SC Stops Felling Of Trees In Mumbai's Aarey

A special bench of Supreme Court on Monday asked the Maharashtra government to ensure that no trees are further axed at Mumbai’s Aarey Colony. The bench was hearing a suo moto PIL based on a letter written by students.

A Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Ashok Bhushan directed the government to maintain the status quo and said it would further hear all the petitions in the matter on October 21.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta assured the bench that no trees will be further cut in the Aarey Colony. He told the court that the people who were arrested for protesting against Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) action were released. “In case those are still not released shall be released immediately,” Mehta assured the court.

The court also asked Mehta to include the Ministry of Forest and Environment as a party in the matter.

Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde was representing the group of law students’ who sent a letter to Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, prompting him to set up a special bench to hear the matter.

Environment activists were represented by senior advocate Gopal Shankarnarayan.

During the course of hearing, Justice Arun Mishra asked whether or not the Aarey Colony was the eco-sensitive zone. To which, advocate Gopal Sankaranarayan said, “Wider issues relating to Aarey being a forest or not has been pending before the Supreme Court in a 2018 matter.”

He also apprised the court that a matter is also pending in National Green Tribunal as to whether Aarey is an eco-sensitive zone or not. “As the matter is pending the authorities should have not gone ahead with the felling of trees,” Sankaranarayan submitted.

On Sunday, the court received a letter by the students’ group against the axing of trees in the Aarey forest, decided to pursue it as public interest litigation (PIL) and constituted a “special bench” to hear the matter.

The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) started axing the trees on Friday night after the Bombay High Court rejected a bunch of petitions filed by NGOs and activists against the tree felling. Resolved to save the trees, many protestors gathered at the site to raise their voice against the felling of trees. Later, more people joined the protestors near the Aarey colony area, where the Mumbai Police imposed Section 144, thereby banning unlawful assembly.

The protesters have been demanding the relocation of the bus depot, which is a part of the Metro III project.

The police had held at least 84 protestors for allegedly disturbing public order and obstructing government officials from performing their duties. Twenty-nine out of 84 protestors were sent to five-day judicial custody by a local court on Saturday. The 29 protestors were granted bail on Sunday by Dindoshi court on a cash bond of Rs 7,000 each and asked to appear at the police station for further inquiry.

Leaders from various political parties including Shiv Sena and Congress have condemned the move to fell the trees.

On October 5, the Bombay High Court had refused to entertain urgent mentioning by Aarey activists to stay the ongoing tree cutting. (ANI)

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India Gets Info On Swiss Bank Accounts

The Swiss Federal Tax Administration (FTA) said on Monday it has exchanged information on financial accounts with 75 countries including India, under the framework of the global standard on automatic exchange of information (AEOI).

Following the first exchange last year in which no technical problems were encountered, this year the AEOI involved a total of 75 countries.

With 63 of these countries, the exchange of information was reciprocal. In the case of 12 countries, Switzerland received information but did not provide any, either because those countries do not yet meet the international requirements on confidentiality and data security or because they chose not to receive data.

About 7,500 reporting financial institutions (banks, trusts, and insurers) are currently registered with the FTA. These institutions collected the data and transferred it to the FTA.

The FTA sent information on around 3.1 million financial accounts to the partner states and received information on around 2.4 million from them. The largest exchange was with Germany (in both directions) as was the case in the previous year. The FTA cannot provide any information on the amount of financial assets.

Switzerland has committed itself to adopting the global standard for the international automatic exchange of information in tax matters. The legal basis for the implementation of the AEOI in Switzerland came into force on January 1, 2017.

Identification, account and financial information are exchanged including name, address, state of residence and tax identification number as well as information concerning the reporting financial institution, account balance, and capital income.

The exchanged information allows the cantonal tax authorities to verify whether taxpayers have correctly declared their financial accounts abroad in their tax returns.

Next year, Switzerland’s network of AEOI partner states will expand further to nearly 90 countries. The OECD Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes reviews the implementation of AEOI. (ANI)

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'Saudi Prince Snubbed Pak, Recalled Jet'

Seems like Pakistan has suffered another blow on the diplomatic front. A Lahore-based weekly magazine ‘Friday Times’ has claimed that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s actions at the UN General Assembly miffed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman to an extent that he ordered his private jet flying the Pakistani delegation from New York to Karachi, to return midway.

