NHRC gets tough on govts for suffering traffic police

In good news for traffic policemen facing the wrath of rising air pollution, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is getting tough with the governments.

The NHRC on Monday threatened “coercive” actions against the central and state governments, if they do not respond to its notice seeking details of what they did to help these personnel.

“Most of the state governments are not providing any extra allowances or health facilities to the traffic police personnel” who are facing reduced life expectancy and other respiratory ailments due to vehicular pollution, it said.

Taking cognizance of a complaint that raised the issue of right to health of traffic police personnel, the NHRC has now asked the Union Home Secretary and Chief Secretaries of all states to submit detailed response within eight weeks.

It warned the states that it will be “constrained to invoke coercive process under section 13 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993” if they choose to delay their response. This section deals with NHRC’s powers relating to inquiries.

Under this section, the NHRC has powers to seize any document. It will also has powers of a civil court when offences under Sections 175, 178, 179, 180 or 228 of the Indian Penal Code is committed. These sections deal with refusal of producing documents, answering public servant authorised to question and intentional insult or interruption to public servant sitting in judicial proceeding.

In Bengaluru, a number of traffic personnel had reported respiratory problems. Earlier this month, DH reported that surgical masks provided by the traffic department to their personnel to protect them from air pollution was substandard.

With air pollution breaching all records in the national capital recently, traffic police personnel had complained that they are exposed to high dose of pollutants and are experiencing respiratory ailments. Many of them wear masks while on duty. A medical camp conducted by Delhi Police showed that a large number of its traffic personnel were having respiratory ailments.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jan 30, 2018)


Resignation: Karat says no offer, Yechury counters I did

The tussle in the CPI(M) top leadership after a contentious voting in Central Committee over political line aggravated on Tuesday with senior leader Prakash Karat saying General Secretary Sitaram Yechury did not offer to resign, only to be contradicted by the latter.

Yechury’s remarks came after Polit Bureau (PB) member Karat, also a former General Secretary, told a web portal that there was no offer of resignation from the General Secretary in the Central Committee (CC) after the rejection of his line on party’s relationship with Congress in the fight against BJP.

“I had offered to resign both in the Polit Bureau and Central Committee. Both the CC and PB unanimously said such a move will send a wrong signal that the party will be seen as divided on the eve of Party congress and Tripura elections. I abided by the decision,” Yechury told DH.

While emphasising that the party runs under collective leadership, Karat replied to a question whether Yechury offered to resign, “no, he did not offer to resign.” When asked whether the defeat of Yechury line in a voting undermine his position, Karat said, “We don’t look at that way. In our party, General Secertary is not the supreme leader. We have a collective way of functioning…”

However, Yechury said in a press conference in Kolkata on Sunday, “I am here because the PB and CC asked him to continue as General Secretary.

The usually media-shy Karat contradicting Yechury and the latter’s response within hours are seen as an intensification of the tussle with the Kerala unit-dominated Karat faction and supporters of Yechury.

Sources said the Karat faction-dominated PB followed by the CC rejected Yechury’s propositions like sending both the drafts — of Karat and Yechury — to the Party Congress.

Yechury told both the PB and CC during the three-day Central Committee meeting in Kolkata that if his contentions are binned, then it would be “untenable” for him to continue as General Secretary. However, sensing trouble, Karat faction then argued against it as it would send out a signal of division in the party.

Sources said the divide in the party is “much more vertical” compared to the previous instances when General Secretaries P Sundarayya and Harkishen Singh Surjeet were on the side of minorities.

Sundarayya was against joining hands with Jan Sangh during Emergency while Surjeet had argued for allowing Jyoti Basu becoming Prime Minister in the United Front government.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jan 24, 2018)

Appointment of Parl Secys flagrant violation of Constitution: EC

In what could not be music for AAP, the Election Commission observed that the 21 MLAs were appointed as Parliamentary Secretaries just “satiate the demand for executive office and to oblige them” through “flagrant violation” of Constitution.

Dealing with the petition seeking disqualification of these MPs over charges of holding office of profit, the EC said 40% of the MLAs in a 70-member Assembly were holding government positions after the appointment of Parliamentary Secretaries.

Twenty-eight MLAs — seven ministers and 21 Parliamentary Secretaries — or 40% of the lawmakers were working for Delhi government at one point of time, which is “flagrant violation” of Article 239AA of the Constitution that permits a maximum of 10% percent MLAs to be appointed as Ministers. The Delhi High Court setting aside these appointments on the ground that the order was not sent to the Lt Governor of Delhi and was thus in violation of the mandate of Article 239AA, which deals with the legislature of Delhi.

