The Indian Express – Quebec top court upholds kirpan ban at provincial legislature

Balpreet Singh and Harminder Kaur did not want to part with their kirpans as they headed into a legislature hearing to submit a brief in January 2011.

Montreal-Quebec-Canada, 21 February 2018. A Canadian court has upheld the right of Quebec’s national assembly to prohibit people from entering the building with a kirpan, an article of faith for the Sikhs, media reports said.

Two members of the World Sikh Organisation of Canada were challenging a unanimous motion adopted in the national assembly in February 2011.

Balpreet Singh and Harminder Kaur did not want to part with their kirpans as they headed into a legislature hearing to submit a brief in January 2011.

The motion stated that security personnel had the right to refuse entry to anyone who did not want to remove the religious symbol. Originally, they argued the motion was unconstitutional but then changed their position to say it was legal but non-binding.

But Quebec Court of Appeal Justice Patrick Healy rejected their arguments in a decision on Monday as he upheld a lower-court ruling that said the national assembly has the right to establish its own rules in accordance with parliamentary privilege, The Toronto Star reported yesterday.

The court ruling coincided with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to India where his government is reaching out to the minority community to mend fences.

Superior Court Justice Pierre Journet affirmed the authority of the legislature to “exclude kirpans from its precincts as an assertion of parliamentary privilege over the exclusion of strangers,” the report said.

In his decision, Healy referred to a Supreme Court ruling that said a provincial legislature could invoke the privilege to exclude strangers to prevent journalists from filming in the precincts of the assembly.

“The Supreme Court confirmed that these general principles formed part of Canadian constitutional law and held specifically that the privilege to exclude strangers is entrenched in the Canadian Constitution,” Healy wrote on behalf of a three-member panel.

“I make no comment whether the assembly’s exercise of the privilege to exclude the kirpan is a wise decision. I say only that it is a legal exercise of this category of privilege. If the appellants wish to challenge it, the proper forum is the assembly itself,” it said. Yesterday, Singh said an appeal is being considered.

“We haven’t reached a decision,” he said in an interview. Obviously, the judgment just came out on Monday and we received it late in the day yesterday, so we’re still reviewing it.

But an appeal is certainly one of our options and we’re considering it very seriously,” Singh said. Julius Grey, one of the lawyers who represented the plaintiffs, also said he is not ruling out an appeal with the Supreme Court. “I don’t agree with the judgement and I believe it is highly appealable,” Grey said.

In 2011, several Sikhs were denied entry into the Quebec legislature amid a heated debate over multiculturalism and where to draw the line when it comes to tolerating cultural practices.

Security officials at the Assemblé Nationale refused to let them in because they were wearing kirpans. The Canadian prime minister is on week-long visit to India where he will be meeting Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh.

The Trudeau government is reaching out to mend fences with Singh who has accused it of including Sikh separatists in its Cabinet, CBC News.com reported.

Sikhs make up less than two per cent of India’s population. But among Indian-Canadians, they form the largest group and have the greatest political clout; all four of Trudeau’s Indian-Canadian ministers are of Sikh origin.

http://indianexpress.com/article/world/quebec-top-court-upholds-kirpan-ban-at-provincial-legislature-5072682/

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The Indian Express – Sustainable Agriculture: Punjab has a new plan to move farmers away from water-guzzling paddy

A promising DBT initiative that incentivises efficient tubewell power use and checks groundwater depletion

Anju Agnihotri Chaba

Jalandhar-Panjab-India, 15 February 2018. For two decades or more, successive governments have tried weaning away farmers in Punjab from growing paddy. Their efforts have borne little fruit, as the area under this water-guzzling crop has only gone up from 11.83 lakh hectares in 1980-81 to 20.15 lakh in 1990-91, 26.12 lakh in 2000-01 and 30.46 lakh in 2016-17.

The primary culprit here has been free power supply to farmers. It has led to groundwater overdraft and incentivising cultivation of paddy over maize, cotton, groundnut and other less water-intensive crops (which also don’t benefit from minimum support price-based state procurement).

The policy to not charge for electricity used in farm pump-sets was initiated in February 1997 by the then Shiromani Akali Dal government under Parkash Singh Badal.