When Khan was on a two-day visit to Saudi Arabia, the Crown Prince had insisted Pakistan Prime Minister to fly to the United States on his “special aircraft”.

However, during his return trip, Khan, who was travelling in the jet provided to him by the Saudi government, had to deboard it midway and board a commercial flight as the Saudi plane had developed a technical glitch minutes after taking off from New York airport.

Interestingly, the Friday Times in its article revealed that there were no reports of any technical glitch and the Pakistani delegation, including Khan, were “disemboweled” from the Saudi’s aircraft following Salman’s resentment.

The magazine, in its report titled ‘Tryst with democracy’, critisized Pakistan Prime Minister.

“Imran Khan has returned from New York a ‘conquering hero’. Never mind that he admitted Pakistan’s culpability in germinating Al Qaeda. Never mind that he raised the world’s hackles by brandishing nuclear weapons and threatening Armageddon. Never mind that the vicious Indian lockdown in Kashmir persists. Never mind that the prospects of Indo-Pak dialogue are dimmer than ever before. Never mind that a territorial state conflict has been relegated to a clash of fierce ideologies representing ‘Islamic’ Pakistan and ‘Hindu’ India.”

The report added, “There were some unintended consequences of the trip too. Inexplicably, the Saudi crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, was so alienated by some dimensions of the Pakistani prime minister’s diplomacy in New York – he couldn’t have been happy at the prospect of Imran Khan, Recip Tayyib Erdogan and Mahathir Mohammad planning to jointly represent the Islamic bloc, nor with Pakistan’s interlocution with Iran without his explicit approval — that he visibly snubbed Imran by ordering his private jet to disembowel the Pakistani delegation. Significantly, too, Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi, lost her job (did Khan’s cronies have anything to do with it?) before the dust of ‘victory at the UN’ had settled.”

Meanwhile, Islamabad which has been left red-faced has rejected claims made by the magazine that the report was “totally false and absolutely carries no truth whatsoever”. (ANI)

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SC To Hear Plea On Aarey Tree Cutting

The Supreme Court on Sunday took cognisance into the trees felling matter in Mumbai’s Aarey Colony and said that a special bench will sit on Monday to hear the petition submitted by a group of law students protesting against the felling.

The students staged protest against the axing of the trees by the authorities in Aarey colony for construction of a metro car shed.

The top court bench agreed to hear the matter after a letter was sent to Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi by students to intervene in the matter.

“A special bench has been constituted to hear the matter tomorrow, October 7 at 10 am on the basis of a letter dated October 6 addressed by Rishav Ranjan with regard to the felling of trees in Aarey forest, Maharashtra which has been registered as a public interest litigation,” the Supreme Court said in a notice.

Earlier in the day, a Mumbai court granted bail to the 29 protesters, who were arrested from Aarey for allegedly disturbing public order and obstructing government officials from performing their duties.

Advocate Aditya Bambulkar, who appeared for the accused, confirmed that they were granted conditional bail by the Dindoshi court on a cash bond of Rs 7,000 each and they have to appear at the police station for further inquiry.

The accused were arrested under various sections of the Indian Penal Code.

One of the family members of the arrested person said: “They have been charged under the worst sections of the IPC which will affect their career. Government has to understand that we are protecting our mother nature and we are not criminals.”

Tanvir Nazam, Bombay High Court Lawyer, said, “If they will move to Bombay High Court to quash the FIR then the decision will come in their favour. These are not maintainable these charges are frivolous. They are students. We will seek sanction to prosecute the public servant in this case.”

He further claimed that he has proof showing that the protestors were peacefully protesting while the police were beating them.

On Saturday, a local court had sent 29 people to judicial custody for five days while police had detained 55 others in connection with protests against the cutting of trees in Aarey colony area.

On late-Friday, many protestors gathered at the site to raise their voice against the felling of trees. Later, more and more people joined protestors near the Aarey colony area, where the Mumbai Police imposed Section 144, thereby banning unlawful assembly.

The protesters opposed the cutting of trees for the construction of the car shed of the metro station. They have demanded the relocation of the bus depot, which is a part of the Metro III project.

Leaders from various political parties including Shiv Sena and Congress have condemned the move to fell the trees.

On October 5, the Bombay High Court had refused to entertain urgent mentioning by Aarey activists to stay the ongoing tree cutting. (ANI)

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Candle March IN Srinagar

Next, PDP Delegation To Meet Mehbooba

As National Conference delegation met with detained party  leaders Farooq and Omar Abdullah on Sunday, the J&K government allowed a delegation of People’s Democratic Party to meet party chief Mehbooba Mufti on Monday.

