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Top India News
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Rahul Gandhi Case: Bail Granted in Defamation Suit Filed by BJP Member in Bengaluru

 

Rahul Gandhi, the prominent leader of the Indian National Congress (INC), was granted bail by a Bengaluru court in a high-profile defamation case filed by a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The legal battle has drawn significant attention across the nation, spotlighting the ongoing political tussles between the two major parties.

The case stems from comments made by Rahul Gandhi during a political rally earlier this year, which were deemed defamatory by BJP leaders. They claimed that Gandhi's statements tarnished the party's reputation and were part of a broader strategy to undermine their political standing.

Court Proceedings

During the court session, Rahul’s legal representative, Advocate Nishith Shetty, argued vigorously in his defense. Shetty described the case as "politically motivated," asserting that the allegations were unfounded and aimed at stifling Gandhi’s freedom of speech. "Mr Gandhi has always stood for truth and justice. This case is a clear attempt to divert attention from the real issues facing the nation and suppress a critical voice against the ruling establishment," Shetty stated.

The judge, after hearing arguments from both sides, decided to grant bail to Rahul Gandhi since this was a bailable section, providing relief to his supporters who had gathered outside the court in large numbers, waving Congress flags and chanting slogans in support of their leader.

Political Reactions

Following the court's decision, Rahul Gandhi expressed his gratitude to his legal team and supporters. In a brief statement outside the courthouse, he reaffirmed his commitment to speaking out against injustice and vowed to continue his political activities undeterred by what he described as “intimidation tactics” by the BJP.

"This is not just about me; it’s about the right to speak out against what is wrong. I will continue to raise my voice for the people of India and will not be silenced by such actions," Rahul said.

The BJP, on the other hand, maintained that the case was justified and not politically driven. A senior BJP leader, speaking to the press, remarked: "Everyone is accountable under the law, and Mr Gandhi is no exception. His remarks were damaging and untrue, and it is important for public figures to maintain a certain standard in their discourse."

Legal and Political Implication

The case is one of several legal challenges that Rahul Gandhi has faced in recent years. It underscores the deepening rivalry between the BJP and the Congress, with both parties frequently engaging in legal and political confrontations. Analysts suggest that such cases are likely to become more common as the country approaches the next general elections.

The granting of bail does not conclude the matter, as the defamation case will continue to be heard in court. The outcome of this case could have significant implications not only for Rahul Gandhi’s political career but also for the broader landscape of Indian politics.

Rahul Gandhi was released on bail on executing a personal bond of Rs50,000 with one surety for like sum. Surety was given by Karnataka Congress Leader DK Suresh. Surety is accepted as satisfied by the court after he had attached his property.

Broader Context

Defamation cases have become a notable tool in the political arsenal in India, often used by parties to challenge opponents' statements and actions. Critics argue that these cases can sometimes serve as a means to curb dissent and suppress free speech, particularly against powerful political figures.

Rahul Gandhi's legal battles highlight the challenges faced by opposition leaders in a highly charged political environment. As the Congress party prepares for upcoming state elections, Gandhi’s legal woes and the BJP’s counter-moves will likely continue to shape the political narrative.

In the meantime, Rahul Gandhi remains free on bail, ready to continue his role as one of India's most prominent opposition voices.

Next steps

The court has scheduled the next hearing for the case later this month, where both sides will present further arguments. The nation watches closely as this case unfolds, reflecting the intense political climate and the legal struggles intertwined with it.

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NRI Alert: Should NRIs in UAE File IT Returns Before July 31 Deadline of 2024 in India?

In recent years, the landscape of Non-Resident Indian (NRI) taxation has witnessed significant changes, especially concerning the filing of income tax returns in India. As we approach the filing season for the financial year 2022-2023, it becomes imperative for NRIs to understand their tax obligations and the implications of not complying with the regulations set forth by the Indian tax authorities.

For NRIs, the determination of tax liability in India is primarily based on their residential status as per the provisions of the Income Tax Act, 1961. An individual is considered a resident in India for a particular financial year if they satisfy either of the following conditions:

  •  They have stayed in India for 182 days or more in the financial year.
  •  They have stayed in India for 60 days or more during the financial year and 365 days or more during the preceding four financial years.

If an individual does not meet any of these criteria, they are deemed to be an NRI for that financial year.
While NRIs are not taxed in India for income earned abroad, they are liable to pay taxes on income generated within India or received in India. The sources of income that are taxable in India include but are not limited to:

  • Income from salary or wages earned in India.
  •  Income from house property situated in India.
  •  Capital gains arising from the transfer of assets located in India.
  •  Interest, dividends, or any other income earned from investments made in India.

Filing income tax returns in India is mandatory for NRIs if their total income exceeds the basic exemption limit, which is Rs2.5 lakh for the financial year 2022-2023. Additionally, even if the income falls below the exemption limit, NRIs are required to file a return if they wish to claim a refund or if they have incurred a loss that they want to carry forward.

Moreover, NRIs must be aware of the various forms prescribed by the Income Tax Department for filing returns based on the nature of their income and residential status. For instance, NRIs with income from salary or house property may need to file Form ITR-1 (Sahaj) or Form ITR-2, depending on their circumstances.

There are three main types of NR accounts:

Non-Resident External (NRE) Account: An NRE account is a rupee-denominated account where NRIs can deposit their foreign earnings that are repatriable. Funds in an NRE account can be freely repatriated both in principal and interest, and the interest earned is tax-free in India. This account can be in the form of savings, current, recurring, or fixed deposit accounts.
Non-Resident Ordinary (NRO) Account: An NRO account is also a rupee-denominated account, but it is meant for managing income earned in India, such as rent, dividends, or pension. Funds in an NRO account are not freely repatriable, meaning there are restrictions on transferring the funds abroad. The interest earned on an NRO account is taxable in India, subject to applicable rates and deductions.
Foreign Currency Non-Resident (FCNR) Account: FCNR accounts allow NRIs to hold foreign currency deposits in India. These accounts can be maintained in major currencies like USD, GBP, EUR, JPY, etc., and the funds are freely repatriable. Interest earned on FCNR deposits is tax-free in India.
Let us discuss how tax rules apply to these accounts:
Taxation of NRE Account: Interest earned on NRE accounts is tax-free in India. NRIs are not required to pay any tax on the interest income earned on funds held in NRE accounts. However, NRIs may have to report the interest income earned in their country of residence and comply with tax regulations applicable there.
Taxation of NRO Account: Interest earned on NRO accounts is taxable in India. NRIs are required to pay tax on the interest income earned from funds held in NRO accounts at the applicable rates as per the Income Tax Act. TDS (Tax Deducted at Source) is applicable on interest income exceeding specified thresholds and NRIs can claim deductions and avail themselves of benefits under the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) between India and their country of residence.
Taxation of FCNR Account: Interest earned on FCNR deposits is tax-free in India. Similar to NRE accounts, NRIs are not required to pay any tax on the interest income earned on funds held in FCNR accounts.

However, NRIs should check the tax implications in their country of residence and comply with the relevant tax laws there.

It's essential for NRIs to understand the tax implications of maintaining different types of non-resident accounts in India and ensure compliance with both Indian tax laws and the tax regulations of their country of residence. Consulting with a tax advisor or chartered accountant can help NRIs navigate the complexities of tax planning and optimise their tax liabilities.

List of Documents Needed to File ITR in India

To file income tax returns (ITRs) in India for the financial year 2023-2024 as a Non-Resident Indian (NRI) residing in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), several documents are required to ensure accurate reporting of income and compliance with Indian tax laws. Here's a list of documents typically needed:

Passport: A copy of the passport, which serves as proof of identity and nationality.
PAN (Permanent Account Number) Card: If you have a PAN card, provide a copy as it is a mandatory requirement for filing income tax returns in India.
Form 16/Income Certificate: If you have earned income from employment in India, you need Form 16 issued by your employer or an income certificate indicating details of salary, allowances and taxes deducted at source (TDS).
Bank Statements: Copies of bank statements for all NRI accounts held in India and abroad during the financial year. This includes NRE (Non-Resident External), NRO (Non-Resident Ordinary), FCNR (Foreign Currency Non-Resident) and any other accounts.
Investment Proofs: Documents supporting investments made in India, such as receipts for purchases of mutual funds, stocks, bonds, or other securities, as well as proof of investments made under various tax-saving schemes like PPF (Public Provident Fund), ELSS (Equity Linked Savings Scheme), NSC (National Savings Certificate), etc.
Property Documents: If you own property in India, provide copies of property documents, including sale deed, purchase agreement, rental agreements, property tax receipts, and details of rental income earned.
Capital Gains Statements: If you have sold any assets like stocks, mutual funds, property, etc., provide statements showing capital gains or losses incurred from such transactions.
Interest Certificates: Certificates from banks or financial institutions showing interest earned on savings accounts, fixed deposits, or other financial instruments held in India.
Tax Residency Certificate (TRC): Obtain a Tax Residency Certificate from the UAE tax authorities to claim benefits under the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) between India and the UAE.
Foreign Income Documents: If you have earned income in the UAE or any other foreign country, provide documents such as salary slips, employment contracts, tax statements and any other relevant documents related to foreign income.
Proof of Tax Paid in the UAE: If you have paid taxes in the UAE on income earned there, provide proof of tax paid, such as tax payment receipts or statements.
Foreign Exchange Declaration Form (FEMA Form 15CA/CB): If applicable, provide Form 15CA/CB as required under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) for remittance of funds outside India.

Conclusion

Understanding the taxation regulations and filing requirements for Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) in India is crucial for ensuring compliance with the law and optimising tax liabilities. As NRIs residing in the UAE prepare to file their income tax returns for the financial year 2023-2024, they must gather a comprehensive array of documents, including passports, PAN cards, bank statements, investment proofs, property documents and tax residency certificates.

By meticulously compiling these documents and seeking guidance from tax advisors or chartered accountants, NRIs can navigate the complexities of tax planning, accurately report their income, and fulfil their tax obligations in both India and their country of residence.

Additionally, staying informed about changes in tax laws and leveraging available tax-saving opportunities can contribute to a transparent and compliant tax ecosystem, ultimately fostering financial stability and compliance among NRIs.

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UAE Leaders Extend Congratulations to Narendra Modi on the Hatrick Win in India

His Highness President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan conveyed his congratulations to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his re-election, expressing warm regards for his "friend" on social media platform X. The ruler wished him success in "leading India to further progress and growth."

Additionally, he anticipated ongoing collaboration between the two nations and emphasised the strategic partnership between the UAE and India. The President also tweeted in Hindi, emphasising the mutual advancement of shared developmental objectives between the two countries.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, also took to X to congratulate Modi. He expressed his trust in Modi's leadership and hoped for continued economic progress in India.

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Never Faced Any Political Pressure From 'Powers That Be': Chief Justice DY Chandrachud

While elections lie at the core of India's constitutional democracy, judges reflect a sense of continuity of constitutional values that protect the system, Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud said in his address at the Oxford Union Society.

Addressing the famous University of Oxford institution on the topic of the humanising role adjudicators can play in society, the senior-most judge of India's top court highlighted the role of technology in injecting greater transparency into the judicial system.

Acknowledging some of the "unfair" criticism aimed at judges on social media, the Chief Justice asserted that the overall impact of technology is to help the judiciary reach out to a wider section of society. "Elections lie at the core of constitutional democracy ... judges are not elected in India and for a reason; judges reflect a sense of continuity of conditions, a continuity of constitutional values," he said in response to a question referencing the general elections, the results of which were declared earlier in the day.

