Mocked and trolled by BJP for years, Gandhi siblings shine in INDIA's stellar show

News Network
June 4, 2024

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New Delhi: From 'pappu' to 'shehzade', Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has been the prime target of BJP's ridicule for years. Jabs at the Gandhi family have been the BJP leader's main line of attack at the main Opposition Congress in every election over the past decade. But as Congress inches towards a 100-seat tally in this Lok Sabha election -- its best show in a decade -- and the INDIA bloc's tally defies all exit polls, the Gandhi siblings have played a central role.

Mr Gandhi virtually launched his campaign with a Bharat Jodo Yatra across the length and breadth of the country. While the actual impact of the yatra in terms of Lok Sabha seats won is a subject of data and debate, there is no doubt that his public interactions on the trail brought him out of television screens to the people and contributed to shattering the perception the BJP had created of him.

Visuals of Mr Gandhi petting puppies, hugging people and chatting with people from every section of the society, from students to truck drivers to mechanics, showed a side of him the country had not seen before.

As for Priyanka Gandhi, many had expected her to contest the polls this time, and questions were raised when she did not. In her response, Ms Gandhi Vadra has said in several interviews that it was a conscious decision. If both she and Rahul contested the election, they would get tied up with campaigning in one constituency, she had said, adding that the plan was to keep her free for rallies. The move clearly seems to have paid off.

As Mr Gandhi travelled across the country to address rallies of the INDIA bloc, Ms Gandhi Vadra also took up the task of leading the Congress's campaign in family strongholds Amethi and Raebareli. Nine hours into the counting, the party seems set for a win in both seats, including Amethi, where Gandhi family loyalist Kishori Lal Sharma has emerged a giant slayer by defeating Union Minister Smriti Irani -- a sweet revenge for Rahul Gandhi's 2019 defeat.

In these seats, Ms Gandhi Vadra was as much the party's face as its brain. From addressing nukkad sabhas to planning the party's moves, she led the campaign in these prestige battles from scratch.

The 2024 election also saw her emergence as an orator who charms the audience and also connects with them. Her counterstrike to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's charge that the Congress plans to bring a wealth distribution plan and would take away "mangalsutra" had made national headlines.

"He says the Congress wants to take away your gold, your mangalsutra. The country has been independent for 70 years. The Congress ruled for 55 years. Has anyone robbed you of your gold or your mangalsutra? When the war was on, Indira Gandhi gave her gold to the country. My mother's mangalsutra was sacrificed for this country," she had said.

According to a PTI report, the Congress leader was attending a party meeting in Amethi when she told the audience that there was a woman among them who wanted to educate her daughter, but her father-in-law was against it. So, the woman stitched sari falls to save money and ensured that her daughter became a graduate. She then invited the woman to stage as the audience cheered.

Such interactions smashed the image the BJP had created for the Gandhi siblings and the ruling party's "royal family" jabs lost their sheen.

Also significant is the fact that the Congress this time contested just 328 seats out of 543 -- its lowest ever, leaving the remaining 215 seats for INDIA allies. Known to bargain hard for seats and then failing to convert them into wins, this was a big climbdown by the Mallikarjun Kharge-led party. And the move seems to have paid off.

The Congress may still finish with half the seats as compared to the BJP, but the Gandhi siblings shine in its stellar show. And at the Congress press meet this evening, Mr Gandhi underlined sister Priyanka's contribution in the party's performance.

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News Network
July 8,2024

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Moscow: Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived here on Monday on a two-day high-profile visit to Russia during which he will hold summit talks with President Vladimir Putin to review all aspects of bilateral ties and explore opportunities to further boost cooperation in sectors like trade, energy and defence.

It is Modi's first trip to Russia in nearly five years. His last visit to Russia was in 2019 when he attended an economic conclave in the Far East city of Vladivostok.

During the 22nd India-Russia annual summit on Tuesday, Modi and Putin are expected to explore ways to further expand bilateral relations in diverse areas, including trade, energy and defence.

"The special and privileged strategic partnership between India and Russia has advanced over the past 10 years, including in areas of energy, security, trade, investment, health, education, culture, tourism and people-to-people exchanges," Modi said in his departure statement.

"I look forward to reviewing all aspects of bilateral cooperation with my friend President Vladimir Putin and sharing perspectives on various regional and global issues," he said.

"We seek to play a supportive role for a peaceful and stable region," he said without making any specific references.

The annual summit between the Prime Minister of India and the President of Russia is the highest institutional dialogue mechanism in the strategic partnership between the two countries.

So far, 21 annual summits have taken place alternatively in India and Russia.

The last summit was held on December 6, 2021, in New Delhi. President Putin had visited India to attend the summit. Putin, as head of the Russian state, has visited India nine times.

