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Modi’s brushes with poll code of conduct: SC to hear plea against release of his biopic

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Narendra Modi

It is practically a blitz against norms of fair play, pushing the limits of model code of conduct in 2019 Lok Sabha election campaign, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is right at its centre.

It includes some real issues, some that are not quite so – starting from questions about Indian Air Force’s strike at Balakot in retaliation against the Pulwama terror attack and the demonstration of a claimed anti-satellite missile technology, to PM Modi and BJP leaders in top government offices invoking armed forces, employing the Hindu-Muslim tirade, using official machinery in election campaign, projecting Modi on airline boarding cards and tea cups in trains, and mass communication means to project Modi at election time.

The eponymous biopic on Modi, ‘PM Narendra Modi’ and NaMo TV are part of this series.

After the Election Commission reportedly found nothing wrong with the release of the Modi biopic, the Supreme Court, approached by the Congress, today (Thursday, April 4) said that it will hear the plea seeking a stay on the release of a biopic on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 8, Monday.

A bench of Justice SA Bobde, Justice S Abdul Nazeer and Justice Indira Banerjee agreed to hear the plea by Aman Panwar, one of the Congress spokesman, contending that the release of Modi biopic ahead of the election would disturb the level playing field.

Mentioning the matter for an urgent hearing, senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi told the court that the release of the film produced by three members of the ruling party in the midst of the election would disturb level playing field which is so essential for the purity of election and democracy.

Senior advocate AM Singhvi, appearing for petitioner advocate Aman Panwar, spokesperson of the Congress, said two high courts have refused to interfere with the release of the movie starring Vivek Oberoi.

He submitted that the release of the movie may affect free and fair election as mandated in the Constitution. Singhvi said the movie was slated to be released on April 5 but there were some media reports which said the release has been deferred by a few days.

According to media reports, the movie’s release has been postponed by a week to April 12, though the producers have not said anything officially. The producers’ links with BJP have been reported earlier by The Wire.

The Indore bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court had on Wednesday rejected a plea seeking a ban on the release of the movie, ‘PM Narendra Modi’. The Bombay High Court had also on Monday disposed of a plea seeking deferment of the release of the biopic, saying the Election Commission will deal with the issue.

The film covers Modi’s life from cradle-to-2014 film. Directed by Omung Kumar, it traces Modi’s evolution through various phases of his life, including his enrolment in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), his stint as chief minister of Gujarat, and his elevation to a national role in 2014. The trailer suggests a heavily partisan portrait.

Also Read: Election Commission asks Information & Broadcasting Ministry for details of NaMo TV

Actor Vivek Oberoi, who plays the role of Modi, defended the biopic in an interview to NDTV. “Why are such senior and famous lawyers like Abhishek Singhvi ji and Kapil Sibal ji wasting time on filing a PIL on such a modest film? Don’t know if they are scared of the film or of Chowkidar’s danda,” Oberoi said.

A sting operation claimed Oberoi was among the actors willing to participate in political propaganda for money.

Modi biopic, said reports, was rushed into production in late January. The poster was launched by Devendra Fadnavis, BJP leader and Maharashtra Chief Minister, in Mumbai, and the production has been wrapped up in record time.

At the movie’s trailer launch in Mumbai two weeks ago, Oberoi was asked about the timing of the release. “Modi hai to mumkin hai,” replied the actor, who came dressed as his character to the event.

Trailers of the movie with Oberoi as Modi are being streamed on several TV channels. The two-and-half minute trailer had over a million views shortly after it emerged online, reports said.

Oberoi, a Modi fan, denied that the film’s release violates the code of conduct for the April-May national election, by glorifying PM Modi. “We are not projecting Modi ji as larger than life… he already is larger than life,” he said according to an NDTV report.

Web Serial

Another Modi celebration, a ten-part web series directed by Umesh Shukla, has been partially released on Eros Now. Five of the 10 episodes that comprise Modi: Journey of a Common Man were released on the streaming platform on Wednesday. The series stars Faisal Khan, Ashish Sharma and Mahesh Thakur as Modi at different ages. The episodes that are out cover Modi’s childhood and his experiences during the Emergency between 1975 and 1977.

NaMo TV

Acting on the premise – it cannot be dignified with the term ‘principle’ – that if you can get away with it, there’s nothing wrong with it (or, that if you aren’t caught, you haven’t done anything wrong), NaMo TV has been running merrily on all DTH platforms like Tata Sky, Tata Sky, Dish TV, Airtel, Siti Network, among others.

The channel covering Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speeches and election rallies, went on air last week after election dates were announced. Soon after its launch, PM Modi posted a tweet urging people to watch his interaction with chowkidars live on NaMoTV. Modi’s official app owned by BJP, the NaMo app reportedly has an option called NaMo TV, on which the Prime Minister’s past and live speeches can be listened to.

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, asked about NaMo TV, told NDTV: “Let the appropriate authorities answer. Let the Information and Broadcasting and EC (Election Commission) comment on it. You and I should not get into it.”

The Election Commission has asked for a report on NaMo TV from the Information and Broadcasting ministry after the Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) alleged that the ruling party has sneaked in the channel to push its campaign, in a serious violation of the code of conduct in place for the April-May national election.

It now emerges that the channel that has been on air for a week now never applied for a broadcast licence, said a report by news portal ThePrint.

It also does not have a compulsory security clearance and this makes the enterprise illegal under broadcast laws, said the report.

It is possibly a first in the history of broadcasting in India that a channel had gone on air without any permission from the government or even applying for it, said the report quoting an official in the Information and Broadcasting ministry.

“There have been instances of cable operators airing Pakistani or Chinese channels without permission in some places but this is possibly the first time when an Indian television channel, possibly owned by a politician or a political party, has gone on air without any permission,” the I&B ministry official told ThePrint.

