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Delhi HC upholds political parties’ right to contest municipal elections

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New Delhi, April 11 (IANS) The Delhi High Court recently affirmed that political parties, recognised by the State Election Commission (SEC), are entitled to contest municipal elections, dismissing a challenge against the existing electoral rules.

The Division Bench, led by Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora, stated that there is no constitutional prohibition under Article 243ZA or 243R that prevents recognised political parties from participating in these polls.

The court’s decision came in response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Lokesh Kumar, an Independent candidate in the 2022 Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) elections, who argued that the rules favouring recognised political parties with reserved symbols undermined the fairness of the electoral process for Independents like himself.

However, the Bench cited the historical context and the practical necessity of election symbols, noting their critical role in aiding a largely illiterate electorate during India’s first General Election.

The court found the SEC’s adoption of political parties’ election symbols under the Delhi Municipal Corporation (Election of Councillors) Rules, 2012, to be “reasonable and not arbitrary.”

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Further, the court stressed the inherent powers of the SEC to recognise political parties and adopt their symbols, akin to the Election Commission of India, under the Constitution and the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act.

“In light of the law laid down by the Supreme Court in Kanhiya Lal (supra) the recognition granted by SEC to the political parties to contest municipal elections is within its jurisdiction and not ultra vires. There is no bar under Article 243ZA or 243R on political parties from contesting municipal elections,” the court said.

Dismissing the plea, the Bench concluded that the legal framework allows for the participation of political parties in municipal elections and does not disadvantage Independent candidates.

–IANS

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Man from Andhra among 4 killed in US shooting

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Amaravati, June 23 (IANS) A 32-year-old man from Andhra Pradesh was among four persons killed in firing at a grocery store in Arkansas in the United States.

The victim from Andhra Pradesh was identified as Dasari Gopikrishna, a native of Bapatla district who had gone to the US only eight months ago.

He was working at the Mad Butcher grocery store at Fordyce, a small town in Arkansas, where a gunman opened fire on June 21.

Gopikrishna, who was at the billing counter, sustained critical injuries. He succumbed at a hospital the next day. His family in Yajali in Karlapalem mandal of Bapatla district was shattered on receiving the news.

Gopikrishna is survived by a wife and a son.

Four persons were killed and nine injured when the gunman opened fire inside the store and at the parking lot.

Meanwhile, CCTV footage of the assailant entering the store and opening fire on the man at the counter has emerged. As the victim collapsed on the ground, the gunman jumped over the counter and escaped after lifting something from the shelf.

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–IANS

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SC to hear anticipatory bail plea of OAS officer in DA case

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New Delhi, June 23 (IANS) Supreme Court (SC) will hear a plea filed by Odisha Administrative Service officer, Bijaya Ketan Sahoo, seeking anticipatory bail in connection with a money laundering case lodged by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for possession of assets disproportionate to the known source of income.

As per the cause list published on the website of the apex court, a vacation bench of Justices Abhay S Oka and Rajesh Bindal will hear the matter on June 24.

Earlier, the Orissa High Court, in its May 10 order, refused to grant anticipatory bail, saying a prima facie case stands against the OAS officer since he was involved in the acquisition of the properties in dealing with the “proceeds with crime”.

However, a bench of Justice Chittaranjan Das of the High Court had directed that in the event Sahoo appears before the Special Court and moves for grant of regular bail, the same shall be considered on its own merits.

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The ED initiated a probe under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) after an FIR was registered with Cuttack’s Vigilance Police Station against Odisha Financial Official Nalini Prusty, her husband Sahoo, and other family members for possession of disproportionate assets to the tune of Rs. 5 crore.

The enquiry further revealed that the bureaucrat couple had acquired six plots and flats and had constructed a triple-storied building at Bhubaneswar’s Chandrasekharpur in the name of their relative who had no independent source of income.

On the basis of the ED’s complaint, the PMLA court in Bhubaneswar issued summons to Sahoo for his appearance.

–IANS

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JD(S) MLC Suraj Revanna arrested in sexual assault case

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Hassan, (Karnataka) June 23 (IANS) In yet another jolt to former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda’s family, Karnataka Police arrested JD(S) MLC and Gowda’s grandson Suraj Revanna in connection with a forceful unnatural sex case.