"The judiciary has a vital role to play in a democracy, which is that we reflect a sense of tradition and we also reflect a sense of what the future of a good society should be," Chief Justice Chandrachud said.
Asked about political and societal pressures he may have faced while handing down judgments, the Chief Justice stated that he has never faced a "sense of political pressure from the powers that be" in his 24 years as a judge.

"We live lives which are relatively isolated from the political arm of the government ... but obviously judges have to be conversant with the impact of their decisions on the polity at large. That's not political pressure but an understanding by the court of the likely impact of a decision," he said.

Chief Justice Chandrachud, who took questions from the student audience members, was asked about the Supreme Court's Special Marriage Act judgment that ruled against legalising same-sex marriage in India last year.

"I'm not here to defend the judgment because, as a judge, I believe once a judgment is delivered, it becomes the property of not just the nation but global humanity. The Special Marriage Act was a law enacted by Parliament ... which contemplates a marriage in a heterosexual relationship," he said, going on to share that he was in the minority in that case in a certain specific aspect as he was in favour of recognising civil unions for same-sex couples "until such time as Parliament stepped in".

"Three of my colleagues didn't agree with us because they felt even the recognition of same-sex unions was beyond the purview of the court ... What happens in courts in modern democracies is not really to be looked at in terms of the substantive outcomes of the case. The court is involved in a continuous process of dialogue, not only with the litigating parties but a dialogue with civil society," he said.

This was the main motivation behind his decision to livestream important constitutional cases, he added. "We need to take the process of justice and the administration of law to the homes and the hearts of people," he said.

As an independent, student-led society with a membership primarily drawn from the University of Oxford, the Oxford Union Society, commonly referred to as the Oxford Union, dates back to 1823 as one of the world's leading debating societies created to uphold the principles of free speech.

In his keynote address, Chief Justice Chandrachud spoke at length about the judiciary as an instrument of justice that brings order and certainty and combats the dehumanising effects in society through a humanising approach towards adjudication.

"Technological intervention has humanised the process for the parties and the administrative staff of our courts. It is my duty, however, to place a small caveat: I'm not a proponent of the complete automation of procedures. Since I believe that the absence of the human mind will remove the human element from the process," he noted.

"It is important that we understand and value the pros and cons of technological usage to ensure a humanised mechanism of justice. Artificial Intelligence is replete with unique possibilities for the future. We must also ensure that we impose guardrails to control Artificial Intelligence itself and not shift the process of communication from a judge to a robot," Chief Justice Chandrachud added.

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INDIA Eyes TDP, JD(U) to Keep Modi at Bay? BJP's Future Hangs on Coalitions

Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed victory in the general elections on Tuesday evening, yet his ambition to surpass 400 seats remained out of reach. Poised for a third consecutive term, PM Modi is set to lead a government with the support of his NDA allies.

Despite exit polls predicting a landslide victory for the ruling alliance, the BJP fell short of securing a majority on Tuesday, highlighting its reliance on coalition partners, particularly the TDP and JD(U). This marks the first instance since 2014 that the BJP failed to reach the majority mark of 272 seats.

In this scenario where no single party has secured an independent mandate, alliances become pivotal for forming a government. Negotiations and discussions between the NDA and the INDIA Bloc with potential allies are essential to secure support and establish a coalition government.

These discussions entail various parties within each alliance engaging in dialogue and contacting smaller parties or independents to gather the necessary numbers to claim a parliamentary majority. Such discussions often involve leaders from different parties convening meetings, exchanging proposals, and making concessions to reach a consensus on critical issues and power-sharing arrangements.

Who All May Extend Support to NDA?

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi clinched a third term, the BJP requires the backing of other parties within its coalition. Key roles are expected from JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar and TDP's Chandrababu Naidu. However, the BJP falls short by 32 seats of the coveted 272 majority mark, dealing a significant blow to PM Modi's aspirations for a '400 paar' landslide victory.

Addressing party workers at the BJP office in Delhi on Tuesday, PM Modi expressed gratitude to the NDA partners, particularly TDP leader Chandrababu Naidu, who led the alliance to victory in the Andhra Pradesh state polls, and JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar, whose party secured 12 of the 16 seats it contested in Bihar.

Congress Extends its Hand to NDA Parties

With Congress securing 99 seats in the Lok Sabha and the INDIA alliance narrowing the gap between the government and the Opposition by approximately 50 seats, Hindustan Times reported Congress's initiation of discussions with parties inside and outside the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge reportedly contacted leaders such as TDP chief Naidu, JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar, BJD leader Naveen Patnaik, and LJP leader Chirag Paswan, according to HT.  All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi expressed openness to supporting a prime ministerial candidate other than Narendra Modi, stating to ANI, “I cannot talk about ifs, buts, and possibilities. I had said during the elections that if there is a chance that someone else can become the PM instead of Modi, then we will support them."

Asaduddin Owaisi secured victory in the Hyderabad Lok Sabha constituency by a significant margin, receiving 6,61,981 votes, defeating BJP's Madhavi Latha, who received 3,23,894 votes.

Did Sharad Pawar Speak to Nitish?

According to media sources, Sharad Pawar contacted the two leaders to surpass the 272 mark with the INDIA alliance. However, during a press briefing, he refuted claims of reaching out to Janata Dal (United) chief Nitish Kumar and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) head Chandrababu Naidu.

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India Sensex Down By Nearly 4,000 Points As Votes Are Counted For Lok Sabha Polls

 

Indian stock markets crashed by over 4,000 points today, after a sharp rally in the previous session, as early election results showed Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party-led alliance leading in more than 272 seats, but the extent of the victory was not clear and its lead narrower than what exit polls had predicted.

The BSE Sensex was down 6.71 per cent or 5,602 points at 71,002, while the NSE Nifty 50 was down 6.89 per cent or 1,634 points at 12.15 am. This is the biggest single-day fall in Indian markets since the onset of the Covid pandemic.

The indexes saw their worst fall since March 2020, and erased all of Monday's gains after exit polls projected that the BJP-led alliance will likely get a two-thirds majority in the lower house.
As per the initial trends, the NDA is currently leading on 298 seats, while the INDIA bloc is ahead on 225 seats.

A party or alliance needs to cross the 272 mark in the 543-seat Lok Sabha assembly to form the government. All sectors were in the red. Bank stocks fell 7.8 per cent, realty dropped 9.1 per cent, infrastructure declined 10.5 per cent, while oil and gas stocks lost 11.7 per cent and state-run companies and banks retreated 17 per cent and 16 per cent, respectively.

The biggest laggards in the 30 company Sensex were State Bank of India, Reliance, Larsen & Toubro, Power Grid, NTPC, HDFC Bank.
Sun Pharma and Nestle were the only gainers.

"The fear of the market is whether present numbers will stay or will reduce further. (Even at current majority) there will be some element of disappointment as they are below market expectations," said Mayuresh Joshi, head- equity research India at William O'Neil and Company.

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Madras High Court Grants Wife Guardianship Over Comatose Husband, Permits Property Sale

The Madras High Court has permitted the wife of a person in a comatose condition to sell/mortgage his immovable property worth over ₹1 crore and utilise the proceeds for taking care of his medical expenses as well as the maintenance of the family, consisting of a son and a daughter.

The petitioner stated that her husband was admitted to a private hospital from February 13 to April 4, during which she spent a substantial amount of money on his treatment. Her husband is currently being cared for by paramedics at home. She requested the court to permit the sale of the property to cover medical expenses and support the family.

In an intra-Court appeal filed under Clause 15 of the Letters Patent against an earlier order, the Court had initially directed the petitioner to approach the jurisdictional Civil Court instead of granting her guardianship in a writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.

However, the Division Bench of G.R. Swaminathan and P.B. Balaji JJ set aside this order and issued the following directions:

  • The appellant was appointed as the guardian for her husband's person and properties.
  • The appellant was permitted to manage and dispose of the property on her husband's behalf. She was also directed to ensure that a sum of Rs50 lakhs is deposited in a nationalised bank in her husband's name. The interest accrued from this deposit can be withdrawn by the appellant every three months. This fixed deposit is to remain until the husband's lifetime, after which it will be divided into three equal shares among his legal heirs.
  • The appellant was directed to file an affidavit before the Registry of the Court indicating compliance with the direction to create a fixed deposit of Rs50 lakhs in her husband's name.

After interacting with the petitioner’s children, the court was satisfied that the family had no source of income. Without permission to manage the mentioned property, they would face significant hardship. The court acknowledged that caring for a person in a comatose state is challenging and requires monetary support, including hiring paramedical staff.

The Court noted that the property belongs to the husband and should be used for his benefit. Since the petitioner’s husband cannot care for himself, the appellant is bearing the entire burden. Thus, the Court found it improper to direct the appellant to move to the civil court.

It emphasised that when relief can be granted based on admitted and proven facts, there is no reason to deny the appellant on technical grounds of writ petition maintainability. The court also pointed out that similar writ petitions had been entertained and reliefs granted, making the single judge's decision to dismiss the writ petition incorrect.

The court reiterated that after the petitioner's husband's demise, the fixed deposit would be divided into three equal shares for his legal heirs: his wife, daughter and son.

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Wearing Black Coats Unsafe for Lawyers: SC Petition Seeks Dress Code Relaxation

Advocate Shailendra Mani Tripathi has lodged a writ petition with the Supreme Court, urging amendments to the regulations and the Advocates Act of 1961. The petition seeks to exempt legal practitioners from the customary requirement of wearing black coats and gowns, particularly during the intense heat of summer.

Tripathi contends that enforcing the wearing of black attire in hot weather poses significant safety risks to lawyers. The petitioner, represented by a consortium of legal experts, argues that the obligatory attire of black coats exacerbates the discomfort experienced by legal professionals, potentially jeopardising their health and well-being.

As temperatures escalate, the attire, symbolic of the legal profession's decorum, transforms from a symbol of dignity to a potential hazard, exposing lawyers to the perils of heat exhaustion and dehydration.

The petition seeks a directive to the State Bar Councils to determine the 'months of prevailing summer' for each state to exempt the wearing of the black coat and gown during those months.

The petitioner also seeks the establishment of a committee of medical experts to study how wearing warm clothes in summer affects the health and quality of work for advocates and to suggest recommendations accordingly.

The petitioner emphasised that the dress code of black coats and gowns originated from British tradition, but the Advocates Act of 1961 has failed to consider India's climatic conditions.
Furthermore, the plea proposes alternative measures to ensure the preservation of professional decorum while mitigating the risks associated with oppressive heat waves. Suggestions include allowing advocates to opt for lighter, breathable fabrics or providing exemptions from the mandatory wearing of black coats during periods of extreme heat.

Indian capital New Delhi recently hit a record-breaking 52.3 degrees Celsius. With the rising temperatures in the country, wearing a gown and coat may lead to excess absorption of heat and pose serious health risks. This not only makes work conditions unsafe and uncomfortable but also violates the right to a safe workplace.

The plea serves as a poignant reminder of the judiciary's duty to safeguard the interests of its officers of the court, whose invaluable contributions underpin the administration of justice. It underscores the need for a nuanced and empathetic approach towards dress regulations, one that strikes a delicate balance between tradition and practicality.

