#India – Sexual Harassment at Workplace #Vaw #Womenrights #mustread


Workplace Sexual Harassment

The Way Things Are

Vol – XLVIII No. 24, June 15, 2013 | Naina Kapur , EPW
sh

Sixteen years after the landmark Vishaka case judgment of the Supreme Court, the government introduced in the Lok Sabha in September 2012 a defective Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill. The Act, as it stands, has failed to draw on the extensive research on sexual harassment that has been done in this country and elsewhere. Further, its inaccurate phrasing of workplace sexual harassment and mismatches between subheadings and content of the text eclipses the most common forms of workplace sexual harassment.

Naina Kapur (naina.kapur@gmail.com) is an advocate who pioneered the Vishaka directions on workplace sexual harassment.

Before 1997, “sexual harassment” had never settled into the Indian legal lexicon. We were instead saddled with an archaic Victorian template which criminalised “outraging or insulting” a “woman’s modesty”. It made us pretend that we had it all covered. But we never did. Unwelcome words, gestures, images, language, and all those subtle intangibles which sexually violate a woman, were comfortably woven into the pattern of life rather than the fabric of law. It all became a silent and acceptable part of “the way things are”.

Bhanwari Case

It was not until the 1990s that the sexual torment endured by a rural level change agent in Rajasthan and her subsequent determination to challenge what led to her violation gave rise to a long overdue common-sense approach to what needed to change. It was us. Sexual harassment hit the Indian legal map when Bhanwari, a saathin in Rajasthan, prevented the child marriage within an upper caste community. In doing so she was subjected to unwelcome sexual harassment through words and gestures from men of that community. When she reported the harassment, the local authority did nothing. That omission was at great cost to Bhanwari – she was subsequently gang-raped by those very men.

Surprisingly, nationwide calls for justice hovered around demands for a stringent criminal law response, i e, the filing of a first information report (FIR). With a history of failures by the criminal justice system to stem the pandemic of violence towards women, such demands appeared futile. At the risk of offending purists of criminal law, it has always struck me as somewhat offensive that a breach of criminal law is effectively treated as a crime against the state. Each FIR becomes the pursuit of a culprit by the police for a harm which the “State” has endured. At most the complainant woman is only ever a witness.

Bhanwari’s experience invited us to change that pattern. Rather than perceive sexual harassment in the home, on the street, at work or in accessing justice as individual personal injuries, we needed to experience it as a constitutional concern. The microcosmic commonality of Bhanwari’s experience of sexual harassment mirrored what scores of working Indian women faced in India – everyday, everywhere, all the time. In the absence of any existing legal response to “sexual harassment”, the opportunity was ripe for a comprehensive approach. In 1992, therefore, we approached the Supreme Court of India in a public interest litigation to do precisely that – rethink “the way things are”.

Sexual Harassment at Work

Sexual harassment was a form of discriminatory conduct at the workplace. It hampered women’s constitutional rights to equality and dignity. It sabotaged work performance, affected working environments, impaired women’s progress, resulted in absenteeism and cost both individuals and institutions in terms of qualitative health and growth. The statistics of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) reveal how 55% of women from the ages of 14 to 55 in Italy have been subjected to sexual harassment (2004); sexual harassment in the United States army has cost close to $250 million (1999 survey); 40 to 50% of women in the European Union have faced some form of sexual harassment; and a 2002 survey by Sakshi (a non-governmental organisation) of 2,000 persons across workplaces found 80% acknowledging that workplace sexual harassment existed in India.

Statistics apart, constitutional equality was never the lens through which we viewed women’s experience of sexual harm at work. It took that rare creative courage of a judge, the late Justice J S Verma (then chief justice of India) to rise to the occasion and in 1997 we were given Vishaka vs State of Rajasthan. Unlike anything before it, Vishaka was a visionary decision. Primarily, it filled a legal vacuum. Second, it viewed sexual harassment through an equality lens and thus prioritised prevention. Third, in the absence of legislation, it became legally binding on all workplaces. Unlike the criminal law, it was the State, the employer, and the institution that had to own up for the equality and dignity of women at work.

Finally, it gave us a map for creating accountability. Workplaces, organisations, institutions (including educational establishments) were compelled to raise awareness about sexual harassment, take steps to prevent it and to offer effective redress. We sought and were granted the presence of a third party expert on complaints committees for sexual harassment, a mechanism mandated by Vishaka for all workplaces.

It was an innovative moment in the history of women’s constitutional rights within all workplaces. That is what a visionary approach does for people’s rights. It expands and uplifts them through an inclusive process. Vishaka changed the map of how we could respond to other forms of violence against women. Unfortunately, the moment and momentum was frittered away by a state unable and unwilling to adhere to the bar Vishaka had set. Despite the Government of India’s own ratification of Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the women’s convention which promised to uphold the equality rights of women in all aspects of life, its commitment rang hollow. Added to this was increased public immunity to the daily sexual exploitation of women who never took adequate notice of what Vishaka had to offer.

‘To Do Something’

Still, Vishaka made it impossible for us to slip back to the way things are. It gave us language. Women’s experience of unwelcome sexual conduct was no longer a patronising moral transgression of her ”modesty”, it was sexual harassment – a violation of her constitutional equality.

Sixteen years post the landmark judgment, the Government of India introduced a new bill. Such delay might have been justified had excellence and improving on Vishaka been the goal. In reality, the state simply awoke from its lengthy slumber to “do something”. Amidst the din of the coal block allocations scam in the Lok Sabha, a defective Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill was allowed to pass into law without debate in September 2012. Before the Rajya Sabha, a feebler introduction was made by the minister whose “vision” suggested that it was a bill “to make them economically empowered so that they can do their work properly” – a condescending preface to constitutional equality which was the backbone of the Vishaka judgment. Adding insult to injury, nowhere does the debate find mention of constitutional equality.

Apart from the statement of objects, there is little in the language and content of the new Act which has continued to raise the bar, let alone retain the spirit of Vishaka. An itemised definition of what constitutes “workplace” might have been more easily stated as any place where a woman is present by virtue of her work – a suggestion supported by many at a consultation held in the presence of parliamentary standing committee members. Educational institutes have complained that the definition does not go far enough to include students who, while not workers, frequently suffer coercive sexual harassment on campus or otherwise linked to their educational growth, a concern endorsed by the Justice Verma Committee. Such institutes will need to adopt a creative approach to ensure students are covered. Extensive cross-country research carried out for the Vishaka hearings provided contemporary approaches to the definition and a road map for preventing workplace sexual harassment.

Use of such knowledge was scarcely evident in crafting the latest Act. Inaccurate phrasing (a trait which characterises much of the Act) of hostile workplace sexual harassment eclipses the relevance of the most common forms of workplace sexual harassment. Mismatches between subheadings and content compound that perception. A section titled “Prevention of Sexual Harassment”, for instance, fails to deliver on anything related to preventive measures. Instead, the section highlights “circumstances” which may amount to sexual harassment. Such glaring oversight betrays an abysmal lack of homework by the legislative draughtsperson and ignorance about the issue by parliamentary representatives across the political spectrum.

Diluted Version of Vishaka

As for the internal and local complaint committees now mandated under the Act in all workplaces, political understanding of what was intended to be an inclusive and informed redress mechanism simply is not there. Diluting third party presence on these committees to persons committed to “the cause of women” demeans the skill and specialisation required to meet the nuances of workplace sexual harassment. In a recent example, a lawyer committed to the “cause of women” was inducted into a government department complaints committee. Post the proceedings, my office was contacted by the department for a follow-up. Amazingly, the record revealed how the person accused of sexual harassment was allowed to openly question the complainant as part of the committee proceedings – a fundamental violation of the non-intimidation principle designed to protect complainants from just such practices. Third party persons (lawyers or not) must bring knowledge, skill and capacity to the table to ensure processes are professionally informed and unbiased. Vishaka envisaged an inclusive complaints committee to build ownership of the issue, ensure fair treatment and enhance knowledge and experience around workplace sexual harassment.

Of all sections, the most disturbing provision in the Act (Section 14) is one which punishes a “false or malicious complaint”. Such inventions are only ever peculiar to gender-specific legislations which relate to women and violence. In no other area of law do such penalty clauses exist as a matter of practice. Its presence in the new Act has no legal basis.

Investigations (and this is true of any law) are designed to determine whether a harm occurred or not. That is it. To premise an Act on the assumption that women are potential liars about their human rights abuses reeks of stereotyping women and for that reason would be constitutionally untenable. Flawed drafting further amplifies the lack of political seriousness towards socially relevant legislation for women. The “false” charges section provides that “mere” inability to substantiate a complaint or provide adequate proof “need not” attract action against the complainant, but does not enlighten us on what “need not” means. Does it imply that if a complaint does not succeed, it “ought not to but still might” attract action for false charges?

The absence of user-friendly, unambiguous and accessible language throughout the new Act renders it prone to typical gender stereotyping in such cases. In all consultations on the bill, this retrograde provision was rejected outright. To foist it into the legislation can only be perceived as an attempt to discourage women from making complaints of sexual harassment.

In the 16 years since Vishaka, progressive developments have taken place in international guidelines and practices on workplace sexual harassment. Prescribing “duties” under the new Act as a way to compel employers to prevent sexual harassment runs contrary to contemporary human rights emphasis on promoting “responsibilities”. It is the difference between what employers feel obliged to do (and hence resist and scuttle) from what they would responsibly own and do (and hence, be proud of).

Clearly, the absence of urgency and enhanced vision has given us a diluted version of Vishaka. Dilution is what traditionally allows sexually inappropriate conduct to fester, spread and eventually escalate into rape in the first place. That is how it all began in Bhanwari’s case. For that reason, a 16-year wait offers no excuse for not getting a law that mirrored global standards of excellence and understanding in systemically tackling workplace sexual harassment.