Suraj Revanna is the brother of arrested former JD(S) MP, Prajwal Revanna, the prime accused in the sex videos case.

Suraj Revanna was arrested in the wee hours of Sunday by the Holenarasipura Rural police in Hassan District.

Suraj Revanna had appeared before the police on Saturday night following the lodging of an FIR against him.

The Karnataka Police had lodged an FIR against Suraj Revanna on Saturday night and summoned him to the police station for questioning in connection with the alleged sexual assault case lodged by a JD(S) worker, police said.

The police had registered an FIR against Suraj Revanna under IPC Sections 377 (unnatural sex), 342 (wrongful confinement) and 506 (criminal intimidation).

The victim in the case had sent his complaint to the office of both the DGP and the Hassan Superintendent of Police.

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The police after getting the copy of the complaint in this regard had transferred the case to the jurisdictional Holenarasipura Rural police station.

The police had contacted the victim in connection with the alleged sexual assault case and recorded his statement.

The police had also taken the victim for a medical test.

Reacting to the development, Suraj Revanna had said that it was a political conspiracy against him.

“Baseless allegations are made against me and I outrightly reject these allegations. Things will be dealt with legally and an FIR has also been lodged,” he said.

The victim alleged that he had met Suraj Revanna at a function organised by him. Impressed by his organisational skills, Suraj Revanna allegedly shared his mobile number and started sending cosy messages with love symbols.

The man was called to Suraj Revanna’s farmhouse where he was allegedly sexually abused.

Suraj Revanna’s elder brother and former JD(S) MP, Prajwal Revanna has been arrested in connection with the sex video scandal.

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His father JD(S) MLA, HD Revanna was jailed and is out on conditional bail in a kidnapping case linked to the sex video scandal.

His mother Bhavani Revanna is facing an investigation in a kidnapping case and was recently granted conditional bail by a court.

The Karnataka Police have also filed an FIR against two persons on charges of extortion following allegations of sexual abuse against Suraj Revanna.

Suraj Revanna’s aide Shivakumar filed a case against the victim and his kin at the Holenarasipura police station.

Shivakumar said in the complaint that false allegations were made against Suraj Revanna to extort money.

The complaint claimed that the accused had threatened Suraj Revanna with lodging a case of sexual abuse if he failed to pay Rs 5 crore.

The police have registered a case under IPC Sections 384 (extortion) and 584 (criminal intimidation).

–IANS

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IT Ministry, Indian Army forge strategic partnership for advanced technologies

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New Delhi, June 23 (IANS) The Military College of Telecommunication Engineering (MCTE), Indian Army and Society for Applied Microwave Electronics Engineering & Research (SAMEER) have forged a strategic partnership to strengthen the technological capabilities of the Indian Army.

The MoU plans to establish an ‘Advanced Military Research and Incubation Centre’ at MCTE, to focus on advanced wireless technologies for the Army, according to the Ministry of Electronics & IT.

SAMEER is an autonomous R&D laboratory under the IT Ministry.

The key objectives include joint research and development towards leveraging combined expertise in 5G, 6G, advanced cellular technologies, software-defined radios and cognitive radios, satellite communications, antenna design, free space optics, and tropo-scatter communications, as well as AI, Quantum, and military-specific chip design.

The MoU was signed by Lt Gen K H Gawas, Commandant, MCTE; Dr PH Rao, Director General, SAMEER, in the presence of senior officials.

“This initiative marks a significant milestone in strengthening the Indian Army’s technological capabilities which are aligned towards the declared vision for 2024 as ‘Year of Technological Absorption for Indian Army’ by the Chief of Army Staff,” the IT Ministry said.

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The partnership between SAMEER and MCTE represents a shared commitment to exploring new technological frontiers and addressing modern battlefield challenges.

As part of the MoU, an incubation centre will support the development of military-specific innovative solutions from conceptualisation to large-scale production, involving MSMEs and start-ups.

In addition, the MoU also aims at knowledge exchange, training and development aspects.

“The collaboration between SAMEER and MCTE aims to enhance national security and technological infrastructure, with potential benefits that will not only be limited to the military but will go much beyond,” said the IT Ministry.