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Kejriwal's Plea for 7-Day Extension of Interim Bail Rejected, Will Have to Surrender on June 2

In a major blow to the Delhi chief minister, the Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected Arvind Kejriwal’s plea for 7-day extension of his interim bail.

Refusing Kejriwal’s plea, the apex court’s registrar said the Delhi CM was given permission to move trial court for regular bail, and hence this petition is “not maintainable”.
This suggests that Kejriwal will have to surrender and go back to Delhi’s Tihar Jail on June 2.

On May 10, Kejriwal had got interim bail from the Supreme Court for a period of 21 days to campaign for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. He was asked to surrender on June 2.

On Monday (May 27), Kejriwal had sought 7-day extension of his interim bail on health grounds. His Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) said the Delhi CM was due to undergo PET-CT scan and other tests, as a result of which he had requested for extension of interim bail.

In his fresh plea, Kejriwal said he will surrender before jail authorities on June 9 instead of June 2, the scheduled date for his return to prison. On May 17, the bench reserved verdict on his challenge to the validity of his arrest by Enforcement Directorate in a PMLA case linked to liquor scam.

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Who Will Face the Music? Ilaiyaraaja’s Legal Notice to ‘Manjummel Boys’ Producers

Veteran Indian music composer Ilaiyarajaa has issued a legal notice to the creators of the Malayalam blockbuster film 'Manjummel Boys' for using the song ‘Kanmani Anbodu’ from the 1991 Tamil movie ‘Gunaa’ without his consent.

Chidambaram, the director of the film, posted a segment of the news on Instagram alongside another Tamil song, "Malarnthum Malaratha," composed by TM Soundararajan for the Tamil film ‘Pasamalar’.

Ilaiyarajaa contends that he is the original composer of the song 'Kanmani Anbodu' and asserts that mere acknowledgment in the title cards does not suffice as permission or licensing for its usage. He accuses the producers of exploiting his work commercially and attracting viewership and publicity through unauthorised means.

Furthermore, Ilaiyarajaa emphasises his absolute rights, including moral rights, over all his original musical compositions. His legal representative demands that the film producers either obtain the composer’s permission, remove the song from the movie, or provide compensation within 15 days, threatening legal action against Soubin Shahir, Babu Shahir, and Shawn Antony if they fail to comply with these options.

In a legal battle dating back to 2015, the Madras High Court had restrained four music labels from monetiSing Ilaiyarajaa’s musical works. In 2019, the court recognized the composer’s special moral rights over 4,500 songs composed for over 1,000 movies between the 1970s and 1990s.

However, in a recent hearing in 2024, a bench of Justices R. Mahadevan and Mohammed Shaffiq asserted that Ilaiyarajaa cannot be considered above the law, despite his stature.

Moreover, in 2020, the Indian Record Manufacturing Company Ltd (INRECO) claimed complete copyright ownership of Ilaiyarajaa’s musical works and sound recordings in approximately 30 films, citing written agreements with the respective film producers.

However, Ilaiyarajaa argued that digital rights emerged after 1996, and the music company should not have authority over his work, contending that the film’s owner cannot supersede his copyright.

Regarding 'Manjummel Boys,' which achieved significant success at the Kerala and Tamil Nadu box offices, becoming the first Malayalam film to gross over Rs200 crore within 26 days of its release, the movie centres around the camaraderie among a group of young men from a lower-middle-class background embarking on a trip to Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu.

Notably, Kamal Haasan, who starred in Gunaa, congratulated the entire cast and crew of 'Manjummel Boys' post-release, underscoring its success.

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₹60k Fine Imposed on Britannia for Selling Biscuits Under Packaged Weight

The District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission in Thrissur, in the south Indian state of Kerala, has issued an order requiring Britannia Industries and a bakery to pay a compensation of ₹60,000 to a consumer for selling biscuit packets that weighed 52 grammes less than the stated weight of 300 grammes.

A three-member bench of the Commission noted a significant discrepancy between the actual weight of the biscuit packets and the declared quantity of 300 grammes indicated on the packaging.

"It is evident that there is a substantial shortage in the net weight of the biscuits in the MO1 package. Specifically, the shortage exceeds 52 grammes (300-248) in the MO1 package (weight of the wrapper + weight of the product ie., biscuit)," the bench stated in its order of 26 September 2023.

The order was issued following a complaint from an individual who had purchased two packets of “Britannia Nutri Choice Thin Arrow Root Biscuits” manufactured by Britannia for ₹40 each.

He bought the biscuits from Chukkiri Royal Bakery, believing each packet weighed 300 grammes as printed on the packaging. However, he claimed that the packets weighed 268 grammes and 248 grammes respectively.

The complaint was initially filed with the Assistant Controller with the Flying Squad of Legal Metrology in Thrissur, who later verified and confirmed the weight shortage.

Subsequently, the consumer approached the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission in Thrissur (District Commission) and filed a complaint, seeking an order to prevent the opposite parties from engaging in such illegal practices.

He also sought compensation for the financial, physical, and mental distress he experienced due to the manufacturer’s and seller’s exploitation and deception.

The Commission observed that, despite being served notices, neither Britannia nor the bakery (the opposite parties) submitted their written statements to the District Commission. The Commission proceeded against them ex parte and found that both parties had infringed upon the consumer's right to live free from exploitation, deception, or any form of unfair trade practice.

"Such deceptive actions by a manufacturer or trader threaten the very dignity of the consumer and his right to live without exploitation, deception, or any kind of unfair trade practice,” the consumer forum remarked.

It concluded that the actions of both the manufacturer and the seller constituted unfair trade practices and were in violation of the Consumer Protection Act and Section 30 (penalty for transactions contrary to standard weight or measure) of the Legal Metrology Act 2009.

Consequently, the Commission directed the opposite parties to pay ₹50,000 in compensation for the complainant's loss and ₹10,000 for his litigation costs.

Additionally, the Commission instructed the Controller of Legal Metrology of Kerala to conduct a statewide investigation and implement measures to ensure compliance with net quantity standards for packaged commodities.

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India Supreme Court Dismisses PIL Seeking 6-Year Election Ban on Prime Minister Modi

 

In a significant ruling that reverberates across the political landscape, the Supreme Court of India has dismissed a petition seeking a six-year ban on Prime Minister Narendra Modi from contesting elections.

The petition, which alleged that PM Modi had violated the electoral code of conduct by invoking religious sentiments to garner votes, was deemed untenable by the highest judicial authority in the country.

The decision marks the culmination of a legal battle that captured national attention and fuelled intense debate over the permissible boundaries of political discourse and the role of religion in elections.

The petition, filed by concerned citizens, argued that PM Modi's electoral tactics undermined the secular fabric of the nation and polarized the electorate. A bench of Justices Vikram Nath and SC Sharma asked the petitioner to approach the authorities concerned for the redressal of the grievance.

"Have you approached authorities? For writ of mandamus, you must approach the authorities first," the Bench said. The petitioner Fatima, through Advocate Anand S. Jondhale, withdrew the plea and the matter was dismissed as withdrawn.

What is a Public Interest Litigation (PIL)?

Public Interest Litigation (PIL) is a legal mechanism in many countries, including India, that allows individuals or organisations to initiate legal action on behalf of the public interest, even if they are not directly affected by the issue at hand.

PIL is primarily used to address matters of public concern or to enforce legal and constitutional rights.
In India, PILs can be filed by any individual, organization, or group of persons acting in the public interest.

The concept of PIL was introduced by the Indian judiciary to ensure that the rights of marginalised or disadvantaged groups are protected and that justice is accessible to all, irrespective of their socio-economic status.

Under Indian law, PILs can be filed in the Supreme Court, High Courts, or even in lower courts, depending on the nature and scope of the issue. These cases typically involve matters such as environmental protection, corruption, human rights violations, public health and the enforcement of constitutional rights.

To qualify as a PIL, the case must involve a substantial public interest element, meaning that the issue affects a large section of the population or pertains to a fundamental legal or constitutional principle.

Additionally, the petitioner must demonstrate that they have sufficient standing to bring the case to court and that they are not motivated by personal gain or malice.

PILs have been instrumental in bringing about significant social and legal reforms in India by holding governments and public authorities accountable for their actions and decisions. They serve as a powerful tool for promoting transparency, accountability, and justice in a democratic society. 

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India Court Details Sexual Harassment Charges Against Former Wrestling Body Chief

 

A Delhi court on Friday informed the ex-chief of India's wrestling federation, a powerful member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party, of charges of sexual harassment and criminal intimidation against him.

Several Indian wrestlers came out in protest last year seeking criminal action against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, a well-known lawmaker from Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) following complaints by female wrestlers.
Singh has denied any wrongdoing.

"I welcome the decision of the judiciary and now doors have opened for me... We will face this," Singh told reporters after the court order.

Local media reported that a Delhi judge said "the court found sufficient material on record" to frame charges of sexual harassment of five female wrestlers and with the offence of outraging their modesty.

Singh has been out on bail for nearly a year since police filed charges against him in June, prompted by a sit-in protest by some of the country's top wrestlers.

Olympic medallist Bajrang Punia, who returned one of India's highest civilian awards last year in protest over the issue, called Friday's court decision a "big victory for the struggle of women wrestlers".

"We had to sleep on the streets for many nights in the heat and rain, had to give up our good careers, only then have we been able to take a few steps forward in the fight for justice," Sakshi Malik, a 2016 Rio Olympics bronze medallist, said in a social media post.

She quit the sport last year after the wrestling federation elected a new president backed by Singh.
Despite the charges, Singh's son was fielded as a BJP candidate in his father's seat in India's long general election. Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh had previously won the Kaiserganj seat in Uttar Pradesh state six times.

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Supreme Court Grants Interim Bail to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal Till June 1

In a significant development, the Supreme Court has granted interim relief to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, allowing his release until June 1.

The decision comes after Kejriwal filed a plea seeking relief from custody in a case pertaining to alleged violations of electoral laws during a political rally. The bench, however, observed that it was dealing with the case of an elected Chief Minister, not a habitual offender, and the general elections take place only once in five years.

The apex court's decision to grant interim release to Kejriwal underscores the principle of justice and fairness, and he is bound by the statement of bail condition that he shall not sign official files unless it is required and necessary for obtaining clearance/ approval of the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi. 

Kejriwal's legal team argued fervently for his release, emphasising his constitutional duties as an elected representative and the need for his presence in governance matters, particularly amidst the ongoing challenges faced by the capital city.

The Supreme Court, taking cognizance of the urgency and importance of the matter, has granted interim relief to Kejriwal, but not allowing him to visit the Office of the Chief Minister and the Delhi Secretariat until further orders.

However, the court has also set a deadline for further proceedings in the case, highlighting the importance of expeditious resolution.The decision has been met with widespread support from Kejriwal's supporters and political allies, who view it as a victory for democracy and the rule of law.

Many have lauded the Supreme Court's impartiality and commitment to upholding the principles of justice and fairness in its verdict. As the legal proceedings continue, all eyes will be on the Supreme Court as it navigates the complexities of the case and ensures a just and equitable resolution.

The Supreme Court's decision to grant interim release to Arvind Kejriwal reflects the judiciary's commitment to upholding democratic values and ensuring the fair treatment of all individuals, regardless of their political affiliations. It serves as a reminder of the importance of an independent judiciary in safeguarding the rights and freedoms of citizens in a democracy.