At the same time, legislation, flawed or otherwise, cannot excuse us from implementing change, one which calls upon our own willingness to connect the dots. At most, legislation has reignited attention towards the plague of workplace sexual harassment. Owning the constitutional subtext to make it work is our job. Unexpected but welcome initiatives have begun to dot the landscape even pre-legislation. A recent award by the industrial tribunal in West Bengal offers an unusually credible direction in the sexual harassment case of senior journalist Rina Mukherjee against The Statesman.

Rina Mukherjee vs The Statesman

Within six months of joining The Statesman, Rina Mukerhjee lost her job. While the company alleged that her work was “tardy” and “lacking in quality”, it suppressed Rina’s complaint of sexual harassment against the news coordinator, Ishan Joshi. Within her first month of work, Rina had taken her complaint directly to the managing director (MD), Ravinder Kumar. Understandably, she expected him to act professionally and intervene, but time passed and nothing happened. Exploiting her status as a probationer, Rina was fired by The Statesman.

Such patterns are common to organisations who fail to see the importance of promoting a workplace free from sexual harassment. Frequently, a woman on probation will find it impossible to make a complaint, let alone succeed with one. Hence, most women hesitate and tolerate the behaviour. Rina was an exception. Post her termination she filed a formal complaint with the MD, The Statesman’s owner, C R Irani and the West Bengal Women’s Commission with the firm belief that her termination was a result of her sexual harassment complaint.

The matter was eventually heard by the Industrial Tribunal (West Bengal). In a rare display of social context, insight and clarity amongst the judiciary, judge Kundan Kumar Kumai, rejected The Statesman’s claim that Rina only referred to “professional” harassment in her complaint to Ravindra Kumar. In Kumai’s view, Kumar’s failure to dig deeper was clearly suspect. In the judge’s words:

He [Ravindra Kumar] never started any enquiry however discreet it may have been. Fairplay demanded at least an explanation from the senior executives as to why there was an allegation of professional harassment against them. Rather he has gone hammer and tongs over the delay made in making the sexual harassment public, in writing. What else could she have done… she made a verbal complaint of sexual harassment and professional harassment and she was dismissed from her service even without completion of her probation period.

It should also not be forgotten that the lady workman was not only well-educated but had about ten years of journalism, with other well known publications, behind her and not a novice or a rookie journalist, at that relevant time.

Moreover…it becomes clear that there was no Committee on sexual harassment, as per the Honb’le Supreme Court’s direction in Vishaka vs State of Rajasthan, existing in The Statesman, at that relevant time…to expect-the lady workman to file a written complaint and not to believe the same, when it has been filed ‘at a later date’ is sheer bias.

The Statesman was ordered to reinstate Rina and grant her full back wages from the time of her termination to the date of the order. It took 11 years but Rina won an order that dispels assumptions about why women take time to complain about sexual harassment, how those in power try through sheer numbers and gagged employees to dismiss such claims, and how workplaces can no longer take legal compliance on sexual harassment lightly. HadThe Statesman taken her complaint seriously at the outset and complied with Vishaka, the result could have been beneficial for all – for Rina, women workers, the workplace environment and inevitably the company’s reputation.

Conclusions

Repetition creates a life pattern. Enduring workplace conduct which sexually demeans, intimidates, offends, excludes and limits women is not only about the patterns of sexist behaviour, it is also about the repetitive nature of our own complacency. We have become immune to the pervasive harm of sexual harassment and its unconstitutional character.

People like judge Kumai, justice Verma, Bhanwari and Rina remind us that this need not be so. They inspire the rest of us who care, to use our carefully crafted skills, know-how and passion to innovate and transform the most ill-crafted provisions in law to work for us rather than limit us.

Sexual harassment need not be “the way things are”. It is up to us as political leaders, judges, responsible workplaces and individuals to change that pattern of thought. Having found its way onto our constitutional map for all to follow the direction and visibility of workplace sexual harassment will be determined by the men and women who understand the professional and human worth of speaking up. As frightening as that can be, it will enable us to own our constitutional equality not has some elusive right we should continue to aspire for, but as something we can live, experience and embrace everyday. That is not the way things are, that is the way things should be.

 

 

How Varun Gandhi silenced the system #hatespeech


After the hate speeches, a shocking subversion of the law. Rahul Kotiyal and Atul Chaurasia chronicle how BJP’s Varun Gandhi played dirty to save his political future

Rahul Kotiyal
Atul Chaurasia

This is a story about a terrible travesty. Varun Gandhi, 33, has recently been in the news for two reasons. First, he has been exonerated of all charges in the hate speeches he allegedly made in the run-up to the 2009 Lok Sabha election. Second, he has been made the national general secretary of the BJP, the youngest politician ever to be elevated to this post.

Now, an explosive TEHELKA sting investigation shows he is not entitled to either. TEHELKA’s investigation proves that not only did Varun make the venomous speeches he is accused of, he has compounded the original wrong by brazenly subverting the entire judicial process to get his name cleared. He has also indulged in anti-party activities, deliberately making his own party candidate lose an Assembly election in Uttar Pradesh in 2012 so that a Samajwadi Party (SP) leader sympathetic to him could win and help him fix the cases against him.

The subversion of justice has been so blatant that all 88 witnesses in the cases have turned hostile. This is perhaps unprecedented in any criminal case in the world. Many of these witnesses have been caught on TEHELKA’s hidden cameras admitting they were coerced or bribed into changing their testimonies. They speak of how Pilibhit Superintendent of Police Amit Verma and other police officers threatened witnesses. In one instance, a witness claims he received a call directly from Varun’s office. The witnesses also speak of how the judicial process was turned completely on its head; how their testimonies were taken in the absence of the judge; how their statements were crafted by the lawyers and their thumb impressions or signatures taken; of how they were not cross-examined, often not even summoned to present their testimonies.

Startlingly, these accounts are strongly corroborated by key BJP and SP leaders caught on TEHELKA’s cameras. (In fact, BJP leader Parmeshwari Dayal Gangwar— district vice-president of Pilibhit — gives the most devastating account of Varun’s actions.)

The investigation also found that Public Prosecutor MP Verma — tasked with upholding the law of the land and bringing the guilty to justice — and the court itself were suspiciously negligent in following due process in bringing the high-profile leader to justice.

For instance, 18 witnesses were examined in a span of just two days. They all turned hostile, but neither the public prosecutor nor the court raised any flags. They failed to object even when other witnesses gave blatantly contradictory statements. Further, when Varun refused to give a voice sample — crucial evidence for the prosecution’s case — the public prosecutor agreed to it without any objection. Several important witnesses were not even produced in the court because the public prosecutor himself filed an application saying there was no need for them to do so.

As an example of cynical political expediency — a willingness to bend every institution of democracy — the story could not get starker. Or darker. What also makes this story particularly significant is that it lays bare how easily systems are subverted by the powerful in this country.

Before the evidence, the backdrop: Varun Gandhi’s controversial political journey began in 2009 when he decided to stand for his first Lok Sabha election from Pilibhit in Uttar Pradesh on a BJP ticket. As a Nehru-Gandhi scion, Varun should have been one of the natural inheritors of what is perhaps the world’s most illustrious political legacy. But his mother Maneka Gandhi’s famous spat with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had meant political anonymity for him.

In March 2009, that anonymity was rudely broken when visual footage of Varun spewing venom at Muslims in his election rallies erupted on national television. The country was astounded. Here was Jawaharlal Nehru’s great-grandson in a role absolutely antithetical to the idea of India his great grandfather had played such a pivotal role in establishing.

Millions watched as these hate speeches — captured by several people on their phones and cameras — were played on loop on television channels. At the Election Commission’s insistence, two cases were filed against Varun for inciting hatred and creating communal disharmony. He was arrested on 28 March 2009 and stayed behind bars for 20 days.

Another case was registered against him for the violence that took place during his surrender at the Pilibhit court. He was charged for rioting, damaging public property and attempt to murder. Yet, though thousands had heard his speeches at the rallies and millions had watched it on television, on 4 May 2013, the Sessions Court of Pilibhit acquitted him of all the charges in these three cases, on the grounds of insufficient evidence.

The illegal and immoral lengths Varun went to, to get these exonerations, have all been caught in TEHELKA’s sting investigation. But this was not Varun’s first brush with the law. He had picked the Pilibhit parliamentary seat for his first election because his mother Maneka had won several Lok Sabha elections from there. On 1 August 2008, on a tour through his constituency, Varun and his associates were headed towards Barkhera, a town 22 km from Pilibhit. On the way, Varun’s car got stalled in a pothole in a village called Jyorah Kalyanpur. While the problem was being sorted, Varun and his supporters got down and tried talking to people around. Most huts in the village were sporting flags of the Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan (RKMS) and the Congress party. This displeased Varun and he enquired why this was the case. A local shopkeeper, Bharatveer Gangwar, replied that the flags were there because the RKMS was working for the people of the area.

Phool Chand ‘Acharya Ji’, a resident of the village and an eyewitness to the incident, recounts what happened after this. “Varun got angry with Bharatveer and said whatever had been done for the village had been done by his mother Maneka. Bharatveer replied that people supported RKMS leader VM Singh because he had fought for the welfare of the local sugarcane farmers. Varun did not like this and slapped Bharatveer. Varun’s supporters also started beating him. The villagers tried to stop them but Varun’s supporters had weapons and no one had to courage to stop Varun.”

At 6.30 pm on 1 August, Bharatveer lodged an FIR against Varun and his associates at Barkhera Police Station. On the other hand, an FIR was also lodged from Varun’s side by Yogendra Gangwar, the then BJP district president, at 9.10 pm. While the first FIR said exactly what Phool Chand told us, the second FIR said that Bharatveer had fired at Varun from a country-made pistol, looted 10,000 from him and fled with his associates while brandishing the pistol.

