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NEW DELHI: Certain kind of media reportage in pending matters was critically referred to before the Supreme Court by attorney general KK Venugopal on Tuesday who said it is “totally forbidden” and may amount to contempt of court.

The top law officer was appearing before a bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar to assist it in the hearing of the 2009 contempt case against activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan and journalist Tarun Tejpal.

Venugopal was granted time to reformulate certain issues for its consideration in the contempt case in which the apex court in November 2009 had issued notices to Bhushan and Tejpal for allegedly casting aspersions on some sitting and former top court judges in an interview to news magazine ‘Tehelka‘. Tejpal was the editor of the magazine.

Venugopal, during the brief hearing via video conferencing, referred to the comments of “electronic and print media” in pending court cases and said that they are “totally forbidden”.

“Today electronic media and print media are commenting on cases which are pending and it is seeking to influence the court,” he said.

Today, in big cases when bail applications are about to come up for hearing, TV reports are shown which are very “damaging for the accused who has filed the bail application”, he said.

He also referred to the media reporting in the Rafale case and said that such comments about pending cases should not be made.

“These things are totally forbidden and may amount to contempt of court,” Venugopal said, adding that he would like to discuss it with senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, counsel for Bhushan, and all other lawyers appearing in the matter.

The bench, which also comprised Justices B R Gavai and Krishna Murari, took note of the submissions of Venugopal and said that he can consider reformulating the points which are required to be dealt by the bench and listed the case for further hearing on November 4.

“In the meantime, the registrar judicial to get in touch with Harish Salve” to discuss the case and request him to appear before it on the next date of hearing, the order said.

Dhavan, at the outset, said that perhaps some questions were needed to be reformulated in the case.

Venugopal agreed to the views and said that perhaps a fresh look at the proposition given by Dhavan was needed.

Earlier, the top court had accepted the plea of Bhushan to seek assistance of the attorney general in the contempt case against him and Tejpal.

Prior to this, a bench headed by justice Arun Mishra (since retired) had decided on August 25 to refer the matter to another bench to deal with certain larger questions related to freedom of speech and levelling of corruption charges against the judiciary.

Dhavan had told the court that 10 questions of constitutional importance have been raised by them and they needed to be dealt with by a constitution bench.

The court had then not agreed to Dhavan’s submissions that it should seek assistance of the attorney general in dealing with the issues raised and said that “it is best left to the appropriate Bench” which will be set up by the Chief Justice of India.

Dhavan had said that questions raised by Bhushan included the issue whether bona fide opinions of corruption also constitute contempt of court and “whether it is enough to show bona fide of opinion or it is necessary for the person to prove the allegation of corruption.

They also included whether a complainant is barred from discussing in public domain the contents of his complaint if an in-house inquiry is started, among others, he had said.

On August 17, the top court had framed certain questions and asked the parties to address it on three issues – whether such statements about corruption against judges or judiciary can be made, in what circumstances they can be made and what is the procedure to be adopted with respect to sitting and retired judges.

Bhushan had also filed 10 questions on his own and sought adjudication by a constitution bench.

“Whether the expression of a bona fide opinion about the extent of corruption in any section of the judiciary would amount to contempt of court,” Bhushan’s plea had said.

“If the answer to the question is in the affirmative, whether the person who expresses such an opinion about the extent of corruption in a section of judiciary is obliged to prove that his opinion is correct or whether it is enough to show that he bona fide held that opinion,” the second question read.

He had also given eight other questions related to freedom of speech and expression and the width and scope of contempt powers.

In response to the 2009 contempt case, Bhushan had earlier told the apex court that making corruption charges against judges would not amount to contempt of court and mere utterance of corruption charge could not be contempt of court.

The Times of India is an Indian English-language daily newspaper owned by The Times Group. It is the third-largest newspaper in India by circulation and largest selling English-language daily in the world. according to Audit Bureau of Circulations.

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INDIA

India calls for complete ceasing of support to terrorist forces in Middle East

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UNITED NATIONS: India has called on all concerned parties to completely stop supporting terrorist forces, like the ISIS, while urging all stakeholders in the Middle East to work constructively for peace, stability and development.

India underscored that it has invested considerably in the peace and stability of the region by deploying its personnel as part of UN peacekeeping forces, through humanitarian assistance, development cooperation, capacity building, and will continue contributing towards peace-building in the Middle East.

“India calls on concerned parties to completely stop support to terrorist forces, like ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and others. India also urges all parties in the region to work constructively and in good faith to promote peace, stability and development for the benefit of all people in the Middle East,” India said in a written statement on Monday on the Security Council’s open debate on ‘The Situation in the Middle East’.

India said the truce between Israel and the Hamas has eased the humanitarian situation in Gaza and expressed hope that the temporary truce is converted into a permanent ceasefire, which can save precious human lives on both sides and create a conducive environment for talks.

“It is an unfortunate reality that the interlinked and mutually reinforcing challenges faced by the people of the Middle East have not yet been resolved. Political instability, long-festering conflicts, sectarian divides, issue of refugees and terrorism continue to plague the region. The COVID-pandemic has only exacerbated the threats posed by these challenges,” India said.