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ICICI Bank Enables NRIs to Use Int’l Mobile Number to Make UPI Payments in India

ICICI Bank announced that it has enabled NRI customers to use their international mobile number to make UPI payments instantly in India, thereby significantly enhancing their convenience of making everyday payments.

With this facility, the NRI customers of the bank can make payments for their utility bills, merchant and e-commerce transactions with their international mobile number registered with their NRE/NRO bank account held with ICICI Bank in India.

The Bank has made this service available through its mobile banking app, iMobile Pay. Earlier, NRIs had to register an Indian mobile number with their banks to make UPI payments.

To bring forth this facility, ICICI Bank has leveraged on the international infrastructure laid down by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) for convenient usage of UPI across countries.

The bank offers this facility across 10 countries namely USA, UK, UAE, Canada, Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

NRI customers of the Bank can make UPI payments by scanning any Indian QR code, sending money to a UPI ID or any Indian mobile number or Indian bank account.

Speaking on the initiative, Sidharatha Mishra, Head – Digital Channels and Partnerships, ICICI Bank said: “We are delighted to partner with NPCI to launch the UPI facility on international mobile number through iMobile Pay.

With this facility, our NRI customers residing in 10 countries do not need to switch to an Indian mobile number to pay using UPI.

This launch reinforces our commitment to provide our NRI customers with innovative solutions, for them to have a safe, secure and hassle-free payment experience.

We are witnessing a positive response from our NRI customers who have started using this facility. With this initiative, we intend to leverage on NPCI’s UPI Infrastructure in strengthening and transforming the digital payments ecosystem globally”.

Below are easy steps to activate UPI facility on international mobile number using iMobile Pay:

Step 1: Log in to iMobile Pay app
Step 2: Click on ‘UPI Payments’
Step 3: Verify Mobile Number
Step 4: Click on Manage –> My Profile
Step 5: Create new UPI ID (select from the suggested options)
Step 6: Select the Account Number -> Submit

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Tesla vs Tesla: US Carmaker Sues Indian Namesake for Infringing its Trademark

Elon Musk's carmaker Tesla has sued an Indian battery maker for infringing its trademark by using the brand name "Tesla Power" to promote its products, seeking damages and a permanent injunction against the company from a New Delhi judge.

Tesla in a hearing at the Delhi High Court this week said the Indian company had continued advertising its products with the "Tesla Power" brand despite a cease-and-desist notice sent in April 2022, according to details of the proceedings posted on the court website on Friday.

During the hearing, the Indian company, Tesla Power India Pvt Ltd, argued its main business is to make "lead acid batteries" and it has no intention of making electric vehicles. The judge allowed the Indian firm three weeks to submit written responses after it handed over a set of documents in support of its defence, the court record shows.

Musk's Tesla is incorporated in Delaware, and it has accused the Indian company of using trade names "Tesla Power" and "Tesla Power USA". The court record included screenshots of a website that showed that Tesla Power USA LLC was also headquartered in Delaware and had been "acknowledged for being a pioneer and leader in introducing affordable batteries" with "a very strong presence in India".

A Tesla Power representative told Reuters it has been present in India much before Musk's Tesla and had all government approvals. “We have never claimed to be related to Elon Musk's Tesla,” Tesla Power's Manoj Pahwa said.

Tesla told the judge it discovered the Indian company was using its brand name in 2022 and has unsuccessfully tried stop it from doing so, forcing it to file the lawsuit. The case comes after Musk cancelled his planned visit to India on April 21 to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Days later, Musk made a surprise visit to China and made progress towards rolling out its advanced driver assistance package, a move that many Indian commentators called a snub. The Tesla India trademark case will next be heard on May 22.

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AstraZeneca's Admission of Covishield Risk Likely to Spark Legal Battles in India

Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca has legally acknowledged for the first time that its COVID-19 vaccine, under the global brand names Covishield and Vaxzevria, could trigger a rare adverse health condition.

The vaccine producer stated in court documents that the inoculation could occasionally induce Thrombosis with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (TTS), a disorder resulting in blood clots and a reduced platelet count, as reported in The Telegraph. A class action lawsuit, on account of allegations that AstraZeneca's vaccine caused fatalities and critical injuries, is currently faced by the firm in the UK.

The vaccine has been developed by AstraZeneca in collaboration with the University of Oxford. In India, Covishield is manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII) under a licensing agreement with AstraZeneca.

SII has extensively distributed this vaccine in India. SII, however, has listed potential side effects of Covishield on its website's FAQs. These range from very common side effects like fatigue and nausea, to the rarest instances of major blood clotting in combination with low platelet count, observed in fewer than one in every 100,000 vaccinated individuals.

Implications for India

The AstraZeneca vaccine has been fundamental in India's Covid-19 fight, with over 174 crore doses administered by October 2023 as per Statista, a global data and business intelligence platform. This legal development holds significant implications for India, considering the extensive reliance on Covishield in the country's vaccination drive.

In terms of potential repercussions, medico-legal experts argue that a favourable outcome for the claimants could initiate a landslide in similar lawsuits, not just in the UK but worldwide. The verdict might also impact the vaccination drive globally, instilling hesitancy and skepticism among the public. For India, particularly, where Covishield was approved for emergency use in early 2021, and the drug regulator waived the vaccine’s trial mode, these developments could significantly impact public trust in the vaccine.

Alpana Srivastava, Partner at Desai & Diwanji, a law firm, expressed concerns about the situation in India. “India expedited Covishield, the AstraZeneca vaccine from Serum Institute of India, without full clinical trials due to emergency authorisation. Any news of potential side effects, even if rare, could damage public trust in the vaccine,” Srivastava noted.

With reports linking TTS to Covishield, Srivastava warned of potential legal action against AstraZeneca by affected individuals. “If many in India experience TTS post-Covishield and hold AstraZeneca accountable, a class action lawsuit could seek compensation for medical expenses and suffering,” she explained, citing the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 for legal recourse.

Srivastava also mentioned the possibility of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against India's drug regulator, questioning Covishield's approval given recent TTS concerns. “AstraZeneca may face liabilities as per CDSCO/Drugs and Cosmetics Act/DCGI policy,” she added. Globally, multiple regulatory authorities still maintain that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine continue to outweigh the risks.

What is TTS?

TTS, or Vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT), refers to blood clots accompanied by a decreased platelet count. This condition can impede blood flow in the affected vessel, as platelets play a crucial role in clot formation and preventing excessive bleeding. Researchers have established a connection between the AstraZeneca vaccine and VITT, which is considered a subset of TTS.

However, AstraZeneca's court documents do not appear to make this distinction. “TTS is a rare side effect of mRNA-based COVID vaccines. It is characterised by venous or arterial thrombosis, notably at unusual sites like cerebral sinus venous thrombosis (CSVT) or splanchnic thrombosis.

Symptoms typically appear 4 to 42 days after COVID-19 vaccination and include intense headache, abdominal pain, back pain, nausea, vomiting, vision changes, shortness of breath, leg pain, swelling, and bleeding,” said Dr Tushar Tayal, Lead Consultant, Department of Internal Medicine, CK Birla Hospital, Gurugram.

“The incidence may be as high as 10 per million vaccinated individuals. Blood tests often reveal low platelet counts and elevated d-dimer levels (that indicate potential blood clot formation or thrombosis in the body). TTS is a medical emergency with high mortality rates, requiring urgent medical attention,” he said.

This formal admission by the company is a critical development in the ongoing lawsuit and draws attention to the potential risks associated with vaccination. The instigator of the lawsuit, Jamie Scott, sustained permanent brain damage post receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine in April 2021.

Furthermore, in case AstraZeneca accepts the claim of vaccine-induced injuries or fatalities in specific instances, the legal acknowledgement could result in major compensation pay-outs. However, despite the admission, AstraZeneca challenges allegations of universal vaccine defects or overstatements of effectiveness.

In response to AstraZeneca's admittance, the Indian government is yet to make any official statement.  

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Right to Privacy is not Absolute, Delhi High Court to WhatsApp Threat to Leave India

WhatsApp told the Delhi High Court that forcing them to break message encryption would mean the end of the platform in India. The company argues that its end-to-end encryption protects user privacy and cannot be compromised. India is one of the largest markets for Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp. The app has over 900 million users in India.

The Delhi High Court is currently hearing a challenge by WhatsApp and Meta (formerly Facebook) against a new Indian law that requires social media platforms to identify the originators of messages upon court order.

WhatsApp argues that complying with this law would undermine their encryption and violate user privacy. “As a platform, we are saying, if we are told to break encryption, then WhatsApp goes,” stated Tejas Karia, lawyer for WhatsApp.

The messaging platform emphasises that user privacy is a core value and that end-to-end encryption is essential for maintaining it. Users trust WhatsApp because their messages remain confidential and unreadable by anyone except the sender and receiver.

The Indian government, however, argues that tracing message originators is crucial for tackling harmful content and maintaining online safety. They believe social media platforms have a responsibility to help identify those who spread misinformation or incite violence.

“The idea behind the guidelines was to trace the originator of the messages,” said Kirtiman Singh, representing the central government. He added that some mechanism for tracing messages is necessary, especially considering the challenges WhatsApp has faced in the US Congress.

The Delhi High Court acknowledged the complexity of the situation. It observed that "privacy rights were not absolute" and “somewhere balance has to be done”, the HC observed.
The court has postponed the case for further hearing later in August 2024.

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Mumbai Police Takes Action on Deepfake Video Featuring Bollywood Star Ranveer Singh

 

After Bollywood actor Ranveer Singh complained about a widely-circulated deepfake video that showed him promoting political views, Mumbai Police registered a case under the IPC section and IT Act and started further investigation.

Amid the ongoing Indian Lok Sabha elections, the 'Padmaavat' actor fell prey to deepfake menace after his video surfaced online in which he was purportedly heard voicing his political views.

However, it turned out that the video was made using an artificial intelligence (AI) voice clone of the actor. The video, from the actor's recent visit to Varanasi, appears genuine but uses an AI-synthesised voice clone of Ranveer.

Ranveer filed a complaint with Mumbai Police's Cyber Crime Cell, confirmed an official. His spokesperson issued a statement, confirming the filing of an FIR: "Yes, we have filed the police complaint, and an FIR has been lodged against the handle promoting the AI-generated deepfake video of Ranveer Singh."

After the AI-generated video went viral on social media platforms, Ranveer took to his Instagram Story on Friday (April 19) and shared a post in which he wrote, "Deepfake se bacho doston (Friends, beware of deepfakes)."

Previously, a deepfake video of actor Aamir Khan promoting a political party had gone viral. "We want to clarify that Aamir Khan has never endorsed any political party throughout his 35-year career. He has dedicated his efforts to raising awareness through Election Commission public awareness campaigns for many past elections," Aamir's spokesperson clarified in a statement.

Many celebrities have expressed concerns about the misuse of deepfake technology.

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PIL Seeks 3-Year Law Degree after 12th, Argues 5-Year LLB Duration Unreasonable

A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition filed in the Supreme Court seeks directions to introduce a three-year law degree course after school.

Currently, the LLB course, which students can pursue after completing their 12th standard, has a duration of five years. The three-year law degree course is presently available only to graduates.

Advocate Ashwini Upadhyay, in the petition, argues that the five-year duration for the LLB course is "unreasonable and irrational."
He requests the Centre and Bar Council of India to form an Expert Committee to evaluate the feasibility of commencing a three-year

Bachelor of Law course after the 12th standard, similar to Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Arts courses.
The petitioner contends that students can comfortably cover 15-20 subjects in three years (six semesters).

