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MUMBAI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday clarified that no reclamation and development work can be carried out in any area beyond 90 hectares, at present in connection with the Mumbai coastal road project.

“We have no doubt that the CRZ clearance and the dispute before the HC is in respect of 90 hectares of land. It is therefore very clear that no reclamation and development can be carried out in respect of any area beyond 90 hectares,’’ the SC bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde, Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian said.

The SC also said, “We make it clear that any activity undertaken by the BMC and the concerned contractors shall be at their own risk and shall be subject to the final outcome of present proceedings.’’

The SC also said that “a representative of original petitioners before the Bombay high court’’ which include NGOs Conservation Action Trust (CAT) and Worli Koliwada fishermen’s society—shall be permitted to be present and be beard by Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) before taking a decision. The MCZMA is in the process of fixing a date to hear an application made by the BMC for approval to its revised plans for additional reclamation of 21 hectares—greater than two Oval Maidans.

“Till such clearance is obtained, no activity whether by reclamation or development will be carried out’’ in the additional proposed area.

The figure for proposed reclamation had gone from 90 to 111 hectares with a qualitative change said CAT counsel Shyam Divan in court. Of the 90, 70 hectares was meant for parks, cycle tracks, promenade, butterfly park, bus depot among other facilities.

The BMC had challenged the HC judgment passed last year which said the project needs a comprehensive environmental clearance and had halted work. Last year on December 17, the SC in an interim order stayed the HC order, allowed BMC to “reclaim land, build the road and secure the road’’ but not carryout other developmental work.

The SC declined to consider pleas by activists for orders to stop reclamation of land for any area other than for a road and to carry on reclamation is a manner that would not cause permanent damage to

meant “land over which the coastal road project is to be executed and that is 90 hectares.’’

The SC said the plea was “an attempt of the applicants to have a review of the earlier direction permitting reclamation. No case for review has been made out. Therefore, we are not inclined to consider the prayer for stopping reclamation’’ Mumbai’s coastline.

The SC said its order of December 2019 “clearly permits BMC to reclaim the land.’’ The SC clarified that the ‘land’. Nor did the SC see “any ambiguity’’ which warrants modification of its December 17 order, as was sought.

For BMC, Solicitor general Tushar Mehta and senior counsel Darius Khambata said an application has been made for obtaining clearance under CRZ for the excess land. The plea likely to be processed by the end October and an early decision is likely from MCZMA.

The BMC said the CRZ clearance it has got was “after a more intensive scrutiny than it is under Environment Protection Act.’’ The activists contended that an Environment Clearance under EPA is a must. The SC said, “We are not going to into the said question(s) at this stage.”

Mukesh Verma, counsel for MCZMA informed the SC that the question of granting a clearance to permit reclamation and development of land in excess of 90 hectares is going to be taken up at the end of this month.

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

Govt weakening democracy, PM must give ‘healing touch’ to dissenting farmers: Rahul Gandhi

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NEW DELHI: The Congress on Monday accused the government of weakening democracy and crushing the voice of dissent, which it said was the right of every citizen irrespective of who they voted for.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the new farm laws. He said farmers in Punjab were setting a dangerous precedent by burning effigies of the Prime Minister and asked him to reach out to them and give a “healing touch”.

“This happened all over Punjab yesterday. It’s sad that Punjab is feeling such anger towards the PM. This is a very dangerous precedent and is bad for our country. PM should reach out, listen and give a healing touch quickly,” he tweeted.

Gandhi cited media reports claiming that farmers under the banner of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) in Punjab torched effigies of the PM and business tycoons while protesting against the new farm laws.

Congress spokesperson Gourav Vallabh in a press conference said when people express their disagreement over the government’s policies and decisions, it does not mean they are promoting terrorism or are anti-national.

He cited an article by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and alleged that democracy is being weakened and hollowed out when the government books intellectuals for voicing their opinion against the government.

BJP president J P Nadda, responding to Rahul Gandhi’s remarks, described the torching of Modi’s effigies as a “ Rahul Gandhi-directed drama” and said it was shameful but not unexpected.

“After all, the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty has never respected the office of the Prime Minister. This was seen in the institutional weakening of the Prime Minister’s authority during the UPA years of 2004-2014,” he said.

