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Can’t be pushed into a decision: Speaker

Ramesh Kumar meets 10 Karnataka rebel MLAs following the Supreme Court’s direction

Rush hour: Byrathi Basavaraj, one of the rebel MLAs, rushing to the Speaker’s chamber in Bengaluru on Thursday to meet the 6 p.m. deadline set by the Supreme Court.

Hours after the Supreme Court on Thursday asked Karnataka Speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar to meet 10 rebel legislators from the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) and take a decision on their resignations, he held a meeting with them.

However, Mr. Ramesh Kumar insisted that he had a responsibility to understand whether the resignations were genuine and voluntary, as prescribed in the Constitution, and said the process could not be rushed. “In the current political situation, I have to enquire whether they are voluntary. If I do not do it, I would have committed a mistake,” he told journalists after the nearly hour-long meeting with the rebel legislators, who flew to Bengaluru from Mumbai and rushed to his chamber just after 6 p.m, following the court order.

Article 190

Mr. Ramesh Kumar cited Article 190 of the Constitution as the basis for his decision to follow the procedure to enquire whether the resignations were genuine and voluntary.

“I am not responsible for it, nor am I connected with the political instability in Karnataka... I am not under anybody’s obligation. I am obligated to the people of the State and the Constitution,” he said, adding that he could not specify a time frame for a final decision on the resignations.

Mr. Ramesh Kumar confirmed that all the 10 fresh resignation letters tendered by the rebel legislators were in accordance with Rule 202 of the Rules and Procedure of Conduct of Business in the Assembly. He, however, said he had not given dates for hearing to these legislators.

“During the session, I will ask the Deputy Speaker to sit in the chair during afternoon sessions to hear the rebel legislators,” he said.

Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court became the site of the latest face-off between the Speaker and the rebel legislators.

Hours after a Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, asked Mr. Ramesh Kumar to meet the 10 rebel MLAs and take a decision on their resignations “forthwith or in the course of the remaining part of the day”, the Speaker urged the court to recall its order.

In an urgent application filed in the afternoon, the Speaker said the court could not ask him to decide on the resignation of the legislators in a particular manner. Mr. Ramesh Kumar said the order hindered his probe against the MLAs under the anti-defection law.

However, the Chief Justice of India said the Speaker’s application would be heard on July 12. The court had fixed the July 12 hearing to be apprised of the Speaker’s decision on the resignations.

SC likely to hear Ayodhya appeals from July 25

Seeks report from mediation panel

A Constitution Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, on Thursday decided to commence hearing the Ayodhya title dispute appeals tentatively from July 25 on a day-to-day basis in case a conclusion is reached, on the basis of a mediation committee report, that the talks with Hindu and Muslim parties to heal minds and hearts is making no headway.

The Bench asked Justice F.M.I. Kalifulla (retired), heading the court-appointed mediation committee, to submit the report on the progress made so far by July 18, the next date of hearing. The court’s order in a way jump-starts the Ayodhya case. The committee had been granted time till August 15 to engage in talks.

No headway: petitioner

The immediate trigger for Thursday’s hearing is an urgent plea made by a claimant to the disputed Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land that the mediation proceedings were making no headway whatsoever.

The mediation committee is in the thick of its second round of talks. It finished the initial round and filed an interim status report dated May 7 in the court, seeking more time.

On July 9, however, an application filed by Gopal Singh Visharad, an original claimant to the disputed site who filed a title suit way back in 1950 through his survivor Rajendra Singh, said the mediation was making no progress.

Visharad asked the CJI to stop the mediation and start adjudication on the appeals. The appeals have been pending in the court for the past eight years. Visharad said, “He is entitled to offer worship without any obstruction according to the rites and tenets of his religion at the birthplace of Lord Shri Ram Chandra”.

Centre redefines child porn, moots stiff penalties

Watching, possessing or circulating animations or cartoons that depict a minor engaging in a sexually explicit conduct could land you in jail.

The Cabinet has approved a new definition for child pornography in its amendments to the POCSO Act, which is likely to be introduced in Parliament next week.

The new definition reads, “Any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a child which include photographs, video, digital or computer generated image indistinguishable from an actual child and an image created, adapted or modified but appear to depict a child.”

CBI teams search premises of Lawyers Collective

FIR filed for FCRA violations

Facing the heat: Anand Grover’s premises in Delhi and Mumbai were searched on Thursday. REUTERSreuters

The CBI on Thursday conducted searches at five places in Delhi and Mumbai in connection with a case of an alleged Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) violation by the Lawyers Collective (LC), its president Anand Grover and others.

After CBI officials concluded the search at their Nizamuddin East residence in Delhi, senior advocate Indira Jaising said she and Mr. Grover were being targeted for the human rights work they had been doing for the past several years.

“The searches have been carried out on the residential and official premises of Mr. Grover in Delhi and Mumbai,” said a CBI official, clarifying that it was not against Ms. Jaising.

The CBI registered the case last month on a complaint from the Home Ministry. It invoked IPC provisions related to criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust and cheating, besides criminal misconduct under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The LC, which was earlier registered under the FCRA, had received ₹32 crore in foreign donations between 2006 and 2015.

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