Therefore, the current five-year duration (10 semesters) for the Bachelor of Law Course is deemed unreasonable, arbitrary, and violates Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution, he argues.

"The undue five-year time span is arbitrary and irrational for several reasons. Firstly, this length of time is unnecessary for conferring a Bachelor's degree; secondly, the extended period of five years is unsuitable for students; thirdly, the five-year duration is disproportionate to the study of law; and fourthly, it imposes an excessive financial burden on students to complete such a lengthy degree," the petition stated.

The petitioner highlights that reducing the duration to three years would allow students to gain an additional two years of court practice experience.

Referring to examples like Ram Jethmalani, who started law practice at age 18, and Fali S. Nariman, who completed his law degree at age 21, the petitioner questions why the youth of the country should "waste" two additional years in college instead of commencing their profession in their early twenties.

The petitioner respectfully submits that if colleges can confer Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Science degrees immediately after the 12th standard in three years, then it should be feasible to grant a Bachelor of Law degree in the same timeframe.

Students do not require a Bachelor of Arts degree to gain preliminary knowledge of law. Therefore, why should students be compelled to spend an additional two years obtaining it?

The petitioner requests the court to expedite a decision since admissions for the new courses are commencing in May-June.

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Woman Can’t be Held for Abetting Suicide if ‘Lover’ Ends Life Due to ‘Love Failure’: Delhi Court

The Delhi High Court has recently observed that if a “lover” dies by suicide due to “love failure”, then the woman cannot be held responsible for abetting the man’s suicide while granting ‘pre-arrest’ (anticipatory) bail to a woman and a man.

An FIR was registered by a man alleging that the two applicants had abetted his son’s suicide. The woman was stated to be in a romantic relationship with the deceased while the other applicant was stated to be a common friend.

A single-judge bench of Justice Amit Mahajan, in its April 16 order, held, “If a lover commits suicide due to love failure, if a student commits suicide because of his poor performance in the examination, a client commits suicide because his case is dismissed, the lady, examiner, lawyer respectively cannot be held to have abetted the commission of suicide.

For the wrong decision taken by a man of weak or frail mentality, another person cannot be blamed as having abetted his committing suicide.”
When the body of the deceased was found by his mother in his room, a “suicide note” was also recovered in which he had written that he was ending his life because of the applicants.

Justice Mahajan said that a bare reading of Indian Penal Code (IPC) Section 306 (abetment of suicide) demonstrates that there are twin requirements – suicide and abetment to commit suicide.

The court said “prima facie” from the WhatsApp chats placed on record, it appeared that the deceased was of “sensitive nature and constantly threatened” the female applicant of ending life whenever she refused to talk to him.

The court also noted that the two applicants were granted interim protection last year pursuant to which they joined the investigation.

“It is correct that the deceased had written the name of the applicants in suicide note, but, in the opinion of this court, there is nothing mentioned, as to the nature of threats in the alleged suicide note written by the deceased of such an alarming proportion so as to drive a ‘normal person’ to contemplate suicide,” the high court said.

The court noted that prima facie the alleged suicide note “only expressed a state of anguish” of the deceased towards the applicants, but it “cannot be inferred that the applicants had any intention”, that led the deceased to commit suicide.

“The allegation with respect to applicants teasing the deceased in regards to the failure of his romantic relationship with the (female) applicant…however, does not appear to be instigation which would amount to abetment of suicide in terms of Section 306 IPC. The factum of the alleged suicide note and whether there was any instigation by the applicants will be seen in trial,” the high court underscored.

It was alleged that a scuffle took place between the deceased and the applicants after he saw them together and asked why they were meeting. During the altercation, the deceased sustained injuries and the applicants allegedly damaged his car by throwing bricks. It was also said that while the deceased was leaving the place, the applicants allegedly instigated him by saying they had made “physical relations with each other and will get married soon”.

The woman argued that she had been falsely implicated, and except for her name mentioned in the alleged suicide note of the deceased, there was nothing to show that “he was prompted, forced and instigated by these persons to commit suicide”.

Meanwhile the police alleged that offence committed by the two applicants is “heinous in nature” and the names of both the applicants were written in suicide note, because of whom the deceased died by suicide. The police said that the CCTV footage from the location where the deceased had met with the applicants was also obtained in which the deceased and the male applicant can be seen in a scuffle.

The high court held that custodial interrogation of the applicants is not required. It said that in the event of arrest, the applicants will be released on bail on furnishing a personal bond of Rs50,000 each with two sureties each of the like amount subject to certain conditions.

The court also said that in case the applicants violate the conditions mentioned in the order, the police would be free to move a plea for cancelling their bail. The court, however, clarified that the observations in its order are made to decide the pre-arrest bail applications of the two persons, should not influence the outcome of the trial, and should not be taken as an expression of opinion on the merits of the case.

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Planned in the US, Executed in Mumbai: Decoding the Salman Khan Firing Incident

It reads like a plot straight out of a crime thriller: a plan conceived in the United States, a network of professional shooters and weapon caches strategically placed across various Indian states -- all culminating in a shooting outside Bollywood actor Salman Khan's residence.

Early Sunday morning, around 5am, two men on a motorcycle fired four rounds outside Galaxy Apartments in Mumbai's Bandra, where the actor lives, before swiftly fleeing the scene. CCTV footage captured the assailants wearing caps and carrying backpacks, clearly aiming towards the actor's home. One suspect wore a white t-shirt with a black jacket and denim pants, while the other was in a red t-shirt with denim pants.

According to police sources, both men are affiliated with the notorious Lawrence Bishnoi gang. Bishnoi himself is currently incarcerated at Tihar Jail for several high-profile murder cases, including those involving musician Sidhu Moose Wala and Rajput leader Sukhdev Singh Gogamedi of the Karni Sena.

Origins of the Plot

The scheme originated in the United States, where Anmol Bishnoi, Lawrence Bishnoi's brother, tasked Rohit Godara -- a fellow gangster based in the US -- with selecting shooters. Godara, known for his extensive network of professional shooters across India, likely facilitated this operation. Anmol Bishnoi later claimed responsibility for the incident through a Facebook post, although the post's IP address was traced back to Canada, prompting suspicions of VPN usage.

Godara, a key figure in the Bishnoi gang, played a crucial role by providing weapons through associates strategically located in multiple states. Vishal (alias Kalu), chosen for his involvement in previous violent incidents orchestrated by Godara, along with another suspect, acquired a second-hand bike from Raigad district to reach Khan's residence.

Security Concerns and Past Threats

Salman Khan has been a target of threats before, particularly due to his infamous 1998 black buck hunting incident that reportedly offended the Bishnoi community. Last year, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) identified Khan as a top target on Lawrence Bishnoi's hit list.

In response to heightened security threats, Mumbai Police escalated Khan's security status to Y+ and continue to review this arrangement. Eleven security personnel, including commandos and Personal Security Officers (PSOs), accompany Khan at all times in fully bulletproof vehicles.

The investigation into the recent shooting incident involves a coordinated effort across five states --Maharashtra, Delhi, Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab. The involvement of multiple agencies, including the Maharashtra ATS and the NIA, underscores the gravity of the situation.

While the case has been transferred to Mumbai's Crime Branch, there has been no formal request to involve the ATS or NIA in the investigation. The sale of the motorcycle used in the crime is currently under scrutiny, as authorities continue to pursue leads to apprehend those responsible.

1998 Blackbuck Poaching Case

During the shooting of his blockbuster movie Hum Saath Saath Hain, Salman Khan allegedly killed two blackbucks in Bhagoda ki Dhani located in Kankani village near Jodhpur in Rajasthan. He was charged under section 9/51 of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

In what came to be known as the 1998 Blackbuck Case, his co-actors Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Bendre, Neelam and Tabu were also charged under Section 51 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act and under Section 149 (unlawful assembly) of the Indian Penal Code. However, they were all acquitted after being given the benefit of doubt.

Two other people, namely Dinesh Gawr and Dushyant Singh, were also accused of being with the actors when the poaching allegedly took place.

What Really Happened?

Back in October 1998, the film Hum Saath Saath Hain was being shot in Jodhpur. It has been alleged that the actors were driving around the Kankani Village in a gypsy car when they came across a herd of blackbucks and Salman Khan shot two of them. On realising that they might have been seen, the group of actors allegedly fled the scene.

Blackbucks are sacred to the Bishnoi tribe of Rajasthan; they protect the species for religious reasons. Poonamchand Bishnoi, a member of the sect, claims to have witnessed the event taking place. Bishnoi later testified against the group of actors, saying that he saw the actors fleeing away from the scene.

(The writer is a legal associate at NYK Law Firm, one of the top legal consultants in Dubai)

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Indian Supreme Court Slams Drugs Regulator for not Acting against Yoga Guru's Firm

India's top court admonished the head of a state drugs regulator for failing to take action against a popular yoga guru's firm which claimed its traditional ayurvedic medicines can cure chronic diseases such as diabetes and asthma.

The Supreme Court said the state drugs department had "tried to pass on the buck" despite being informed in 2018 of advertisements issued by Divya Pharmacy, a unit of yoga guru Baba Ramdev's hugely popular firm Patanjali Ayurved.

Ramdev, dressed in a saffron-coloured robe, attended the hearing of contempt case against Patanjali for defying court directives to stop publishing the ads.
Mithilesh Kumar, the head of Uttarakhand state drugs regulator, also attended the session. With folded hands, he pleaded with the judges to give him more time to take action against the company, which the judges refused.

"Why should we not come down on your officers like a ton of bricks?" Justice Hima Kohli asked the Uttarakhand state counsel.
"Instead of taking action, the state licensing authority told (the federal government) that it has issued a warning to the concerned firm and further action will be subject to direction of Supreme Court," Kohli said.

Ramdev is one of India's top yoga gurus and offers ayurvedic cures for many illnesses through his TV shows. He has also shared the stage with ministers in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government and leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in the past.

The two-judge bench said the drugs authority remained in "deep slumber" on the issue and had failed to act after issuing a warning to the firm over the advertisements.
The bench also refused to accept a second apology by Ramdev and Patanjali co-founder Acharya Balkrishna for defying the court's order. It set April 16 as the next date of hearing.

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How Indian Expats in the UAE Can Enroll for Voting in Upcoming Lok Sabha Elections?

The 2024 Lok Sabha elections in India are on the horizon, commencing on April 19 and concluding on June 1.

Indian expatriates residing in the UAE can register as voters for these elections. To be eligible, non-resident Indians (NRIs) can register both online and offline, but they must physically be present in their respective constituency to cast their vote.

Historically, NRIs were unable to participate in Indian elections until the Representation of People (Amendment) Act of 2010 granted them voting rights. The Election Commission of India has encouraged NRI voters to exercise their franchise this year.

To gain voting rights, NRIs must possess a valid Indian passport and be at least 18 years old as of January 1 of the year the electoral roll is published in their Indian constituency.

For Online Registration

  • Visit the Election Commission of India or the voter portal service website.
  • Choose your state or union territory and access the state election commission section.
  • Download Form 6A, which is specific for overseas voters.
  • Complete the form and affix a passport-sized colored photograph.
  • Scan and upload the filled form along with self-attested photocopies of relevant passport pages and visa endorsements.
  • The application will undergo scrutiny, followed by field verification at your Indian home address.
  • Upon verification, your name will be listed under the "Overseas Electors" section on the ECI website.
  • NRIs do not receive an Electors Photo Identity Card (EPIC) and are required to vote in person at the designated polling station by presenting their original passport.