Speaking to ANI, PDP leader Firdous Tak said: “In the morning, we had requested the Governor to allow us to meet our party chief. Our request has been accepted. We will discuss the current situation and every other issue related to Jammu and Kashmir with Mufti. It has been two months since she and various other party leaders were put under detention.”

After the Central government decided to revoke the special status given to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370, two months ago, the region was placed under a communications blockade and several mainstream political leaders, including National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar Abdullah and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti were put under house arrest.

Last month, the Supreme Court had allowed Mufti’s daughter Iltija to travel from Chennai to Srinagar to meet her mother in private amid curfew in several areas of J&K.In her plea, Iltija had said that she is concerned about her mother’s health as she had not met her for a month after the abrogation of Article 370.

As political parties came down heavily on Governor Satya Pal Malik and the Centre for putting these leaders under house arrest, the Raj Bhavan said that such decisions are taken by the local police administration and the Governor had no role to play in it.

On Saturday, the Governor permitted an NC delegation to meet under-detention Farooq and Omar Abdullah.

Earlier today, a 15 member delegation of the party met Farooq at his residence in Srinagar.

“We are happy that they both are well and in high spirits. They are pained and anguished about the developments, particularly the lockdown of the people,” NC leader Devender Rana said.

The delegation sought the release of both leaders to kick-start the political process in the region ahead of the Block Development Council (BDC) elections. (ANI)

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India Assures Bangladesh On NRC Issue

Bangladesh raised the issue of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) during the discussions between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina on Saturday.

According to sources, the India side, however, pointed out that it is an ongoing process and “we have to see how the situation emerges.”

On Friday, while addressing a press conference, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson, Raveesh Kumar had also said that NRC was a Supreme Court-mandated process and was ongoing.

“On NRC, we have been saying that this is a Supreme Court-mandated process. It is an ongoing exercise. Therefore, from the MEA perspective, there is nothing that I can add at this stage. I think it is important to understand that the due process has to be completed first,” Kumar has said during a press briefing yesterday.

On September 1, it was reported that India had said people excluded from the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam have not become “Stateless” and will enjoy all rights as before till they exhaust all remedies available under the law.

“Exclusion from the NRC has no implication on the rights of an individual resident in Assam. For those who are not in the final list will not be detained and will continue to enjoy all the rights as before till they have exhausted all the remedies available under the law. It does not make the excluded person ‘Stateless’,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had said.

He had termed as “incorrect” commentaries in sections of the foreign media about aspects of the final NRC.

Kumar had said updating of the NRC is a statutory, transparent, legal process mandated by the Supreme Court and this is not an executive-driven process. (ANI)

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NC Team Allowed To Meet Abdullahs

Two months after the abrogation of Article 370 in the Valley and subsequent detention of National Conference leaders Farooq and Omar Abdullah, the Jammu & Kashmir government on Saturday allowed a delegation of the NC to meet the father-son duo, informed party spokesperson, Madan Mantoo.

A 15-member delegation will leave from Jammu on Sunday to meet both the leaders in Srinagar.

“Jammu and Kashmir government has allowed a delegation of National Conference from Jammu to meet party president Farooq Abdullah and vice president Omar Abdullah, who are under detention,” said Mantoo.

“The delegation led by provincial president Devender Singh Rana and comprising of former party legislators will leave by Indigo flight from Jammu on October 6 in the morning,” he said.

Speaking about the government’s confirmation, Devender Rana said: “Today, we have got the confirmation that a delegation will be allowed to meet Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah. A 15-member delegation of NC leaders, all of them former legislators, is going to Srinagar tomorrow morning.”

The spokesperson informed that the government gave permission after a request was made by Rana to Governor Satya Pal Malik on Thursday.

Farooq and Omar Abdullah and scores of other leaders in the Kashmir Valley had been detained in the wake of abrogation of Article 370 while restrictions were imposed on the movement of prominent party leaders in the Jammu province. (ANI)

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Haryana Cong Ex-President Quits Party

Stating that the party has drifted away from its basic principle and ideology, former Haryana Pradesh Congress chief, Ashok Tanwar announced his resignation from the primary membership of Congress on Saturday.

