India’s diaspora may get online ballot

Updated 08 April 2014
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India’s diaspora may get online ballot

India’s elections authority has assured the country’s highest court to explore possibility of introducing online voting facility for its diaspora during the ongoing elections, a lawyer said Monday.
The assurance came before the bench of Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan and Justice Vikramajit Sen hearing a petition moved by a prominent NRI or nonresident Indian against the exclusion of a large section of citizens from elections in the world’s largest democracy.
The Election Commission of India (ECI) also informed the Supreme Court that it was planning to set up a panel to study absentee voting system.
“The ECI assured the court that the government and the lawmakers are totally in favor of allowing the diaspora to vote and Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh had made an assurance to parliament in this regard,” said Haris Beeran, one of the petitioner’s counsels.
The Gujarat state of Narendra Modi, the frontrunner for the premier, had introduced the e-voting system in the 2010 civic polls, allowing all citizens to vote from the comforts of their homes or abroad but the response was poor.
However, the petitioner says it would be a huge hit in politically-charged states like Kerala where every third house has a member working in the Gulf.
One of the groups working among them chartered a flight from Dubai both this time and during the 2011 assembly polls.
The ECI’s website says there are 11,844 enrollments so far and 11,448 of them are from Kerala whose diaspora population is estimated to be more than two million in the Gulf alone pumping billions rupees every year into its economy.
Punjab has 138 NRI voters followed by Tamil Nadu (112), Pondicherry (56), Goa (27), Delhi and Maharashtra (13 each), Gujarat (7), Madhya Pradesh (6) and West Bengal (5) while half of the states drew a blank.
“This is a historic day for us. We are just a step away from enjoying the right to exercise our franchise,” said Dubai-based Dr. Shamseer VP, a recipient of highest civilian honor for the diaspora, Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, who moved the court with the plea last month. “The court was wondering why it took so long to reach the court”.
As per the official data, 10,037,761 Indians live abroad and they are entitled to register online and vote only if they were present in their constituencies at the time of elections.
They were also allowed to register online and send their documents for verification by post to be able to vote here. But most of them abstain as they were not sure of voting due to the restrictions.


Police slam US actor, say he staged racist attack to boost career

Updated 22 February 2019
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Police slam US actor, say he staged racist attack to boost career

  • Jussie Smollett, the African-American actor who stars on Fox music industry drama ‘Empire,’ went from victim to suspect after he reported an assault late last month
  • Smollett accused of first sending himself a fake threatening letter and then staging an attack to tap into Americans’ anxieties over political and racial divisions

CHICAGO: An American TV actor was criminally charged Thursday for allegedly masterminding an elaborate “publicity stunt” that sought to exploit the “pain and anger of racism” with a staged assault on the streets of Chicago.

It was the latest twist in a weeks-long saga that has seen 36-year-old Jussie Smollett, the African-American actor who stars on Fox music industry drama “Empire,” go from victim to suspect after he reported an assault late last month.

An incredulous Chicago police chief accused Smollett of first sending himself a fake threatening letter and then staging an attack to tap into Americans’ anxieties over political and racial divisions, because he was allegedly “dissatisfied with his salary.”

In a sign of the national attention the case has drawn, President Donald Trump weighed in Thursday, taking issue with the fact Smollett claimed his assailants invoked the president’s “Make America Great Again” slogan along with racist slurs during the purported attack.

“‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told an emotionally-charged news conference — during which he lashed out angrily at the actor for sullying the city’s image.

“Smollett paid $3,500 to stage this attack and drag Chicago’s reputation through the mud in the process,” he said. “This publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn’t earn and certainly didn’t deserve.”

Smollett turned himself in early Thursday morning, was arrested and charged with a felony count of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report, and was granted $100,000 bond.

He was freed from jail late in the afternoon, and said nothing to the throng of media. If convicted, he faces up to three years in prison.

His legal team pushed back hard later Thursday, claiming the police press conference had been prejudicial and “the presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon.”

“Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system,” attorney Jack Prior told AFP in a statement.

“Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence and feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing.”

Smollett had claimed that two masked men beat him late at night in downtown Chicago, poured bleach on him and tied a rope around his neck — but police grew suspicious of his account after they failed to corroborate it.

Trump took aim at the actor for having tarnished his supporters, tweeting: “what about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!?“

Meanwhile, Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television, which produce “Empire” and had stood by the actor, said “we understand the seriousness of this matter” and “are considering our options.”

Authorities said the two men who staged the attack with Smollett were brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo, who have both previously worked on “Empire,” and were acquaintances of the actor — while one provided him with drugs.

The brothers have cooperated with police since their arrest late last week and have not been charged with a crime.

Smollett allegedly first concocted a false threatening letter he had sent to himself — which is under a separate FBI investigation — and when that did not get enough attention, paid the brothers to have the assault staged.

Prosecutor Risa Lanier detailed an elaborate plot that Smollett allegedly orchestrated with exacting detail — telling the brothers when and how to attack him, including pointing out a street camera he assumed would capture the event, but was in fact pointing in a different direction.

The allegations were backed by a mountain of evidence, including a cashed check that Smollett wrote to pay for the stunt, authorities said.

Initial news of Smollett’s claims led to widespread condemnation and shock, and an outpouring of support from celebrities and politicians alike, including Democratic 2020 presidential candidates Cory Booker and Kamala Harris who denounced “an attempted modern day lynching.”

Trump initially described the alleged attack as “horrible.”

Since then, Smollett’s story has become a cautionary tale in an era where incomplete information is quickly spread via social media.

Opinion writers have complained about a rush to judgment, and politicians, celebrities and nonprofit groups have felt pressure to explain their initial reactions.

The president of the LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign said the Smollett news was “both devastating and frustrating.”

“I want to ask everyone feeling angry, hurt and disappointed to channel that into productive activism — because there are thousands targeted by hate violence each year who need our help,” Chad Griffin tweeted.