The Captain Amarinder Singh-led Congress regime, which took over in 2002, introduced a nominal flat tariff of Rs 60 per BHP (British horsepower) for unmetered agricultural connections and Rs 0.57 per unit (kilowatt-hours) on metered electricity.

But there was hardly any recovery from farmers. The subsequent Badal administration, in January 2010, again levied a flat Rs 50-per-BHP tariff for agricultural producers, only to withdraw it 10 months later.

The end-result: The number of electric tubewell pump-sets in Punjab zoomed from around 28,000 to 79,400 between 1980-81 and 2000-01, and further to 11.06 lakh in 2010-11 and 13.5 lakh by 2016-17. Today, 112 out of the state’s 138 blocks fall under the “dark zone”, with over-exploited, critical or semi-critical groundwater resources.

The only worthwhile initiative in recent times has been the Punjab Preservation of Subsoil Water Act of 2009, which bars any nursery sowing and transplanting of paddy during the peak summer before May 15 and June 15, respectively.

But more promising is an experiment, launched as a pilot project in three villages of Fatehgarh Sahib, Chaur Wala, Bhamarsi and Bhagrana, by the current Amarinder Singh dispensation.

Under it, digital meters will be installed on the tubewells belonging to 990 farmers of the said villages.

But the interesting part is that the state government, instead of compensating the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) for its supplying electricity free of cost, will make a direct benefit transfer (DBT) of Rs 48,000 to each of the chosen farmers’ bank accounts.

These farmers would, in turn, have to clear their dues to the PSPCL from the DBT amounts credited, based on the actual number of units consumed.

“We will provide a fixed annual DBT subsidy of Rs 48,000 per tubewell. If a farmer’s electricity bill against the tubewell connection turns out lower, he will be allowed to retain the surplus amount,” said Manpreet Singh Badal, Punjab’s Finance Minister.

Farmers, according to him, may gain monetarily, as their tubewell power bills are likely to be within the Rs 48,000 cash subsidy being transferred.

Punjab has roughly 5,900 rural electricity feeders, supplying eight hours of uninterrupted power to the state’s 13.5 lakh tubewells during the paddy cropping season (from June 15 to September 30) and 3-4 hours for the rest of the year. The tubewells have mostly motors with power rating between 7.5 and 12 BHP.

The subsidy payable to PSPCL is calculated by taking the number of units consumed by the state’s tubewell pump-sets and multiplying this with the tariff for agricultural power. The latter is now fixed at Rs 5.06 per unit, while the annual consumption per tubewell is reckoned at 8,000-9,000 units.

“There’s no clear estimate of how many units farmers are really consuming. The numbers we have are based on supply from the feeders and not at the point of consumption.

Also, while about a fifth of the state’s tubewells have electricity meters, the fact that farmers aren’t paying for the power could be overstating their actual agricultural consumption requirement,” admitted a PSPCL official.

Even assuming consumption at 9,000 units, the resultant power bill of Rs 45,540 would be less than the DBT subsidy of Rs 48,000.

The Punjab government has signed an MoU with the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), a research centre affiliated to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for the DBT project.

J-PAL — along with experts from the World Bank, Punjab Agricultural University and the state’s agriculture, irrigation and soil conservation departments — will undertake a study of actual power use by farmers and how it might change once they start paying out of a fixed DBT subsidy credited to their bank accounts.

“We believe they will cut down on consumption, as there is an incentive now to save as much as possible from the Rs 48,000 amount. The tendency to waste is higher when you get something free without any upper cap.

All this will ultimately promote more judicious use of groundwater. The farmer may even shift to growing crops that require less water,” noted Jasbir Singh Bains, Punjab’s Director of Agriculture.

The Punjab government plans to take up the new project from the coming kharif season. “We will install the special meters on all the 990 tubewells by early May, before the start of paddy nursery sowings. This would enable monitoring of consumption right through the agricultural season,” added the earlier quoted PSPCL official.

For the state government, there may be no financial savings as such from the DBT project. Even if the fixed amount of Rs 48,000 is extended to all the 13.5 lakh tubewells, the outgo of Rs 6,480 crore is what it is anyway shelling out as power subsidy to PSPCL.

