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EC holds meeting on fresh delimitation exercise under new Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act

Uneasy calm: Traffic was thin on roads across Srinagar on Tuesday. ANIANI

The earliest possible date for the Assembly election in the new Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir is around March next year, officials in the Home Ministry indicated, as the Election Commission (EC) held its first meeting on Tuesday for the delimitation exercise, necessitated under the new Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act.

The EC held “internal discussions” and a “formal communication was awaited from the Ministry of Home Affairs”, an EC official said.

Senior sources in the government told The Hindu that the delimitation exercise undertaken by the EC, with help from the Home Ministry, is the first step towards holding the Assembly election in the Union Territory. Details set out in the Reorganisation Act on the strength of the new House will have far-reaching consequences for politics in Jammu and Kashmir.

“First of all, the new Assembly, under the Reorganisation Act, is to have 114 seats, of which 24 have been kept aside for areas under Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), which means elections will be conducted for 90 seats. The old Assembly had a strength of 111 seats (again 24 kept aside for PoK), with four seats for the Ladakh region. That means seven extra seats will be added to the effective strength of the House. Which part of J&K these seats will be from remains to be decided,” sources said.

Reserved seats

The delimitation exercise will also take into account reservation of seats for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, as provided for under the Constitution, and that could tip the scales in favour of one region.

There is also a significant population of those who were displaced during the Partition in 1947-48 and settled in Jammu, who have had no voting rights so far in the Assembly elections; a ball park figure puts the number of these persons at 8 lakh.

SC Bench agrees to wait for a fortnight

The Supreme Court on Tuesday said restoration of normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir cannot be accomplished overnight.

The government, it said, needed “reasonable time” to guide the Valley back to peace without loss of lives.

“Who will be blamed if something happens,” the court retorted, when asked by petitioner-activist Tehseen Poonawalla to, at least, pass an order to restore essential services, such as hospitals, police stations and schools.

“Nobody can take even a 1% chance,” a Bench of Justices Arun Mishra, M.R. Shah and Ajay Rastogi observed.

The Bench agreed to wait and watch the goings-on in the Valley for a fortnight.

Mr. Poonawalla cited “regressive measures” like curfew and information blackout being imposed in the Valley before and during the revocation of Article 370.

Ram Vilas Paswan PTI

Five star hotels charging exorbitant rates for food items like bananas and eggs is an “unfair trade practice” and the government will seek an explanation from them, Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said on Tuesday.

Mr. Paswan, referring to a recent tweet by actor Rahul Bose on being charged ₹442 for two bananas at JW Marriott Hotel, Chandigarh, and another tweet by a consumer on being charged ₹1,700 for two boiled eggs at Four Seasons Hotel in Mumbai, said rules under the recently passed Consumer Protection Bill would take care of such violations.

‘A serious issue’

“Outside the gate of the five star hotel, eggs are sold for ₹1 and inside for ₹1,000. This is a serious issue. Also, every hotel has to display the prices of the food items they serve in a menu,” the Minister added.

In his previous stint at the Ministry, during the first government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mr. Paswan had taken on movie halls, asking them to serve water at the Maximum Retail Price (MRP).

“We will not allow dual MRP,” Mr. Paswan said, adding that the government would make rules to check such practices under the Consumer Protection Bill. The rules will be in place within six months.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Minister’s press conference, Consumer Affairs Secretary Avinash K. Srivastava said, “Prima facie, it is an unfair trade practice. As the Minister has directed, we will seek explanations from these hotels.”

The Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI) had defended JW Marriott Hotel, when the controversy broke out, saying it had not done anything “illegal”. The FHRAI asserted that the hotel did the right thing by charging 18% GST on food and beverages served on its premises.

Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, heading the Constitution Bench hearing the Ayodhya appeals, said on Tuesday that the Supreme Court is not in a hurry. Lawyers need not feel constrained and can argue to their heart’s content.

The top judge said lawyers on both sides could raise their arguments as and how they like, no matter how long they take.

The CJI’s words signify the importance the court is giving to the appeals. These appeals had previously been pending unheard in the court for the past nine years. The Bench is now hearing them five days a week, morning till evening.

The Chief Justice will retire in November.

His clarification came after senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, for the Muslim parties, complained that the court was allowing the Hindu side to argue for days without producing a shred of evidence or exhibit to fortify their claim over Ramjanmabhoomi.

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