we can only speculate about the invisible hands at work here. It could be a case of a direct Pakistani or Chinese intervention, or both, and/or could be the handiwork of some very woke pseudo-liberal-types who derive their knowledge about India from the very-woke Western legacy media, which takes a rather Orientalist view of this country. While some will say it’s better to ignore such drivel, the problem is, some very malign forces seem to have been able to introduce an anti India element in a medium that is highly popular and thus also influential. The matter cannot be ignored, for it may get bigger in future.

However, when it comes to China, Hollywood takes a problematic stand. It whitewashes all PRC crimes, including turning a blind eye to the oppressive and authoritarian rule of the Communists in Tibet and Xinjiang. Not too long ago, one of the big studios faced immense international anger after filming certain parts of Mulan—an ancient China story—almost next door to the concentration camps that PRC has built for the Uyghur population in Xinjiang. The studio also actively engaged with the publicity department of the Communist Party during the filming. China is a big market for Hollywood. Much Chinese money is floating in Hollywood, with the Chinese funding films, buying up theatre chains, and with Chinese production companies teaming up with their Hollywood counterparts. As a result, concerns are being raised about Chinese propaganda and censorship making their way even into Hollywood blockbusters. US soft power adds to its superpower status, and it is this soft power that the Chinese are using to their own benefit as they conduct their political warfare at a very subliminal level. Amid this, it is but natural that in the DC Comic case, the finger of suspicion will be raised at China and its “iron brother” Pakistan.

The Kashmir insertion in the DC film is insidious and dangerous because anti-India propaganda is thus sought to be normalized and influence young minds. Around three years ago, a Hollywood series, Quantico, starring Priyanka Chopra had shown Hindu nationalists planning to carry out a nuclear attack in Manhattan and frame Pakistan for it, to scuttle US-Pakistan talks. The plotline was so outrageous that it led to a huge hue and cry, forcing the television studio ABC to apologise to Indian viewers. All this has to be seen in the context of the huge campaign going on in the West by the left-pseudo-liberal section to paint India as an electoral autocracy, an authoritarian country, because it is headed by a right of centre government. As a result, people unaware of the ground reality in India are falling for this fake narrative. This has to be countered. Public pressure needs to build up on DC Comics to remove the mention of Kashmir from the film. India has a lot of economic muscle and a market, which Pakistan does not. If a campaign builds up, Superman and Wonder Woman will lose many more fans and business here than in a broken and bankrupt country such as Pakistan. Hence, DC needs to drop the offending reference and let superheroes do their super-jobs, without meddling in world affairs about which they do not have any clue.

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Opinion

What ails Uttarakhand’s governance?

Uttarakhand region had never been well governed. Till 2000 it was part of Uttar Pradesh where the predatory leadership sucked its wealth and labour. After being carved as a separate state it was expected to progress and many things improved such as schools, colleges, universities, technical institutions, roads and hospitals.

Amita Singh

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It is a known fact that quality of governance indicates capacity to be resilient against disasters. The hurricane Katrina of USA that caused over 2000 deaths and US$ 125 billion in damage in late August 2005 exposed the pathetic governance of Louisiana. People had bad health, houses were weak, high rate of drug addiction, unsterilized city animals, uninsured citizens, unemployed youth and all this because of a highly corrupt leadership and unresponsive state administration. Uttarakhand’s unstoppable exposure to some of the most heart-rending disasters every year from floods to earthquakes to glacial lake outbursts and to landslides bring provoking questions about its governance. As data reveals decisions have been taken in defiance of limits that nature sets in the form of carrying capacity of any terrain. As causes of disasters, Corruption comes first and climate change later.

Uttarakhand region had never been well governed. Till 2000 it was part of Uttar Pradesh where the predatory leadership sucked its wealth and labour. After being carved as a separate state it was expected to progress and many things improved such as schools, colleges, universities, technical institutions, roads and hospitals. The villagers basked in the new found Panchayat power after the 73rd Amendment in 1992 which brought many silent communities into focus as repositories of power. It brought power but not the right to govern. From Sundarlal Bahuguna and Chandi Prasad Bhatt the early Gandhian environmentalists till late Prof. G.D.Agarwal and woman seer of Haridwar Padmavati the Ganga crusaders have only asked for a share in governance. While the memory of Uttarakhand’s disaster victims begging for food and clothes in big cities of Uttar Pradesh like Lucknow and Bareilly still remains, it is not yet a thing of past. Local village communities are still seen begging with unattended medical conditions and little hope for sustainable livelihood. As per Census of India (2011) Uttarakhand has a population of 101 million with a pathetic sex ratio of 886 women per thousand men and a much higher infant mortality rate (IMR) at 38 in 2020 which is higher than the India average IMR of 29.07. With female literacy at 70 and the male literacy at 88 the state has nothing to rejoice about. What ails Uttarakhand’s governance?