Farmers’ organisations are, however, viewing the latest initiative with suspicion. “Their real agenda is to discontinue the power subsidy for agriculture. DBT is only a step in that direction. Amarinder Singh’s government has already washed it hands off the Congress party’s Assembly election promise to waive farm loans.

They are restricting this at present only to cooperative bank loans of up to Rs 2 lakh to marginal farmers,” alleged Jagmohan Singh, general secretary of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Dakunda Group).

Sustainable Agriculture: Punjab has a new plan to move farmers away from water-guzzling paddy

The Indian Express – Elevation to Supreme Court: If Government returns Justice Joseph’s file, Collegium is likely to send it back

Sources said that if the government neither returns the file nor clears it, the Collegium is of the view that it will “not send any other names for elevation to the Supreme Court, at least until as long as this Collegium is in place”.

Seema Chishti

New Delhi – India, 8 February 2018. With indications that the government may consider returning the Collegium’s recommendation to elevate Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice K M Joseph to the Supreme Court, sources have told The Indian Express that if this happens the Collegium proposes to send the name right back for the issuance of the Presidential warrant.

Justice Joseph’s name was the only one of a judge, forwarded by the Collegium for elevation to the Supreme Court, with the other being that of Indu Malhotra who was elevated directly from the Bar, the first woman to be so recommended.

Sources say that there was a consensus in the Collegium over proposing Justice Joseph’s elevation. In April 2016, Justice Joseph had quashed the Centre’s orders on Presidential rule in the state, deeply embarrassing the NDA government.

Sources said that if the government neither returns the file nor clears it or if it returns it and then sits on it despite the Collegium sending it back, the Collegium is of the view that it will “not send any other names for elevation to the Supreme Court, at least until as long as this Collegium is in place”.

The Collegium consists of the Chief Justice and four seniormost Judges Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph. Its composition will change only in June when Justice Chelameswar retires.

Early in the tenure of this government, the name of senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam, who was being elevated, was returned. As The Indian Express reported today, the government’s argument is that elevating Justice Joseph would mean giving “seniority and regional representation a go-by”.

For, as many as 44 High Court judges are senior to Justice Joseph, 12 of them are Chief Justices of different High Courts.

Some sources say that’s not a convincing argument.

For one, the Collegium system brought into play after the Second Judges ruling of 1993 was meant to be a selection and not a bureaucratic deference to just seniority.

Seniority, sources say, is used “conveniently and inter-changeably, either cited as per initial appointment as a Judge or as a Chief Justice”, as an argument to push or nix names of judges.

But after Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, other than Chief Justice M L Dattu, none of the Chief Justices were Judges who were Chief Justices in their Courts or seniormost by that yardstick when elevated.

As far as “regional diversity” goes, sources cite the simultaneous elevation of Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice A M Khanwilkar (both from Maharashtra) and of Justice S Abdul Nazeer and Justice M M Shantanagoudar simultaneously (both from Karnataka) during the current dispensation and do not recall the government red-flagging “regional diversity” then.

Incidentally, it was shortly after the last meeting of the Collegium on January 10 that the four senior-most judges went public with their grievances against the way the roster of the Supreme Court was being managed and made their letter to the Chief Justice public.

Elevation to Supreme Court: If Govt returns Justice Joseph’s file, Collegium is likely to send it back

The Indian Express – Former Navy chief Ramdas files plea in Supreme Court for independent probe into judge Loya’s death

The apex court had on January 22 restrained other high courts from entertaining any petition relating to Loya’s death and transferred to itself the petitions pending before Bombay HC. The matter is scheduled to come up for hearing in SC on February 2.

New Delhi-India, 31 January 2018. Former Navy chief Admiral (retd) L Ramdas has filed a plea in the Supreme Court seeking an independent inquiry by a panel of retired apex court judges and former police officers into the alleged mysterious death of special CBI judge B H Loya.

Loya, who was hearing the sensitive Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case, had died of cardiac arrest in Nagpur on December 1, 2014, when he had gone to attend the wedding of a colleague’s daughter. Some members of Loya’s family had alleged foul play in his death.