“Now the Congress is the anti-thesis of democracy, plagued by feudal attitudes and medieval conspiracies…Congress visibly have drifted away from its basic principles and ideology. My experience of last few years has been that internal democracy in the party is being killed by selfish interests of a few lobbies”, he said in his resignation letter.

Tanwar’s resignation comes ahead of assembly elections in Haryana this month, for which he was also among the party’s star campaigner.

Tanwar tweeted his resignation letter on Saturday and he wrote, “After long deliberations with party workers and for reasons well known to all Congressman and public, I hereby resign from the primary membership of the INC India.”

In a four-page resignation letter, Tanwar has expressed that Congress is going through an internal crisis.

He also expressed his discontent over ticket distribution during the Lok Sabha polls and in Jind bye-elections earlier this year.

In the letter, Tanwar further stated, “In the last few years there is a conspiracy going on in the party to eliminate leaders groomed by Rahul Gandhi in the last one and a half-decade.”

He also outlined that his fight is not personal but against the system which is destroying the grand old party. (ANI)

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29 Held As Mumbai Protests Tree Cutting

At least 29 people have been arrested since Friday night and Section 144 imposed was imposed by Mumbai Police at Aarey Colony blocking all roads to it after protesters gathered cut down over 2,500 trees for a Metro project.

The 29 people were arrested by Aarey police station since 11 pm last night under various sections of the Indian Penal Code for disturbing public order and obstructing government officials from performing their duties

Protests erupted on Friday night at Aarey forest area after the Bombay High Court dismissed all petitions against the proposed cutting down of over 2,500 trees in Aarey Colony of Mumbai to make way for a Metro car shed and refused to declare the colony as a forest.

On Saturday morning, Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi was also detained by the local police for trying to enter Aarey Colony, which had been cordoned off for protestors. She was seen outside the Samta Nagar Police station where she was taken by police.

Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC imposed in the area near the metro-rail project site in Aarey forest. The section is issued in urgent cases of security threats, of nuisance or apprehended danger of some event that has the potential to cause trouble or damage to human life or property. This Section prohibits public gathering.

Apart from the political leader, activist Saridun Bhujwala was also picked up by the police from Goreagon Highway located near the Aaarey Colony entry point.

Scores of locals including environmental activists have been opposing the cutting of trees for the construction of the car shed of the metro station. They are demanding the relocation of the bus depot, which is a part of the Metro III project.

Several politicians across parties have condemned the move to fell the trees.

Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray tweeted: “A project that should be executed with pride, the Metro 3, @MumbaiMetro3 has to do it in the cover of the night, with shame, slyness and heavy cop cover. The project supposed to get Mumbai clean air, is hacking down a forest with a leopard, rusty-spotted cat and more.”

The Congress also hit out at the Centre for the cutting down of trees.

“So much for being a crusader for the environment. PM Modi’s empty rhetoric on protecting nature was just a crowd-pleaser for global audiences, back home his govt’s actions are wildly different. #AareyForest,” the Congress tweeted on its official account. (ANI)

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SC Building

5 SC Judges Recuse From Navlakha Case

Days after Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and three other judges recused themselves from hearing a petition filed by activist Gautam Navlakha in Bhima Koregaon case, another judge on Thursday dogged the case.

Justice S Ravindra Bhat recused himself from hearing Navlakha’s plea seeking quashing of an FIR registered against him in the case. Earlier this week, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and a bench of Justices NV Ramana, R Subhash Reddy, and BR Gavai had recused themselves.

Navlakha had filed an appeal challenging Bombay High Court’s judgment which had refused to quash the FIR.

The matter had come up before a bench of Justice Arun Mishra, Justice Vineet Saran and Justice Ravindra Bhat today.

Senior advocates Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Nitya Ramakrishna, appearing for Navlakha, told the court that interim protection from arrest granted to their client by Bombay High Court is slated to expire tomorrow.

Navlakha was booked under provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including waging a war and sedition. He is accused of having links with banned Naxal groups.

By its recent judgment, the High Court had arrived at the prima facie conclusion that there is sufficient material for the investigation to continue against Navlakha.

The High Court had, however, said that the observations made in its order are only prima facie in nature and that they should not influence the trial court’s decision in the matter.

The High Court had also extended the interim protection from arrest given to Navlakha giving time to him to approach the Supreme Court.

The Maharashtra government has also filed a caveat petition in the matter seeking to be heard before any orders are passed by the apex court. (ANI)

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