–IANS

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The Third Eye: Israel-Hamas conflict has enlarged the threat from radical forces

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New Delhi: The terrorist attack of Hamas on Israel on October 7, 2023, and the unending retaliatory military action of Israel in Gaza where nearly 33,000 Palestinians, including a vast number of civilians, have been killed has expectantly seen Islamic radical forces rallying behind Hamas and stepping up their offensive against the US and other close allies of Israel.

Significantly, the Ayatollah regime in Iran — because of its political and ideological opposition to the US — is firmly backing Hamas notwithstanding the fundamental Shia-Sunni contradiction and even joining up with the China-Russia axis to add a new factor in the Cold War that was developing between the US on one hand and the said axis on the other.

Iran’s enmity towards the US has become far deeper ever since Major General Qasem Soleimani heading the Quds Force of Iran was assassinated in a US operation in January 2020.

In April 2022, an Iranian government official in Tehran was charged by the US with the attempt to hire a hitman to assassinate US National Security Advisor John Bolton.

Broadly speaking the current profile of Islamic radical outfits indicates that while Al Qaeda is operating from its strong base in Afghanistan and Yemen, the competitive force of ISIS is strong on its turf in Iraq and Syria — an offshoot of ISIS called Islamic State – Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) is active in Afghanistan and Pakistan too.

Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP) was the first to call for retaliatory violence in support of Hamas. There is already a war-like situation in many regions of the Muslim world between the US and Islamic radicals, and the Intelligence agencies of the US have warned the country of plans of radical forces to stage a spectacular attack of the kind the US had encountered on 9/11.

In the meanwhile, hundreds of ground operations and air strikes on ISIS targets have been carried out by US Central Command (CENTCOM) in Iraq and Syria in recent months.

Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray reported to the Senate Intelligence Committee in December 2023 that in the wake of the October 7 attack of Hamas on Israel, a threat to the US from foreign terrorists had risen to a new level.

He feared that infiltrators through the country’s southern border could plan a 9/11 type of coordinated attack.

General Michael Erik Kurilla, Chief of CENTCOM, earlier warned that the Middle East and South Asia were throwing up Islamic radical forces — Al Qaeda, ISIS and ISIS-K that had the capability of attacking the US.

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In April this year, President Biden ordered that under the Foreigners Intelligence Surveillance Act, the administration could compel US Telecommunications and Internet providers to turn over communications of foreigners outside of the country which passed through the US.

Developments in the Middle East where Israel, Saudi Arabia and Iran are the key players establish the trends of a steady spread of radicalisation in the Muslim world, rise of terrorism propelled by faith and an increase in the incidence of suicide bombing.

Faith-based terror has acquired a global dimension for, besides the Middle East, West Africa and the Afghanistan-Pakistan belt of South Asia have emerged as the breeding grounds for terror outfits.

The phenomenon of ‘lone wolves’ and determined small cells out to get to the US, is also coming into full play.

Islamic radical forces consider the US as their prime enemy — they carry the historical memory of the 19th century Jehad of Wahhabis against the British — and they are inclined to target close friends of the US and Israel too.

Iran, a fundamentalist Shia state, is hostile to US and Israel and is against Saudi Arabia as well.

While India has handled the Middle East countries well, it has to be especially careful against the machinations of Pakistan in the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan and the former’s known potential for setting the radical outfits upon India.

The US is vulnerable to the manoeuvrings of Pakistan which pretended to act as the bridge between the US and Taliban but India should be able to educate US policymakers on the danger that the two democracies faced from radicalised forces in the Muslim world.

The two recent incidents of ISIS-sponsored terror attacks — one in Iran and the other in Moscow have to be correctly viewed so that there was no misreading about the choice of targets made by radical Islamic forces.

Two suicide bombers of ISIS-K attacked the huge crowd assembled at the death anniversary of Major General Soleimani at Kerman in Iran in January 2024 killing 103 persons.

ISIS-K struck again in March 2024 at a concert on the outskirts of Moscow causing the death of 145 persons and injuries to 550 others.

The attack in Iran was reportedly in retaliation against the large-scale killing of ISIS militants in Syria and Iraq by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and was driven also by the deep-seated antipathy of Sunni extremists towards Shias.