Prime Minister Modi and President Putin last held bilateral talks on the margins of a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) at Samarkand in Uzbekistan on September 16, 2022.

In the meeting, Modi had famously pressed Putin to end the conflict in Ukraine saying, "Today's era is not of war".

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Modi has held several telephonic conversations with Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

In reflection of its strong friendship with Russia, India has not yet condemned Moscow's invasion of Ukraine and it has been maintaining that the crisis must be resolved through diplomacy and dialogue.

In Russia, the prime minister will also meet the vibrant Indian community.

From Russia, Modi will travel to Austria on Tuesday in the first visit by an Indian prime minister to that country in over 40 years.

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News Network
July 10,2024

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The Supreme Court today (July 10, 2024) held that a Muslim woman is entitled to file a petition for maintenance against her husband under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The Bench of Justices BV Nagarathna and Augustine George Masih dismissed a petition filed by a Muslim man's plea against the direction to pay interim maintenance to his divorced wife under Section 125 CrPC. The Court held that the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act 1986 will not prevail over the secular law.

Justices Nagarathna and Masih delivered separate but concurring judgments.

"We are dismissing the criminal appeal with the conclusion that Section 125 CrPC would be applicable to all women and not just married women," Justice Nagarathna stated.

The bench clarified that if during the pendency of a petition under Section 125 of the CrPC a Muslim woman is divorced, then she can take recourse to the Muslim Women(Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act 2019. The bench stated that the remedy under the 2019 Act is in addition to the remedy under Section 125 CrPC.

Background

For a comprehensive understanding of the facts of the case and the issue involved, click here.

Senior Advocate S Wasim A Qadri, appearing for the petitioner-husband, raised the following contentions:

(A) The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 Act ("Act") is a special law in the nature of beneficial legislation, which provides way more than what Section 125 CrPC contemplates. Besides maintenance, Section 3 of the Act also deals with mehr, dower and return of property. Under the Act, a "reasonable and fair" provision is also made for the divorced woman's entire life, but the same is not contemplated under Section 125 CrPC. Moreover, if the divorced woman has sufficient means, she cannot file for maintenance under Section 125 CrPC, however, that is the case with Section 3 of the Act.

(B) To the legal position flowing from Mohd Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum, factum of divorce was not relevant and every Muslim woman was entitled to maintain a Section 125 CrPC petition. To upset this ruling, the Act was enacted and it codified the Supreme Court judgment. The Act is a complete code in itself and a reading of its provisions would show that it was intended to have an overriding effect over Section 125 CrPC. While it makes provisions for "divorced" Muslim women, deserted or neglected Muslim women may resort to Section 125 CrPC.

(C) It is a settled position of law that special law (the Act) shall prevail over general law (CrPC). Language of the Act being clear, there is no reason for the Court to go beyond. It must simply give effect to what is stated in the Act.

(D) Section 5 gives an option to the divorced couple to not be governed by the Act. This shows that a Muslim wife cannot resort to both remedies.

(E) As per Section 7 of the Act, a Section 125 CrPC petition pending at the time of commencement of the Act was to be disposed of by the Magistrate in terms of Section 3 of the Act. This shows that the ambit of Section 125 CrPC in these petitions was to be interpreted in light of provisions of the Act, read with Section 5 CrPC (which excludes applicability of CrPC provisions when there is a special provision).

(F) Under doctrine of implied repeal, the Parliament is presumed to know pre-existing law and won't intend to create any confusion by retaining conflicting provisions. In applying this doctrine, Court must give effect to legislative intent of the two enactments (CrPC and the Act).

Amicus and Senior Advocate Gaurav Agarwal, on the other hand, put forth the following submissions:

(A) The Act only concretizes Muslim personal law. It broadens a divorced Muslim woman's entitlement to maintenance beyond the iddat period, but does not take away the relief available to her under Section 125 CrPC because the purpose behind the latter is different.

(B) The petitioner's reliance on Section 5 of the Act is misplaced, as that provision comes into play when an application has been filed under Section 3 of the Act. In the present case, the respondent-wife had approached the Court under Section 125 CrPC.

(C) Section 7 of the Act is only a transitional provision. If an application was pending under Section 125 CrPC on the date of commencement of the Act, it was to be subsequently governed by Section 3. However, that does not mean that Section 125 CrPC petitions could no longer be filed.

(D) In Danial Latifi & Anr v. Union Of India, Supreme Court only dealt with validity of the Act. Though the validity of provisions of the Act was upheld, the Bench questioned in the said case as to how it could deprive Muslim divorced women the same right which is available to other women in the country.

(E) As per Section 127(3)(b) CrPC, if some provision has been made under personal law, a husband may avoid liability for maintenance under Section 125 CrPC. It would be for Courts to record a fact-finding in this regard.