The channel also does not feature on the list of permitted channels, issued by the I&B, as of 31 March.

Interestingly, sources from the same ministry, I&B, told NDTV that NaMo TV “is an ‘advertising platform’ that does not need the government’s approval.

The ministry, which is preparing its reply for the Election Commision, told NDTV that NaMo TV “is not a normal channel”. “It is a kind of advertising platform launched by the service provider, currently being run on some DTH platforms,” reported NDTV quoting sources who said no approval is required to run such platforms.

Tata Sky said NaMo TV is “not a Hindi news service” but a special service via internet that does not need a government licence.

Tata Sky had earlier tweeted that NaMo TV is a “Hindi news service which provides the latest breaking news on national politics”

“NaMo TV is not a Hindi News service. If someone in the frontline at Tata Sky has tweeted or said that it is a news service, it is a mistake,” Harit Nagpal, the CEO of Tata Sky, told NDTV. He said NaMo TV “does not fall into any genre” and the feed is “coming from the BJP via Internet”.

“Special services do not need a license,” he added.

The channel was quietly launched on March 31 (Sunday), and has been promoted by the BJP as well as related accounts.

Tata Sky had also revealed in tweets that the controversial channel “is added to all subscribers as a launch offer” and there is “no option to delete the individual channel”.

Misuse of DD

The EC has also learnt to have written separately to Doordarshan for telecasting live the ‘Main bhi chowkidar’ programme of Mr. Modi on March 31 evening for one hour.

The Congress had written to ECI against the BJP’s alleged “misuse” of Doordarshan in broadcasting certain speeches by PM Modi.

The Congress has called for a level playing field for all parties in election campaigning.

Modi’s ‘Main Bhi Chowkidar’ programme was being broadcast live on DD News and its YouTube channel, and the said programme was even being promoted on social media handles of DD News, the Congress memorandum said.

India News

Maharashtra sends controversial IAS trainee Puja Khedkar back to academy

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Trainee IAS officer Puja Khedkar, who has been the eye of the storm, has been asked by the Maharashtra Government to report back to the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA), Mussoorie.

A letter from Maharashtra Additional Chief Secretary Nitin Gadre stated LBSNAA has suspended district training of Khedkar and has called her back for further necessary action. The letter said she has been relieved from the district training programme of the state government of Maharashtra and has been asked to join the academy by July 23 under any circumstances.

Khedkar had made it to the headlines for her alleged demands of a separate office and official car, besides using a beacon on her private luxury car without official sanction.

Earlier this month, a report regarding Khedkar and her father’s objectionable behaviour was sent by Pune District Collector Suhas Diwase to the state government.

Reports said Khedkar completed her MBBS and then appeared for the UPSC exams several times. According to her, she joined the IRS in 2019. In a later interview she said she could not join the IRS since there were some technical problems in the OBC allocation of her seat.

Thereafter, in November 2021, she applied and got appointed as the assistant director in the Sports Authority of India. She then appeared for the Civil Services Examination in 2021 and cleared the preliminary exam, the main examination, and the interview, securing the 821st rank.

However, she failed to present herself for a medical test to confirm disability claims of blindness and mental illness due to which she was getting benefits under the category of Persons with Benchmark Disabilities. Consequently, this persisted as a legal battle in Central Administrative Tribunal against UPSC.

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Supreme Court issues notice to CBI, ED on Manish Sisodia bail plea

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Manish Sisodia

The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued notice to the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate in connection with the bail pleas moved by former Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia.

The Supreme Court’s decided to issue notice to the two agencies after arguments on Sisodia’s petitions for bail in two cases relating to alleged irregularities in the now-scrapped Delhi liquor policy. The court granted two weeks to the agencies to file their views.

“Views of agencies have to be heard before any decision is taken,” said Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, pointing at the seriousness of the charges slapped on Sisodia. The former Delhi Deputy CM has been under judicial remand since February 2023 over corruption and money laundering charges.

According to Sisodia’s counsel, the charges against him are politically motivated and lack enough evidence. The counsel had sought bail on medical grounds, to which the CBI or ED objected, saying his release might hamper the ongoing investigation into the case by influencing the witnesses or tampering with evidence.

According to the CBI and ED, Sisodia’s involvement in the liquor policy scheme was responsible for substantial state revenue loss and worked in favor of private liquor vendors.

Manish Sisodia, known for his transformational work in the field of education under the Delhi government, is not the only Aam Aadmi Party leader in jail. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Satyendar Jain are also behind bars. While Kejriwal is jailed in connection with the liquor policy case, Jain is in prison for corruption charges.

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PayTm share price slips 2 per cent over SEBI warning

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Paytm

The share price of PayTm fell by nearly 2 per cent on Tuesday following a warning from the the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).

PayTm’s parent One 97 Communication had got SEBI’s administrative warning letter on some transactions involving the PayTm Payments Bank during fiscal year 2021-2022. The bourses reacted strongly leading to PayTm shares falling by 1.88% to Rs 460.80 per share on the Bombay Stock Exchange.

SEBI said it had noted the violation with concern and said these matters are being viewed very seriously. The regulator warned the company to exercise caution going forward and improve compliance to rules to prevent similar incidents in the future.

The markets regulator added that failure to comply with rules may force it to invoke enforcement actions as per the law.

In its response to SEBI, PayTm said in a media release that it has always followed listing regulations, as well as any change to these rules over time. The company said it would keep up its commitment to maintain and follow high standards of compliance. Paytm said it intends to provide an adequate response to SEBI on this matter.

PayTm said it has always followed Regulation 23 along with Regulation 4(1)(h) of the SEBI Listing Regulations, without including any change made to these rules over time. Paytm added that the letter from  SEBI has no influence on its finances, operations or other activities in any way.

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