BJP chief Amit Shah was one of the accused in the Sheikh encounter case in which he was later discharged. The application, filed by Ramdas, has also sought a direction to the Centre to cooperate with the inquiry committee and provide the necessary documents.

He has sought an independent probe, saying the statements made by Loya’s family members “have led to allegations of foul play coming to the surface” regarding the events that had transpired on the night he died. “It is therefore just and necessary that an independent probe be directed to be made,” the plea said.

It further said that “the silence of individuals who were present during the final hours of Loya’s life coupled with institutional inaction to probe the circumstances of his death when it occurred in 2014 threatens these cherished ideals of independence of judiciary and the rule of law.”

The plea said “a judicial probe” was needed in the case in order to uphold the image of judiciary and deliver justice to Loya’s family.

It claimed that the death of a sitting judge hearing a sensitive case in an “unnatural manner” raises questions about the rule of law and requires to be properly probed by an independent agency.

The petition also sought permission that anyone who had evidence to establish the circumstances of Loya’s death be allowed to appear before the multi-member panel and provide relevant information.

The plea has also raked up the issue of transfer of CBI Judge J T Utpat, who was hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh case before Loya was transferred to that court. It has sought direction to the committee to probe into the reasons for the the “arbitrary transfer” of Utpat and submit a report to the court.

The issue of Loya’s death had come under the spotlight in November last year after media reports quoting his sister had fuelled suspicion about the circumstances surrounding it. But Loya’s son had on January 14 this year said in Mumbai that his father died of natural causes.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra is hearing the petitions which have sought probe into Loya’s death. The apex court had on January 22 restrained other high courts from entertaining any petition relating to Loya’s death and transferred to itself the petitions pending before the Bombay High Court.

The matter is scheduled to come up for hearing in the Supreme Court on February 2.

Former Navy chief Ramdas files plea in Supreme Court for independent probe into judge Loya’s death

The Indian Express – Amritsar gets first Sikh Mayor, Sidhu stays away from swearing-in event

The Congress had appointed minister Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa as observer for the city. Bajwa also announced Raman Bakshi as senior deputy mayor and Younis Kumar as deputy mayor of city.

Kamaldeep Singh Brar

Amritsar-Panjab-India, 24 January 2018. The Congress Tuesday appointed its councillor from Ward Number 12, Karamjit Singh Rintu, as the eighth mayor of Municipal Corporation of Amritsar. He will be first Sikh mayor of the holy city.

The Congress had appointed minister Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa as observer for the city. Bajwa also announced Raman Bakshi as senior deputy mayor and Younis Kumar as deputy mayor of city.

The Congress has returned to power in the city civic body after a gap of 10 years, winning 64 out of 85 seats in elections last month.

Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, who is an MLA from Amritsar, stayed away from the official function held in the new building of the MC. So did 15 Congress councillors said to be his supporters.

They are upset about Sidhu’s opinion being reportedly ignored in picking the city mayor.

Another local Congress MLA, Inderbir Singh Bularia, was also absent from the function.

Sidhu is MLA from Amritsar East and is also ex-officio member of the MC house. All five MLAs from the city belong to Congress.

Earlier in the day, Cabinet minister Rural Development Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa said that he had announced the name of mayor as decided by the party high command.

An old Congressman, Rintu was never considered close to Sidhu in Amritsar politics. First mayor of MCA was elected in 1991 and since then, Congress has held the post twice while BJP held it thrice.
Both parties always preferred Hindu faces as the mayor.

Rintu had unsuccessfully contested on a Congress ticket from the Amritsar North Assembly constituency in 2012 polls.

In 2017, Rintu couldn’t get ticket from Amritsar North and Amritsar East Assembly constituencies.
Sidhu himself contested from Amritsar East on a Congress ticker while his close aide Sunil Dutti contested and won from Amritsar North. Rintu had openly expressed his dissatisfaction over the ticket given to Dutti.

Asked the reason behind absence of Sidhu and his supporters, Bajwa said, “Councillors must have some compulsions. Minister may have his own engagements. But there is nothing more to it. We will try to confirm why they couldn’t come.”

