TOP STORIES (1751)
Cuttack,22/07/19:The Orissa High Court here on Monday granted bail to self-styled godman Sarathi Baba alias Santosh Raul in connection with a sexual assault case.
The self-styled GODMAN has been granted bail against a bail bond of Rs. 2 lakh and surety of two bailers. The court has also asked him not to influence witnesses of the case and cooperate in the investigation process.
This apart, the High court also said that lower court may also keep more condition on his bail.
Following the verdict, Sarathi Baba, who had been lodged in Chowdwar jail for the past three years, will be now released. Earlier, Raul was granted bail by the HC in two cases.
The High Court had concluded hearing of the third case against the self-proclaimed godman on July 17. A bench headed by Justice Sangam Kumar Sahoo had reserved the verdict.
Raul was arrested on August 8, 2015, by the CID-Crime Branch over sexual exploitation of a woman and her daughter by Raul at the latter’s Barimul ashram in Kendrapara district.
Initially, the CID-CB had registered a case against him on charges of cheating, forgery, wrongful restraint, criminal intimidation. Later, he was also charged under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and Religious Institutions (Prevention of Misuse) Act.
Beguniapada (Ganjam,22/07/19:Child abandonment continues unabated in Odisha with another newborn’s body found in a road side here in Ganjam.
The locals found body of a newborn baby thrown in a road side in between Khalikote – Beguniapada block.
A probe has been initiated to ascertain who and why abandoned the dead baby in the road side.
The incident of newborn babies being abandoned is being reported in media everyday from almost all the parts of the state.
Rayagada, July 21: Rayagada was once infamous for its inaccessibility to 840 villages out of 2556 inhabited ones; but the scenario is steadily changing. Of late, the Rayagada district administration under the leadership of Sri Pramod Kumar Behera, the newly officiating District Collector of Rayagada, has drawn a comprehensive road map to connect the hinterland villages with the main land such as Panchayats, Blocks and District. He is assisted by a team of technocrats of Rural Works Deptt headed by its Executive Engineer at Rayagada.
The department has planned and estimated a number of bridges to strengthen the rural connectivity of habitations primarily inhabited by tribals. Take the example of villages like Tala Saja, Upar Saja and a few adjacent villages depending upon a PWD road connecting JK Pur and K.Singhpur block for their day-to-day work in the block office, health centres, offices in the district headquarters, etc; but unfortunately Nagavali river flowing between Tala Saja and the PWD road is an hindrance in commuting, especially during rains when the river swells to its full potential. So, the department is planning to have a high level bridge over this river at this spot.
According to the Works Deptt’s departmental order number-28545300442014/RD Dated-1.7.2019, this road will be included in RD deptt. This order mentions that the process of handing over to Rural Works Deptt, Rayagada will be completed by 25th July, 2019. There was never a bridge there. The concerned authorities have thus clarified the rumour that there was a bridge on this river near Saja village, which was washed away in the recent flood. Like this initiative, the district administration is on a spree in promoting the mantra of rural communication: connect, interconnect and empower the community.
Bhubaneswar,21/07/19:The NDA Government introduced the RTI Amendment Bill, 2019 in the Lok Sabha on Friday (July 19, 2019). The proposed amendments are regressive andare aimed squarely at undermining the independence of information commissions, thereby diluting India’s strongest and most widely used framework for transparency.
It is a matter of grave concern that the amendments to the RTI Law were introduced in complete secrecy and in flagrant violation of the Pre-Legislative Consultation Policy of the Central government which mandates public disclosure and consultation on draft legislations. Owing to the undemocratic way of its introduction, the contents of the draft amendments were not known by MPs, citizens and the media till the bill was circulated to members ofthe Lok Sabha on the eve of its introduction.
The bill seeks to amend the RTI Act in order to empower the Central Government to unilaterally decide the tenure, salary, allowances and other terms of service of Information Commissioners at the Centre and States. The NDA Government has done so by wilfully misrepresenting an amendment to a basic feature of the law, as a functionof rule-making.
