Tuesday December 19, 2017
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SC discharging constitutional obligation, not tyranny of unelected: Justice Ganguly

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New Delhi: Even as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley sought to brand the Supreme Court judgment striking down the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act and the enabling 99th constitution amendment as “tyranny of the unelected”, former apex court judge Asok Kumar Ganguly said that what it did was its “duty”, which it is mandated to discharge under the constitution.

“Well I don’t agree with the minister. Under constitutional provisions, it is always within the province of the judiciary to examine the validity of an act or even the validity of a constitutional amendment. This power of judicial review has been expressly granted to the judiciary by the constitution. This is clear from article 79”, Justice Ganguly told IANS on the phone from Kolkata, where he has settled down after his retirement.

While Justice Ganguly disapproved of Jaitley’s choice of words, former Supreme Court judge Justice B. Sudershan Reddy refused to join the issue and Justice A.K. Patnaik tried to make light of it, saying it was normal for a parliamentarian faced with an adverse verdict to criticise the court.

Describing parliament a “feature of the constitution”, Justice Ganguly said: “There is no question of challenging the supremacy of the constitution and there is no tyranny of the unelected”.

Justice Ganguly, who, along with Justice G.S. Singhvi, was part of the bench that had on February 2, 2012, cancelled 122 2G licences on the ground of being allocated in an “arbitrary” manner, said: “Parliament is a feature of the constitution, it does not interpret the constitution and it is given to the judiciary to interpret the Constitution. Therefore if the judiciary finds any law is unconstitutional, it is its duty to say so.”

“This constitutional dispensation must be accepted by all, especially by a minister who assumes office by taking an oath to uphold and preserve the constitution. The judges of the Supreme Court, by their judgment, have just upheld the the constitution and law.”

A five-judge constitution bench of the the Supreme Court Oct 16 struck down the 99th amendment and the NJAC Act as unconstitutional and void, restoring the collegium system for appointment of judges to the higher judiciary. The court also sought suggestions from the bar for the improved functioning of the collegium system. The hearing on the same will take place on November 3.

Holding that “parliament is sovereign but is subject to the constitution”, Justice Ganguly said: “The sovereignty of parliament is not questioned by the judges but the laws made by it have to be tested on the touchstone of the constitution. Therefore, when a court declares a law invalid, it does not impinge on the sovereignty of parliament. It merely does its duty to uphold the constitution in exercise of its power of judicial review.”

Not taking a serious view of the views expressed by Jaitley, Justice A.K. Patnaik, who had, in his July 10, 2013, verdict said that a lawmaker upon his conviction would be unseated, noted that Section 8(4) of the Representation of the People Act provided for this.

“It is matter of debate. You can’t call it contemptuous. He represents the parliamentarians. That is the view of the member of parliament. He has the right to tell (whatever he feels). The Supreme Court has delivered its judgment,” Justice Patnaik said.

In an obvious pointer that lawmakers do say such things when faced with an adverse court verdict, Justice Patnaik referred to an instance cited by eminent jurist Fali Nariman during the course of a hearing.

Nariman had told the court that in one country, a new parliament building was being planned and a committee was set up to invite suggestions. One of the suggestions was that it should be ensured that the parliament building should be bigger than the country’s Supreme Court building.

Refusing to join issue with Jaitley, Justice B. Sudershan Reddy, who along with Justice S.S. Nijjar had authored the judgment on bringing back black money, declined to join issue with Jaitley, holding: “I will not say anything. I will not join issue with him.”

At the same time, Justice Reddy was not on the same page with the constitution bench striking down the NJAC.

“I think the dissenting judgment is correct constitutional view. The discourse adopted by the majority judges is illogical and based on principles unknown to constitutional jurisprudence,” Justice Reddy contended.

(Pramod Kumar, IANS)

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Triple Talaq Ban in India: Union Cabinet Passes Bill Making the Practice a Criminal Offence

The BMMA celebrates its victory over the much-debated practice of instant divorce

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Muslim women are often victims of triple talaq, in spite of the ban
Muslim women are often victims of triple talaq, in spite of the ban, VOA News
  • Supreme court had ruled that the practice of triple talaq as illegal in August 2017.
  • On December 15, the Union Cabinet passed a bill which would make it a criminal offence
  • .The bill recommends a sentence of imprisonment for three years in case of a violation.
  • The bill also makes provisions for “subsistence allowance” for the women divorced through triple talaq.