The Uttarakhand government could rarely defend itself after Dhauliganga disaster that washed away the Rishi Ganga hydropower project at Raini village after a glacier broke off in Joshimath. The massive floods caused by glacial outburst in the Dhauli Ganga river in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand washed away houses and many people. The village Panchayats of this area had been an alert group against environmental injuries as the legendary Gaura Devi, leader of Chipko Movement hails from here and had kickstarted action in March 1973 from this village. These villagers had filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Uttarakhand High Court in summer 2019 which issued directions to the state government to check what was going on in Raini village of Chamoli concerning the construction of the hydel project. The government was not concerned till the dam broke off. Similarly, Naveen Chandra Pant and many others residents of village Ganwa Sirmoli, District Bageshwar raised voice through a PIL against illegal mining in village Panchayats of Ganwa Sirmoli, Tehsil kanda in District Bageshwar, the court issued directives to the state government but instead of introspection to protect mountain topograpgy for survival of people’s habitat, many decisions were taken in contravention of the judicial directives. Some of them are as discussed here.

In Feb 2020, the district magistrate was authorized to issue permits for commercial mining on private land and permission for River Bed Mineral (RBM) Mining. This brought havoc to the terrain as gravels, boulders and sand excavation for construction work started in full speed. In a Cabinet meeting headed by the Chief Minister in the same year, more than 10 such projects were approved which not only deepened mining into river bed but also changed boundaries of eco-sensitive zones around national parks. To deepen this process of mining the Uttarakhand Minor Mineral Concession Rules 2001 were changed to allow digging as deep as 3 meters. The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change only participated to facilitate this process. None of the political executives found anything wrong into it despite the Judicials warnings from the Nainital Court and the National Green Tribunal. Same year, the state government brought in a new Stone crushing policy which endangered a large part of pristine national reserves. If this was not enough, the state government also attempted to remove Radio Frequency Identification Chips (RFID) on vehicles engaged in regulated mining as per court orders so that this could become a free for any vehicle coming to mining area. The brutal breaking down of hills which balance each other and the felling of trees that are water recharge-shed for land has already disturbed the equilibrium beyond repair. The greed for land and minerals has devastated rivers of Uttarakhand and made them flood prone. The increasing temperatures are related to the activities being promoted by government over the hills.

Is the state government prepared for managing disasters? The Policy and the Plan for disaster management has not been updated since 2016. The Policy and the Plan document repeatedly refer to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, need for an evacuation plan, organizational structure of disaster management(only posts not names),hazards and vulnerabilities of India and the state per se but nothing in particular to offer to an administrator who has to look back and take action in a calamitous situation. Interestingly, these documents look like a student’s examination answer sheet where he fills up as many sheets writing the same irrelevant answers with the hope that more pages would earn him better marks. The key points that enable pre-emptive action for an administrator, key collaborators and friends or partners in need and with rural population being thrice the urban there is an intensive need to identify trained and willing panchayats to come on call for disaster prevention. Uttarakhand loses roughly 20 thousand crores to disasters every year. Does it invest this amount in development that gets washed away due to disasters? Therefore the argument of refining quality of governance led by educated and sensitive people who are grassroot connected and speak the language of their land, is the only alternative to the current chaos and sorrow.

The author is president, NDRG, and former Professor of Administrative Reforms and Emergency Governance at JNU. The views expressed are personal.

In Feb 2020, the district magistrate was authorized to issue permits for commercial mining on private land and permission for River Bed Mineral (RBM) Mining. This brought havoc to the terrain as gravels, boulders and sand excavation for construction work started in full speed.

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Opinion

WHY IS RAHUL GANDHI RELUCTANT TO TAKE THE ACTUAL JOB?