(F) Different High Courts have taken different views, so clarity on the issue has become necessary. Judgments that are no longer good law may be declared as such. Kerala High Court has taken a view both Section 125 (CrPC) petition and Section 3 (1986 Act) petition are maintainable, but a woman has to choose between one of the two. But this position is not correct.

Before conclusion of arguments, the Amicus also pointed to a scenario where a divorced Muslim woman may accept provision made under personal law for her entire life, but later realize that it was not sufficient. In that case, she can only approach under Section 125 CrPC and not under Section 3 of the Act. As such, she should not have to choose between the two remedies and must be entitled to both.

Court Observations during the hearing

During the hearing, the Bench remarked that Section 3 of the Act begins with a non-obstante clause. As such, it is not in derogation to what is already provided under Section 125 CrPC, but an additional remedy.

Justice Masih said : "this Act does not bar...it is the choice of the person who had applied or moved an application under 125...there is no statutory provision provided under the Act of 1986 which says that 125 is not maintainable". Concurring, Justice Nagarathna said that there was nothing in the 1986 law which barred one remedy in favor of the other.

When the Bench enquired as to whether the present petitioner had paid anything to the respondent-wife during the iddat period, answer was given in the negative. The Amicus clarified that a draft of Rs.15,000 was tendered by the petitioner during the iddat period, but the same was not claimed by the respondent-wife. Taking into account the same, the Bench said that it would still have been understandable if the petitioner had made provision for the wife during the iddat period, as in that case, Section 127(3)(b) CrPC may have come into play.

Responding to the petitioner's submission that none of the judgments cited by either side had dealt with Section 7 of the Act, Nagarathna J said that the provision was only with regard to pending cases (and thus, transitory). Countering the contention, the Amicus drew attention of the Court to a Kerala High Court judgment which considered Section 7 and held that it could not be interpreted as extinguishing the right of divorced Muslim women to file petitions under Section 125 CrPC.

Notably, the Kerala High Court (in the judgment cited by the Amicus) was of the view that the transitory provision was intended to do away with the necessity of Muslim women, who had Section 125 CrPC petitions pending at the time of commencement of the Act, having to file fresh claims under Section 3 of the special law. To quote the Bench,

"If the Parliament had the intention to extinguish such rights of the Muslim woman, it would only be reasonable to expect the Parliament to speak in definite and specific language about such extinguishment. Parliament must have been aware that when 1986 Act was enacted, number of orders must have passed in favor of divorced Muslim women under Section 125...Message appears to us to be loud and clear...Both rights, under Section 125 of the Code and Section 3 were conferred on the divorced women. She has the right to choose."

As against the petitioner's submission that the provisions of the Act indicate Parliament's intent to bar entitlement of Muslim women to file maintenance claims under Section 125 CrPC, the Court expressed an opinion that the same would be unconstitutional.

If the Parliament intended for divorced Muslim women to no longer be entitled to file petitions under Section 125 CrPC from the date of commencement of the Act, it could have explicitly given an overriding effect to the Act, the Bench remarked. To quote Nagarathna J, "In the absence of such a thing, can we add a restriction to the Act? That is the point".

After hearing the submissions of both the Senior Advocates, the judgment was reserved on February 19.

Counsels for petitioner-husband: Senior Advocate S Wasim A Qadri; Advocates Saeed Qadri, Saahil Gupta, Deepak Bhati and Shivendra Singh; AOR Udita Singh

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News Network
July 16,2024

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Bengaluru: The Karnataka cabinet on Monday approved implementation of the Seventh Pay Commission’s recommendations, effecting a 27.5% increase in basic pay from August 1, 2024, and benefiting 12 lakh state govt employees and pensioners.

The commission, led by former chief secretary K Sudhakar Rao, was constituted in November 2022 with a six month mandate.

The final report was submitted to chief minister Siddaramaiah before Lok Sabha elections were announced in March 2024.

The commission’s recommendations include raising the minimum salary for govt employees from Rs 17,000 to Rs 27,000 a month.

The implementation is expected to widen the revenue expenditure of the Karnataka govt by Rs 20,000 crore annually. The most considerable expenditure will be the burden of Rs 7,409 crore for salaries, followed by Rs 3,791 crore for pensions and family pensions each year.

The decision comes after the previous BJP govt, just before the 2023 assembly elections, granted interim relief with a 17% salary hike for govt employees, leaving the remaining 10.5% for future discussions.

After Congress govt took office, it faced pressure to fulfil five poll guarantees and delayed the decision.

The employees, during an executive committee meeting held recently in Chikkamagaluru, decided to launch a three-phase protest culminating in an indefinite strike planned from July 29. This appears to have pressured the govt.

"We welcome the decision for providing employees with 27.5% salary hike," said Shadakshari, state president of Karnataka state govt employees' association.

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