For Offline Registration

  • Visit the electoral registration office in the constituency of your residence.
  • Fill out Form 6A and submit it along with the necessary documents, including a recent passport-size photograph and relevant passport pages.
  • Your passport will be verified for authentication.

By following these steps, Indian expatriates in the UAE can actively participate in the democratic process of India's Lok Sabha elections.

The participation of NRIs in the electoral process is a testament to India's dedication to inclusive democracy and reflects its commitment to ensuring that every eligible citizen has a voice in shaping the nation's future.

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Can Arvind Kejriwal Govern from Behind Bars? Legal and Logistical Challenges Arise

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's recent arrest by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has sparked a heated debate over his ability to continue governing from jail.

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) national convener Kejriwal was arrested by the ED on March 21 in the Delhi excise policy-linked money laundering case and subsequently remanded in the agency's custody till March 28 by a Delhi court.

After Kejriwal's arrest, Delhi Cabinet minister Atishi said that he would continue as the chief minister and run the city government from prison if needed. Kejriwal's Punjab counterpart Bhagwant Mann also said that the party's supremo cannot be replaced.

Kejriwal had issued his first work order from ED's custody on Sunday instructing Water Minister Atishi to solve water and sewer-related problems in some areas of the city.

On Tuesday he gave instructions to Health Minister Saurabh Bharadwaj to ensure that medicines and tests are available to people at all government hospitals and Mohalla Clinics.

Amidst accusations from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and assertions from legal and constitutional experts, questions loom regarding the practicality and legality of governing from jail.

Drama or Constitutional Crisis?

The BJP has vehemently criticised Kejriwal's attempts to issue directives to his ministers while under ED custody. Manjinder Singh Sirsa, the BJP national secretary, contended that a chief minister's capacity to lead effectively diminishes once in custody, labeling the situation as a political spectacle orchestrated by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

Immunity vs. Accountability

Constitutionally, prime ministers and chief ministers are not immune to arrest, unlike the president and governors. Article 361 offers immunity only to the latter, emphasising the principle of equality before the law. However, mere arrest doesn't trigger disqualification; conviction is the determining factor.

Logistical Hurdles: Governance from Jail

Theoretically, a chief minister could continue to discharge duties from prison, but logistical challenges abound. Legal experts point to the precedent set by former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, who appointed his wife as CM during his incarceration. However, conducting cabinet meetings or official reviews from a jail cell presents practical hurdles.

Technical Complexities: Delhi's Unique Governance Status

Delhi's unique status as a Union Territory adds layers of complexity. High-ranking officials suggest that constitutional boundaries outlined in Articles 239 AA and 239 AB could exacerbate challenges for Kejriwal's governance from jail. Central rule might become a possibility in case of perceived constitutional breakdown.

Jail Manual vs. Government Mandates

Citing jail manuals, BJP leaders argue that inmates have limited rights, complicating Kejriwal's ability to fulfill his duties. Practical obstacles include the flow of files, delegation of tasks and adherence to new guidelines, raising doubts about the feasibility of governing from behind bars.

As legal, logistical, and constitutional complexities mount, the feasibility of Arvind Kejriwal governing from jail remains uncertain. While AAP asserts his capability to continue, challenges both moral and technical underscore the delicate balance between governance and accountability in the Indian political landscape.

Meanwhile, Delhi Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena said the state government will not be run from jail.  Replying to a query at the Times Now Summit, the Delhi LG said, "I can assure the people of Delhi that the govern

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From Dowry Victim to Supreme Court Lawyer: Priyadharshni Rahul's Inspiring Journey

Priyadharshni Rahul's story is one of resilience, determination, and empowerment. Her life took a drastic turn at 24 when her marriage collapsed due to unreasonable dowry demands.

Refusing to succumb to societal pressure, she embarked on a journey of resilience and empowerment, transitioning from a victim to a prominent Supreme Court lawyer.

In 2011, facing the shattering fallout of her broken engagement, Priyadharshni recalls the blow to her self-esteem and trust. Unwilling to accept defeat, she pursued legal recourse, challenging the injustice she faced.

Despite societal expectations to remain silent, Priyadharshni's resolve to define her own self-worth led her to the doors of the Madras High Court, where she began her legal battle.

Studying law while fighting her case, Priyadharshni's commitment never wavered. She navigated the complexities of the legal system, eventually reaching the apex court.

Her determination, fueled by a desire for justice, never faltered. "You have to decide what your self-respect is, not the society," she emphasises, underscoring her unwavering resolve.

After 14 years of relentless pursuit, Priyadharshni achieved a breakthrough with the intervention of the Supreme Court. However, her victory extended beyond personal triumph.

She selflessly donated her compensation to the Supreme Court Advocates Welfare Fund, symbolising her commitment to supporting others in need.

Priyadharshni's journey didn't end with her legal victory. Refusing to let her identity be defined by her ordeal, she immersed herself in various initiatives.

From volunteering in prestigious awards programmes to establishing Next Gen Political Leaders, she became a catalyst for change, empowering others to join the fight for justice.

With unwavering support from her husband, Priyadharshni continues her advocacy, providing legal assistance to organisations, corporations and politicians.

Her story serves as a beacon of hope, inspiring countless women to rise above adversity and reclaim their dignity.

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Has Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi Breached Data Privacy Rules in UAE?

Residents of the UAE, including Indian expatriates and individuals of various nationalities, received an unexpected WhatsApp message from an Indian number over the weekend.

The message, accompanied by a letter from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the form of a PDF attachment, sought feedback and suggestions on the Indian government's schemes and initiatives.

While some recipients appreciated the opportunity to provide input on national matters, others expressed concerns over potential data privacy breaches and questioned the relevance of the message to non-Indian residents in the UAE.

Dubai-based Pakistani journalist Asma Zain and Pakistani resident Fahad Siddiqui voiced their confusion and skepticism to the local media, questioning the necessity of their involvement in Indian government affairs. Similarly, a British resident of Dubai, who initially assumed the message was related to his professional engagements, found the communication puzzling."

Amidst the confusion, Emiratis also reported receiving the letter, raising questions about how their contact information was obtained and highlighting concerns over potential violations of data privacy regulations in the UAE.

Opposition parties criticised the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government's outreach efforts, alleging political propaganda and misuse of resources for electoral gain. Congress lawmaker Shashi Tharoor shared screenshots of concerns raised by UAE-based individuals on social media and called for action from the Election Commission of India.

The incident comes at a time when digital data protection and privacy have become increasingly important issues globally, with the UAE implementing strict regulations to safeguard the personal information of its residents, raising significant concerns regarding data privacy laws and the protection of personal information.

With the UAE implementing strict regulations to safeguard individuals' digital data, the intrusion into residents' data by foreign entities without consent highlights potential violations of local privacy laws. Such unauthorised access to personal information not only undermines individuals' privacy rights but also underscores the importance of enforcing stringent measures to prevent unauthorised data collection and ensure compliance with data protection regulations in cross-border communications.

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India Introduces Streamlined Patent Rules to Boost Innovation and Economic Growth

India has announced its updated patent regulations, streamlining the process of acquiring and managing patents to foster a supportive environment for innovators and creators.

According to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the newly introduced Patent Rules 2024 are anticipated to drive economic growth through advancements in science and technology.

The need for Patent Rules 2024 arose as India experiences a constant influx of technology seeking Intellectual Property (IP) protection, with one application filed approximately every six minutes, as highlighted by the ministry.

Between March 15 of the previous year and March 14 of the current year, India's Patent Office granted over 100,000 new patents, averaging 250 patents awarded each working day.

Given the substantial volume of patent applications, there was a crucial need to fortify India's IP infrastructure and its management by introducing updated regulations, leading to the formulation and notification of the Patent Rules 2024, as explained by the ministry.

Operating under the Ministry of Commerce, India's Patent Office, formerly recognised as the Office of the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks, oversees these new regulations.

Among the notable provisions of the new rules is the introduction of a "Certificate of Inventorship" to formally recognise the contribution of inventors to patented inventions.

Additionally, the renewal fee for patents has been reduced by 10 per cent for payments made in advance via electronic means for a minimum duration of four years.

Furthermore, the requirement for filing statements of working patents has been relaxed from annually to once every three financial years, aimed at simplifying business operations.

In a bid to facilitate trademark registration processes, the Trademarks Registry of the Patent Office is committed to issuing examination reports within 30 days of receiving a trademark application, as emphasised in the notification.

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India Electoral Bonds: Lottery Company, Infra Firm Among Top Political Donors

From a lottery company with operations in multiple states, to a company that built the Kaleshwaram dam, to large industrial conglomerates, the top five purchasers of electoral bonds spent upwards of ₹3,446 crore between April 2019 and February 2024, data released by the Election Commission of India showed.

The highest donor, with bonds worth ₹1,368 crore, was Future Gaming and Hotel Services Private Limited, a company run by Santiago Martin, commonly known by the moniker “Lottery King”.

The company was the subject of an Enforcement Directorate investigation since 2019, with raids carried out in Coimbatore and Chennai in May 2023 for alleged violations of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

Officials familiar with the case said that the ED probe is based on a Central Bureau of Investigation charge sheet that alleged the company sold lotteries from the government of Sikkim in Kerala.

“It was found that Martin and his associate companies and entities had made unlawful gain with a corresponding loss to the government of Sikkim to the extent of ₹910 crore on account of inflating the prize-winning tickets claim from April 2009 to august 2010,” ED said at the time, attaching assets worth ₹457 crorethat belonged to Martin and the company.

The company website explained its operations as having “developed a vast network of dealers, stockists and agents across different lottery playing states in India, wherever lottery sale are permissible”.

Martin, a company website said, began his lottery business in Tamil Nadu in 1988, extending operations gradually to Karnataka and Kerala, and then the north-east. The company now also has arms that deal with construction, real estate, hospitality and visual media entertainment.

The second biggest purchaser of electoral bonds at ₹891crore is Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Limited (MEIL), established in 1989 by 67-year-old Pamireddy Pitchi Reddy in Andhra Pradesh’s Krishna district and headquartered in Hyderabad.

The firm has built several projects such as the Kaleshwaram lift irrigation project on the Godavari river, and also has interests in hydrocarbons, roads, power, buildings, defence and telecom.

The Kaleshwaram project has been besieged by controversy after piers of the Medigadda barrage were submerged last year, with the Congress, which is now in power in Telangana, accusing the previous Bharat Rashtra Samithi government of mismanagement and corruption.

MEIL has also been involved in several other key projects, including the Polavaram dam project, Mission Bhagiratha -- a Telangana government drinking water project -- the Thoothukudi thermal power project and the Zojila tunnel project.

While the ownership of Qwik Supply Chain Private Limited was less clear, Zaubacorp -- a website that tracks the ownership of companies -- suggested that one of its directors was also a director in a Reliance Group company.

Vedanta Private Limited, the industrial conglomerate founded by Anil Agarwal that has interests across sectors including mining, technology and power, is the fourth highest donor with purchases worth ₹400 crore over the five-year period, according to the data.

The company website describes Vedanta as a leading natural resources and technology conglomerate, focusing on large scale expansion of its portfolio in India.

Haldia Energy Limited, a group company of the RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group, is the fifth highest donor in the scheme, buying bonds worth ₹377 crore.