In Syria, Iran supports President Bashar Al Assad, who is an Alawite, while ISIS is opposed to him.

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As regards the ISIS attack in Moscow, it is a fact that Russia was on the side of the Syrian President against the Islamic State but more than that the provocation for ISIS came from the Russian repression of the Islamic population — with Russia maintaining a strong security presence on the southern periphery — and President Putin’s aversion to any advance of radicalisation in Central Asian regions.

For ISIS, Russia was no different from the US-led West.

The ISIS offensives in Iran and Russia mark the global rise of radical Islamic forces and their impact on the geopolitics of our times.

Unless countered by well-thought-out measures, faith-based terrorism rooted in the call of Jehad — that had a natural appeal in the Muslim world — would grow, particularly because in fundamentalist Islam there was no distinction between religion and politics. This primarily posed a threat to the democratic world at large.

India and the US representing the two largest democracies of the world fully share the concern arising from the spread of radicalisation in the Islamic world and the consequent threat of terrorist violence posed by it.

There are widespread protests in the US and elsewhere against the loss of civilian life in Gaza and these can have the effect of fuelling the expansion of Islamic radical forces.

The world community must intervene to contain the damage caused by the Israel-Hamas confrontation and work to pause the Israeli operations in Gaza, securing the release of all hostages and advancing the long-term solution based on the ‘two states’ formula in Palestine.

The gains of the US initiative about the Abraham Accord between Israel and the UAE-Saudi Arabia combine have been overrun by the developments that followed the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

US interest in the Middle East fostered through Saudi Arabia is matched by the Russia-Iran collaboration that has been elevated to a strategic level as is evident from the supply of Iranian drones to Russia for use in the Russia-Ukraine military conflict.

The superpower rivalry in the Middle East is in a way being used by the Islamic extremists and radical forces to further their objectives.

Comprehensive measures are needed to counter radicalisation to preserve universal peace against the rise of faith-based violence.

Terrorism is resort to covert violence for a perceived ‘political cause’ and ’cause’ requires commitment dictated by ‘motivation’. In Islam ‘faith’ can be the source of a very strong motivation that does not look back.

Conflicts in the name of religion therefore have to be avoided at all costs in the interest of global peace.

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The key to this is working for the advancement of democracy everywhere.

India has a special responsibility in the matter considering its rise in recent years as a world power whose voice of reason and sanity commanded attention.

This country has proven beyond doubt that electoral democracy built on ‘One man One vote’ is the most sustainable form of government. It has countered the narratives of ‘majoritarianism’ and ‘diminished secularism’ by establishing that so long as the state followed the policy of development of all without community discrimination and did not carry a denominational stamp on governance — like what was done in our neighbourhood — secularism is built into the foundations of the state.

A diverse nation like India has to be governed with strong hands which is not to be confused with ‘authoritarianism’.

Also, valid initiatives to remove regional disparities and promote nationalism are a part of democratic governance.

A healthy democracy combines growth with special attention to the poor of all communities and knows how to reconcile a free market economy with the features of a welfare state.

India has been setting an example of practising the call of ‘vocal for local’, providing a favourable investment climate and encouraging global competitiveness.

The demand on the handling of international relations in the face of an ever-changing geopolitics has been met successfully by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government which opted for bilateral and multilateral relationships based on mutual interests in security and economy and a declared commitment to global peace and human welfare.

While India is doing well abroad, a developing challenge to its internal security in the form of radicalisation needs to be met in time.

Communal divide can lead to communal militancy and this in turn can be exploited by inimical forces within India and outside to whip up faith-based terrorism. This happened not too long ago in the past when SIMI, the outfit created by Jamaat-e-Islami at Aligarh, joined up with OIC-linked international organisations like the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) and International Islamic Federation of Student Organisations (IIFSO) and went on to produce Indian Mujahideen (IM) that was suspected to be involved in terrorist acts like the 2005 Delhi bombings and 2008 Bangalore serial blasts.

It is necessary to put politics done in the name of minorities on a discount and encourage all communities to come under the umbrella of India’s nationalism that granted them full political rights and freedom of worship.

(The writer is a former Director of the Intelligence Bureau. Views are personal)

–IANS

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