He added: “Navjot Singh Sidhu is our minister. He is part of our government. I regret if there was any gap in communication on my part. He knew everything. He gave it in written that he would accept high command decision.”

Bajwa had even gone to house of Sidhu on Tuesday morning to resolve the matter. Sidhu, however, didn’t meet Bajwa.

While Sidhu was not available for comment, Rintu said, “It is not a big issue and will be resolved. I will go to Sidhu’s home and resolve the issue. It will not affect the development of the city. Congress will work together for the development of city.”

Later, Sidhu’s supporters and councillors held a press conference to explain their side of story.

Councillor Jatinder Singh Motti Bhatia said, “We came to know that our boss (Sidhu) was ignored in decision making process. What Sidhu wanted was welfare of the city.

He is the local bodies minister and we have seen how much city has suffered from the tussle between mayor and ministers during pervious SAD-BJP government. We have become councillors due to Sidhu’s blessings. It was shocking to us that he was ignored.”

Amritsar gets first Sikh Mayor, Sidhu stays away from swearing-in event

The Indian Express – At literary conference, NRIs condemn move to ban Indian officials from gurdwaras in US, Canada

Speaking to The Indian Express, Mahinder Deep Grewal, 76, a poet, said that gurdwaras should be kept out of politics and it is not right to ‘ban’ anyone.

Divya Goyal

Ludhiana-Panjab-India, 17 January 2018. A two-day international conference on ‘Immigrant Literature’ kicked off at Gujranwala Guru Nanak Khalsa College in Ludhiana Tuesday with an aim to promote literary works of Punjabis settled abroad.

At the conference, the NRI community strongly condemned the ‘ban’ imposed on Indian officials and diplomats by some gurdwaras in US and Canada, and also said that sacred gurdwaras should be kept out of politics. They added that Indian government officials too should refrain from using them as platform to promote government policies.

However, they maintained that no one can be stopped from entering a gurdwara which is against principles of Sikhism. They further expressed that despite various campaigns to make Sikh turban acceptable, racism and discrimination was still deep-rooted in those countries.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Mahinder Deep Grewal, 76, a poet, said that gurdwaras should be kept out of politics and it is not right to ‘ban’ anyone. “Some gurdwaras in US and Canada are indulging in politics and dividing Sikhs.

Gurdwaras should be kept out of all this,” he said. Recently, at least 30 gurdwaras from Canada and 96 from US ‘banned’ Indian diplomats and officials saying that they should not interfere in the lives of Sikhs there.

Sukhi Bath, 60, founder of Punjab Bhawan in Surrey (Canada), said that four gates of gurdwaras are always opened for all and it is against teaching of the Sikh Gurus to ‘ban’ anyone.

“We live in a very well-mannered country Canada which has multi-culturism as its biggest strength. There can be different opinions which should be respected. Humanity stands supreme and banning someone from gurdwaras is completely against Sikhism. It is high time that this gurdwara politics should stop from both sides.”

The NRI community also opened up on several issues related to Punjabi diaspora including hate crime, racism. Grewal added, “I do not wear turban when I am in the United States. I have started wearing cap. Once I was walking down a street with my family at San Diego and someone shouted ‘Hey, Look Laden is going.

They compared me to the terrorist Osama Bin Laden because of the turban. I and my family were in shock for many days. My little granddaughter asked that what if someone kills me. Since then my son has strictly told me not to wear turban there.

He too has chopped his beard and doesn’t wear turban. Government there is trying to create awareness saying Sikhs are not terrorists and wearing turban is normal but still many people there think we are terrorists. Pictures of Sikhs serving langar at Golden Temple are also shown to convince them.”

Jarnail Singh Sekha, 84, an eminent Punjabi novelist from Surrey in Canada said that his works got actual recognition after he moved abroad and started writing about problems of immigrants there.

“I started writing immigrant literature and got response in Canada. My novel Khet Mazdoor is based on how immigrants work as laborers initially in foreign countries. I myself worked as a laborer first,” he said.

“I do not go to any gurudwara there. Guru is in my heart. It is because both gurdwara managements and Indian officials are indulged in politics. They use place of worship for politics and propagating their own ideologies and dividing Sikhs,” he said.