On December 15, the Union Cabinet of India cleared a draft legislation, which would make the controversial practice of triple talaq a criminal offence in India, a violation of which may result in imprisonment for a period of three years for the husband. The recently approved bill, deemed as the ‘Muslim Women’s Protection of Rights on Marriage Bill’, was framed by a group of ministers including the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, and the Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, and was headed by the Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

What is triple talaq

The practice of triple talaq, or talaq-e-biddat, is a Islamic ritual through which a man might divorce his wife by uttering the word ‘talaq’, that is, the Arabic word for ‘divorce’, three times. The controversial practice, which dates back to Islamic scriptures of the 8th century AD, was a common one among the Muslim population in India, often enacted through letters, emails, text messages, Skype and Whatsapp.

The Supreme Court of India bans the practice of triple talaq
The practice of triple talaq still continues, in spite of the ban, VOA News

Triple Talaq Ban

On August 22, 2017, the Supreme Court of India had banned the archaic practice of triple talaq, after a long and hard legal battle fought by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), also known as the Indian Muslim Women’s Movement. “Triple talaq is against the basic tenets of the Holy Quran and consequently, it violates Shariat … What is held to be bad in the Holy Quran cannot be good in Shariat and, in that sense, what is bad in theology is bad in law as well,” they had declared, making India the 23rd nation to ban the practice of unilateral divorce, after Pakistan, United Arab Emirates and Egypt. Many non-governmental Islamic organizations, along with certain clerics had opposed the verdict, on the grounds that it was an infringement of their right to religion, which is ensured by Article 25 of the Indian Constitution. The Supreme Court, however, had decided to uphold Article 14 of the Constitution, which grants every citizen equality before the law. The verdict had met with mixed reactions among the people of India, attracting applause as well as apprehension all over the country.

The Supreme Court of India bans the practice of triple talaq
Women can now demand subsistence allowance for themselves and minor children, VOA News

However, in spite of the Supreme Court verdict, there have been reports of instant divorces performed through the process of oral declaration, as many continued to ignore the various advisories issued by the government.
The new bill approved by the government also makes provisions for Muslim Women to demand “subsistence allowance” for herself and her minor children from her husband, in case she feels victimised by the now illegal practice of triple talaq.

 

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Veerappan: India’s most wanted

Veerappan was hunted by the police for over four decades, making it the longest man-hunt in India

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Veerappan was a smuggler, poacher, murderer and extortionist who was killed in Operation Cocoon
Veerappan in his heyday, He was killed via Operation Cocoon
  • Veerappan was a smuggler of ivory and sandalwood in the southern states of India.
  • He killed government officials and civilians alike when they tried to stop his illegal activities.
  • He died in October 2004 during ‘Operation Cocoon’, which was carried out by a Special Task Force.

Poaching, smuggling, extortion, smuggling, brigandry, murder — these are some of the few charges against Koose Munisamy Veerappan Gounder, popularly known as Veerappan, for whom was constituted India’s largest manhunt, on which the government spent around 1.5 million Rupees. From his childhood, narratives about the elusive dacoit were laced with fiction, as he became an object of myth when he was only ten years old, and had infamously shot his first tusker elephant for ivory. His notoriety became a national concern when the government banned ivory trade in India, and he began felling trees for precious sandalwood, thus beginning a period marred by Veerappan killing government officials and locals alike when they became an obstacle.

Veerappan unleashed a reign of terror on the southern states of India from the early 1980s till his death in 2004; during which Veerappan killing police officers and civilians alike caused a nationwide uproar. In 1990, the notorious smuggler had beheaded a forest officer K. Srinivas, which wasn’t recovered until three years later. In 2000, he had kidnapped the Kannada actor K. Rajkumar, whose release was negotiated through Nakkeeran editor Gopal, to whom the infamous poacher admitted to murdering as many as 120 people. Matters came to a head when   abducted the former Karnataka minister H. Nagappa in 2002, and killed him when his demands were not met.

Operation Cocoon:

Veerappan leading his gang in moily forest,
Veerappan leading his gang in Moily forest. Wikimedia

A Special Task Force or STF was constituted for the capture of Veerappan in 1991, which, headed by K. Vijay Kumar, launched Operation Cocoon in 2004, which finally resulted in Veerappan’s death. Kumar, aided by his previous experience with Veerappan, based Operation Cocoon on human intelligence and interaction, during which multiple STF personnel blended in with the locals in areas frequented by Veerappan. The initial stages of Operation Cocoon consisted of gaining the trust of Veerappan’s associates, till they started divulging details about his failing health. In the years before his death, the elusive outlaw seemed to have lost much of his vigour and vitality, as he suffered from diabetes, and a cataract had almost blinded him in one eye.
On 18th October, 2004, the police lured Veerappan out of familiar terrains in an ambulance, and apprehended him at a roadblock, where he was killed in the crossfire between his team and the STF, via three bullets. The photographs after Veerappan’s demise show him in a pathetic light, bereft of his signature handlebar moustache, and the agility which had facilitated his escape for over four decades.