The police investigated both the cases, found the case lodged against Bharatveer as false and filed a closure report. In the case lodged against Varun, however, the police filed a chargesheet on 24 December 2008. This was the first criminal case filed against Varun in Pilibhit district.

By this time, Varun had understood that the Gandhi name alone was not sufficient to ensure his victory in the constituency. There were several reasons for this. In the delimitation exercise, many areas that voted exclusively for Maneka had gone out of the constituency. To exacerbate the challenge, Bahedi, which had a mixed population of both Hindus and Muslims, had come into Pilibhit constituency. Three of the five Assembly seats of Pilibhit had Muslim MLAs whereas the population of Muslims in the region was only 35 percent. Mindful of this, Varun seems to have decided the best way to ensure a victory was to polarise the election on communal lines.

This became evident in early 2009 as the campaign picked up pace. According to the locals, on 22 February, Varun declared himself as the only saviour of Hindus in the country at Ram Manohar Lohia Balika Inter College of Lalori Khera village in Pilibhit and started speaking against Muslims. This hate speech at Lalori Khera was mentioned in the election petition filed against him in the Allahabad High Court. Throughout the course of its investigation, TEHELKA was repeatedly told that before the 2009 General Election, wherever Varun held a poll meeting, he swore on the Gita that he would “cut off the hands and necks of Muslims”.

On 6 March 2009, Varun was supposed to address an election meeting at the Deshnagar locality of Pilibhit. He reached the venue at around 9 pm. Shariq Parvez, a local reporter, tried to record the speech but was forced by Varun’s supporters to turn off his camera. He could only record a few minutes. Varun told those gathered at the Deshnagar rally, “If you want to save the Hindu religion, vote for me. If a Hindu doesn’t vote for me, he would be betraying his religion.” He also warned, “See! These Muslims may say anything… every vote of theirs would go for that katua (a derogatory term for Muslims…) understand? Therefore, every vote of yours should go for Hindustan…”

In the meantime, Shailendra Singh, a local youth, recorded Varun’s entire speech on his cell phone. Shailendra says, “I had heard from several people that Varun was regularly giving speeches to inflame communal passions. Therefore I decided to record his speech. No one was allowed to make a video so I switched on the record button on my cell phone and kept it in my pocket.” (TEHELKA is in possession of this audio clip of around 28 minutes.)

The next day, on 7 March, Varun gave the same anti-Muslim speech at a locality known as Dalchand. He told the people that 13 Hindu women had been raped by Muslims over the past few days, yet the offenders were roaming scot-free. He also warned the public that the area had three Muslim MLAs, and if the trend continued, the area would turn into Pakistan. People needed to vote for him, he said, so he could establish a Hindu nation. (TEHELKA enquired about these rapes, but found no complaints or FIRs had been registered. This rumour about the rapes though had spread like wildfire and become a huge point of tension before the election.)

By this time, all of Pilibhit knew about Varun’s inflammatory speeches. On 8 March, a few reporters succeeded in recording his speech at Barkhera. It was this hate speech that a shocked nation watched in 2009. Several sadhus dressed in saffron were also present on the dais with him.

Taking serious note of the case, the Election Commission transferred the Superintendent of Police and the District Magistrate of Pilibhit and directed the district administration to take strict action against Varun. Two criminal cases were filed against him on 17 and 18 March for his inflammatory speeches at Dalchand and Barkhera.

VM Singh — a distant relative of Varun’s and the Congress candidate contesting against him — sent the Deshnagar audio clip to the Election Commission on 16 April. He also sent affidavits of four eyewitnesses — Prashant Kumar Rao, Mukhtar Ahmed, Kadir Ahmed and Shailendra Singh — who were willing to testify about Varun’s inflammatory speech at Deshnagar. But the police did not file an FIR in this case.

However, on 22 March, all three election commissioners passed a strongly worded order regarding Varun’s speech in Barkheda. They said, “The commission has seen the CD, not once but several times repeatedly, and is fully convinced and satisfied that the CD has not been tampered with, doctored or morphed as alleged by the respondent.” While admitting its inability to debar Varun from contesting the election till he was found guilty by a “competent court of law”, the Election Commission also observed, “in the considered opinion of the commission, the respondent doesn’t deserve to be a candidate in the present General Election…”

Although his legal troubles had increased, for the moment, Varun had succeeded in his political gameplan. His supporters started promoting him as a Hindu leader in Pilibhit. Slogans were plastered across the area, “Varun nahin aandhi hai, doosra Sanjay Gandhi hai” (He is not just Varun but a storm, he is a second Sanjay Gandhi).

Afroz Alam, a local resident and CPI(ML) worker, says, “Varun turned the whole election into a Hindu vs Muslim one. He would start his speeches by saying ‘If any Muslims are present, they should leave. I don’t need the vote of any Muslim.’ His supporters also began spreading rumours. Everywhere it was said several Muslim boys had raped a Hindu girl in the adjoining village, or that some Muslim boys had beaten a Hindu youth. Several times during the night, people on 10-12 motorcycles would go around brandishing sticks and torches and making a lot of commotion. The next day it would be rumoured that they were Muslim bandits.”
Though he was on a winning streak, worried about the criminal cases against him, Varun filed a petition in the Allahabad High Court asking the cases to be quashed. The court dismissed his petition on 25 March 2009. Afraid he would be arrested any moment, Varun decided to score a political point by surrendering. To prepare the ground for his arrest, he gave instructions to his supporters to organise a massive crowd in front of the court on 28 March.

The Pilibhit court almost waylaid this carefully planned spectacle. It said since the cases had not reached it through any formal medium yet, it couldn’t send Varun to jail. A new plan was hastily formulated. The then BJP district president Yogendra Gangwar filed an affidavit in the court saying that since two criminal cases had been filed against Varun, he wanted to surrender and should be sent to judicial custody. (TEHELKA is in possession of this affidavit). Clearly, Varun did not want his preparations to go waste.

This devious strategy was corroborated on TEHELKA’s hidden cameras by Parmeshwari Dayal Gangwar, the BJP district vice-president and a confidant of Varun’s who had arranged his Barkhera rally. Here’s what Gangwar had to say: “I had received an instruction from Delhi asking us to get a large number of people on the day of the surrender. I said I would manage it. The police was deployed in Ghaziabad and Noida. But the Gandhi family is the Gandhi family. People like you and me cannot even think like them. There is a bypass on the Moradabad highway, a convoy of nine vehicles left for Bareilly from there and one went towards Sitarganj. Ten more vehicles joined the convoy from there. When the convoy was stopped in Bareilly, Varun Gandhi was not in it. I got a call saying Varun had reached the jail gate.”

This crowd gathered by Varun indulged in violent protest. Several vehicles and buildings were vandalised or set on fire and stones were pelted with such ferocity that around 20 people, including five policemen, were injured. A case was registered against Varun and his supporters for this incident on 28 March itself.

As soon as Varun was arrested, his mother Maneka took command of his communal electoral campaign. On 28 March, she went to the district hospital to meet the injured and held a Muslim inspector to be responsible for the fracas. She said, “Around 45 injured people have been admitted to the hospital. Of these, 25 have been injured by a single police inspector whose name is Pervez Miyan.” Apparently this inspector was not even present when the incident took place and was posted about 20 km away at Barkhera.

Varun spent 20 days in jail. By the time he got out, he had become the ‘Hindu Hriday Samrat’ (Emperor of Hindu Hearts). He won a landslide victory in the election, outstripping his nearest rival by more than three lakh votes. The costs would haunt him later. Varun now had three cases against him for violation of the model code of conduct, breach of peace, threatening and fighting with locals, giving inflammatory speeches, damaging public property, promoting enmity and acts prejudicial against communal harmony, attacking the police and rioting.

If he had been convicted in these cases, Varun would have had to spend an extended time in jail. His political life would have taken a beating. Perhaps, he would have been debarred from standing for elections. But by 4 May 2013, Varun had managed the costs: he stood acquitted in all the three cases against him.

Before delving into how Varun got himself acquitted by the court, there is first the story of the political collusion between him and the SP. While she was chief minister, Mayawati had slapped a draconian NSA (National Security Act) case against Varun. But the SP’s victory proved very useful. In October last year, several newspapers in Uttar Pradesh reported that the Akhilesh Yadav government wanted to drop the cases filed against Varun. When this became public, many Muslim organisations and Syed Ahmed Bukhari, the Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid, protested strongly. Afraid of alienating its voter base, the SP government finally did not drop the cases against Varun but fast-tracked them.

Ashwani Agnihotri, the former president of the Pilibhit District Bar Association, says, “I have been practicing in Pilibhit for several years. I have never seen a case where as many testimonies were taken in a single day as in Varun’s case.”

Why was the SP government so favourably inclined towards Varun? TEHELKA’s investigation found Varun — the general secretary the BJP is counting on to bring it back to glory days in Uttar Pradesh — played an important role in defeating his party candidate Satpal Gangwar in the 2012 Assembly election so that the SP candidate Riyaz Ahmed could win in Pilibhit. (Ahmed is currently the Khadi and Village Industries Minister in Akhilesh Yadav’s government as well as the state president of the SP’s minority cell.)
TEHELKA is in possession of a damning audio tape in which Rizwan Malik, Varun’s media in-charge in Pilibhit, tells Mohammad Sadar, president of the BJP’s minority cell in Pilibhit, that they must ensure BJP candidate Satpal Gangwar’s defeat because Varun wants it done. Here are excerpts of the conversation between Malik and Sadar:

Rizwan Malik: Don’t ask me… I’m saying don’t ask me. Now whatever is possible, take the appropriate decision…
Mohammad Sadar: Like what? Say something.
Malik: Now what can be clearer than his, Varun Gandhi has said that Satpal should not win, Satpal should not get the votes; that’s it. He has to lose. Now you have to decide who will defeat him. Whoever is going to win, you start working with him, what can I say?
Sadar: Then it’s fine.
Malik: You understood everything?

