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SC gives courtroom detention to ex-CBI interim chief Rao, legal advisor for contempt

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alok verma; Rao

New Delhi | The Supreme Court on Tuesday awarded day-long courtroom detention to former acting CBI director M Nageswara Rao and another official for “brazen” contempt of its orders, and strongly rebuked them when they tried to leave before the rising of the court.

It had directed them to remain seated till the rising of the court and imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh each for transferring out an officer who was probing the Bihar shelter homes sexual assault cases.

Sparing contemnors Rao and CBI’s legal advisor S Bhasuram the jail term, the apex court held them guilty for “wilfully disobeying” its orders by transferring CBI Joint Director A K Sharma, as additional director general of CRPF on January 18.

“In our considered view, it is a case where contempt has been committed by both the then acting CBI Director, M N Rao, and the director prosecution (of the agency)” said a bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.

Pensive looking Rao and Bhasuram, who on Monday had already tendered unconditional and unqualified apologies for their roles in the transfer of Sharma, were in for a shock as the bench expressed its mind on their culpability at the outset.

Holding them guilty of contempt of court, the bench, also comprising justices L N Rao and Sanjiv Khanna, said, “We could not have done anything else”.

It said: “We have heard Rao and Bhasuram for commission of contempt of court and we impose one lakh fine and sentence them till the rising of the court.

“Go to one corner of the court and sit down till the rising of this court.”

Both remained in the CJI’s courtroom till 4 pm, the normal working hours of the judicial side of the apex court. They also remained seated during the lunch session.

The bench did not allow Attorney General K K Venugopal’s request that the two officers be allowed to leave even at 3.40 pm — 20 minutes ahead of time.

The top court responded furiously to Venugopal’s seeking permission.

“What’s this? Do you want us to sentence him till the rising of the court tomorrow? Go and sit where you were,” the CJI

Before passing the order in the pre-lunch session, the bench told Rao and Bhasuram they have been held guilty of contempt of court and it was not accepting their unconditional and unqualified apologies.

At the outset, the Attorney General, appearing for CBI and its officer, referred to the noting on the file related to the transfer of Sharma and said that it was a case of “error of judgement” on Rao’s part as he had acted on the “incorrect legal advise”.

“It is not wilful. Facts are little muddled… Rao has put himself to the mercy of this court,” Venugopal said and sought leniency from the bench.

“Let us see the sequence of events. From the note of the Acting (CBI) Director, this much is obvious that he knew that there was an order of the Supreme Court (against the transfer of the CBI officer). He also seeks the opinion of the legal advisor,” the bench said.

Later, Rao approved the relieving order of the CBI officer without “satisfying” himself whether the sanction of the court has been secured or not and “if this is not the contempt then what is contempt,” the bench said, adding “the axe falls on the Supreme Court orders”.

“He is the Acting Director of the CBI…Would the heavens have fallen if the relieving orders were passed after taking the Supreme Court into confidence,” the furious CJI remarked.

The CJI told the Attorney General “Let us be very clear that I don’t think any of us have as judges had the opportunity to invoke the jurisdiction of the contempt”.

“We are and I can say I have not invoked the contempt powers and punished anyone. Speaking for myself I can say I have not invoked contempt power in the last 20 years. However, the dignity and majesty of the court has to be maintained,” the CJI said.

“But this is brazen”, the CJI said, adding that he was of the “firm view” that “the majesty of judiciary” has to be maintained.

At this moment, the Attorney General said “To err is human, to forgive is divine.”

The bench said that the officers have committed the contempt and asked, “Why should a contemnor be defended at government expenses?”

Dealing with Rao’s approval to the transfer Sharma, the bench made clear at the outset that Rao can be held guilty of contempt as he did not bother to check while signing the relieving order of Sharma.

Not only that Rao did not even seek “post facto” approval of the apex court to the decision for two weeks,” it said.

It also gave option to Rao and Bhasuram to say something as the sentence for them could be 30 days in jail. “Do you have to say something” the bench asked them.

Venugopal repeatedly requested the court to look into other options as per the law and sought leniency for them.