As the RTI Act stands today, it provides for a fixed tenure of 5 years for information commissioners (subject to the age limit of 65 years). Further, the salaries, allowances and other terms of service of the Chief of the Central Information Commission are the same as that of the Chief Election Commissioner. This is a part of the basic structure of the existing law and therefore any amendment to these provisions undermines the basic structure of the RTI.
The status of information commissioners was extensively discussed during the formulation of the law, including in the Standing Committee. In fact, the Standing Committee opined, “Information Commission is an important creation under the Act which will execute thelaudable scheme of the legislation …It should, therefore, be ensured that it functions withutmost independence and autonomy.”It recommended that to achieve this objective, it would be desirable to confer on the central chief information commissioner and information commissioners, statusof the chief election commissioner and election commissioners respectively. The committee’s recommendation to elevate the status of information commissioners was accepted and passed by parliament unanimously through an extensive process of public and Parliamentary consultation.
The principle of according a high stature, and protecting the terms of service by equating it to functionaries of constitutional bodies, is routinely adopted for independent statutory oversight bodies, including the Central Vigilance Commission and the Lokpal.
Enabling the Executive to govern the functioning of the Commissions will fundamentally weaken the institution of the Information Commissions as it will adversely impact their ability to function in an independent manner. The Information Commissions are the final authorities to adjudicate on claims of access to information which is a deemed fundamental right under the Constitution. The RTI Act confers an autonomous status to Commissions to empower them to carry out their functions independently so as to enforce compliance of the highest offices with the provisions of the law. Further, the Central government usurping for itself the power to decide even the tenure, salaries and allowances of information commissioners of the State Information Commissions, raises key issues of federalism, and is a continuing indication of the current Government’s centralized, and undemocratic decision making.
In 2017, similar amendments were made to laws regulating 19 tribunals and adjudicating authorities through the Finance Act. Subsequently is several cases, the government through rules has reduced the term of office of functionaries of the tribunals/authorities.
There is a wide array of pressing issues which require the urgent attention of government to ensure the effective implementation of the RTI Act and to promote higher standards of transparency in public life. These include:
Making time bound and transparent appointments to fill vacancies in information commissions
Addressing the issue of attacks on information seekers- more than 80 RTI users have been murdered across the country.
Implementing the Whistle Blowers Protection Act.
Addressing poor implementation of Section 4 of the RTI Act to strengthen mandatory pro-active disclosure, the lack of which was acutely felt in some of this Government’s most wide sweeping policies such as demonetization.
Addressing the complete lack of transparency in electoral funding.
It is inexplicable that instead of addressing some of these issues that are currently undermining peoples’ right to information, the NDA Government has decided to focus on means to subvert the independence and autonomy of the adjudicating authorities under the RTI Act. This latest legislative sleight is another example of this government’s characteristic intention to disempower democratic institutions of this country.
The RTI Act is used every year by nearly 6 million citizens of the country. It has proved to be the strongest tool in the hands of ordinary citizens to realize their fundamental right to know and hold power to account. The law’s passage in the Parliament in 2005 was a victory for peoples’ movements and campaigns that represented the will and intention of lakhs of citizens to keep democracy alive.
The National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI) wholly rejects the amendments introduced by the NDA government, and demands that they be withdrawn with immediate effect. The NCPRI also would like to remind the government to follow due process in carrying out its legislative business and ensure that all draft legislations(including amendments) be put through the pre-legislative consultation process. Amendments which will impact peoples’ fundamental rights must be put through extensive debate and discussion by referring them to the appropriate Parliamentary Standing Committees. The NCPRI will oppose these regressive amendments and mobilise public opinion, so that this peoples law is protected.
