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Uber vs Orbit: Justice is about uniformity in judgments, not hypocrisy



By Gaurav Sharma

The body of the 13-year-old girl who died after being thrown off the bus by molesters in Punjab’s Moga district still awaits cremation.

The family of the teenage girl has refused to give the body for post-mortem or cremate her, till the government takes strict action against the molesters.

However, apart from implicating the molesters, the family wants action to be taken against the owners of the bus company.

The incident draws parallels with the Uber rape case that happened in December last year. Both the incidents bring up the issue of safety and security of women while using public/private transport.

Whereas strict dictatorial action was taken up against Uber, no substantial action has been taken yet against the bus owner in this particular case, till the time this article was written.

Does it speak well for the kind of justice handed out to the victims of such heinous crimes?

The bus, from which the teenage girl was tossed out along with her mother, belonged to Orbit Aviation, a company co-owned by Sukhbir Singh Badal, Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab.

Sukhbir’s father and Chief Minister, Prakash Singh Badal, said, “Unfortunately, the vehicle was ours.”

The police, so far, have arrested four persons, including the bus driver, conductor and the helper. However, no action has been taken against the owners.

Punjab DGP, Sumedh Singh Saini, ruled out any questioning of the owners of Orbit Aviation Pvt. Ltd, including Sukhbir Badal.

In stark contrast to the lack of initiative shown by the government so far in the case, the government had gone all out against Uber, when a woman was raped by its cab driver last year.

Apart from questioning Uber on the process of selection of drivers, screening its staff and harassing the management through notices, the Delhi government banned almost all the app-based taxi services.

The government did not stop there; it issued an FIR against Uber under Section 188 and Section 420 in the Indian Penal Code, for failing to provide adequate safety measures and cheating customers.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh had called all the state governments and union territories to ban all web-based taxi services.

“Uber should be considered an accused. Uber is providing services, it has to take responsibility, it should engage drivers only after verification. It is my view,” ex-Home Secretary R. K. Singh had told ANI.

So why the hypocrisy in dealing with the Badals?

For one, they occupy the ‘privileged’ position of being the first persons of Punjab. But, it is more so because they are important allies with the presiding NDA government.

This is not to say that the Badals are guilty of the murder of the girl. Just like taking such over-the-top stringent action against Uber–to the extent of banning the service–was uncalled for, the Badals cannot be held accountable for the death of the girl.

There might have been some transgressions, such as checking the credentials of the staff, the licenses, the permit and verification of police records, for which they certainly should be pulled-up.

But politicizing the issue is uncalled for. Particularly when, opposition parties shout slogans for the resignation of Chief Minister, Prakash Singh Badal and Union Food Processing Minister and wife of Sukhbir Singh Badal, Harsimrat Kaur.

However, by acting like mute spectators, the Punjab government has missed a golden opportunity to bring out the menace of the corrupt business of private buses into the fore.

Is Sukhbir Badal an honest politician?

Under election fever, leaders resort to all sorts of tactics, often making tall promises, which are mostly left unfulfilled.

The gambit that runs common in the blood of politicians is the attempt to associate with the masses through an infusion of speeches, which advertises their shared and common background with the aam aadmi.

As it turns out, Sukhbir Singh Badal’s proclamation in 2012 of being a humble farmer is one blatant example of false election rhetoric.

Records from the Registrar of Companies show that Badal owns close to 2,4500,000 shares in the bus company, through direct ownership and through his media firm called G-Next media Private Limited, along with ownership through his hospitality firm Orbit Resorts.

Also, as per a Times of India report, Sukhbir’s aviation company owns three flying jets – an eight-seater Cessna 525A jet, another eight-seater Super King Air B 200 and a helicopter Bell 429.

From such disclosures, it hardly seems like the man is an ‘agriculturalist’.

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Come April, government will be more comfortable in Rajya Sabha

Of the 100 BJP-allies MPs, 24 are retiring. Which means, the government will be left with 76 MPs

Parliament of India is a source of interest for many people because of various reasons. Wikimedia Commons
Parliament of India is a source of interest for many people because of various reasons. Wikimedia Commons
  • In April, the opposition may lose its edge over BJP in Rajya Sabha
  • NDA led by Modi has faced many embarrassments in Rajya Sabha in past few years
  • This is expected to change soon

Come April, the opposition in the Rajya Sabha may lose its edge in the numbers game and the power to stall any government bill, as the ruling BJP-led NDA coalition is set to catch up with its rivals, though a clear majority will elude them for a while more.