Nobody is banned from Gurdwaras in Canada and the USA, everybody is still welcome to enter the Gurdwara as members of the sangat. People should inform themselves first before making public statements !
Man in Blue

At literary conference, NRIs condemn move to ban Indian officials from gurdwaras in US, Canada

The Indian Express – 1984 anti-Sikh riots: Enough evidence against Kamal Nath, can’t evade law now, says H S Phoolka

“All Congress leaders including Jagdish Tytler, Sajjan Singh and Kamal Nath cannot evade law now,” Harinder Singh Phoolka said at a press conference.

Divya Goyal

Ludhiana-Panjab-India, 14 January 2018. Terming the decision of the Supreme Court to constitute a Special Investigation Team (SIT) and re-probe 186 cases of 1984 anti-Sikh riots as “historic”, Harinder Singh Phoolka, the Supreme Court advocate fighting these cases, said Saturday that law will now soon catch up “powerful and influential people like Congress leader Kamal Nath”.

“It has been years that some influential people from Congress have been evading law. But now justice will be delivered. It is for the first time that the Supreme Court has shown such seriousness in 33 years on 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

Seeing the strong evidence against him, we are now hopeful that he (Kamal Nath) too will be caught. All Congress leaders including Jagdish Tytler, Sajjan Singh and Kamal Nath cannot evade law now,” Phoolka said at a press conference.

He said that it the Supreme Court has rekindled the hope of families of the victims who were being told to forget the carnage as it has been more than 33 years now.

“Police, judiciary and other government departments were now telling us to forget it. They were telling us to let bygones be bygones. But the SC has proved that time cannot be a reason for justice not be delivered. The Chief Justice of India has started a new chapter by forming this SIT. Also, Justice S N Dhingra is an upright judge who will do complete justice with the duty given to him,” he said.

Phoolka, who is also a senior Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader had resigned as the Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly to focus on cases of riot victims, said his decision was proven right today. “I can see the results and I can say that my decision to resign as Leader of the Opposition was absolutely right.”

Speaking to The Indian Express, Phoolka said that as per official figures, at least 2,733 people were killed in 1984 anti-Sikh riots in which 541 cases were registered.

“However, till now, conviction has been announced in only 13 killings. In most cases, one FIR was registered for multiple killings. Of 186 cases that will be re-probed now, there is strong evidence against Kamal Nath in one of it,” he said.

Inviting Punjab’s Power Minister Rana Gurjeet Singh for an open debate on the 1984 riots, Phoolka said the minister should think twice before giving statements. Rana Gurjeet had reportedly said on Friday that “none of Congress leaders were involved in anti-Sikh riots”.

“Firstly, he should listen to the words of his party’s former Prime Minister Rajeev Gandhi who justifying the riots said that whenever a big tree falls, earth shakes.

Even the former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh has written in his book that his residence in Ashok Vihar was attacked by a mob and it was only after his Hindu son-in-law came out that they were saved. I invite Rana Gurjeet for an open debate,” he said.

Phoolka said that instead of punishing them, the Congress elevated and promoted its leaders who were involved in the riots. “They were made ministers and given plum posts. There is clear evidence that Congress leaders were then leading the mobs, which were even given the lists of Sikhs’ residences in Delhi, including that of former PM Dr Manmohan Singh,” said Phoolka.

‘Inflammable powder was used in entire Delhi’

Phoolka claimed that an “inflammable powder” which could only be handled by experts was used in entire Delhi to target Sikhs.

“It was a powder which led to inferno wherever it was thrown. One needs experts to touch it. Congress leaders were accompanied by those experts and mob and the powder was used in entire Delhi. Experts came overnight. It proves that the entire government machinery was involved in the riots,” he said.

“The pattern was to target gurdwaras first so that Sikhs cannot assemble there. Wherever Sikhs assembled, police reached and disarmed them. Even Sikh police officials and 26 Light Sikh Infantry troops were disarmed so that they could not fight back,” said Phoolka.

