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Court hints that hearings of the appeals are likely to be completed by October 18

The Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed the Ayodhya mediation committee to resume talks with the disputing Hindu and Muslim parties even as it indicated that the ongoing hearings of the appeals before a Constitution Bench is likely to finish by October 18.

Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi is scheduled to retire on November 17. If the hearings are completed by October 18, the court will have a month to write the judgment for the over 70-year-old Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute.

Another chance

By giving mediation another chance, the court has opened the doors again for an amicable settlement of the dispute among the parties. The mediation panel, if it is successful in patching up a settlement, can move the court with the terms of the settlement anytime during the hearings or after the judgment is reserved but before the verdict is pronounced.

The court said mediation should continue to remain confidential and would be carried on simultaneously with the court proceedings, which have been going on for over 25 days. The Bench said it may even relegate Saturdays for the Ayodhya hearings if required.

On September 17, the court asked the lawyers to chalk out a timeline to present their oral arguments in the appeals. The lawyers had conveyed it on Wednesday, after which the Bench estimated the hearings could be closed by October 18.

On September 16, the mediation committee filed in parallel a short memorandum informing the court that parties across the Hindu-Muslim divide had approached it with a request to resume talks to amicably resolve the dispute.

The memorandum suggested that mediation could continue even as the court continues to hear the appeals.

The parties asked the mediators — former Supreme Court judge F.M.I Kalifulla, spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu — that talks should resume from the point where they were abruptly dropped at the last minute on July 29 due to resistance from certain blocs across the religious divide, causing heartburn among other stakeholders.

In limbo

The Constitution Bench announced the failure to reach a final settlement in a hearing on August 2. Adjudication of the pending appeals, which were kept in limbo due to the mediation, commenced from August 6. The Sunni Waqf Board is arguing its case.

The mediation effort was initiated by the court on March 8 in a bid to heal minds and hearts. The Bench had explained that the case was “not about the 1500 sq ft of disputed land, but about religious sentiments.” The mediation committee had held several rounds of talks with the stakeholders in Faizabad district of Uttar Pradesh, of which the disputed area in Ayodhya is a part. The proceedings were held in camera and care was taken to maintain confidentiality to ensure its success.

It cites need to protect public health

The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved a ban on e-cigarettes, citing the need to take early action to protect public health.

Upon promulgation of the ordinance, any production, manufacturing, import, export, transport, sale (including online sale), distribution or advertisement (including online advertisement) of e-cigarettes shall be a cognisable offence punishable with imprisonment of up to one year, or fine up to ₹1 lakh, or both for the first offence; and imprisonment of up to three years and fine up to ₹5 lakh for a subsequent offence. Storage of electronic-cigarettes shall also be punishable with imprisonment of up to 6 months or a fine of up to ₹50,000 or both.

Children at risk

“Envisioned as a tool to combat tobacco addiction, electronic cigarettes and other vaping products have become a major problem and increase the risk of children adopting them,” Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said at a media briefing.

As per a release issued by the Centre, owners of existing stocks of e-cigarettes on the date of commencement of the ordinance will have to suo motu declare and deposit these with the nearest police station.

Jharkhand Police does U-turn, submits supplementary chargesheet

Sahista Pervez, right, wife of Tabrez Ansari, being comforted by her mother. file photo

Making a U-turn in the Tabrez Ansari lynching case after allegations of attempts to weaken the case, the Jharkhand police submitted a supplementary chargesheet on Wednesday, seeking punishment under Section 302 of the IPC (murder) against 11 of the accused.

Another two accused, who were apprehended later, would also face murder charges. The Seraikela-Kharsawan police had earlier dropped the murder charges against the accused, contending that Ansari had died of cardiac arrest due to stress, and not injury. The charges were changed on the basis of a fresh forensic report.

The Jharkhand police headquarters, in a press statement, said: “The reason of death was reserved in view of pending viscera examination in the postmortem report received by police during the time of submission of charge sheet earlier. In the report of the Forensic Science Laboratory, doctors had opined that the death was caused due to cardiac arrest. But, the reason of heart attack was not clear.”