Hitting back at the BJP president, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala tweeted, “Respected Nadda ji, panic about imminent loss in Bihar election is visible. Your farewell on November 10 is a given. Do not divert. If you want to debate on issues of employment, development, security, education, industry, I am awaiting.”

Nadda also lambasted the Congress for its criticism of the Prime Minister, saying the more the opposition party and its leaders “lie” and “hate” Modi, the more people will support him.

“Combination of despondency and shamelessness is dangerous. Congress possesses both. Empty rhetoric of decency and democracy by the Mother is ‘complemented’ by live demonstrations of politics of hate, anger, lies and aggression by the Son. Double standards galore,” he said.

The BJP chief said, “One dynasty’s deep personal hatred against a person who was born in poverty and became PM is historic. Equally historic is the love people of India have showered upon PM. More Congress’ lies and hate increases, the more people will support PM Modi”.

Recalling Emergency, Nadda said the Congress can never pontificate on the freedom of speech and alleged that the party has had a contempt for dissenting voices.

“We saw glimpses of it during the Emergency. Later on, the Rajiv Gandhi government made a brazen attempt to weaken press freedom. A free press rattles Congress,” he claimed.

Alleging that the Congress “blessed” Maharashtra government is a “laboratory of usage of brute state power”, the BJP chief said troubling opponents and curbing freedom of speech in “trademark Congress style” are visible in the working of the state government.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi earlier hit out at the government alleging that Indian democracy was being hollowed out and the central government was misusing institutions to target political opponents and civil society leaders.

“The world’s largest democracy is at the crossroads. That the economy is in deep crisis is clear. But what is less appreciated is that all the pillars of a democratic system of governance are under assault.

“The fundamental right to freedom of expression has been systematically suspended through suppression and intimidation. Dissent is deliberately stifled as ‘terrorism’ or branded as an ‘anti-national activity’,” she said in an article.

She also alleged that India’s hard-won democracy was being hollowed out.

The Congress chief said citizens do not cease to be citizens when the party they voted for loses an election.

“The Prime Minister repeatedly claims to represent 130 crore Indians. But his government and the ruling party are treating political opponents, dissenters, and those who did not vote for the ruling party as second-class citizens without democratic rights,”she said, adding that the people of India are not just an electorate but are the nation and the government exists to serve them, not vilify them.

Vallabh accused the Prime minister, Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP chief Nadda of trying to suppress all voices of dissent and seeking to project them as anti-national.

“Real democracy is to listen to the voice of people and understand what they are saying. Everyone has the right to disagree and voice their opinion, even if they vote or don’t vote for you,” he said.

“Democracy gives equal rights to everyone, whether he is voting for or against the ruling party. His rights remain the same,” Vallabh said.

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Modi didn’t accept even tea during 9-hour questioning by Gujarat riots SIT: Raghavan

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NEW DELHI: Without parrying a single question out of the 100-odd ones put to him by the 2002 Gujarat riots SIT, Narendra Modi as the then Gujarat chief minister “kept his cool” throughout the marathon 9-hour questioning and did not accept even a cup of tea from investigators, the probe team’s chief at that time R K Raghavan has said in a new book.

Modi had also readily agreed to come to the SIT office in Gandhinagar for the questioning and brought his own bottle of water, Raghavan has written in his autobiography, ‘A Road Well Travelled’.

Before being asked to head the Supreme Court-appointed SIT that probed the 2002 Gujarat riots, Raghavan had also served as head of premier probe agency CBI. He was also involved in several other high-profile investigations over years, including those relating to the Bofors scam, the 2000 South Africa cricket-match fixing case and the fodder scam.

Talking about the time the SIT had called Modi for questioning as the then Gujarat chief minister, Raghavan writes in the book, “We had it conveyed to his staff that he had to come in person to the SIT office for this purpose and that meeting him elsewhere would be misconstrued as a favour.”

“He (Modi) understood the spirit of our stand and readily agreed to come to the SIT office within the government complex in Gandhinagar,” Raghvan said.

The former police officer further said he took the “unusual step” of asking Ashok Malhotra, an SIT member, to do the questioning, mainly to avoid any “mischievous allegation” later that Modi and he had struck a deal.