‘Stand on SC judges revolt can impact my fight for 1984 victims’

Meanwhile, Phoolka refused to comment on the recent tussle in the apex court with four senior judges coming out against the Chief Justice in front of media. “It is an issue between groups of judges. If I take an open stand on it, it can directly impact my fight for anti-Sikh riots victims. I do not want to get into this,” he said.

1984 anti-Sikh riots: Enough evidence against Kamal Nath, can’t evade law now, says HS Phoolka

The Indian Express – 16 more gurdwaras in Canada, 96 in USA ban entry of Indian officials

American Gurdwara Parbhandak Committee claims nod from 96 gurdwaras in US, says number could rise.

Kamaldeep Singh Brar

Amritsar-Panjab-India, 9 January 2018. Days after 14 gurdwaras in Canada’s Ontario province banned the entry of Indian government representatives, more gurdwara management committees in Canada and the US followed suit and barred Indian officials, RSS and Shiv Sena members from entering gurdwaras under their control.

An announcement in this regard was made on Sunday at New York’s Gurdwara Sikh Cultural Society right after a religious congregation organised to observe death anniversary of Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh, who were given death penalty killing former PM Indira Gandhi.

Sikh Coordinator East Coast and American Gurdwara Parbhandak Committee representative, Himmat Singh, said, “Total 116 gurdwara management committees had participated in teleconference on Saturday night and 96 of these gurdwaras had confirmed agreement to proposal to bar entry of Indian officials in the gurdwaras, along with representatives of RSS and Shiv Sena.”

He claimed that some gurdwaras couldn’t confirm due to technical glitches in teleconferencing. “We have been getting emails of many gurdwaras and numbers will increase further,” claimed Himmat Singh. Surjit Singh, US president of Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), headed by Simranjit Singh Mann, also supported the resolution to ban entry of Indian officials.

Himmat Singh added,”Following Ontario gurdwara committees, we have been making it official that Indian officials will not be allowed for any intervention in management of gurdwaras in US. There will be no ban if someone visit Gurdwaras in personal capacity as devotee”. Similarly, 16 gurdwaras in British Columbia and Alberta provinces of Canada passed a similar resolution on 4 January.

A statement released by these gurdwaras read, “This initiative was moved forward in western Canada by Gurdwara Sahib Dasmesh Darbar (Surrey, BC) and Gurdwara Dasmesh Culture Centre (Calgary, AB) and a total of 16 Gurdwaras in BC & Alberta agree and support that sewadars of Gurdwara Sahibs reserve the right to bar access to the stage and entry to officials of the Indian government.

This would include, but not be limited to, Indian elected officials, Indian Consular officials, and members of organisations like RSS and Shiv Sena”. It said, “To be clear, no individual is being banned from Gurdwara Sahibs, but Indian representatives in official capacity will not be permitted to address the sangat”.

The statement added: “Although this policy of restriction exists informally, it is due time for a formal declaration.

This step is being taken not to restrict access to the Guru, but rather to ensure that the Gurdwara Sahib remains independent from the interference of corrupt officials who represent a government that for the last four decades has committed genocide against the Sikh community and has never had positive intentions in dealing with Sikhs as a separate nation of people”.

16 more gurdwaras in Canada, 96 in US ban entry of Indian officials

The Indian Express – Will not allow Amarinder Singh’s smooth participation in Harvard conference: SFJ

“Amarinder’s government is following in the footsteps of the Badals whose government also filed frivolous criminal charges against SFJ campaigners in 2016. The Punjab CM will not have a smooth participation in Harvard conference, we can assure that,” said Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, Legal Advisor of SFJ.

Man Aman Singh Chhina

Chandigarh-Panjab-India, 5 January 2018. Hardliner group Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) has announced that it is gearing up to mount a legal challenge against Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who will be visiting the United States of America in February to participate in Harvard University’s annual India conference.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, Legal Advisor of SFJ, said that the organisation will hold protests on February 10 and 11 when Amarinder comes to the Harvard University to take part in the conference.
“Captain Amarinder’s government is responsible for torture and persecution of Sikh nationalists who are campaigning for referendum in the state of Punjab,” he said.

Pannun said that SFJ will campaign in the coming days to portray Captain Amarinder as “Hitler of Punjab” and will initiate a letter writing campaign to Harvard University faculty to apprise them about the Punjab government’s action against those who are campaigning for referendum.