Priya Sahgal

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Hours before the Congress Working Committee met there was a hashtag trending on Twitter clamming, #YehDilMangeRahul. And true to the script, the usual suspects (AK Antony and Ashok Gehlot) raised the question of leadership, asking Rahul Gandhi to take over as party president. Rahul replied: “I will consider it.” No one asked the obvious follow-up— What is there to think about and consider? It’s not as if it came as a `Breaking News’ for him that his party wanted him to step up. Despite Sonia Gandhi claiming that she is not an interim arrangement but a full-time, hands-on working president the fact of the matter is that she has been stepping back for a while now and letting her children, especially Rahul take all the crucial decisions. The theatre in Punjab was scripted by Rahul and Priyanka as was the rather successful show of opposition strength in Lakhimpur Kheri. Again it was Rahul Gandhi who met and admitted Kanhaiya Kumar to the party; when Navjyot Singh Sidhu threw on his sulks, it was Rahul who met him before the CWC meet and placated him. Again during the meeting, while Sonia handled the discipline issues by sending a stern message to the G 23, it was Rahul who laid out the party’s agenda i.e we are a party for the downtrodden and so we should reiterate the message by promoting backward caste leaders like Charanjit Singh Channi, that we should not let media dictate our narrative, etc (am paraphrasing the gist of his comments as told to me by sources).

So, if Rahul is taking all the important decisions, why is he still reluctant to take the actual job?

One reason for this could be that he is still wary that catapulting him to the post of the party chief will put him in direct confrontation with the Prime Minister in the next Lok Sabha polls. As the leader of the largest national party in opposition, he cannot fight the polls under the leadership of another opposition leader even someone like Mamata Bannerjee who may be feisty but she is still a regional leader (and yes I know her party is national but she still has to extend her appeal outside West Bengal).

The opposition fight will have to be spearheaded by Congress with the support of Mamata, Sharad Pawar, etc. Rahul Gandhi has done a lot to improve his image but his real test will be the next round of assembly polls to establish his credibility. Uttar Pradesh is not the only state going to the polls and if Congress shifts its focus to the low-hanging fruit of Uttarakhand, Punjab, and Goa then it could win 3 of the 5 states in the next round. That will blunt the edge of losing Uttar Pradesh (despite Priyanka’s Lakhimpur Kheri intervention I still think the UP fight is between the BJP and SP while the Congress will at best improve its tally). Some Congress leaders claim that this is the plan and the Lakhimpur Kheri was as much as sending a message to the farmers of Punjab, as it was about Uttar Pradesh.

Well, let’s watch this space over the next few months. Because the main problem with the Gandhi siblings has always been consistency.

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Opinion

Lok Sabha without the Deputy Speaker

A petition has been filed in the Delhi High Court alleging inaction in filling the constitutional post of the Dy Speaker, Lok Sabha. Obviously, the petitioner is, arguably, well concerned as there has been an unconscionable delay of over 28 months in the election of the Deputy Speaker.

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The Vedic literature refers to ‘Sabha’, ‘Samiti’, and ‘Sabhapati’. A hymn of Yajurveda says, ‘Salutations to the Assembled and salutations to the President’. An Assembly cannot transact business without electing its Sabhapati or the President. The makers of our Constitution, therefore, made specific provision for the election of the Speaker and Dy Speaker. Article 93 of the Constitution casts an obligation that “the House of the People shall, as soon as may be, choose two members of the House to be respectively Speaker and Deputy Speaker thereof, and so often as the office of Speaker and Deputy Speaker becomes vacant, the House shall choose another member” to fill the vacancy.

The expression used is ‘shall’ and not ‘may’ which, as per the cardinal principle of statutory interpretation, leaves no shred of discretion left with the House. The posts are considered so important that the makers of the Constitution provided not only for choosing the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker as early as possible but made it mandatory for the House to choose another Speaker or Deputy Speaker, as the case may, if any of the post becomes vacant.

The expression, ‘as soon as may be’, cannot be construed that these constitutional posts remain vacant for years indefinitely. The House consists of members and it is for the Government, commanding majority in the House, to hold election to these constitutional posts so as to avoid any constitutional void.

It is in this backdrop that a petition has been filed in the Delhi High Court alleging inaction in filling the constitutional post of the Dy Speaker, Lok Sabha. Obviously, the petitioner is, arguably, well concerned as there has been an unconscionable delay of over 28 months in the election of the Dy Speaker. It may take still longer as the Winter Session of Parliament is yet to convene.

The post of Deputy Speaker, as per well-established parliamentary convention, goes to the opposition. The foundation of this convention was laid way back in 1956 when Sardar Hukum Singh of the Akaali Dal was elected unapposed as Dy Speaker. The Deputy Speakers like G.G. Swell, Shivraj Patil, Mallikarjuaiah, Suraj Bhan, P. M. Syed, Charanjit Singh Atwal, Karia Munda, and Thambidurai too, did not belong to the ruling party.