For further investigation, police had sought an opinion from a board of doctors of the MGM Medical College and Hospital.

On the basis of the new report, police came to the conclusion that the cardiac arrest was caused by the preceding violence inflicted with “hard and blunt object.”

Besides, the police have also received the integrity report of the video in which Tabrez was seen brutally beaten up.

“There has been no tampering found in the viral video. So during further investigation on the basis of additional evidences, accused have been charged under section 302,” the police said.

Ledum gets a makeover after elders prescribed penalties for roaming pigs & cows

Model village: The entrance to Ledum. RAHUL KARMAKAR

Breaking the rules of the road attracts little or no fine in Arunachal Pradesh, unless the “traffic law” violator is a pig or a cow in a village in the Frontier State’s East Siang district.

Three years before the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019, prescribed heavy penalties for traffic violators across India, the elders of Ledum village imposed fines on livestock loitering on the road leading to district headquarters Pasighat.

The quantum of fine read: a bullet for a pig, ₹500 for a cow and the possibility of it being auctioned off.

“It was difficult at first to impose the fine. Some village youth came out with their hunting guns and began shooting the pigs to let people know the rules were not to be taken lightly,” Tatar Taying, the 53-year-old gaon burah (village elder), told The Hindu.

A gun is a prized possession for many men of the Adi community whose festivals include Aran that involves community hunting. Ledum has 112 Adi households while three families belong to the Galo community.

By early 2017, the village youth shot 10 pigs. The pig-rearers have never since let the animals out.

The fine on the cows was conditional, though. “We kept grazing in mind and let the cattle use the road during the day. But owners were fined ₹500 per cow if it was let out after dusk,” said Tatiram Padung, another elder.

In 2016-17, the village committee collected ₹5,000 in ‘bovine fine’. It fell to ₹2,500 and ₹1,500 during the subsequent financial years. Only ₹500 has been collected since April this year. “The dip in fines is a good sign, implying the people are getting used to cleanliness, which is remarkable for a village that was once tagged the dirtiest in central Arunachal,” said Ajay Kamsi, a cultural activist. He attributed much of the change in the mindset to John Pada, a local and now the Superintendent of Police of Kamle district, who spread awareness.

Urban Affairs Minister says all options are open for redevelopment plan

Hardeep Singh Puri

A new office building for staff and all MPs linked to Parliament via an underground pathway or a new structure on top of the existing building are among the options the Centre is open to as it works on its redevelopment plan for the Central Vista, Union Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Wednesday.

After the government's ambitious plan of redeveloping Parliament, the 3-km Central Vista that stretches from Rashtrapati Bhavan till India Gate and development of a common Central Secretariat was announced last week, some architects raised concerns about the project. The Central Public Works Department had floated a request for proposal on September 2 asking architecture firms to come up with designs for the redevelopment.

Referring to the criticism, Mr. Puri said, while speaking at a seminar on trends in architecture organised by the CPWD here, that he “did not want to engage” with it. “Who said we are going to destroy Parliament? All we have done so far is to invite ideas. If merely by inviting ideas, a building falls, then I believe it's not an idea, it's something else,” he said.

Govt. to take call soon

Later, speaking to reporters, he said more space could be added “in the chamber” to make way for expansion of Parliament after future delimitation.

The offices of staff and Ministers in Parliament currently could be shifted to a new building in the complex connected through an underground path, he said.

In his speech earlier, Mr. Puri had said the option of making a “dhaancha” or structure on top was also on the table. The new building would also hold offices for all MPs, which are not available to them now.

He said a “political call” would be taken after the CPWD assesses the bids, the last day for which is September 30.

Speaking about the history of the CPWD, which was established 165 years ago by the British, Mr. Puri said: “CPWD was born in the 1850s, in Lord Dalhousie's period. The buildings constructed in that period reflected the colonial ethos that the country was subjected to.”

He added that the redevelopment of the Central Vista was only one part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's dream.

“He has a vision for India,” he said.

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