The statement made India’s permanent representative to the UN, Ambassador T S Tirumurti, will go as part of the official record of the Council.

India said it appreciates the agreement between Fatah and Hamas for holding Parliamentary and Presidential elections and also elections for the Palestinian National Council, which will help fulfill the democratic aspirations of the Palestinian people.

India also welcomed the agreements for normalisation of relations between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain. “India has always supported peace and stability in West Asia, which is our extended neighbourhood,” India said.

Further, India said the commencement of discussions on the disputed border between Israel and Lebanon is a significant development, expressing hope that this will provide an opportunity to resolve the longstanding issue between the two countries.

India highlighted that Palestinian aspirations for a sovereign and independent state are yet to be fulfilled and stressed that New Delhi has been unwavering in its commitment to the Palestinian cause and continues to remain supportive of a peaceful negotiated resolution of the Palestinian issue.

“India has supported the two-state solution as a just and acceptable solution to the conflict. Establishment of a Palestinian State living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel, within mutually agreed borders should be achieved through negotiations directly by the two parties,” India said adding that any stalemate could strengthen the hands of extremists and shut the door to cooperation thereby jeopardising the security, stability and prosperity of the people on both sides and the region.

Accordingly, India urged Israel and Palestine to resume direct negotiations at the earliest and called upon the international community to take concrete steps towards resuming and facilitating these negotiations quickly.

India noted that the decade-long armed conflict in Syria has claimed over 400,000 lives, displaced 6.2 million people internally and compelled another 6.3 million people to seek shelter in neighbouring countries.

“While we are heartened to see return of normalcy to major parts of the country, we are also reminded of the enormous resources that would be required to provide urgent humanitarian aid, rebuild infrastructure, enable return of the refugees and restore a normal and dignified life of all Syrians,” the statement said.

India said in the statement that it is not only contributing to the return of normalcy and rebuilding of Syria, but has also consistently called for a comprehensive and peaceful resolution of the Syrian conflict through a Syrian-led dialogue, taking into account the legitimate aspirations of the people of Syria.

India voiced concern over the security and humanitarian situation in Yemen and said the recent exchange of prisoners by the Government of Yemen and Ansar Allah, who had been detained in connection with the conflict, is a welcome development.

“India hopes that the parties will take more confidence building measures to provide the necessary impetus for the full implementation of the Stockholm Agreement,” the statement read.

India also hopes for peace and stability in Iraq with full respect for Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

India noted that in the aftermath of the August blast that brought destruction to vast swathes of Beirut and inflicted heavy loss of lives, India stood in solidarity with Lebanon.

New Delhi sent emergency humanitarian aid of over 58 metric tons to Beirut. “We look forward to the swift formation of a new government that can offer political stability and also tackle the grave socio-economic challenges being faced by the people of Lebanon,” the statement said.

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INDIA

US, India must focus on threat posed by China: Secretary of state Mike Pompeo

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NEW DELHI: US secretary of state Mike Pompeo on Tuesday stressed on the need for Washington and New Delhi to work together to counter the threat posed by Beijing to “security and freedom”

Pompeo’s comment came during the crucial 2+2 dialogue between India and the US, which saw the signing of a crucial defence agreement between the two countries.

“There is much more work to do for sure. We have a lot to discuss today: Our cooperation on the pandemic that originated in Wuhan, to confronting the Chinese Communist Party’s threats to security and freedom to promoting peace and stability throughout the region,” Pompeo said during talks with defence minister Rajnath Singh and external affairs minister S Jaishankar. Pompeo was joined by defence secretary Mark Esper.

Esper too focussed on the apparent threat posed by China, specifically in the Indo-Pacific region.

“Our focus now must be on institutionalising and regularising our cooperation to meet the challenges of the day and uphold the principles of a free and open Indo-Pacific well into the future,” Esper said.

The comments assume significance as India is locked in a border standoff with China in eastern Ladakh.

In June this year, 20 Indian soldiers and an unspecified number of PLA soldiers were killed in a clash with Chinese troops in Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh, hardening the mood in India against China and driving Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to seek closer military ties with the United States.

In the US, President Donald Trump has made being tough on China a key part of his campaign to secure a second term in next week’s presidential election and Pompeo has been trying to bolster allies to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

This month, India invited Australia to join naval drills it holds each year with the United States and Japan, brushing off Chinese concerns that the exercises destabilise the region.

(With inputs from agencies)

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defence Secretary Mark Esper meet NSA Doval

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NEW DELHI: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mark T Esper on Tuesday held talks with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, covering key aspects of growing strategic ties between the two countries.

Issues of strategic importance were discussed at the meeting, sources said.

The meeting took place ahead of the third edition of 2+2 ministerial dialogue. Esper and Pompeo arrived here on Monday for the crucial talks aimed at further boosting the defence and security ties between the two countries.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar held separate talks with their US counterparts on Monday.

Earlier on Tuesday, both the top US administration officials visited the National War Memorial and paid tributes to India’s fallen heroes.

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