“This stand was endorsed months later by no less a person than amicus curiae Harish Salve. He told me that my presence would have vitiated Modi’s statement and would have robbed it of its credibility,” Raghavan said, adding that he had never consulted Salve prior to the event.

It was my personal decision flowing from sheer intuition, said the retired IPS officer of Tamil Nadu cadre, who was also appointed as High Commissioner to Cyprus in 2017.

“Modi’s questioning lasted nine hours in my own chamber at the SIT office. Malhotra told me later that Modi kept his cool right through the marathon session which ended late at night,” Raghavan said.

“He (Modi) never parried questions. Nor did he give the impression of padding up his responses. When Malhotra asked him whether he would like to break for lunch, he initially turned down the offer. He brought his own bottle of water and did not accept even a cup of tea from the SIT during the marathon questioning comprising a hundred- odd questions,” he said.

Raghavan said it required “tremendous persuasion” to make Modi agree to a short recess. “This was possibly Modi’s concession to the need for a respite for Malhotra rather than for himself. Such was the energy of the man.”

In February 2012, the SIT filed a closure report, giving a clean chit to Modi and 63 others, including senior government officials, saying there was “no prosecutable evidence” against them.

In the book, the former CBI Director also asserted that the probe into the Gujarat riots by the Supreme Court-mandated SIT under him was “clinical and professional” and the SIT’s “unequivocal stand” on the chief minister’s role was “unpalatable to his (Modi’s) adversaries” in the state and in Delhi.

“They engineered petitions against me, accusing me of favouring the chief minister. The grapevine had it that they misused central agencies to monitor my telephonic conversations. They were, however, disappointed not to find anything incriminating,” he said.

Raghavan said false charges were aired against him on the sly to start with, and later openly.

“Fortunately, the apex court stood by me and backed me to the hilt. I was found inconvenient because I refused to buy the argument that the state administration connived with the rioters who were targeting the Muslim community. Our investigation was clinical and professional,” he asserted.

“If I displayed a measure of professional acumen and objectivity, it was not a little due to the sterling assistance of Ashok Kumar Malhotra, whom I inducted into the SIT in 2009,” said Raghvan praising Malhotra, who was asked to oversee the team’s work after the apex court allowed Raghavan to be relieved from the duty in 2017.

Without naming anyone, Raghavan said it was unfortunate that he was the target of attack by those instigated by “highly placed persons at the helm of affairs in Delhi”.

Talking about the Ehsan Jafri case, he said there was no record to establish that the Congress MP had tried to reach the chief minister by phone.

“A few others, including Sanjeev Bhat, had also alleged that the chief minister, at a late-night official meeting on 28 February 2002, had directed senior police officers present at the meeting not to intervene if Hindu emotions overflowed. Here again, there was no corroboration to the charge,” Raghvan asserted.

None whose presence at the meeting was established beyond doubt told SIT that they saw Sanjeev Bhat at the meeting, held essentially to review the law and order situation arising from the Godhra train attack, he said.

“In our report to the apex court we absolved the chief minister of the alleged illegal direction to the police,” he said.

Raghavan assumed office as head of SIT in early 2008 and carried on for nine years, until April 30, 2017.

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Nadda calls it historic after BJP wins majority in LAHDC polls

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LEH (LADAKH): After Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) election with a complete majority on Monday, party President JP Nadda called the win historic and expressed his gratitude to the people of Ladakh for their faith in the party.

“BJP’s victory in Leh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Leh election is historic. BJP has won 15 out of 26 seats. I congratulate Shri Jamyang Tsering Namgyal and all karyakartas of Ladakh unit of BJP. Gratitude to the people of Ladakh for their faith in BJP,” tweeted Nadda.

Elections were held on 26 seats of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, out of which 15 were bagged by BJP. Congress won nine seats and independent candidates won from the remaining two seats.

Lakadh BJP President Jamyang Tsering Namgyal also called it a major victory for the party.

“Major victory for BJP in UT Ladakh. BJP won 15 out of 26 seats in the Leh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Leh elections. BJP will form LAHDC Leh once again,” tweeted Namgyal.

Voting LAHDC was done on Thursday with peaceful polling in all areas including border constituencies.

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