The Election Commission was very critical of the AAP government, saying it attempted to bypass Constitutional provisions of “paramount importance” by passing the order to appointed Parliamentary Secretaries to Ministers, “which was an office that was never created by any law or order” of the Delhi government. Moreover, the roles and responsibilities of the office holders were “never spelt out in any manner”.

“The totality of these circumstances clearly brings out the larger scheme of things wherein these respondents were appointed as Parliamentary Secretaries de hors the Rules and Regulations and even the Constitutional provisions in order to satiate the demand for executive office and to oblige them with office,” it said.

The EC went on to say, in such circumstances there is no doubt over the fact that such a large scale appointment of Parliamentary Secretaries had not only jeopardised the functioning of these individual MLAs but also the entire Assembly. “It is essential to keep this fact and situation in mind while deciding” on the petition against the MLAs.

According to the EC recommendation, which was part of the notification disqualifying these MLAs, the objective behind incorporating a disqualification for holding an office of profit under the Government is not to prevent the representatives of the people from earning profit by their private ventures but to prevent a conflict of interest in their functioning as lawmakers.

Even as AAP argued that its MLAs did not take any remuneration, the EC said undue importance on the evidence of profit and actual potential of pecuniary benefits is capable of rendering these Constitutional provisions “toothless and pale”.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jan 22, 2018)

AAP upset with Cong upping ante over its MLAs’ disqualification

As it faces a crisis over imminent disqualification of 20 MLAs, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is upset over the aggressive campaign by Congress against it as leaders feels that it will affect the joint Opposition onslaught against BJP.

While Trinamool Congress, CPI(M) and Sharad Yadav-led JD(U) faction have come out in support of AAP, the Delhi Congress has left no stone unturned since the Election Commission recommendation to disqualify the MLAs became public and announced launching a protest programme against the Arvind Kejriwal-led government from Monday.

Egged on by Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken, the central leadership has so far kept AAP out of any formal Opposition grouping and resisted attempts of Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury and Yadav to bring Kejriwal on joint opposition platform.

A senior AAP leader said Congress was going “overboard” without understanding the “game plan” of BJP. “This move to disqualify MLAs comes just a year ahead of Lok Sabha polls and Congress should understand that opposition should stand together. The BJP is targeting Opposition parties and there is no point in talking about Opposition unity,” the leader said.

Banerjee on Friday itself announced her support while CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat denounced the EC recommendation as “undemocratic and selective in procedure and substance”. Yadav too upped the ante in favour of AAP, saying constitutional bodies were being “misused”. BJP-ally Shiv Sena too have now questioned the EC decision.

For Congress, it has a score to settle with the AAP as the latter’s high voltage anti-corruption campaign had cost the Congress the Delhi Assembly polls as well as the 2014 General Elections. Congress leaders also feel that aligning with AAP does not make any sense for them as AAP grew on its vote base in the capital city where the Grand Old Party is yet to regain a grip.

However, AAP has now tweaked its strategy and ready to align with a joint opposition to take on BJP. Though Congress did not make any effort to rope in AAP, it had gone with the joint opposition on several issues inside and outside Parliament, including during the Presidential elections. Kejriwal was in touch with top opposition leaders like Yechury, Banerjee and Yadav.

Kejriwal had indicated his willingness to come under the opposition umbrella as early as in April last year during a breakfast meeting with Kerala Chief Minister and senior CPI(M) leader Pinarayi Vijayan.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jan 21, 2018)

Office of Profit: Jaya Bachchan first victim

After it used the office of profit rules for the first time to disqualify actress-turned-politician Jaya Bachchan 12 years ago, the Election Commission has received a number of petitions against lawmakers but most of these were rejected.

As latest as in October 2017, President Ram Nath Kovind rejected a petition demanding the disqualification of BJP MP from Madhya Pradesh Riti Pathak on the ground that holding the post of Zila Parishad president while contesting Parliament elections was not against rules.

From former Congress president Sonia Gandhi to NCP chief Sharad Pawar, several leaders have faced office of profit cases. These include Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, industrialist Anil Ambani and CPI(M) MP Mohd Salim.

While Gandhi and Ambani resigned from the post before the EC took a decision on complaints, those against Pawar and Patnaik were rejected. Gandhi resigned from Lok Sabha in 2006 while the EC was considering a petition against her arguing that the Chairpersonship of National Advisory Council (NAC) she was holding was office of profit.

The EC also rejected the petition against Pawar, finding no merit in the complaint about his presidentship in Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI). However, luck was not on the side of Bachchan, currently a Rajya Sabha MP, who lost her seat after the EC held that the post of Chairperson of Uttar Pradesh Film Development Corporation, which she was holding, was an office of profit.

Union Tourism Minister K Alphonse had also survived auch a petition in 2006 when he was an MLA in Kerala after the EC rejected contentions that he did not resign from the IAS as per procedure.