New Delhi,21/07/19:In the death of three-term former Chief Minister Shiela Dixit, Delhi has lost its loving daughter who was a mother to younger politicians cutting across party lines as was clear from tribute by Delhi BJP President Manoj Tiwari who became highly emotional while speaking to media on her death despite the fact that he recently won Lok Sabha against the departed leader who welcomed him like a mother when he went to seek her blessings on winning election against her.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia while declaring two-day state-mourning and state-funeral on her death, even cancelled their personal pilgrimage to Vaishno Devi. Above all, Prime Minister Narender Modi joined unending stream of politicians and others having visited her residence to offer flower-tribute on her dead body on behalf of complete nation. She was a political icon wh crossed all political boundary lines through her personal relations even in opposition camps.
Very few may remember that Shiela Dixit while she was Chief Minister of Delhi made an appeal to political community to boycott mega-budgeted marriage-celebrations. Need is that political community may bring this aspect in practice as true tribute to the departed soul.
Berhampur,21/07/19:Berhampur Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) has been arrested by the Vigilance department on charges of amassing assets disproportionate to known sources of income.
The accused, identified as Ashis Kumar Behera,
During the two-day search conducted at nine places including his Berhampur office, official residence and parental house, movable and immovable assets to the tune of over Rs 2.19 crore was seized, Vigilance officials informed.
Kalahandi,21/07/19:The Bolangir Child Welfare Committee (CWC) on Sunday confirmed truth behind the allegations that Saroj Das, the head of Vision, an organization which manages ‘Prayas’ shelter home in Bhawanipatna, sexually abused a minor inmate of the shelter home meant for HIV kids.
Bolangir CWC chairperson, Jageswar Mohanty informed that his team has received vital leads in connection with the allegations against Das.
The district Sub-Collector along with the members of District Child Protection Unit also conducted a raid in the shelter home last night. Apart from verifying documents, they questioned some inmates of the shelter home over the matter.
“We have got some proof that Saroj Das has sexually abused the minor girl. Apart from the survivor’s mother, the girl also agreed that she was assaulted by Saroj. A case will be registered under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 and Section 376 of the IPC against the accused at Bhawanipatna Police station,” CWC chairperson Jageswar Mohanty informed.
Meanwhile, following the complaints, the district police reportedly detained Das for interrogation. The cops also questioned the survivor and her mother to ascertain truth behind the matter.
However, the CWC chairperson has flagged concerns over police interrogation of the complainant and the survivor in the absence CWC officials. Terming the action by the police as illegal, the CWC chairperson has said that it will move the Collector and SP if required.
It may be noted, that in her complaint, the girl’s mother from Bolangir district had alleged that Saroj sexually assaulted several inmates including her daughter with the support of the senior lady employee of the shelter home. Besides, she also demanded strict punishment for the accused.
On the other hand, terming the allegation as a conspiracy against him, Saroj pleaded innocence. “The student should have ideally informed the matter to the District Child Protection Officer (DCPO) or Child Welfare Committee (CWC) or the nearest police station immediately after the incident. I don’t know under what circumstances she is now levelling such allegations, four months after leaving the hostel,” Das said in his reaction.
Paralakhemundi,21/07/19:Three persons including two teachers were arrested by police on charges of threatening a journalist in Paralakhemundi of Gajapati district today.
According to reports, on July 18, the accused allegedly issued threats to journalist Rashmiranjan Mishra through phone after he reported a story on rice filled sacks lying abandoned on verandah of a girls’ hostel of Siali School under Kashinagar block of the district.
Following the incident, Mishra lodged a complaint at Paralakhemundi police station. In the FIR, he also mentioned the names of the accused trio that he had managed to ascertain through Truecaller.
After examining the call records, police nabbed the three accused including husband of the headmistress of Siali School.
Bibekananda Swain,Inspector in Charge Pralahemundi Model police station said, “ We have arrested P. Srinivas, K. Sudarsan and K. Kiran and forwarded them to court.