During the Monsoon session, 2021, when the issue about prolonged delay in the election of the Dy Speaker was raised, the Speaker observed that it was not in his power. Let’s see what the Rule says. Under Rule 8 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha, ‘the election of the Deputy Speaker shall be held on such date as the Speaker may fix’. However, the fact of the matter is the date for holding election to the post of Dy Speaker is fixed at the initiative of the Government. As a parliamentary convention, the post, though elective, goes to the opposition. The Government plays a decisive role as it commands majority in the House. Government may have behind the curtain consultation and help in the election of a candidate who may be, though from the opposition but not from the principal opposition party. So, Government has the leeway by virtue of its numerical majority to contrive a situation in which the post of Dy Speaker may go to a mellowed-in-tuned-opposition rather than the dominant opposition.

The Deputy Speaker discharges the functions of the Speaker in his absence. He is not subordinate to the Speaker. He holds an independent constitutional post and is answerable to the House and can be removed by the House only. He has the same powers as of the Speaker when presiding over the sitting of the House and no appeal lies against his rulings given in the House and cannot be reopened by anyone. He is, like the Speaker, as the Speaker of the British House of Commons pleaded with King Charles who had stormed the House in 1642 thus, ‘Your Majesty, I have neither eyes to see, nor tongue to speak in this place, but as the House is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am here..’

In the absence of the Speaker or due to vacancy in the office of the Speaker, Dy Speaker performs the duties of the office of the Speaker. In 1956, when Speaker G. V. Mavalankar died, Dy Speaker, M. Ananthasayanam Ayyangar filled the void, and later he was elected as Speaker. In 2002 due to the demise of G. M. C. Balayogi, P.M. Syed, Dy Speaker discharged the functions of the Speaker. It was P. M. Syed, the Dy Speaker belonging to the Congress party who presided over the joint sitting of Parliament convened to pass The Prevention of Terrorism Bill, 2002 by the Vajpayee Government. When G. S. Dhillon resigned from the post of Speaker in December, 1975 on being sworn as Minister, Dy Speaker discharged the functions of the office of the Speaker. Similarly, when Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy contested in two different terms the election of the President of the republic, he resigned from the post of Speaker and the Dy Speaker discharged the functions of the Speaker.

Since the matter is sub-judice, the moot question is whether the High Court can direct the Lok Sabha to elect the Dy Speaker. The High Court is empowered to issue appropriate direction to do complete justice in a matter before them. In any case, the Speaker Lok Sabha is on record that it is not his job to appoint the Dy Speaker but of the House to choose one. However, the well-established parliamentary practice is that a motion is moved by the parliamentary affairs minister and duly seconded by the treasury benches or by the opposition, which is carried by the House. With the unanimous election of Sardar Hukum Singh of the Akaali Dal as Dy Speaker in 1956, it has become a sound convention that the ruling party, despite its majority, offers the post to the opposition. When the Dy Speaker is elected, he is duly conducted to his seat by the parliamentary affairs minister and the leader of the opposition. There are instances when prime ministers, namely, Deve Gowda, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and Dr Man Mohan Singh personally conducted the newly elected Dy Speaker to his seat. Notably, Atal Bihari Vajpayee conducted the Dy Speaker to his seat during the 12th and the 13th Lok Sabha.

Another fascinating aspect is that the post of Deputy Speaker never remained vacant. Even the Britishers, when the central bicameral legislature was set up in 1921 under the GoI Act,1919, the post of Vice President was held by Sachidanand Sinha with Sir Frederick Whyte as the President of the Central Legislative Assembly. The Constituent Assembly, tasked with the responsibility of framing the Constitution, had two Vice Presidents- H.C. Mookherjee and T.T. Krishnamachari. The Provisional Parliament too had a Dy Speaker- Ananthasayanam Ayangar. The Constitution makers therefore rightly made a mandatory provision to have the posts of Speaker and the Dy Speaker filled without any delay, when the new House is constituted and as and when any one of these posts fall vacant. It is the fundamental duty of every citizen and constitutional body to abide by the Consitution and respect its ideals and institutions. The Constitution, more than the citizens, binds the State and, more so, the constitutional bodies, must be exemplar in discharging their constitutional obligation. Minimum government and maximum governance cannot obliterate in its sweep a constitutional provision. If gold rusts, what shall iron do?

The author is ex Addl Secretary, Lok Sabha, and member Delhi Bar Council. Views expressed are personal.

The Deputy Speaker discharges the functions of the Speaker in his absence. He is not subordinate to the Speaker. He holds an independent constitutional post and is answerable to the House and can be removed by the House only. He has the same powers as of the Speaker when presiding over the sitting of the House, and no appeal lies against his rulings given in the House, and cannot be reopened by anyone.

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