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From ex-Prez Pranab Mukherjee, a message on dissent, protests and consensus

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The wave of peaceful protests that have gripped the country shall enable deepening India’s democratic roots, former President Pranab Mukherjee said on Thursday. Mukherjee’s remarks are seen in the context of protests that started after the ruling NDA coalition at the Centre pushed the Citizenship Amendment Act through Parliament last month. He did not specify the citizenship law in his address but hardly left anyone in doubt either.

“The last few months have witnessed people come out on the streets in large numbers, particularly the young to voice out their views on issues which in their opinion are important. Their (protesters’) assertion and belief in the Constitution is particularly heartening to see,” said Mukherjee.

Mukherjee was speaking at the first Sukumar Sen memorial lecture organised by the election commission. The lecture has been instituted in the memory of first Chief Election Commissioner of India.

The Constitution and the reading of the preamble has been a central and common thread across most protests that erupted in the country after the enactment of the citizenship law.

Critics of the law have stressed that the provision that grants citizenship on the basis of religion of the applicant violates the constitutional principles of equality and secularism. Many of them have also taken their battle against the citizenship law to the Supreme Court which has given the Centre four weeks to respond to the 160-odd petitions that have been filed.

Home Minister Amit Shah has made it clear that the government would not budge on the law. “We are not afraid of protests. In fact we were born amid protests, raised amid protests,” he told a rally in favour of the law in Lucknow.

At Thursday’s lecture, Mukherjee underlined the importance of consensus, describing it as the “lifeblood of democracy”.

“Democracy thrives on listening, deliberating, discussing, arguing, even dissenting,” the former President said.

“It is my firm belief that all these could be achieved because we fiercely upheld and maintained the sanctity and supremacy of elections and the electoral process,” he said.

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Supreme Court dismisses Nirbhaya convict Vinay Sharma’s plea against rejection of mercy petition

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The petition filed by Vinay Sharma, one of the convicts in 2012 Nirbhaya gangrape and murder case, to the Supreme Court against the rejection of the mercy petition by the President was dismissed by the court on Friday.

Sharma had claimed in the apex court that President Ram Nath Kovind while rejecting his petition had not considered the ‘mental stability’ he suffered due to torture in jail.

Denying his claim, the centre said he was fit and of sound mind.

The convict in his submission said that all the relevant records including one pertaining to his mental illness had not been submitted to the president in his appeal. On this, the centre had produced a medical report dated February 12 which showed that he was not suffering from any mental illness.

The four convicts in the gangrape case — which triggered a massive nationwide protest in 2012 – have been exploring every legal option one by one to stretch the date of their hanging as much as they can.

This was the last legal option left out for Sharma as his review and curative petitions to the Supreme Court and mercy petition to the President were exhausted, and the last option of a judicial review of president’s order by the Supreme Court has also ended today.

In a separate development, a Supreme Court judge, Justice R Banumathi was fainted while dictating an order on the centre’s petition seeking separate executions for the four death convicts.

Justice Banumathi regained consciousness and was subsequently taken to her chamber in a wheelchair. The plea was been heard by three judges bench which comprised Justices AS Bopanna and Ashok Bhushan as well. Further the bench said that the order will be passed in-chamber.

The savage case of gangrape and murder had took many twist and turn in last few months, as the date of execution has been shifted twice as the convicts’ lawyer had used the legal tricks very wisely to make it done.

Earlier, mother of the gangrape victim had alleged that AP Singh, lawyer of the convicts in the brutal case had challenged her by saying, “the hanging will never happen,”

On January 31, a trial court had stayed the execution of four convicts namely, Mukesh Kumar Singh (32), Pawan Gupta (25), Vinay Kumar Sharma (26) and Akshay Kumar (31) until further orders. The decision came few hours before the hanging which was scheduled for February 1 at 6 am.

The brutal gangrape and murder case in which the four convicts are sentenced is of December 16, 2012, when a paramedic student was brutally gangraped by a group of five men on a moving bus. The sixth convict was a juvenile. Later the victim succumbed to her injuries in the hospital.

One of the accused was a minor and appeared before a juvenile justice court, while another accused committed suicide in Tihar Jail. The four convicts were sentenced to death by a trial court in September 2013, and the verdict confirmed by the Delhi High Court in March 2014 and upheld in May 2017 by the Supreme Court, which also dismissed their review petitions.

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Manoj Tiwari, JP Nadda congratulate Arvind Kejriwal, assures support being in opposition

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After the Delhi Assembly election results give Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) a clear mandate for the government formation in the national capital, Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari and party president JP Nadda congratulated Arvind Kejriwal for his third-time victory.

“I accept the mandate of people of Delhi and congratulate Arvind Kejriwal. I hope he will perform well as per the expectations of the people,” Manoj Tiwari said.

Greeting party workers for their support, Tiwari said, “I thank people of Delhi. I also thank our party workers for their hard work, they have done.”

Earlier in the day before the counting had begun, Tiwari asserted that the BJP will form the government in the national capital with 55 seats, BJP Delhi chief Manoj Tiwari said, “I am not nervous, I am confident that it will be a good day for BJP. We are coming to power in Delhi today. Don’t be surprised if we win 55 seats.”

Later, when the trends were showing BJP losing with a huge gap against AAP, Manoj Tiwari expressed hopes that with the counting goes on, BJP will show improvement.

“Trends indicate that there is a gap between AAP-BJP, there is still time. We are hopeful. Whatever the outcome, being the State Chief I am responsible,” Tiwari said.

At present, AAP is leading on 24 seats and won 38 seats while the BJP is leading on 5 and won 3 seats in the 70 seats constituency.

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Delhi election results LIVE: AAP set to take capital for 3rd time; Kejriwal offers prayers at Hanuman Temple

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The results of the crucial, high-stakes election to the 70-member Delhi Assembly will be declared today.

The counting of votes, which got underway at 8 am amid tight security, is taking place at 21 centres across Delhi.

36 is the majority mark in the 70-member house.

Delhi went to polls in a single phase on February 8.

The exit polls have projected the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party to retain power, the BJP to better its previous record and the Congress to remain a no-gainer with minimum zero and a maximum of two seats.

The overarching theme that emerges is that the AAP is all set to taste power in Delhi for the second time, while the BJP will have to sit in the opposition, probably with better numbers. The Congress will have been really lucky to send even one MLA in Delhi assembly this time as well.

The Delhi polls recorded a voter turnout of 62.59 per cent, which is around 5 per cent less than the last Assembly election which marked 67.5 per cent.

However, the voter turnout is about 2 per cent more than the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Okhla constituency which includes Shaheen Bagh — which has been the hotbed of the anti-CAA protest in the country where protesters have staged a sit-in for over 50 days — has witnessed a voter turnout of 58.8 per cent.

In the tripartite contest, BJP and AAP were seen competing at the forefront with massive campaigning being done by top leaders of both the parties in the national capital.

A total of 672 candidates were in the fray for the keenly watched battle of the national capital. Of them, 79 (12%), were women, up from 66 in the previous assembly elections.

Over 14.7 million voters are eligible to exercise their franchise.

At 6.6 million, women make up 45% of the total Delhi electorate. More than 200,000 youngsters, aged between 18 and 19 years, will also be exercising their franchise, alongside 690 voters aged 100 years or above.

In the 2015 Delhi assembly election, out of 70 seats, the AAP won 67 and the BJP secured three seats.

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