Nitish and Mamata Give Push to Opposition Unity; Top BJP Man in Sydney Convicted of Drugging, Raping, Filming 5 Women
Bombay HC greenlights Kamra petition against 'Fact-checking' rule, wrestlers resume #MeToo protest against BJP MP, CBI starts sounding like a ‘neta’, Bar Council shocker on same-sex marriage hearing
A newsletter from The Wire | Founded by MK Venu, Seema Chishti, Siddharth Varadarajan, Sushant Singh, Sidharth Bhatia, Tanweer Alam and Pratik Kanjilal | With inputs from Kalrav Joshi | Editor: Vinay Pandey
Snapshot of the day
April 24, 2023
Opposition unity moves have begun in earnest. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and deputy CM Tejaswhi Yadav flew to Kolkata to meet West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, with the agenda of bringing together all parties “and making all preparations ahead of the upcoming Parliament elections.”
“I have made just one request to Nitish Kumar,” Banerjee told reporters. “Jayaprakash ji's movement started from Bihar. If we have an all-party meeting in Bihar, we can then decide where we have to go next. But first of all, we have to give a message that we are united. I have said earlier too that I have no objections. I want BJP to become zero. They have become a big hero with media's support and lies.”
From Kolkata, Nitish and Tejashwi are headed to Lucknow to meet Samajwadi leader Akhilesh Yadav.
Sydney-based Balesh Dhankhar, who, as former head of the Overseas Friends of the BJP in Australia had rubbed shoulders with Prime Minister Modi and the most influential members of the city’s Indian diaspora, has been convicted of drugging, raping and filming five Korean women, making him one of the most heinous rapists in the city’s history, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. Photographs on Dhankhar’s website, which he tried to scrub, show him meeting Modi and speaking at NSW government events.
A district court jury in Sydney’s Downing Centre on Monday found that the predator lured five women into a web of lies, with false promises of employment, drugged them and recorded videos of his brutal assaults. Dhankhar cried as the jury foreman replied “guilty” to each of the 39 charges against him. He asked to remain on bail but the judge refused. Dhankhar, who was handcuffed and led away by officers, will be sentenced later in the year.
The Bombay high court said on Monday that the petition filed by political satirist Kunal Kamra challenging the recent amendments to the IT Rules is “maintainable”. In response to the Centre’s argument challenging Kamra’s locus standi in the case, Justices GS Patel and Neela Gokhale said that his petition is based on freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) and hence, the locus of the petitioner would not be examined, reports Bar and Bench. More significantly, the bench refused to accept the government’s assurance that the rules would not apply to satire. The judges said the new measures had no guard rails at all. “You are not affecting parody, satire, that is what your affidavit says. That is not what your rules say. There is no protection granted…”, Justice Patel remarked orally on Monday.
Meanwhile, the Asia Internet Coalition, comprising global tech giants Google, Meta, Apple and Amazon among others, has said the amendments will profoundly infringe on press freedom.
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Of late, the CBI has been coming up with charges that sound more like accusations politicians hurl at each other. The agency has booked environmental lawyer Ritwick Dutta for allegedly stalling coal projects. Dutta runs an NGO, Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment, which, according to the CBI, has violated the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act in order to “take down India’s existing or proposed coal projects”. Last week, the investigating agency had accused Oxfam India of attempts to pressure the Union government to renew its licence by using foreign governments and institutions. One of the projects Dutta is acccused of stalling is of Vedanta’s. Ironically, the BJP (and Congress) were found guilty of violating the FCRA in 2013 by accepting donations from the UK based company. The Modi government subsequently amended the FCRA with retrospective effect to give itself a get-out-of-jail card.
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman says there is no proposal as yet to regulate finance-oriented social media influencers, also known as “finfluencers”, but the government is working with RBI and MeitY to clamp down on Ponzi apps. “Social influencers and financial influencers are all out there but a strong sense of caution is required in each one of us to make sure we do double-checking, counter-checking,” she said at an event on Sunday. According to a SEBI study, released in January, retail investors in the country’s futures and options markets rose by about 500% between the financial years 2018–19 and 2021–22. Nine out of 10 incurred losses.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai is one of the most highly compensated professionals in the world. In 2022, he took away $226 million (₹1,854.60 crore only) in compensation. As much as $218 million of it came through triennial stock awards, according to a new securities filing by Alphabet, the parent company of Google. The package also included about $6 million for personal security during the year. Pichai’s salary is a sensitive topic in the tech world, which is reeling under massive layoffs and cost cutting. In January, Alphabet announced it would cut 12,000 jobs, or 6% of its total workforce.
On the run for over a month, Waris Punjab De chief Amritpal Singh, 30, was arrested from outside a gurdwara in Rode village, in Moga district of Punjab, on Sunday. Hours after his arrest under the National Security Act, he was flown to Dibrugarh central jail in Assam, where nine of his associates are lodged. Rode is the ancestral village of slain Sikh militant leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, after whom Amritpal styles himself.
Opium and cannabis cultivation in area the size of over 89,000 football fields has been destroyed in the past three years as the Union government intensifies its crackdown on drugs, the Hindu reports. As much as 6.7 lakh kilos of seized drugs were burnt down, and 35,592 acres of poppy cultivation and 82,691 acres of cannabis cultivation destroyed across the country during this period. The Union home ministry plans to link the recovery of narcotics and banned substances in a district to the annual appraisal report of the SP concerned. Each civil servant must earn his share of “punya" during “Amrit kaal”.
“It is important that the hard-earned money of the taxpayer is not misused.” Not the words of Rahul Gandhi. It’s an exhortation by Modi himself to civil servants a few days ago. Ironically, an RTI inquiry revealed last wweek that the Karnataka Government spent Rs 9.49 crore on PM Modi's inauguration of IIT Dharwad Campus.
“Not for speaking against us.” That was the answer Union home minister Amit Shah gave when asked why the CBI had summoned former Jammu & Kashmir governor Satya Pal Malik. Whereas Malik was initially summoned to the CBI’s guest house on Akbar Road in New Delhi to answer questions on April 28, he told The Wire that the CBI had now informed him that they would come to his house instead. It is learnt that the investigating agency will “question” Malik on the Reliance Insurance issue – the scheme that RSS and BJP leader Ram Madhav was allegedly pushing Malik to pass when he was the governor of Jammu and Kashmir, and which Malik cancelled. Malik made many revelations about national security and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s approach to corruption in an explosive interview to The Wire last week. Shah attacked Malik for not speaking up while in office. A simple fact-check shows that he actually did – no less than five times.
As the New Zealand police investigate a woman’s accusation that two men from a Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation delegation groped her and took “unwanted photographs”, the chief of the federation, which owns the Amul brand, says: “Some lobbies want to derail the process of partnership between India and New Zealand for vested interests.”
Hundreds of patients camp outside AIIMS Delhi every night, waiting to be treated at one of India’s premier government health facilities. There are queues for queues and the wait is endless. An excellent ground report by Newslaundry.
In a two part series on “India in Nepal”, Kanak Mani Dixit writes that “the most benign period for Nepal’s relations with India was the brief flickering of the Gujral doctrine, which proposed non-reciprocity in dealing with the smaller neighbours in enlightened self-interest. India does not remember Gujral, while in Kathmandu these are the times of RAW and IB.”
Some of India's most prominent wrestlers, like Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia on Sunday resumed their protest at New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, calling out Wrestling Federation of India chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh for allegedly sexually harassing female wrestlers for several years. They confirmed that seven girls, including a minor, gave a complaint against the BJP MP at Connaught Place police station, but an FIR was yet to be registered.
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