TEHELKA tried to substantiate this by talking to Satpal Gangwar. At first, he was reluctant to talk, but he later accepted it was Varun who made sure he lost. To prove this, even he had an audio clip. This is an excerpt of TEHELKA’s conversation with Satpal:

TEHELKA: I just wanted to ask you about the video that the boy had recorded… which meeting was it actually?
Satpal: It’s not a recording of a meeting but of a telephonic conversation. It was said on the phone that support the BSP (BSP ko ladao…)
TEHELKA: BSP ko ladao or make sure it wins…
Satpal: Yes, make sure the BSP wins.
TEHELKA: Is Varun himself giving the instructions or is some close confidant of his giving the instructions.
Satpal: Varun Gandhi is himself giving the instructions.

Haroon Ahmed, who knows the politics of Pilibhit very closely, says, “The BSP was not in the fight. The Hindu votes were polarised towards the BJP in the Lok Sabha election. Satpal Gangwar could have won on the same grounds in the Assembly election. But, in this scenario, if the BJP’s vote share was divided with the BSP, it would directly benefit the SP. This was what happened and SP’s Riyaz Ahmed won the election. This is how Varun helped the SP government and they reciprocated by trying to withdraw the cases against him.”
In the most damning evidence, BJP district vice-president Parmeshwari Dayal Gangwar — the man responsible for organising Varun’s Barkhera rally — corroborated all of this on TEHELKA’s sting camera. He candidly admitted the job of influencing the Muslim witnesses was given to Riyaz Ahmed. He also describes in vivid detail the venomous things Varun had said and how the police was used to coerce witnesses later.

It is important to note that Parmeshwari is clearly a trusted member of Varun’s team in Pilibhit. After Varun was made general secretary, posters across Pilibhit came up congratulating Varun. Parmeshwari features prominently in these posters next to Varun.

Here are some excerpts of TEHELKA’s chilling conversation with Parmeshwari:

TEHELKA: Was there some controversy in 2009?
Parmeshwari Dayal: There was some controversy… the truth was… whatever was printed was true.
TEHELKA: Did he say that?
Dayal: Yes, he said that… I was in charge of that meeting that became famous in Barkhera. Ten thousand people participated.
TEHELKA: There were 10,000 people?
Dayal: At least 10,000.
TEHELKA: That means it was a big meeting. So, what happened in the meeting?
Dayal: The truth was there was one group here of VM Singh (the Congress candidate). It was Varun vs VM. The code of conduct was in place. His men recorded the whole thing in the CD and gave it to the Election Commission. When the Election Commission uploaded it on the Internet, it became known the world over. And the opposite happened.
TEHELKA: Ok.
Dayal: He had said those things… it became famous… It would have been restricted to Pilibhit… whatever he said, he said in Pilibhit… But they recorded the whole twenty two and a half minutes (Dayal abuses)… and sent it to the whole world… The CD was made by VM Singh’s men… They gave it to the government… and he became famous…
TEHELKA: Then how was the matter resolved?
Dayal: Resolved? All the witnesses turned hostile.
TEHELKA: How did the witnesses turn hostile? Did the police…
Some extraneous conversation follows at this point. Then, Dayal continues.
Dayal: Varun Gandhi can stop anyone from getting a ticket… the same will happen in Sultanpur and the same here… his roots are that strong.
TEHELKA: So, the matter was settled in the court?
Dayal: Yes, all of them got settled… only one is left.
TEHELKA: How were the witnesses managed?
Dayal: Riyaz babu is a minister in the Samajwadi Party government… and Gandhiji has direct relations with Mulayam Singh… Mulayam had said to take back the cases but Bukhari from Delhi started protesting.
TEHELKA: Yes, he had asked for the case to be taken back.
Dayal: The minister from here, Riyaz… He was pressurised. He was told all the witnesses are Muslims, just resolve the matter quickly! So Riyaz got all the Muslims together one by one… I went on that court date.
TEHELKA: Ok.
Dayal: So all the witnesses were dealt with…
TEHELKA: And how did the Hindu witnesses turn hostile?
Dayal: They turned hostile under police pressure…
TEHELKA: Under police pressure?
Dayal: The SP (Superintendent of Police) used to call them over. There was one witness… the SP called him over and said, are you literate? He said he had done his PhD. He was a literate person. The SP asked him what his pay was; he said 25,000. The SP said, you must have got a good bride. He said, yes. The SP asked him if he loved his wife; he said yes. The SP said, you want to continue loving her or stop loving her? Then go and think about what you have to say in the court. You want to go back home or not? This is how it happened.
TEHELKA: Who was the SP?
Dayal: I don’t remember his name.
TEHELKA: Was he from Pilibhit district?
Dayal: Yes… several cases like this happened.

Dayal goes on to explain at great length how the meeting was held and how the godmen on the dais were paid. Then TEHELKA asks him another question:

TEHELKA: By the way, what controversial thing was Varun saying?
Dayal: He said this… Phool Babu was a minister with the BSP. There were some atrocities against the Hindus… snatching someone’s buffalo; getting it butchered… So he said, if any Muslim raises his hand towards a Hindu, cut off his hand. If he raises his head, cut off his head… He said Bisalpur has the biggest disease (referring to its Muslim residents). So first I would buy a factory over there, a petrol pump, then I would get it sprayed by a helicopter, and then I would get the basti vacated after setting fire to the place.
TEHELKA: He said that?
Dayal: Yes, he said that. The vendors here would not go to the Muslim areas.
TEHELKA: Ok.
Dayal: All of them stopped. They were so afraid… Whole Pilibhit was afraid. (He laughs).

It is important to mention here that Riyaz Ahmed is no incidental stranger to the story; he is an old associate of Maneka. When she had left the Congress and formed the Rashtriya Sanjay Manch, Ahmed was its secretary. Reportedly, it is he who introduced Maneka to Pilibhit. In his conversation with TEHELKA, he brushes off allegations of his own links with Varun’s case. However, significantly, he too admits there was a widespread management of administration, witnesses and the judiciary to settle the cases.
But, more on that later. First, read how each of the cases against Varun was made to disappear into thin air.

Case 1: Assault on Bharatveer Gangwar
Charges: Assault, criminal intimidation and threatening to Kill
Date of incident: 1 August 2008
FIR: 1 August 2008
Chargesheet: 24 December 2008
Under Section: 452, 352, 323, 504 and 506 IPC

As mentioned earlier, the first case filed against Varun in Pilibhit was for his assault on the shopkeeper Bharatveer Gangwar. This case was being heard since 2008. Now suddenly, it’s been closed. The process of disposing off the cases against Varun started last year in October-November. Some were managed in courts; others outside the court. The assault case was settled outside the court.

Why did Bharatveer, who had steadfastly been fighting Varun for four years, suddenly decide to reach an understanding? Bharatveer refused to speak to TEHELKA about this. His fear was unmistakable. However, his lawyer, Ashwani Agnihotri, had this to say: “The current Superintendent of Police Amit Verma called Bharatveer and told him to take back the charges. Bharatveer told him he would discuss the matter with me and get back. He tried ducking the SP’s call the second time, but when the SP called him the third time, he used the methods of the police and explained — or should I say threatened — Bharatveer. The SP told him if he did not listen, he would have to face the consequences.” According to Agnihotri, the SP told Bharatveer he would be sent to jail on some trumped-up charge.

Realising he was helpless, Agnihotri advised Bharatveer that if he wanted to settle the matter, he should get an affidavit from Varun to safeguard himself. Bharatveer had lodged an FIR and given his statement to an investigating officer. According to Agnihotri, if he turned hostile in court, Varun could file a defamation suit against him.
Subsequently, Agnihotri says a relative of Bharatveer’s went to Varun’s house in Ashoka Road, New Delhi, and got the affidavit. “The matter was settled only after we got this affidavit,” says Agnihotri.

TEHELKA has not been able to corroborate Agnihotri’s story through any other testimony on camera. However, the 2008 cadre IPS officer, SP Amit Verma, that the lawyer refers to also played an important role in disposing of other cases against Varun. Verma has been posted in Pilibhit since May 2012.

Case 2: Hate Speech at Barkhera
Date of Incident: 8 March 2009
FIR: 17 March 2009
Chargesheet: 11 July 2009
Under Section: 153(A), 295(A), 505(2) IPC and 125 Representation of People Act
Number of witnesses: 34

Varun’s speech at Barkhera was the most infamous. It was this speech that was telecast across most news channels. It had seemed inevitable that Varun would be punished — or at least censured — for this. However, all 34 witnesses in the case have been declared hostile.

Even a cursory glance at the statements of these witnesses exposes glaring discrepancies. For instance, several policemen deployed as security at Varun’s election meeting were made witnesses. Yet, many of these policemen gave ridiculous statements in court. Prosecution witness No. 13, Constable Kishore Puri, for example, told the court he was on security duty on 8 March 2009, but “he had no idea about any rally, etc.” Prosecution witness No. 11, Head Constable Hetram, also admitted he was on security duty that day in Barkheda but did not listen to any speech of Varun. Witness No. 10 Ramendra Pal; witness No. 14 Mathura Prasad; and several other policemen said similar things. But there was no protest from the public prosecutor.

This laxity is evident in other crucial aspects of the case. Varun’s voice sample was the most important link in the case. However, when he refused to give it, the prosecution did not object or insist.