If the AAP MLAs now find themselves on the wrong side of the law, previous complaints by BJP’s Vijay Jolly against Congress 19 MLAs during Sheila Dikshit regime were rejected after finding no merit in the petition. Former Delhi MP and veteran BJP leader V K Malhotra had also faced an office of profit petition but that too was rejected.

According to Article 102 (1)(a), a person shall be disqualified as MP for holding any office of profit under the government of India or the government of any state, other than an office declared by Parliament by law not to disqualify its holder. Article 191 (1) (a) has a similar provision for the members of state assemblies.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jan 20, 2018)

Maoist incidents remain below 1,000-mark in 2017

Incidents of Maoists violence in the country remained below 1,000-mark in 2017 for the first time in eight years but number of security personnel getting killed in action are on the rise.

Also, latest Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) report shows that the number of arms training camps and ‘jan adalats’ organised by the naxals remained almost same in 2017 compared to 2016, though it has reduced considerably when compared to 2010.

Senior security officials feel that the action against the naxals across the country is on the right path though there is a lot more to be done in Chhattisgarh, the main theatre of Maoist violence, where an increase in number of deaths were reported despite a decline in incidents.

Last year, 908 incidents involving Maoists were reported across the country, as against 1,048 in 2016 and 1,089 in 2015. In 2010, when the Maoist movement was at its peak, there were 2,213 incidents.

Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha and Maharashtra account for 873 of the 908 incidents reported in 2017.

Maoist Incidents In India










Civilians Killed





Security Personnel Killed





Encounters with Police





Attacks on Police (including landmine attacks)





Maoists killed





One of the highlights in the analysis by the MHA is the decline in civilian deaths. While 2016 saw a rise in civilian deaths, ducking the declining trend since 2010, the casualties on this side has once again slided last year to below 200 mark at 188. In 2016, it was 213 while it was 171 in 2015.

However, there is no good news on the front on security personnel front, as the number of their deaths in action is rising for the past two years. While 2010 recorded 285 killings of security personnel, it was on the decline till 2015 when 59 such cases were reported. However, it rose to 65 in 2016 and then to 75 last year.

Incidents/Deaths in States

States 2010







Incidents/ Deaths

Chhattisgarh 625 / 343 466 / 101 395/107 373 / 130
Jharkhand 501 / 157 310 / 56 323 / 85 251 / 56
Bihar 307 / 97 110 / 17 129 / 28 99 / 22
Odisha 218 / 79 92 / 28 86 / 27 81 / 29
Maharashtra 94 / 45 55 / 18 73 / 23 69 / 16

The background paper prepared by the MHA had earlier acknowledged that extremists had fine-tuned their Tactical Counter Offensive Campaign (TCOC) “quite well” after suffering setbacks in 2016. The naxals have managed to perpetrate “some major incidents” by resorting to ambushes and IED attacks “taking the forces by surprise,” it had said.

It had then said the Maoists were trying to deflect the attention of forces away from Dandakaranya region, the naxal hotbed, by stepping up activities at the Chhattisgarh-Madhya Pradesh-Maharashtra tri-junction.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jan 20, 2018)


‘None other than family, staff should accompany MP on official tour’

Rajya Sabha MPs taking any other person than spouses, family members or staff on official tours by Parliamentary Committees will face the music.

The Upper House Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu has now issued fresh instructions to the MPs by revising the norms for taking spouse or companion by MPs on Parliamentary committee tours. If an MP violates the direction, he stands the chance of being debarred from undertaking any future tours organised by the committees.

The existing ‘Directions by the Chairman, Rajya Sabha under the Rules of Procedures of and Conduct of Business in Rajya Sabha’ allows the MP to take “any other person” on tour in exceptional situations if his spouse is not able to accompany him. For this, the prior permission of the Chairman should be obtained through the chief of the concerned Parliamentary panel.

Naidu has now revised this direction to allow only family members or one of the persons engaged for obtaining secretarial assistance whose name has been intimated to the Rajya Sabha Secretariat to accompany the MPs during such tours.

As per procedure, no member is allowed to take anyone during official tours but an exception is given on medical grounds that his or her spouse can accompany.

“The companion/attendant should strictly be a family member, which includes his/her son, daughter, brother or sister only, or any one of the persons engaged by the Member for obtaining secretarial assistance, whose name has been intimated to the Secretariat by the Member. In case of an unmarried or widow or widower Member or a Member without any issue, a family member may also include his/her parents or brother/sister and their children,” the latest direction said.

However, the MPs will have to bear all expenses, including lodging and transport, of the person accompanying him. Also, they would lose opportunity to be part of official tours in the future if they take a companion without prior permission.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jan 18, 2018)

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