The company has developed a 600MW thermal power plant in Haldia in West Bengal that supplies power to Kolkata and its suburbs.

“The units began commercial operation from January 2015 onwards. The company supplies its power to CESC Limited, the distribution licensee for the city of Kolkata,” the company website said.

Supreme Court Raps SBI

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court today came down hard on the State Bank of India for not sharing the complete data on electoral bonds, a scheme that allowed individuals and businesses to donate anonymously to political parties. The court had struck down the scheme and directed the bank to share all details on the donations made in the last five years.

Hearing a petition by the Election Commission, the Supreme Court said that the data provided by the SBI was incomplete. The five-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, directed SBI to disclose electoral bond numbers as well, in addition to the details it has already shared.

"Who is appearing for the State Bank of India? They have not disclosed the bond numbers. It has to be disclosed by the State Bank of India," Chief Justice Chandrachud said right at the outset of the hearing.

In its notice to SBI, the Supreme Court bench has asked the bank to explain the lapse during the next hearing on March 18.
The electoral bond numbers would help establish the link between donors and political parties.

Electoral bonds allowed individuals and businesses to donate money to political parties without declaring it. They were introduced by the BJP government in 2018 as an alternative to cash donations and had been pitched as an initiative to bring transparency in political funding.

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Citizenship Amendment Act will Never be Taken Back; Rules Now a Formality: Amit Shah

India’s Home Minister Amit Shah asserted that the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) will never be taken back and the BJP-led government will never compromise with it.

“This is our sovereign right to ensure Indian citizenship in our country, we will never compromise on it and CAA will never be taken back,” the senior BJP leader said in an interview with a news agency.

The rules of the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, were notified earlier this week, sparking criticism from the opposition parties. Congress leader Pawan Khera last week asserted that the Act will be repealed if his party comes to power at the Centre. Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor made similar claims on Wednesday.

Asked about such statements, the home minister said that even the opposition is aware it has bleak chances of coming to power.

"Even INDI alliance knows that it will not come into power. CAA has been brought by the BJP, and the Narendra Modi-led government has brought it. It is impossible to repeal it. We will spread awareness about it in the whole nation so that those who want to repeal it do not get a place," Shah said.

He scoffed at the opposition's allegations that the Bharatiya Janata Party is creating a new vote bank through the controversial law.

"The opposition has no other work. They have a history of saying one thing and doing another. However, the history of Prime Minister Modi and the BJP is different. What BJP or PM Modi says is like carved in stone. Every guarantee made by Modi is fulfilled," Shah said.

Refuting the charge that the BJP is using CAA for political gains, Shah pointed to the opposition's similar objections to crucial national security decisions.
"They even said that there was a political benefit in surgical strikes and air strikes. So, should we not take action against terrorism?" Shah questioned

On the concerns over the timing of the CAA notification, the minister said, “All opposition parties, including Rahul Gandhi, Mamata, or Kejriwal, are indulging in politics of lies, so the question of timing does not arise.”

Shah reiterated that the BJP had transparently articulated its intentions regarding the CAA well in advance. He pointed out that the party had outlined its commitment to bringing the CAA and providing Indian citizenship to refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan in its 2019 manifesto.

"Rules are now a formality. There is no question of timing, political gain or loss. Now, the Opposition wants to consolidate their vote bank by doing appeasement politics. I want to request them that they have been exposed.

CAA is the law for the entire country and I have reiterated nearly 41 times in four years that it will become a reality," he said.

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‘Will Disclose all Details in Time’: India's Election Commission on Electoral Bonds case

Election Commission will disclose all details on electoral bonds in time, India’s chief election commissioner Rajiv Kumar said. Election Commission will disclose all details on electoral bonds in time, Rajiv Kumar was quoted by PTI as saying.

The poll panel chief's statement comes a day after the State Bank of India submitted all details of electoral bonds to the EC on Tuesday.

“In compliance of Hon’ble Supreme Court's directions to the SBI, contained in its order dated February 15 & March 11, 2024 (in the matter of WPC NO.880 of 2017), data on electoral bonds has been supplied by State Bank of India to Election Commission of India,” the Election Commission said.

The Supreme Court had asked the poll panel to publish details of electoral bonds on its website by 5 pm on March 15. The SBI has filed a compliance affidavit before the top court, mentioning the details of electoral bonds that were purchased and redeemed between April 12, 2019 and February 15 this year.

The SBI had submitted electoral bond details to the ECI day after its plea seeking an extension in deadline was rejected by a five-judge bench. “The SBI has to just open the sealed cover, collate the details and give the information to the EC,” the bench headed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud had said.

“In the last 26 days, what steps have you taken? Your application is silent on that," the bench had asked SBI. In its February 15 judgement, the apex court had set the deadline for SBI as March 6. The apex court had said that by March 13, the ECI shall publish the details of Electoral Bonds on its official website.

The Supreme Court by its February verdict had struck down the Electoral Bonds Scheme which allowed for anonymous funding to political parties, and ordered the SBI to stop issuing Electoral Bonds immediately.

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Electoral Bonds: India SC Dismisses SBI's Plea, Seeks Details by Tomorrow

Turning down the State Bank of India's (SBI) request for more time to disclose details of the electoral bonds scheme, the Supreme Court today said the bank must share the details with the Election Commission of India (ECI) by tomorrow.

The poll body has been asked to publish the details on its website by 5pm on Friday. The court also warned that it will initiate contempt proceedings against the government-run bank if it does not provide the information by tomorrow.

Earlier, hearing SBI's request for more time to provide details of the now-scrapped scheme, the Supreme Court fielded tough questions and asked what the bank has done for the past 26 days. The SBI had approached the court for an extension, allowing it to disclose the details by June 30.

The court had, in a landmark verdict on February 15, scrapped the electoral bonds scheme and directed the Election Commission to make the details of donation public by March 13.

The SBI's plea for more time was opposed by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), which was among the petitioners who had challenged the electoral bonds scheme brought by the Narendra Modi government in 2017. The ADR had said the application has been filed at the last moment to ensure the details are not public before the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

Appearing for SBI, Senior Advocate Harish Salve said the bank had followed an SOP to store information about the electoral bonds scheme outside the core banking system.

"We need a little more time to comply with the order. We are trying to collate the info and we are having to reverse the entire process. We as a bank were told that this is supposed to be a secret," he said.

Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, who led the five-judge Constitution bench, noted that it was submitted that the donor details were kept in sealed cover in a Mumbai branch of the bank.

Justice Sanjiv Khanna said, "You have to just open the sealed cover, collate the details and give the information."
To this, Salve replied, "I have full details on who purchased the bond and I have full details from where the money came from and which political party tendered how much. I have to also now put the name of purchasers. The names have to be collated, crosschecked with the bond numbers."

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India SC Mulls Guidelines to Streamline Functioning of Bar Associations Across Country

In a recent development, the Indian Supreme Court has addressed the issue of strengthening the overall functioning of Bar Associations across the country.

The order dated March 4, 2024, issued by a Bench of Justices Surya Kant and Dipankar Datta, not only recognised the significance of this matter but also invited senior counsels appearing in the case, as well as those willing to assist, to formulate issues.

This proactive step by the Supreme Court emphasises the urgency and commitment to tackling the challenges faced by Bar Associations and underscores the necessity for collective efforts in shaping the future of the legal profession.

A legal matter initially focused on allegations of discrimination and elitism against the Madras Bar Association has taken a new direction. Senior Counsels representing the petitioners have decided not to pursue the allegations against Senior Advocate PH Pandian (deceased) or the Madras Bar Association, shifting the focus towards a broader objective – enhancing the status and streamlining the functioning of Bar Associations across the country.

The decision marks a pivotal moment in the legal landscape, reflecting a broader commitment to improving the professionalism and integrity of Bar Associations nationwide. The Supreme Court, recognising the importance of this endeavour, has issued a notable order to address this critical issue.

The Supreme Court order mandates the issuance of notices for the limited purpose of laying down broad guidelines to streamline the overall functioning of Bar Associations. This directive signifies a proactive step towards fostering transparency, accountability and professionalism within these crucial legal entities.

The Supreme Court's decision to intervene and set guidelines is a testament to its commitment to upholding the values of justice and fairness within the legal profession. By establishing clear norms and standards, the court aims to address various challenges faced by Bar Associations, including internal conflicts, lack of transparency and concerns regarding ethical conduct.

 Furthermore, the order underscores the importance of collaboration between the judiciary, legal practitioners and Bar Associations in shaping the future of the legal profession. It emphasises the need for collective efforts to promote inclusivity, diversity and equitable representation within Bar Associations, ensuring that they serve as true pillars of the legal community.

The upcoming deadline of April 8, 2024, for the returnable notice signifies a sense of urgency and determination in addressing these pressing issues. It provides an opportunity for stakeholders to engage in constructive dialogue and contribute to the development of robust guidelines that will strengthen the integrity and effectiveness of Bar Associations nationwide.

The Supreme Court's decision to lay down broad guidelines for Bar Associations marks a transformative shift in the legal landscape. It underscores the importance of promoting transparency, accountability, and professionalism within these vital institutions.

As the legal fraternity looks toward the future, this initiative holds the promise of fostering a more inclusive, equitable and ethical legal profession for generations to come.

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Bombay High Court Green Light to Netflix India's Docuseries on Sheena Bora Murder

Netflix India’s docuseries The Indrani Mukerjea Story: Buried Truth was released yesterday after postponing the initial release date.
The Bombay High Court dismissed a petition filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) seeking to halt the release of the docuseries.

The series, which focuses on the high-profile Sheena Bora murder case, features Indrani Mukerjea, the primary accused, along with other witnesses.

CBI expressed concerns that the release of the docuseries could potentially bias public opinion and affect the ongoing trial. However, during the hearing on Thursday, Justice Dere challenged this notion, stating, "After seeing the docuseries, we don't know how it prejudices CBI”.

A Division Bench of Justices Revati Mohite Dere and Manjusha Deshpande personally viewed the documentary series and found no significant prejudicial content that could impact the trial. The court rejected the CBI's application, emphasising that public perception was of minimal concern.

The Bench highlighted that much of what Indrani Mukerjea conveyed in the series was already accessible in the public domain. Additionally, the court noted that previous books and films had covered the story extensively. "Whatever she [Indrani] has said [in the series], everything is in the public domain. Honestly, we have not found anything that goes against the prosecution," the Bench said.

Furthermore, the court emphasised the presumption of innocence, stating, "You cannot presume the accused to be guilty".
The decision to dismiss the petition reaffirms the court's stance on the matter, indicating that the docuseries does not pose a significant threat to the ongoing legal proceedings.

The Sheena Bora murder case unfolded in 2015 when Shyamwar Rai, a former driver for prominent media personalities Peter and Indrani Mukerjea, confessed during police interrogation to his involvement in Bora's murder.
Rai's revelation implicated Indrani and her ex-husband Sanjeev Khanna in the crime, alleging that they conspired to kill Bora due to her romantic involvement with Peter's son Rahul.

Despite Indrani vehemently denying the allegations and even claiming that Bora is alive and well abroad, all three individuals, along with Peter, who was later arrested by the CBI, are currently facing trial in a Mumbai special court.

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India: New Criminal Laws, Replacing Colonial-Era Codes, to Come into Effect from July 1

 

The three new criminal laws which replace the Indian Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act will come into effect from July 1, according to a government notification.