Rejecting the defence of the two officers, the bench said though they have tendered an unconditional and unqualified apology, “we don’t agree with the contentions raised by them”.

The bench said that Rao was aware of the apex court direction that the CBI officer probing the shelter home sexual assault cases cannot be transferred without its consent.

However, his “attitude is ‘I have done what I thought was required’,” the bench said.

“This is a blatant contempt of court. If this is not contempt of court then what is,” asked the bench.

The court had on February 7 come down heavily on the CBI for transferring Sharma out of the agency in violation of the court’s order.

It had also taken note of the violation of two earlier orders and issued contempt notice to Rao.

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Pulwama attack: Shiv Sena MLC wants boycott of tourism in Jammu and Kashmir

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Mumbai | Against the backdrop of the Pulwama terrorist attack that claimed lives of 40 CRPF personnel, a Shiv Sena MLC wants people from other parts of India to boycott tourism in Jammu and Kashmir for two years.

Sena legislator and spokesperson Manisha Kayande said boycotting tourism in Jammu and Kashmir, “where youth, women and children pelt stones on security forces”, would hurt the economic resources of the northern state. “The need of the hour is to counter the mentality of keeping the state on tenterhooks by targeting Indian jawans,” she said in a statement issued on Saturday.

Noting that Jammu and Kashmir is a beautiful state that attracts visitors from across the globe, Kayande said, “Tourism benefits the local people. If these resources earned are used against the country and the security forces, Indians should boycott tourism in the state for next two years.”

“Whenever there is an encounter between militants and security agencies, locals pelt stones on jawans to help militants get away,” she claimed. The Sena leader also demanded boycott of all Chinese goods, saying that country was supportive of Pakistan, which has been fomenting trouble in India.

China on Friday condemned the Pulwama terror attack carried out by a Jaish suicide bomber but declined to back India’s appeal to list the Pakistan-based terror group’s chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist by the UN.

At least 40 CRPF personnel were killed and five injured on Thursday in one of the deadliest terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir when a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) suicide bomber rammed a vehicle carrying over 100 kg of explosives into their bus in Pulwama district.

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Rajinikanth and his party won’t contest 2019 Lok Sabha polls

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Chennai | Actor turned politician Rajinikanth has announced that he along with his party Rajni Makkal Mandram won’t be contesting the upcoming Lok Sabha polls in 2019.

In an issued Press release Rajinikanth stated that his party Rajni Makkal Mandram (RMM) will not support any party and added that its focus will on next assembly elections. The Tamil actor also appealed to his supporters to that he wants them to vote for a party which will solve Tamil Nadu’s water issues.

Rajinikanth further mentioned that his photo or party symbol should strictly not be used for any propaganda. On 31 December 2017 Rajinikanth had announced his entry into politics with the intention to contest in the 2021 Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly elections in all 234 constituencies.

Out of the 2014 Lok Sabha election held on the 39 seats in Tamil Nadu, AIADMK won 37 seats while PMK and BJP managed to win 1 seat each. DMK and Congress failed to win even a single seat in Tamil Nadu.

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Lok Sabha polls: Mumbai Congress promises jobs, unemployment allowance

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Mumbai | The Mumbai Congress is set to roll out a campaign aimed at providing employment to youth in the megacity and a monthly allowance to unemployed people if the party is voted to power in the Lok Sabha polls.

The campaign, titled ‘Chalo Ward Abhiyaan’, taken up in view of the “rising unemployment in the country”, will commence from Monday, Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam said in a statement. The city Congress unit has already started working on the plan and printed around six lakh forms, he said.

The Youth Congress workers will be visiting every house in all the Assembly segments in Mumbai to ensure that every youngster fills these forms, Nirupam said. “Those who fill the forms will be given allowance cards. If we are voted to power, the allowance card holders will be given preference in employment, or else they will provided unemployment allowance,” he said.

Nirupam said people between 18 and 40 years of age would be eligible for the unemployment allowance. The new Congress-led governments in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have already announced unemployment allowances of Rs 3,500 and Rs 4,000 per month respectively, he noted.

Nirupam also said that unlike the ruling BJP, the Congress will “actually walk the talk”, if it is voted to power in the Lok Sabha elections.

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