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Court’s reservations will be recorded in order, says CJI

The Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, which is hearing the Ayodhya dispute appeals, on Thursday took a serious view of the comment reportedly made by an Uttar Pradesh Minister that the Ram temple would be built on the disputed land as the “Supreme Court is ours”.

U.P. Cooperative Minister Mukut Bihari Sharma’s comments came at an interaction with the media in Bharaich on Monday.

The Chief Justice said the court condemned such statements, and the parties on both sides of the dispute would get a fair and free hearing. He said the court’s reservations would be recorded in its order.

Burden of threats

The 22nd day of the Ayodhya hearing began with senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, for the Sunni Waqf Board, informing the court that even his clerk had been bearing the brunt of ridicule and threats for their representation of Muslim parties in the dispute. Mr. Dhavan explained that he was not arguing against the Hindu faith but merely doing his job as counsel.

The court, on September 3, issued notice to an 88-year-old Chennai man for allegedly intimidating Mr. Dhavan for representing the Muslim side in the title suit appeals. He had sought contempt proceedings against N. Shanmugham, a retired government official. Mr. Dhavan had annexed a letter from him with his petition. He said this was only one of several instances of threats received by him for appearing in the case.

“It needs to be mentioned that the petitioner has been accosted both at home and on the court premises with intimidating behaviour by several persons,” he said, referring to several WhatsApp messages sent by one Sanjay Kalal Bajrangi in this context. He annexed the screen-shots of the messages in his petition.

The court also agreed to look into a complaint made by Iqbal Ansari, a litigant in the appeals, about an alleged instance of intimidation and attack on him. Mr. Dhavan had informed the Constitution Bench that Mr. Ansari was accosted by a couple in his house in Faizabad. They told him to withdraw from the case or face dire consequences. The woman had even introduced herself as an “international shooter”.

Govt. plans new Parliament, common Central Secretariat, new-look Central Vista

The government is aiming to have a brand-new Parliament building by the time India celebrates its 75th I-Day.File photoShanker Chakravarty

The Centre is planning on changing the skyline of the historic seat of power in New Delhi, with a new or completely retrofitted Parliament building, one common Central Secretariat for all Ministries after demolition of existing office buildings and redevelopment of the 3-km Central Vista that stretches from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate.

The ambitious project of the Narendra Modi government was set in motion with the publication of a request for proposal (RFP) by the Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry’s Central Public Works Department on September 2. Design and architecture firms — both domestic and foreign — were invited to a pre-bid meeting on Thursday, ahead of the last date for submission of bids on September 23, according to the RFP document and sources in the Ministry.

By the time India celebrates its 75th Independence Day on August 15, 2022, the government is aiming to have a brand-new Parliament building in the vicinity of the existing one or a retrofitted version of the British-built building, Ministry sources said.

While sources said there has been no decision yet on which buildings would stay, discussions within the government so far have leaned towards not altering Parliament, Rashtrapati Bhavan and North and South Blocks – which house offices of the Finance, Home, Defence and External Affairs Ministries – from the exterior. However, the buildings could house museums and convention centres.

Government buildings like Shastri Bhawan are likely to be razed and high-rises built for more office space, the sources said.

The demand for a new Parliament building had been raised recently by Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and Rajya Sabha Chairperson Venkaiah Naidu.

“Parliament House building was completed in 1927; it has been declared a Heritage Grade-I building. Its facilities and infrastructure are inadequate to meet the current demand,” the RFP states.

The buildings in the 3-km Central Vista will be redeveloped, refurbished or demolished. “These new iconic structures shall be a legacy for 150 to 200 years at the very least,” the RFP states.

According to the document, the new Parliament should be in place by July 2022, the common Central Secretariat by redeveloping existing buildings by March 2024 and a new-look Central Vista with public amenities by November 2020.

Centre to speak to Jharkhand on scaling down of charges in Ansari case

Minister of State for Home G. Kishan Reddy said on Thursday that incidents of lynching were unfortunate and the Centre would speak to the Jharkhand government about the dropping of murder charges against the suspects in the case of lynching of Tabrez Ansari.

Speaking to reporters at the Bureau of Police Research and Development headquarters here, he said, “I do not know what happened in the courts... but those behind the criminal activity should be punished. We will speak to the State government. All governments should stop lynching. It is not that lynching is happening only in the BJP-ruled States; it happened in West Bengal, too. The Prime Minister has also spoken against it.”

Asked about the police scaling down the charges against the 13 accused from murder to culpable homicide, he said, “Law will take its own course.”

On Tuesday, the police dropped murder charges against all 13 accused in the Ansari lynching case.

According to the chargesheets, 11 persons accused of beating Ansari, a 24-year-old man, to death will now face trial under Section 304 of the IPC, which deals with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, instead of murder charges under Section 302.

On June 17, Ansari, of Kamadia village near Seraikela, was caught by a mob a few kilometres from his house and branded a thief. He was then tied to a pole, brutally beaten and forced to chant ‘Jai Hanuman’ and ‘Jai Shri Ram’. The police then sent him to prison. On June 22, he succumbed to injuries.

It will pay Railways lease, haulage fees

The Mumbai-Ahmedabad Tejas Expess is likely to start operations this December.

The Delhi-Lucknow Tejas Express will be the first train that will not be operated by the Railways, perhaps as early as the first week of October.

The Ministry of Railways plans to allow private players to operate certain trains, and as part of its 100-day agenda, the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has been asked to run two trains. The second, the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Tejas Expess, is likely to start operations this December.

To make the travel attractive, on offer are: free travel insurance worth ₹25 lakh, on-board infotainment services, doorstep baggage collection, local food and no tatkal quota. IRCTC, a public sector undertaking, will pay the Railways lease and haulage charges for running these trains. However, the loco-pilots, guards and station masters will be from the Railways.

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