The three new criminal laws are the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita and the Bharatiya Sakshaya Act. The new laws aim at a complete overhaul of the British-era laws giving a clear definition of terrorism, abolishing sedition as a crime and introducing a new section titled "offences against the state" -- among many other changes.

These three bills were first introduced during the Monsoon session of Parliament in August 2023. After the Standing Committee on Home Affairs made several recommendations, the redrafted versions were introduced in the winter session. India’s home minister Amit Shah said the bills were drafted after wide consultations and he himself had gone through every comma and full stop of the draft.

The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023

This replaces the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

Sedition has been deleted but another provision penalising secessionism, separatism, rebellion and acts against the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India has been introduced.

Death penalty for gang rape of minors and mob lynching. Community services have been introduced as one of the punishments for the first time.

The Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, 2023

This replaces the CrPC, 1973.

Time-bound investigation, trial and judgment within 30 days of the completion of arguments.

Video recording of the statement of sexual assault victims made mandatory. A new provision for attachment of property and proceeds of crime has been introduced.

Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam, 2023

This replaced the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

Evidence produced and admissible in courts will include electronic or digital records, emails, server logs, computers, smartphones, laptops, SMS, websites, locational evidence, mails, messages on devices.

Digitisation of all records including case diary, FIR, chargesheet and judgment. Electronic or digital records shall have the same legal effect, validity and enforceability as paper records.

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Netflix’s"The Indrani Mukerjea Story: Buried Truth," Docuseries Delayed: Why?

Netflix's much-anticipated docuseries, "The Indrani Mukerjea Story: Buried Truth," originally slated for release on February 23, faces an indefinite delay, now postponed at least until February 29.

The reason behind this unexpected halt stems from the intervention of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which has approached the Bombay High Court seeking a stay on the series' release.

The crux of the matter revolves around concerns raised by the CBI that the docuseries, delving into the notorious Sheena Bora murder case, could potentially prejudice the ongoing trial.

Netflix, in response to the CBI's appeal, has informed the Bombay High Court that they will withhold the release until the next court hearing on February 29. Furthermore, Netflix has pledged to arrange a special screening for both the CBI officials and the judges involved in the case.

The Case

The Sheena Bora murder case unfolded in 2015 when Shyamwar Rai, a former driver for prominent media personalities Peter and Indrani Mukerjea, confessed during police interrogation to his involvement in Bora's murder.

Rai's revelation implicated Indrani and her ex-husband Sanjeev Khanna in the crime, alleging that they conspired to kill Bora due to her romantic involvement with Peter's son Rahul.

Despite Indrani vehemently denying the allegations and even claiming that Bora is alive and well abroad, all three individuals, along with Peter, who was later arrested by the CBI, are currently facing trial in a Mumbai special court.

The primary contention raised by the CBI against the release of the docuseries revolves around its apprehension that the content could potentially influence public opinion and sway witnesses' testimonies, thereby jeopardising the integrity of the ongoing trial. Specifically, the CBI has objected to the show's promotional claims of featuring "new revelations and unprecedented access," asserting that such assertions could mislead the public and prejudice the case.

Moreover, the CBI has expressed concerns over the inclusion of Indrani's son Mikhail and daughter Vidhie in the docuseries, both of whom are pivotal witnesses in the case. According to the CBI, this inclusion violates Indrani's bail conditions, which prohibit her from contacting witnesses until all evidence is recorded.

In response to the CBI's objections, Netflix has argued against the imposition of pre-censorship, contending that halting the release of the docuseries would infringe upon freedom of expression. However, acknowledging the gravity of the situation, Netflix has agreed to defer the release until the next court hearing.

This incident raises broader questions about censorship, freedom of speech, and the right to a fair trial. Courts are tasked with balancing these fundamental rights, ensuring that while freedom of expression is upheld, it does not unduly interfere with the administration of justice.

Notably, concerns regarding privacy and dignity are often raised by witnesses and family members involved in such cases, underscoring the complex legal landscape surrounding high-profile trials like the Sheena Bora murder case.

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UAE, India Ink MoU to Drive Digital Economy Growth

The United Arab Emirates and India have inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aimed at propelling the growth of the digital economy. The agreement entails an assessment of the technical and investment prospects for developing data centre projects in India, with an initial capacity of up to 2 gigawatts.

In the esteemed presence of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, and His Excellency Shri Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, the UAE's Ministry of Investment and India's Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology have signed this MoU, outlining a framework for expanding bilateral investment cooperation in the digital infrastructure sector, particularly focusing on data centre projects in India.

The MoU signifies a significant stride towards fostering opportunities in digital infrastructure and artificial intelligence between the two nations, showcasing their leadership in advancing regional and digital connectivity.

Signed by His Excellency Mohamed Hassan Alsuwaidi, UAE's Minister of Investment, and His Excellency Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, India's Minister of External Affairs, representing the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology of India, the MoU paves the way for joint exploration, evaluation, and investment in data centre projects in India, along with promoting investments in Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI), Artificial Intelligence (AI), as well as supporting R&D and Innovation initiatives. Moreover, both countries will assess the potential for developing AI compute capacity to support a supercomputer cluster in India, offering a capacity of 8 exaflops for use by various sectors including government, public, private and academia.

The UAE stood as the fourth-largest investor in India in 2023 and the seventh-largest source of Foreign Direct Investment overall. On the other hand, India ranks among the top 15 countries globally in terms of data center capacity, boasting a network of 151 data centers across its regions. With its internet economy projected to reach USD 1 trillion by 2030 from USD 175 billion in 2022, India's digital growth is primarily fueled by the widespread adoption of digital interactions among its vast population, supported by data localisation policies and the "Digital India" initiative. This exponential growth in data consumption necessitates robust digital infrastructure and a resilient data center ecosystem.

This MoU between the UAE's Ministry of Investment and India's Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology aims to foster strong collaboration between public and private entities in both countries, facilitating knowledge exchange and building relationships. His Excellency Mohamed Hassan Alsuwaidi, UAE's Minister of Investment, emphasised the shared vision of leveraging technology for driving innovation, economic growth, and societal development, ensuring that India is equipped with scalable solutions to meet its evolving demands and enabling businesses and industries to adapt effectively to future needs.

This MoU follows the signing of strategic agreements between the UAE's Ministry of Investment and various ministries in India in January 2024, spanning sectors such as renewable energy, food processing, and healthcare.

For any enquiries or information, contact ask@tlr.ae or call us on +971 52 644 3004Follow The Law Reporters on WhatsApp Channels.

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Electoral Bonds Unconstitutional: India Supreme Court

The Indian Supreme Court today delivered its much-awaited verdict on the electoral bonds issue, deeming anonymous electoral bonds as a violation of the right to information under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. Consequently, the scheme has been declared unconstitutional.

A constitution bench, led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and including Justices Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, JB Pardiwala, and Manoj Misra, heard several cases challenging the controversial electoral bonds scheme over three days before reserving the verdict in November. The judgment was delivered on Thursday morning.

Despite reaching a unanimous decision, with Chief Justice DY Chandrachud delivering the primary judgment, Justice Khanna wrote a concurring opinion with slightly varied rationale. Both rulings tackled two primary inquiries: firstly, whether the omission of disclosing information on voluntary contributions to political parties through the electoral bond scheme and associated amendments to several acts breaches the right to information under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, and secondly, whether unrestricted corporate financing of political parties, as outlined in the Companies Act amendment, undermines the ideals of equitable and transparent elections.

"Information about the funding of political parties is essential for the effective exercise of the choice of voting," Chief Justice Chandrachud stressed the importance of open governance. Authoring an opinion on behalf of himself and Justices Gavai, Pardiwala, and Misra, the chief justice held that the electoral bonds scheme violated Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.

"At a primary level, political contributions give a seat at the table to contributors, i.e., it enhances access to legislators. This access also translates to influence over policymaking. There is also a legitimate possibility that financial contributions to a political party would lead to a quid pro quo arrangement because of the close nexus between money and politics. The electoral bond scheme and the impugned provisions, to the extent that they infringe upon the right to information of the voter by anonymising contributions through electoral bonds, are violative of Article 19(1)(a)," the verdict noted.

The court held that the restrictive means test of the doctrine of proportionality is not satisfied and that there are other means, apart from electoral bonds, to achieve the purpose of curbing black money, even assuming it to be a legitimate objective. The infringement of the right to information is not justified, the court held.

Acknowledging that the right of informational privacy extends to financial contributions, which is a facet of political affiliation, Chief Justice Chandrachud revealed that a double proportionality standard was applied to balance the conflicting rights to information and to informational privacy.

Rejecting the Union's argument that Clause 7(4)(c) of the scheme balances the two rights, the court said that the provision tilts the balance in favour of the right to informational privacy because the suitability prong of the proportionality standard is only partly fulfilled. Chief Justice Chandrachud accordingly held that the union government has failed to establish that the measure adopted in clause 7(4)(1) of the electoral scheme is the least restrictive measure.

Accordingly, the amendments to the Income Tax Act, the Representation of Peoples Act and the Companies Act have been held to be unconstitutional.

The court issued the following directions:

1.  The issuing bank shall herewith stop the issuance of electoral bonds.

2. The State Bank of India (SBI) shall submit the details of electoral bonds purchased since the interim order of the Court dated April 12, 2019, till date to the Election Commission of India (ECI). The details shall include the date of purchase of each electoral bond, the name of the purchaser of the bond, and the denomination of the electoral bond purchased.

3. SBI shall submit the details of the political parties which have received contributions through electoral bonds since the interim order dated April 12, 2019, till date to the ECI. SBI must disclose details of each electoral bond encashed by the political parties, which shall include the date of encashment and the denomination of electoral bond.

4. SBI shall submit the above information to the ECI within three weeks from today, i.e., by March 6.

5. ECI shall publish the information received from the SBI on its website by March 13, 2024.

6. Electoral Bonds which are within the validity period of 15 days but which have not been encashed by the political parties yet shall be returned by the political party to the purchaser. The issuing bank shall then refund the amount to the purchaser's account.

Senior Advocates Kapil Sibal, Advocate Prashant Bhushan, Advocate Shadan Farasat, Advocate Nizam Pasha, Senior Advocate Vijay Hansaria appeared for the petitioners.

Attorney General for India R Venkataramani, Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta appeared for the Union Government.

The Petition

At the heart of the petitions lie objections to the electoral bonds scheme, introduced through amendments in the Finance Act 2017. The petitioners, including the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Congress leader Jaya Thakur, argued that the anonymity associated with electoral bonds undermines transparency in political funding and encroaches upon voters' right to information. They further contend that the scheme facilitates contributions through shell companies, raising concerns about accountability and integrity in electoral finance.

In defense of the scheme, the union government had asserted its role in promoting the use of legitimate funds in political financing, ensuring transactions occur through regulated banking channels. Additionally, the government cited the need for donor anonymity to shield contributors from potential retribution by political entities.

Throughout the hearings, the bench posed probing questions to the government, questioning the rationale behind the scheme's 'selective anonymity' and expressing apprehension about its potential to institutionalise kickbacks for political parties.

Notably, concerns were raised regarding the unequal access to donor information, with the ruling party potentially possessing insight into contributors' identities while opposition parties lack such access. The bench also scrutinised the removal of the cap on corporate donations, previously restricted to a maximum of 7.5 per cent of net profits.

As the hearing drew to a close, the bench ordered the Election Commission of India to furnish details of political party contributions via electoral bonds up to September 30.

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