In fact, things get even curiouser. The police had sent a video of Varun’s speech to the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) in Chandigarh for verification. The police also sent one camera, one cassette, one cell phone and one memory card of a cell phone to the lab. CFSL Additional Director SK Jain found the videos on these devices to be the same, but he also wrote in his report that the videos were “not original”. However, he clarified the meaning of the words “not original”. According to him, something is deemed a “original video” when it is shot in one take. As there were cuts in this video, it could not be called original.

The cuts Jain mentions in his report could have arisen due to two reasons. First, stringers — as hinterland freelance journalists are called — sometimes record their videos in parts because they have a limited space for recording. The second reason for the cuts could have been that the videos were recorded secretly as Varun’s supporters were forcefully prohibiting any recording.

Importantly, the CFSL did not raise any doubts about the authenticity of Varun’s voice on the videos. However, Jain said in his report, “To identify and verify the parts of the speech, it is important to take a balanced sample of the accused person’s voice.” The final decision would have to be taken on the basis of a voice sample. But the prosecution failed to press for it.

Beside the CFSL, the news channel NDTV had also got the CD of Varun’s hate speech verified by Digital Evidence Legal Video Services, an independent forensic lab in the US. Its report declared the CD to be authentic and said there had been no tampering. NDTV submitted this report in the Pilibhit court for permission before the report was telecast. (TEHELKA is in possession of this report).

During the course of the hearing, Asad Hayat, general secretary of the Awami Council, a trust in Uttar Pradesh, filed a petition stating Varun’s voice sample should be taken and if he refuses, it should be held against him. Hayat also pleaded that news channels that had telecast the hate speeches be made witnesses in the case. This was rejected by the court because the prosecution that should have supported it actually protested against it saying Hayat’s petition was “worthy of dismissal”.

The prosecution filed one more application in court that strongly suggests it was working to acquit Varun rather than convict him. This petition filed on 18 February 2013 said that since Jain had already submitted his forensic report, there was no need for him to appear as a witness. This was a bizarre position to take as Jain was the only person who could clarify the significance of the ‘cuts’ in court.

In the same petition, the prosecution also requested the court to exempt District Magistrate Mahendra Prasad Agarwal and Rajendra Prasad Jain, the policeman who gave the Local Intelligence Unit report, from appearing as witnesses. How can the prosecution ask for any witness not to appear in court?

Such negligence coupled with the witness testimonies caught on TEHELKA’s sting cameras makes it shockingly clear how Varun subverted the law and silenced an entire system.

Here’s what happened with Witness No. 4, Ram Avtar.

Avtar was made an eyewitness by the police. It was his responsibility to support the prosecution case. But in his statement to the court, Avtar said there had been no election meeting by Varun at Barkhera and neither had he given any inflammatory speech.

When TEHELKA spoke to Avtar, on the other hand, he acknowledged on hidden camera that he was actually present at Varun’s election meeting at Barkhera and had heard his speech. In fact, he said Varun had also given anti-Muslim speeches at his village Dadiya Bhagat.

Here’s what Avtar told TEHELKA: “Even in my village, Gandhiji had said that there are three Muslim MLAs in the district, do you want to turn this place into Pakistan? If I become the MP, and any Muslim commits any atrocities like Phool Babu is committing, then I would cut off the hands of those Muslims.”

As for his turning hostile in court, he told TEHELKA, “Policemen came to take me for my testimony. First they said, take him straight to the SP’s bungalow. Then they said, both the government and the administration want the matter to be resolved, why should you bother? Why should you get caught in this mess? (Hum kyon lafde mein paden?) Politicians are involved in this (Netaaon wali baat hai).”

It must be emphasised here that these policemen — whose responsibility was to encourage and provide protection to the witnesses to tell the truth — were coaching witnesses to reverse their testimonies. Avtar and other witnesses recorded their statements in the court after such instruction.

This is the account of witness No. 6, Abdul Rehman.

Rehman stays near Barkhera and owns a tent house. The tent for Varun’s election meeting was booked from his shop. He was also made an eyewitness in the case. But when he gave his statement in court, Rehman said, “I did not go to the election meeting, I was at my shop. The tents were booked for the meeting, but were not sent.” The main reason why the police had made Rehman a witness in the first place was because his tents were used in the election meeting. But now the political wind had changed and the police did not want the truth told.

Rehman accepted in TEHELKA’s sting that tents from his shop had indeed been sent for the meeting. But clearly no one was interested in the facts of the case. Here’s what Rehman told TEHELKA on camera: “The lawyers were not asking anything in the court, what I had seen or heard. We were just made to stand while the lawyer was writing.”

Shockingly, he goes on to say, “The magistrate was sitting there and in front of him the lawyer was telling us to write ‘I was not present at the rally’, ‘I did not see anything’, ‘Varun did not say anything, nor did I hear anything…’ meaning to retract my statement.” Rehman also says that everyone had heard Varun’s speech but, driven by fear, nobody was ready to testify truthfully. He told TEHELKA, “Everyone is corrupt. A CD is recorded in front of you. It is playing in front of you and still you are denying and saying he (Varun) did not say that. Tell me, what testimony can anyone give in such a case?”

This sordid story plays itself out again and again with dismal familiarity.

Here’s what happened with witness No. 17, Mohammad Yameen and witness No. 18, Mohammad Raza. Both Yameen and Raza had been listed as eyewitnesses in the case. But like everyone else, Raza, a nagar adhyaksh with the SP, told the court he had not heard Varun’s speech or gone to his rally. On TEHELKA’s camera, however, he admitted he had received a call from Varun’s associates to shape his testimony in Varun’s favour.

He says, “I got a call from there (Varun Gandhi). Everyone was pressurising me. They said give your testimony, it would be beneficial for him. I said fine.” During this meeting with Raza, our camera stopped working in the middle so we decided to meet him again. In the second meeting, Yameen was also present. Like Raza, Yameen had testified that he was neither present at the election meeting nor had he heard Varun’s speech.

On TEHELKA’s camera, however, he explains the truth. “I will tell you,” said Yameen, “that day Varun Gandhi had given his speech. Several mahatmas (godmen) were also present. I was standing right there. As soon as he climbed the stage, Varun Gandhi said Jai Shri Ram… Then he said I want to tell my Hindu brothers that there are already two or three Muslim MLAs in the area and if you do not pay attention, Pilibhit will turn into Pakistan… Then he said if someone raises a hand towards any Hindu I would cut off that hand… He talked like that.”

When TEHELKA asked why they had not told the court any of this, both Raza and Yameen replied that no one was working properly in the case (“Koi bhi iss mamle ki pairvi thik se nahin kar raha tha”). In such a scenario, nobody wanted to make enemies. Yameen also corroborated that several police officers of the district, including the SP, had played a major role in getting the testimonies changed.
“The SP was involved,” Yameen told TEHELKA. “The SP had got the testimonies changed from all the witnesses. This is the truth but who can confront the government? Who can confront such a senior leader? We did not have any local support. When a senior officer like the SP says he wants the case resolved, what can anyone do?”

The story keeps getting darker. The police not only manipulated local residents but even journalists on behalf of Varun. This is what happened with witness No. 31 Mohammad Tariq.

Tariq was among the most important witnesses in the case. He was the reporter who, along with another journalist friend, Ramveer Singh, had recorded Varun’s speech at Barkhera. The whole case rested on Tariq. The police in its chargesheet had written that Tariq would prove he had recorded Varun’s speech on his camera. In his testimony to the court, however, Tariq accepted he had gone to Barkhera and recorded Varun’s speech along with Singh, but denied listening to the speech himself.

This took the ludicrousness of the proceedings to a fresh scale. How can anybody accept that a reporter who works on a story has no idea what his story is about? Tariq recorded Varun’s speech and sent it to his channel. The whole nation saw his footage. And now, here was Tariq claiming he had not heard the speech.

What is even more surprising is that both the public prosecutor and the court accepted this testimony without raising any objection. (Shariq Parvez, witness No. 30 in the case and himself a journalist, told TEHELKA on sting camera that Tariq had been paid 5 lakh to obfuscate his testimony. TEHELKA has no way of verifying this claim.)

Now, read the account of witness No. 34, Ramveer Singh.

Singh, a reporter with Sahara Samay, had recorded Varun’s speech along with Tariq. When the prosecution asked him if the police had taken any CD from him, he said they had not. Besides this, Singh — an eyewitness who had recorded the entire speech — was not asked further questions.

Singh, however, accepted on hidden camera that he had indeed heard the speech and recorded it with Tariq. “Everyone was sold out,” he told TEHELKA, “everyone including the prosecutor. They only asked me one question, ‘Did you give the CD?’ I had actually not given the CD to the police; I had given it to the channel, the channel had given it to them.”

If Singh had been asked even one more question, it would have become clear that he had given the CD to his channel who had given it to the police. But clearly nobody in the court was interested in the truth. After his fleeting examination, the public prosecutor requested the court to end the prosecution evidence.

(Parvez again told TEHELKA that Singh had been demanding lakhs of rupees to throw his testimony. Finally, he cut a deal with the SP and was gifted a Maruti Wagon-R car as a bribe to speak in favour of Varun. TEHELKA was unable to corroborate this claim independently. Ironically though, when we had carried out our sting on Singh, it was fairly dark and his face was not very visible. But at one point, a mechanic came in with his Wagon-R car and its headlight illuminated Singh’s face and it got captured in our camera.)

But set aside what witness No. 30 Shariq Parvez told us about others. Here’s what he told us about himself.
Parvez was the third local journalist to appear as a witness in the case. The police had listed him as a witness in both the Barkhera and Dalchand cases. In its chargesheet on the Barkhera case, however, the police wrote that “Shariq would prove he had recorded Varun’s speech at Deshnagar on his cell phone.” This was bizarre.