There have been a lot of controversies regarding his death, as many media houses and activists have claimed that Operation Cocoon has derived Veerappan of a fair trial by law. Some have even claimed that he was tortured to death in police custody. The facts regarding the elusive sandalwood smuggler remain inconclusive even after a decade of his death, due to the lack of concrete evidence.

 

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Bhai Boolchand-the Indian who launched trade with Ghana

The first Indian to arrive in the Gold Coast (Ghana's colonial name) in 1890 , Bhai Boolchand launched trade in India with Ghana

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Ghanian flag, Bhai Boolchand launched trade in India with Ghana.
Ghanian flag, Bhai Boolchand launched trade in India with Ghana. pixelbay
  • Bhai Boolchand, the anonymous Indian, is credited with starting trade between Ghana and India
  • The year was 1890.

Not much is known about him, but it has now emerged that trade relations between Ghana and Indiawere started by Bhai Boolchand, the first Indian to arrive in the Gold Coast — Ghana’s colonial name — in 1890. That’s some 67 years before the British colonial government granted the country independence, research by the Indian Association of Ghana has found.

“As far as our records show, Bhai Boolchand (of the Bhaiband Sindhworki trading community), landed on the shores of the Gold Coast in western Africa in 1890. Nearly twenty years later, in 1919, the first Sindhi company was established by two brothers — Tarachand Jasoomal Daswani and Metharam Jasoomal Daswani,” the Indian Association said.

The duo opened a store — Metharam Jassomal Brothers — in the then capital city of Cape Coast in 1919.

“Their business flourished and branches were opened in Accra and Kumasi. A few years later, the two brothers separated and whilst Bhai Metharam Jasoomal continued the business as Metharam Brothers, Tarachand Jasoomal operated his business as Bombay Bazaar. These were the first two Indian companies that were established in the Gold Coast,” the Association said.

Boolchand’s arrival, therefore, pre-dates the historical links between the two countries that were always thought to have started between Ghana’s first President, Kwame Nkruman, and India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Boolchand can thus be described as the one who paved the way for the arrival of other members of the Sindhi community, initially as traders and shopkeepers.

The Indian Association said more of this group arrived in the 1950s and 1960s, with a few venturing into manufacturing industries such as garments, plastics, textiles, insecticides, electronics, pharmaceuticals and optical goods.

The Association said two more Indian firms were established under the names of Lilaram Thanwardas and Mahtani Brothers in the 1920s. This trend continued in the 1930s and 1940s with the creation of several more Indian companies like T. Chandirams, Punjabi Brothers, Wassiamal Brothers, Hariram Brothers, K. Chellaram & Sons, G. Motiram, D.P. Motwani, G. Dayaram, V. Lokumal, and Glamour Stores.

Glamour Stores, which was stared by Ramchand Khubchandani who arrived in Ghana in 1929, has grown — after changing its name to Melcom Group — to become the largest retailing business in the country. The Melcom Group, headed by Ramchand’s son Bhagwan Khubchandani, is now in its 60th year and about 40 stores all over the country.

Ramchand and his brother later went into garment manufacturing in 1955 and once employed over 1,200 Ghanaians. They later opened the first Indian restaurant, Maharaja, in Ghana. Bhagwan followed in his father’s footsteps and in 1989 established the Melcom Group with his sons-in-law, Mahesh Melwani and Ramesh Sadhwani.

Another Indian-owned company that has survived through the years is the Mohanani Group, which is currently in its 51st year. At the first-ever Ghana Expatriate Business Awards, the Ministry of Trade and Industries recognised the work of one of the thriving Indian-owned B5 Plus Steel Company and awarded it the Best Expatriate Company in the metal and steel category.

As these companies brought in new expatriate staff, some left their employers to venture out on their own — resulting in more companies opening up.

“After 1947, the Gold Coast attracted the attention of some Indian multinational companies, and big names like Chanrai, Bhojsons, K.A.J. Chotirmal, Dalamals and A.D. Gulab opened branches in Ghana,” the Association said.

“The employment of Ghanaians by these founding companies also helped to lessen the burden of unemployment in the country. This amply demonstrates the level of commitment India has in the developmental agenda of Ghana,” it said.

Indians are not only investing in the manufacturing and commercial sectors of the country; they are also investing in the financial sector. Bank of Baroda, one of India’s biggest and most reputable banks, recently established a branch in Ghana and hopefully it will expand its operations in other parts of the country very soon. (IANS)