BJP to soon get more comfortable in  Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia commons
BJP to soon get more comfortable in Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia Commons

As 58 MPs, including three Nominated and one Independent, are set to retire in April, the Rajya Sabha math is going to change. It is set to favour the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), and the trend may continue in the elections to the Upper House later too with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) having solid majorities in a number of state assemblies, especially the ones it won after the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

With this, while the Congress-led opposition’s numbers will come down to around 115 from the present 123, the numbers of the BJP, its allies and sympathisers together would climb to around 109 from the present 100-odd members.

And the gap, once wide enough to let the opposition invariably have its say, will keep narrowing further in the coming months.

Of the 55 retiring members (excluding those Nominated), 30 belong to the opposition camp while 24 belong to the BJP and allies. Of them, a large number of NDA candidates are set to return while the opposition will lose a chunk of its members.

As things stand now, the Congress-led opposition has 123 MPs (including 54 of the Congress) in a house of 233 elected members (apart from 12 Nominated), while the NDA has 83 members (including 58 of BJP) plus four Independents who support the BJP (these include MPs Rajeev Chandrashekhar, Subhash Chandra, Sanjay Dattatraya Kakade and Amar Singh).

Rajya Sabha or the Upper House can often be a game changer while passing of the bills is in process.
Rajya Sabha or the Upper House can often be a game changer while passing of the bills is in process.

Also, for all practical purposes, the All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), that has 13 members in the Rajya Sabha, is also with the NDA. This means the NDA’s effective strength in the upper house of Parliament is 100.

The gap was wider till just a few months ago. This meant that during any battle between the government and the opposition in the Upper House over bills and major issues, it was the opposition that invariably had its way. The recent example was the triple talaq legislation that the opposition stalled in the upper house, demanding that it be referred to a Select Committee.

For over less than four years, the Narendra Modi government had faced quite a few embarrassments in the Rajya Sabha thanks to the majority of the opposition, forcing it often to take the money bill route to avoid a clash in the house. Under the Constitution, a money bill needs to be passed only in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha cannot stall it.

Also Read: For Modi, Road To 2019 Will Be Steeper

However, after April, the NDA will be in a far better position.

Of the 100 BJP-allies MPs, 24 are retiring. Which means, the government will be left with 76 MPs (including AIADMK). But at least 30 from the NDA are set to get re-elected. So the number will rise to 106. Add three members that the government would nominate to the upper house and the final NDA tally will roughly be 109 MPs.

Further, there are fence-sitters such as the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and the YSR Congress, which are not virulently against the BJP and would not oppose the government unless for very compelling reasons.

Now, for the Congress and the rest of the opposition, they are set to lose 30 MPs (including one Independent, A.V. Swamy) through retirement and would be left with around 93 members. The Opposition may win roughly 22 seats, which means that its final tally after April is likely to be around 115 members.

Government can now expect some smooth sailing in the Rajya Sabha, coming this April.
Government can now expect some smooth sailing in the Rajya Sabha, coming this April.

The gap has clearly narrowed and the government may not be at the mercy of the opposition during crucial votes and can have its way in the Rajya Sabha if it musters its numbers by deftly wooing “floater” MPs.

The three newly-elected Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) members may remain equidistant from both the BJP and the Congress, though the party is friendly with some of the major opposition parties like the Trinamool Congress.

Also Read: BJP MP Seeks Amendment to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill

In an interesting development recently, the AAP actively participated in the opposition’s walkout and the day-long boycott of the Rajya Sabha over long intra-day adjournments of the Upper House by Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu.

The AAP, which was not welcome at any opposition meetings earlier, particularly those held in Parliament House, was invited to speak at a joint opposition media interaction on the day. But nobody can be sure as to how long this bonding would last.

Partywise tally of those retiring in April-May from the opposition’s side include 13 from the Congress, six from the Samajwadi Party, three of the Trinamool Congress, two each of the Nationalist Congress Party and Biju Janata Dal and one each of the CPI-M, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha.

NDA has to face many embarrassments in past few years in Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia Commons
NDA has to face many embarrassments in past few years in Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia Commons

From the ruling side, 17 MPs of the BJP, three of the Janata Dal United, one of the Shiv Sena and two of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) are retiring.

In terms of state-wise vacancies to be created in April, the highest number is from Uttar Prdaesh (9), followed by Maharashtra (6), Madhya Pradesh (5), Bihar (5), Gujarat (4), Karnataka (4), West Bengal (4), Rajasthan (3), Odisha (3), Andhra Pradesh (3), Telangana (2), Uttarakhand (1), Himachal Pradesh (1) and Chhattisgarh (1). IANS