Why was the police trying to prove the Deshnagar case in its Barkhera chargesheet? (It’s worth remembering here too that despite audio clips and affidavits of the Deshnagar speech being sent to the Election Commission, the police had failed to register a case.) At any rate, Parvez turned hostile in court and said he had not recorded Varun’s speech at Deshnagar.

In its order acquitting Varun, the court noted Parvez’s testimony as follows, “He was not present in the meeting. On 7 March 2009, he had not made a recording of Varun’s speech in Deshnagar on his cell phone. During examination, he had said he had not recorded the audio clip. His statement is that he had not gone to the meeting and had not recorded any audio clip, therefore his testimony is not trustworthy.”

This was even more bizarre. While giving its verdict in the Barkhera case, why was the court quoting Parvez’s statement on Deshnagar and mentioning the date of the Deshnagar incident as 7 March instead of 6 March?
Here’s what Parvez told TEHELKA on camera. “I was constantly getting calls from the administration. The PRO of the SP himself called me and told me to give my testimony in a particular way.” A little later, he says, “RV Singh (Ramveer Singh, his fellow journalist) opened up only when SP Amit Verma talked to him.”

Parvez goes on to allege several things. For instance, he told TEHELKA, “MP Verma, the public prosecutor, told me that everything is done. I understood they were managing everything from the top.” Parvez then goes on to make specific references of bribes paid to the public prosecutor and judge. Yameen had told TEHELKA something similar: “The police inspector told us that we have managed the judge, we have managed the public prosecutor, the government is also with us.”

TEHELKA is refraining from printing the exact allegations as it has no way of verifying them. However, disturbingly, no less than Riyaz Ahmed — a sitting minister in the UP government and the Pilibhit MLA — tells TEHELKA exactly the same thing.

TEHELKA: When we saw the footage, we had thought it would be an open-and-shut case. Of course, you have been observing things more closely from the ground.
Riyaz: Yes, I was a candidate.
TEHELKA: Yes, you were a candidate. So, haven’t any questions come up around here that how did these cases get buried?
Riyaz: See, I’ll tell you…
TEHELKA: Yes, do tell us.
Riyaz: See, the first thing is that many of the witnesses were their people. Second, they obliged everyone. They paid 10 lakh to someone and 5 lakh to someone else. Someone took 11 lakh, someone took a big car. In one way or the other, everyone received something.
TEHELKA: You mean the witnesses?
Riyaz: Yes, the witnesses. But they even went to the extent of obliging the judiciary in a big way.
TEHELKA: You mean the Pilibhit court?
Riyaz nods in affirmation.
TEHELKA: Was the administration also involved?
Riyaz: Yes, they too were obliged.

Case 3: Hate Speech at Dalchand
Date of incident: 7 March 2009
FIR: 18 March 2009
Chargesheet: 11 December 2010
Under Section: 153(A), 295(A), 505(2) IPC and 125 Representation of People Act
Number of witnesses: 15

The Dalchand mohalla of Pilibhit, where Varun had held an election meeting, is dominated by the people of the Valmiki community. Varun had been speaking of Muslims at all his election meetings as a disease to be eradicated. Here too, he spoke along similar lines, “When the time is right,” he said, “this disease will be eradicated. I’m not a general, I’m a politician, but a Valmiki would become a general and eradicate this disease.”

The FIR in this case was filed 10 days after the incident. TEHELKA’s investigation found the police had listed witnesses in a completely arbitrary manner. They carelessly included people who had genuinely not heard Varun’s speech. The court’s order said no video of the speech was presented in the court in this case. And while the Barkher case had 34 witnesses; this had just 15. Hence, from the very beginning, a very weak case was presented before the court.

Yet, the pattern of subverted justice played itself out even here. The legal process was manipulated, false witnesses were produced, a mockery happened in the name of testimony and the judgment went in favour of Varun.

Both the Barkhera and Dalchand cases were being heard by Chief Judicial Magistrate Abdul Qayum. In the Dalchand case, all the witnesses TEHELKA spoke to, revealed a startling fact. The judge was not present in court on the day of their testimonies. The police presented such false witnesses that there were glaring discrepancies in their statements but no justice could be had because the judge himself was not present.

Whenever a witness is presented in a court, it is the responsibility of the judge to ensure the witness is not under any duress. Statements made in the presence of the police have no legal validity as there is always a doubt that the police could have used coercion to extract a statement. Therefore, under Section 164 of the CrPc, only testimonies given before a judge is considered legally relevant.
In the Dalchand case, according to the four witnesses TEHELKA spoke to, even this elementary justice could not be had because the judge was not present.

Take a look at the testimony of witness No. 1, Vijay Pal, the prime witness in the case.

Pal’s testimony reads, “There was no election meeting of Varun Gandhi in Mohalla Dalchand on 7 March 2009. I did not step out of my house, I did not hear Varun Gandhi’s speech, neither did he give any speech against the Muslims.” There are stark discrepancies in this statement. Firstly, an election meeting did take place there; this is why the FIR was filed in the first place. Secondly, if Pal had not gone to the meeting and not heard Varun speak, how could he know whether Varun spoke against Muslims or not? This is what Pal told TEHELKA over the phone.

TEHELKA: Did you meet the judge in the court?
Vijay Pal: No, not the judge, the testimony took place in front of Peshkar sahab (the Reader).
TEHELKA: The judge was not present in court?
Pal: No, the judge was not present.

When witnesses are testifying against an influential person, it doubles the responsibility of a judge to ensure they are not under any duress. The seriousness with which the CJM of Pilibhit was conducting this case became increasingly evident with every new person TEHELKA spoke to.

Here’s what witness No. 4 Riyasat told TEHELKA.

TEHELKA: What happened in the court?
Riyasat: When I reached, they asked me to get my photograph clicked. I told them I was coming straight from the field and had only 40-50 with me. The rickshaw-puller charges 20, the photograph cost 20, so how would I go back? The policeman said he would pay for the photograph, but I refused. I took money from my elder brother and had my photo clicked. I gave them three copies. They attached my picture to the file. They did not ask me anything else. No witness got a chance to go inside.
TEHELKA: You mean no witness went inside the court?
Riyasat: No, all the papers were already there. Just the photographs were pasted on them.
TEHELKA: All you did was put your thumbprint on it?
Riyasat: Yes, I put my thumbprint and came back.
TEHELKA: Did the judge ask you anything?
Riyasat: No, the judge had been on leave for three days. I had gone to the court thrice and come back. My time and money was wasted. Finally, I went again on the 20th.
TEHELKA: Was the judge present when you gave your testimony then?
Riyasat: The judge was present, but it was lunch time. We all came back after putting our thumb impressions.
TEHELKA: None of you met the judge?
Riyasat: None of the witnesses met the judge.
TEHELKA: There was no conversation?
Riyasat: No.
TEHELKA: Did you give your thumb impression in front of the judge or outside the court?
Riyasat: In front of the peshkar (Reader) who sits.
TEHELKA: In front of the peshkar?
Riyasat: Yes.

TEHELKA also heard about the absence of the judge from witness No. 2, Pratap.

TEHELKA: Did the judge ask you anything?
Pratap: No, the peshkar (Reader) and ardali (orderly) were there.
TEHELKA: The judge was not there?
Pratap: The judge was not there.

Witness No. 5 Nafees also corroborated that the judge was not present.
Hence, without being present in court, without hearing all the witnesses, without even having them questioned in front of him, magistrate Abdul Qayyum exonerated Varun Gandhi on 27 February 2013 in the Mohalla Dalchand hate speech case.
Reading all of this, even a child would know the due process of law has been brazenly subverted in clearing Varun’s name. In fact, it is hard not to be dazed by the extent and scale of it.
At the very least, this expose begs the question: should these cases not be sent back for retrial? And how should those involved be punished?
But the story still doesn’t end here. Varun Gandhi’s ‘Operation Cover-Up’ left no piece unturned.

Case 4: Inciting riots, assault on the police and destroying public property
Date of incident: 28 March 2009
FIR: 28 March 2009
Number of witnesses: 39

On 4 May 2013, Varun was exonerated in the last case against him, in which he was accused of rioting, assault and attempt to murder. This exoneration came towards the end of TEHELKA’s investigation so we could not pursue it extensively. However, merely scratching the surface of the case makes several problems evident. For one, BJP leader Parmeshwari Dayal Gangwar’s account captured on TEHELKA’s cameras proves the hyper-charged crowd that gathered during Varun’s surrender was pre-meditated. As he told TEHELKA, he was “instructed” to marshall a huge crowd there.

But what follows is even starker. Besides Varun, nine other people had been listed as accused in the case. The number of witnesses was 39. Yet, though Varun has been acquitted and all the witnesses have turned hostile, the trial against the other accused is still in the initial stages.

Ashwani Agnihotri, a senior advocate from Pilibhit, explains, “If there are more than one accused in a case, usually, their trial is conducted together. An accused can be separated from the others only if he is absconding and not appearing in court. But Varun Gandhi was given this special privilege by the Pilibhit court.”

The manner in which testimonies for this case was recorded is similar to the two earlier cases. Here too, around 10 witnesses were produced in court on the same day. All of them turned hostile. But no questions were raised.

Varun is now perhaps unique in the history of the Indian legal system. He had three cases against him with 88 prosecution witnesses. Every single one of them has turned hostile. Just this is enough to raise suspicions. Surely, the higher courts need to take note of it. It’s not just Varun’s reputation that is at stake, but the whole idea of credible courts.

When TEHELKA contacted Varun, he said he did not want to respond to the story.

The idea of India is based on several cardinal plinths: the idea of plurality and equal rights for all its citizens are perhaps the two most sacred of those plinths. Varun’s hate speeches violated this in deep and wounding ways.