“Amarinder’s government is following in the footsteps of the Badals whose government also filed frivolous criminal charges against SFJ campaigners in 2016. The Punjab CM will not have a smooth participation in Harvard conference, we can assure that,” said Pannun.

Pannun said SFJ will also look into the ways and means of serving a Canadian court’s summons on Amarinder over a defamation case which has been filed by SFJ against him.

Will not allow Amarinder Singh’s smooth participation in Harvard conference: SFJ

The Indian Express – Extra-judicial killings: HC orders expeditious trial of Punjab cops

Centre’s sanction for prosecution not needed at inception of trial, says court

Sofi Ahsan

Chandigarh-Panjab-India, 4 January 2018. The Punjab and Haryana High Court has ordered expeditious trial of Punjab policemen accused of carrying out extra-judicial killings during militancy days in the state in the 1990s.

Upholding the trial court order, HC said that Centre’s sanction for prosecution of police officers accused of alleged fake encounters in Punjab would arise only after the prosecution had presented its evidence, and not at the initial stage of trial.

The High Court ordered the trial court to proceed “expeditiously and frame a schedule for recording evidence of prosecution at the earliest”.

In the 77-page judgment on 27 petitions involving nearly 50 police officials, Justice Surinder Gupta rejected the Punjab government’s contention that the police officials had risked their lives to bring out the state from a grave situation during ‘90s and “now prosecuting for the act done by them during discharge of their duties will affect morale of police force”.

The petitioners had cited Section 6 of the Punjab Disturbed Areas Act or Section 197 of CrPC in support of their contention that sanction for prosecution was required for the initiation of trial.

“After filing of chargesheet in these cases a long period has lapsed and the prosecution evidence is yet to start. It is neither in the interest of prosecution nor petitioners that sword of prosecution keeps on hanging over their heads for such a long period.

The trial court is directed to proceed further in the matter expeditiously and frame a schedule for recording evidence of prosecution at the earliest and then to allow petitioners to lead defence evidence, if required, in support of their plea,” the final order read.

Most of the cases relate to the 1990s, and were handed over to CBI for investigation. The CBI found the encounters to be fake and staged.

In 2001, when the chargesheet was filed in the cases in the CBI special court at Patiala, the accused policemen raised the objection saying there is no sanction order for their prosecution from the Centre.

They approached the High Court, which even at that time, dismissed their plea, after which they approached the Supreme Court.

The apex court sent the case back to the trial court for a “fresh look”, but in 2016, the trial court held its ground and ordered that it would look into the question of sanction at a later stage, after assessing the evidence against the officers.

The officials again approached the High Court against the trial court order, which had been under stay since 2016, and seeking discharge of the cases against them. That stay ended on December 20, and the High Court’s order was made public today.

Justice Gupta, in his order, has observed that the prosecution has to be allowed the opportunity to present evidence and the trial court can decide the question of legal sanction only after that.

“It is only after conclusion of evidence of prosecution that the court on the basis of defence evidence or the material placed on record can come to the conclusion as to which version i.e of prosecution or the defence is correct and then decide as to whether sanction for prosecution is required or not,” the order said.

It further added: “Honourable apex court observed that question of sanction should be dealt with at the stage of taking cognizance, but this question may arise at any stage of proceedings and in some cases, it may not be possible to decide the question effectively and finally without giving opportunity to defence to adduce evidence.

In such cases, question of good faith and bad faith be decided on conclusion of trial.”

CBI counsel Sumeet Goel had informed the High Court that the cases had been registered following the orders of the apex court and High Court on the “matter of cremation of large number of unclaimed dead bodies by Punjab Police” and the police action “in no manner could be termed as act performed as per spirit of legal provisions” on self-defence and the immunity guaranteed to the police officials from prosecution without the permission of central government.

Punjab Advocate General Atul Nanda during the hearing of the case had supported and endorsed the submission of the counsels representing the accused police officials and said, “Sanction for prosecution is an issue, which is to be looked into at the inception of trial and not at later stage”.

Extra-judicial killings: HC orders expeditious trial of Punjab cops