But his elaborate cover-up went a step worse. The idea of democracy is predicated on the rule of law. In trying to clear his name by subverting the entire judicial process, Varun crossed an even greater line.

Today, he stands acquitted in all the cases. Major political responsibilities have been given to him and the BJP is considering him as a future tall leader. But are Varun’s acquittals merely the story of an accused getting away with a crime? Or will these cynical exonerations strengthen the foundation over which similar crimes can prosper in the future?

If the perpetrators of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots had been brought to book, perhaps the carnage of 2002 would have been less vile and rampant, if not stemmed altogether. The political patronage given to the perpetrators of 1984 gave rise to people like Babu Bajrangi and Maya Kodnani. If Varun had been meted proportionate punishment in time, perhaps Akbaruddin Owaisi would have learnt to hold his tongue.

Like Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, Varun’s inflammatory speeches could have proved disastrous. Parmeshwari Gangwar, a close associate of Varun, said on TEHELKA’s hidden camera, “The vendors would not go to Muslim-dominated areas in Pilibhit, they were so afraid.” Ramveer Singh, the reporter who recorded Varun’s communal speech, says, “The things he said in Barkhera were very dangerous. There is a Muslim locality close by with at least a 1,000-1,500 Muslims. If they had thrown stones from their rooftops, a 100-200 people in the market could have died.” Ram Avtar told TEHELKA that the villagers had even begun making preparations to kill Muslims. “The intelligent people of the village did not agree with this, but many illiterate people said this politician is good. We are Hindus; he is saying the right thing. So, the villagers started making preparations to kill Muslims.”

It is a happy trick of fate that the ugly spark that Varun Gandhi had lit did not turn into a flame. But the sad truth is, he has shown yet again that rather than walk the hard path of true leadership, Varun is willing again and again to sacrifice the very ethos of this nation merely to further his political ambitions. A poor way to reclaim a lost legacy.

rahul@tehelka.com | atul@tehelka.com

#India – Govt okays amendments to manual scavenging eradication bill


May 1, 2013New Delhi: The government today approved amendments to a bill that seeks to eradicate manual scavenging.

The Union cabinet, at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, approved official amendments to The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Bill, 2012.

End to manual scavenging. AFP

End to manual scavenging. AFP

The amendments include provisions like mandatory inclusion of women in vigilance committees at district, state and national level and a survey to identify manual scavengers.

“The words insanitary latrines and manual scavengers define taking into account real situation on the ground,” Finance Minister P Chidambaram told reporters in New Delhi.

The bill was introduced on 3 September 2012 and it was referred to the Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment.

The Standing Committee reported to the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha in March 2013 and this bill will now be introduced in Parliament.

Chidambaram said the Bill was introduced in Parliament last year and now officials amendments will be included in it.

The bill also has the provision for setting up committees at various levels.

“The provision for constitution of vigilance committee in each district and sub-divisions and a state level monitoring committee and a central-level monitoring committee, it is mandatory to have representation of women in these committees,” he said.

PTI

 

 

Strong anti-rape law for India as President Pranab clears the Bill #Vaw #Womenrights


 NEW DELHI, APRIL 3, 2013 | PTI

An anti-rape protester

An anti-rape protester
President Pranab Mukherjee has given his assent to the anti-rape bill which provides for life term and even death sentence for rape convicts besides stringent punishment for offences like acid attacks, stalking and voyeurism.Mukherjee accorded his assent to the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill-2013 on Tuesday, brought against the backdrop of the country-wide outrage over Delhi gangrape , and it will now be called the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, an official release said on Wednesday.The law, passed by Lok Sabha (lower House of Indian Parliament) on March 19 and by Rajya Sabha (upper House of Indian Parliament) on March 21, has replaced an Ordinance promulgated on February 3.It amends various sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Indian Evidence Act and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.

With an aim of providing a strong deterrent against crimes like rapes, the new law states that an offender can be sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 20 years, but which may extend to life, meaning imprisonment for the remainder of the convict’s natural life and with a fine.

It has provisions for handing out death sentence to offenders who may have been convicted earlier for such crimes.

The law, for the first time, defines stalking and voyeurism as non-bailable offences if repeated for a second time. Perpetrators of acid attack will attract a 10-year jail.

It also defines acid attack as a crime besides granting a victim the right to self-defence. It also has provisions for imposing a minimum 10-year jail term for perpetrators of such acts.

The law has fixed age for consensual sex at 18 years.

New sections to prevent stalking and voyeurism were introduced following a strong demand from women’s organisations.

The amendments seek to define and prescribe punishment for the offences of stalking, voyeurism and sexual harassment.

The law also seeks to widen the definition of rape, broaden the ambit of aggravated rape and enhance the punishment for such crimes.

It also provides that all hospitals shall immediately provide first aid and/or medical treatment free of cost to the victims of acid attack or rape, and failure to do so will attract punishment.

It has provisions for a minimum imprisonment of seven years which may extend to imprisonment for natural life, and a fine for rape convict if he is found to be a police officer, a public servant, armed forces personnel or management or hospital staff.

The law also seeks to amend the Indian Evidence Act to allow a rape victim, if she is temporarily or permanently mentally or physically disabled, to record her statement before a judicial magistrate with the assistance of an interpreter or a special educator. It also has provisions to video-graph the proceedings.

 

#India – All in the Name of the Poor #UID #Aadhaar


 

Vol – XLVIII No. 13, March 30, 2013 , Editorial

Who will be the real beneficiaries of the Direct Benefit Transfer scheme?

Why is there little or practically no information in the 2013-14 budget on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P Chidambaram’s pet scheme to bring about direct cash transfer payments to eventually replace price subsidies for food, fuel and fertiliser products? Who are going to be the real beneficiaries of the direct cash transfers via Aadhaar-linked bank accounts using the unique identification (UID) platform?

Food will not immediately be replaced by direct cash transfers, but the ultimate objective is to do so, especially with the impending passage of the National Food Security Bill. The union cabinet has approved the draft legislation which is expected to be introduced in the current session of Parliament. An election promise of 2009, the bill has had few supporters in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. If it is now being pushed through it is surely on account of electoral considerations with an eye to the next Lok Sabha elections. But the food subsidy budgeted for 2013-14 is only Rs 90,000 crore (compared to the revised figure of Rs 85,000 crore in the current financial year), though the finance minister has said he will provide Rs 10,000 crore more. This will still be grossly inadequate for any food security programme. The fertiliser subsidy, on its part, has actually come down quite significantly, from the actual figure of Rs 70,013 crore in 2011-12 to the budgeted Rs 65,971 crore in 2013-14. The revised petroleum subsidy was Rs 96,880 crore in 2012-13 (revised estimates) and has been put at a mere Rs 65,000 crore next year. Should we not see all these figures in the light of what is on the anvil?

For political reasons, the government has been promoting the direct cash transfer scheme as an anti-corruption measure. But the real objective of the government is, of course, that it sees this as the way to reduce the “major subsidies” bill. On food, for example, given food inflation at more than 10% per annum, if the government keeps a check on the direct cash transfer payments, indeed, ensures that its real value per average household, i e, relative to consumer food price inflation rate, is not protected, then it will gradually reduce the major subsidies bill as a proportion of the gross domestic product (GDP).

Beginning this year, the government has initiated the Direct Benefit Transfer programme in 26 schemes (mainly for payment of scholarships of various kinds), confining it to persons who have a UID card and a bank account linked with the UID interface. But next month, the direct cash transfer scheme is to be introduced in the public distribution system (PDS) in six union territories. So the government will eventually presumably do away with the PDS in these union territories. But the direct cash transfer scheme is to be eventually scaled up to the national level. To understand the implications, keep in mind that the UID is not just for the poor or those eligible for cash transfers who have to procure UID cards. The UID involves the recording of photographs, fingerprints and iris scans of the whole population, and the entire information is then stored in a centralised, national security database. In 2013-14, some 600 million persons are expected to be photographed, fingerprinted and iris scanned. Most of the 6,00,000 villages in the country do not have a bank branch, but the government envisages the opening of some 200 million accounts, all interfaced with the UID. What is, in effect, being created is an information technology (IT) infrastructure that links all bank accounts to the UID, and, this, at the public expense.

The poor, in whose name all this is being done, have no savings worth the name and the banks do not give them loans because they lack the collateral security. We are not exaggerating; the pilot schemes that we just referred to are going to be “expanded nationwide to various transfer of all benefits” (“Statements…as required under the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act”, Union Budget 2013-14). Of course, the poor will have to deal with the banks via their banking correspondents (BCs) who will no doubt get their cut from the banks via the government coffers, but who is to stop these BCs from charging their customers more than the banks’ approved rates?

Think of it, a whole centralised, national security database is being created that can potentially be used to monitor the people enrolled in the UID, all this with no democratic accountability. Besides, via the banks, the financial system, much of it private-profit oriented, will have in place access to this database and thousands of crores of rupees under direct cash payment transfers, in effect very large additional sums of money, routed through them. And, the increasing flow of such benefits will be accompanied by the gradual dismantling of the PDS.

What then about diesel, kerosene, LPG, fertiliser and electricity subsidies? Basically, the pricing policy for subsidised goods will change to make the total amount of the subsidy “affordable” to the government and the subsidies will be better targeted, once more via Aadhaar-linked bank accounts using the UID platform. Overall, the expenditure on “major subsidies” will be targeted to come down from 2% of GDP in 2013-14 to 1.8% in 2014-15 and 1.6% in 2015-16. After all, doesn’t the UPA government fully agree with Moody’s, Standard and Poor’s, and Fitch that its major subsidies bill is “unproductive expenditure”? And, isn’t the Bharatiya Janata Party also won over to this idea of direct cash transfer payments? The biggest two beneficiaries of the whole operation, especially of the UID platform and the integrated database it has created, will, of course, be so-called national security and the financial, especially the banking, system.

#India- ‘Voluntary sex work is legal’ #womenrights #goodnews


Published: Sunday, Mar 24, 2013, 9:00 IST
By Yogesh Pawar | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

Sex workers and women’s rights activists have welcomed the government’s move to differentiate ‘prostitution’ from exploitation in the amended Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code.

By inserting a new definition of exploitation, the Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2013 passed by Lok Sabha clarifies a position that till date conflated consensual adult sex work and sex trafficking: ‘Expression “exploitation” shall include any act of physical exploitation or any form of sexual exploitation, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude, or the forced removal of organs.’

“This formulation clarifies the government’s stand of removing adults voluntarily involved in sex work from the ambit of criminalisation,” said Meena Seshu, from the National Network of Sex Workers (NNSW). “This has given a new lease of life to people who are in the sex trade of their own volition, and enables them to seek legal protection if they face violence while working.”

A written clarification issued by the Justice Verma Commission on the framing of the amended Section 370 helped strengthen this stand. “Their intention behind recommending the amendment to Section 370 was to protect women and children from being trafficked. The Committee clarified that it did not intend to bring within the ambit of the amended Section 370 “sex workers who practice of their own volition”.

Madhu Mehra of Partners in Law and Development said, “The distinction between sexual exploitation and consensual adult sex work is very significant as it enables the sex workers and their advocates to legally contest oppressive and forced sex work towards creation of safe and dignified work conditions for sex workers.”

Legislations such as the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act has been criticized by human rights activists, organisations and sex workers, on the grounds that the legal provisions have given law enforcement, unbridled powers of arresting and detaining consenting adult sex workers. “Instead of focussing on arresting traffickers, due to ambiguity within the law, adult consenting sex workers were the first targets,” said advocate Vrinda Grover.

@powerofyogesh

 

Kudankulam nuclear power project cost up 14%


Construction began in Sept 2001 with estimated cost at Rs 13,600 cr; expenditure on the project at Rs 15,454 cr till Jan 2013

 Economy & Policy » News » News

BS Reporter  |  Chennai  March 21, 2013

The delay in commissioning of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) has pushed the project cost up around 14 per cent. When construction began in September 2001, the government had joined hands with Russia for the project, which was then expected to cost Rs 13,600 crore. But according to the government, till January 2013, expenditure on KNPP was Rs 15,454 crore.

Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office V Narayanasamy said, the expenditure on Kudankulam Project (KKNPP Units 1&2 – 2 x 1000 Mw) till January 2013 had been Rs 15,454 crore and efforts were being made to commission the first unit in May this year. It may be noted that the project was supposed to go on stream in Sept 2007.

KNPP is in the coastal village of Kudankulam in Tirunelveli district, 650 km south of Chennai. An inter-governmental agreement for the project was signed in Nov 1988 by then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and erstwhile Soviet Union’s President Mikhail Gorbachev, for construction of two reactors.

However, the project was in a limbo for a decade due to the political and economic upheaval in Russia after the post-1991 breakup of the Soviet Union. There were also objections from the United States on the grounds that the agreement does not meet the 1992 terms of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

Then, the construction began only in September 2001 and the cost was estimated to be $3 billion (around Rs 13,600 crore).

In a statement to the Lok Sabha on Thursday, the minister, said in nuclear power plants, a series of activities including integrated system tests, first criticality, subsequent performance tests, synchronisation of the unit with the grid and raising of power in steps take place.

The nuclear power reactors at Kudankulam employ several safety features to ensure protection of people and the environment even under most stressful situation like extreme natural events leading to a loss of power and cooling water supply, the minister said.

 

#Indian— ID crisis unveils #Aadhaar doubts #privacy #UID


200 px

 

 

Summary: Two separate organizations are capturing biometric data of over 1 billion Indians, creating fresh doubts in the government’s justification to catalogue citizens.

 

 

 

 

By Mahesh Sharma |  March 14, 2013 –

 

 

A new US$1 billion national identity card project has undermined the Indian government‘s ambitious “Aadhaar” project to catalogue the biometric details of over 1 billion citizens.

 

 

Indians’ biometric details are being captured by two separate organizations: the National Population Register, to develop the resident identity card (RIC); and the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), to create a unique identifier (UID), commonly referred to as “Aadhaar” number.

 

 

Both projects are designed to streamline the distribution of welfare and social services to citizens–a process that is currently mired in corruption.

 

 

In an interview with ZDNet, Centre for Internet and Society‘s India executive director, Sunil Abraham, said the ID smartcard and ID number are fundamentally different, not complementary, as the government has previously said.

 

 

“Those are two very separate visions. You cannot mix them up and make some kind of salad and have a little bit of this and a little bit of that. You have to go the whole hog in one direction,” Abraham said.

 

 

He said it was easier for the government to proceed with both projects, rather than cancel Aadhaar, which has been criticized over reports there were duplicate biometric information and data abuse.

 

 

“The government is afraid it made a mistake,” Abraham said. “It could just continue to create a hodgepodge of both ideas, both visions, and continue making big mistakes and have ghosts [in the UID system] and large scale corruption.”

 

 

On March 12, India’s house of representatives, the Lok Sabha, Minister P. Karunakaran asked the Minister of State, R.P.N. Singh, to clarify the overlap between the proposed biometric identity card and UID. Singh confirmed the government would spend over US$1 billion (55.52 billion rupees) to issue a resident identity card (RIC) that featured the Aadhaar number.

 

 

“The RIC would enable both online and offline authentication of identity in a secure manner and will complement the efforts of Aadhaar,” Singh said in a written response. To avoid duplication, he explained that if citizen biometric data was already captured by the UIDAI, then the Aadhaar number would be recorded on the RIC smart card.

 

 

Independent lawyer Usha Ramanathan told ZDNet the government had overstepped its legal bounds. She said the UIDAI has demonstrated biometrics are imperfect but the government has persisited with the project.

 

 

“The UID is lawless. Now we will have an RIC which will be lawless,” Ramanathan said. “All we are offered is the UIDAI ‘confidence’ that the project will work.”

 

 

“Privacy and personal security continue to be unprotected. And there seems to be an inexhaustible amount of money to experiment on the whole population,” she noted.

 

 

 

Delhi govt cover for 29 facing criminal cases #wakeup #WTFnews


By, TNN | Mar 14, 2013,

Delhi govt cover for 29 facing criminal cases
Over 4,300 personnel drawn from Delhi Police (2,546), CRPF (686), Rajasthan Armed Constabulary (558), Meghalaya Police (171), ITBP (132), Nagaland Armed Police (98), Sikkim Police (86) and CISF (27) have been deployed to protect 436 individuals, none of them a constitutional functionary.
NEW DELHI: Every month, the Delhi government spends Rs 20 crore of taxpayers’ money to provide security to 436 persons, who do not hold any constitutional post and 29 of whom face criminal case, the Supreme Court was informed on Wednesday. The annual tab comes to Rs 240 crore.

As against this, the government spends just a little over Rs 3 crore a month to protect the President and Rashtrapati BhawanThe bill for providing security to holders of constitutional posts, including the President, Vice-President, PM, Lok Sabha Speaker and Chief Justice of India, comes to Rs 341 crore a year or over Rs 28 crore a month.

An affidavit filed by the Delhi government revealed that 44 personnel have been deployed to provide security to “children and other family members/relatives of public functionaries”.

Additional solicitor general Siddharth Luthra might find it a tad difficult, when he appears for the Delhi government, to explain to the court why “Delhi Police has provided security to 29 individuals (23 central protectees and 6 local protectees) who are facing criminal charges at state expenses”.

Over 4,300 personnel drawn from Delhi Police (2,546), Central Reserve Police Force (686), Rajasthan Armed Constabulary (558), Meghalaya Police (171), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (132), NagalandArmed Police (98), Sikkim Police (86) and Central Industrial Security Force (27) have been deployed to protect 436 individuals, none of them a constitutional functionary.

Though the Delhi government said it had not provided security to any private individuals in lieu of payments made by them, it added: “89 individuals, including those holding public office and who have demitted office, have been provided security at the cost of public exchequer.”

It also provided in sealed cover the security arrangements for the protection of home minister, former prime ministers, Sonia Gandhi and her immediate family members who have been provided Special Protection Group (SPG) cover as also former deputy Prime Minister L K Advani.

 

Press Release– #India- Biometric Identity Card #UID #Aadhaar


PIB, march 12, 2013

 

The mandate of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is to issue Unique Identity Numbers (Aadhaar) to all residents of the country and not a card. The UIDAI is generating Aadhaar numbers and communicating it to the residents through a letter. The Resident Identity (smart) Cards (RIC) bearing the Aadhaar number would be issued by the Registrar General of Citizen Registration. The RIC would enable both online and offline authentication of identity in a secure manner and will complement the efforts of Aadhaar. The proposal for issuance of Resident Identity (smart) Cards to all the usual residents in the country who are of age 18 years and above under the scheme of creation of NPR has been appraised by the Expenditure Finance Committee (EFC) and recommended at an estimated cost of Rs. 5552.55 crore. The Union Cabinet, in its meeting on 31.01.2013, has considered the proposal and referred the same to a Group of Ministers (GoM). The GoM has since been constituted. To minimize the duplication of efforts between NPR and UIDAI, the Government has decided that the NPR enrolments will continue as envisaged but if in the course of enrolment, a person indicates she/he is already enrolled for Aadhaar, the biometric data will not be captured for NPR. Instead the Aadhaar number will be recorded in NPR and the biometric data will be sourced from the UIDAI.

This was stated by Shri R.P.N.Singh, Minister of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs in written reply to a question by Shri P.Karunakaran in the Lok Sabha today.