Friday, October 2, 2015

Midday meals to be tested every month under new rules

Midday meals provided to students of schools should be mandatorily tested by accredited labs each month for quality and nutrition under new rules notified by the government which will also make available an allowance if food is not given.

The move for tests came against the backdrop of frequent complaints of sub-standard food being distributed under the mid-day meal programme that covers roughly 10.5 crore students across the country. The Mid-Day Meal Rules, 2015, notified yesterday under the Food Security Act 2013, also seeks to fix responsibility on persons for non-supply of food for three consecutive school
days or five days in a month.

It also seeks to improve efficiency in implementation by plugging loopholes, check irregularities and ensure quality of food served, officials in HRD Ministry said on Thursday. Testing of the meals by accredited labs has been made mandatory under the new rules to ensure nutritional standards. Hot cooked meal provided to children will be evaluated and certified by the government food research laboratory or any laboratory accredited or recognised by law so as to ensure that the meal meets with the nutritional standards and quality.

The Food and Drugs Administration department of the state will be engaged to collect samples to ensure the nutritive value and quality of the meals. The samples will be collected at least once a month from randomly selected schools or centralised kitchens and sent for examination to the laboratories, the rules state. On the Food Security Allowance, it says, "If midday meal is not provided in school on any school-day due to non-availability of food grains, cooking cost, fuel or absence of cook-cum-helper or any other reason, the State Government shall pay Food Security Allowance by 15th of the succeeding month."

The allowance will be fixed based on quantity of food grain supplied as per entitlement of a child and the cooking cost prevailing in the state. In case of non-supply of meal by the centralised kitchen, food security allowance will be realised from the centralised kitchen, the rules say. However, if a child has not taken food on offer for whatever reasons, no claim of food security allowance shall lie with the state government or centralised kitchens.

The rules say that "the state government shall take action to fix responsibility on the person or agency in accordance with the procedure laid down, if mid-day meal is not provided in school on school days continuously for three days or at least for five days in a month". The headmaster or headmistress of the school will be empowered to utilise any fund available in school for continuation of the midday meal programme in case of temporary unavailability of food grains, cooking cost etc.

"The utilised fund shall be reimbursed to the school account immediately after receipt of mid day meal funds," the rules said.

Keeping in mind that unhygenic conditions have proved counter productive to the programme, the rules state that every school shall have the facility for cooking meals in hygienic manner.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Candidate proves she has height for sub-inspector's job

Gujarat high court's intervention ensured Hetal Vihol a job with the Gujarat police after she was rejected on the ground that she did not have the required height for selection as police sub-inspector (PSI).
City-based Vihol participated in the recently-concluded recruitment process for PSIs. She successfully cleared the tests but, at the last moment, she was dis qualified because the authorities measured her height as 157.2 cm.
After the relaxation in physical qualification granted in February by the Anandiben Patel-government, women candidates for this post are required to have 158 cm height. Earlier the requisite height for women candidates was 160 cm.
Vihol was not satisfied with the measurement process adopted by the recruitment body and she moved the high court questioning the result. Her lawyer, claimed that the measurement of candidate's height was not properly recorded. He argued that there are new equipment, including laser instruments, that are used to measure height and these instruments measure height precisely. He urged the court to direct medical experts to measure Vihol's height once again.
The high court ordered the Sola Hospital Board to arrange for a fresh measurement of Vihol's height. Accordingly, the medical superintendent and RMO measured her height and found it to be 158 cm, exactly the minimum required for qualification. When the result was placed before the court, it directed the police recruitment board to select Vihol for the post of PSI.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

UP officials to be punished for deaths due to potholes?

Government officials in UP could soon be held accountable for fatal accidents due to potholes and charged under Section 304A (causing death due to negligence), if an order issued by the state transport commissioner comes into effect. 

This is in contrast to two recent cases in which police in Maharashtra and Karnataka used the same section to book family members of accident victims. 

UP transport commissioner K Ravindra Naik had written to district magistrates, civic bodies and development authorities of cities directing them to punish those responsible for potholes. "Dig as much as you can fill in a day . Why should pits be left open on roads at night?" said Naik. 

On September 24, police booked Priti Prasad, 26, of Thane for the death of her mother, who was riding pillion and fell while the scooter was negotiating potholes. The Thane police commissioner has since asked his men not to arrest the woman and probe the possible role of the contractor and MMRDA officials. UP transport commissioner K Ravindra Naik, who has issued an order seeking officials to be held accountable for accident deaths due to potholes, said though a large number of people died due to overspeeding, bad roads killed a significant number every year. 

In his order, Naik sought punishment for those guilty under section 304(A) of IPC, which states, "whoever causes the death of any person by doing any rash or negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both". 

Muslims marrying off minor daughters will be prosecuted: HC

Gujarat high court has held that the special law - Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA) - will prevail over the Muslim Personal Law in cases where Muslims marry off their minor daughters. Promoters of such marriages will face legal proceedings. 

The question was whether action can be taken against people who promote or permit marriage of a Muslim girl less than 18 years because the Sharia laws permit a girl to take decision about her marriage when she attains the age of puberty, at around 15. Justice J B Pardiwala on Wednesday ruled that all those who promote or permit such child marriages are liable to be prosecuted under the central law that bans such early nuptials. 

The case in question before the high court was from Gaekwad Haveli police station, where abduction and rape charges were leveled against Yunush Shaikh (28) who had eloped with a 16-year old girl living in his neighbourhood. Before elopement, they had also got married in December last year. The girl's father lodged an FIR and sections 363, 366, 376 of the IPC, provisions of Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) were invoked apart from the PCMA. 

Looking at the provisions of Personal Laws and IPC, Justice Pardiwala dropped charges of abduction, luring and rape. However, the HC said that even in cases of child marriage involving Muslims, the provisions of PCMA cannot be overlooked and action must be taken against those responsible, said Shaikhs' counsel Soeb Bhoheria. 

In reaching this conclusion, the judge spoke of numerous citations from other high courts, the Supreme Court as well as from laws of other countries. He also extensively cited the Islamic texts besides relying on an article written by former SC judge Markandey Katju. 

The HC observed about rigidity on part of Islamic authorities in interpretation of ancient laws, "Those who have not allowed to change the Muslim Personal Law have done a great disservice to the community. At the same time, it is also true that as the social condition in the nation and throughout the world continues to change. The reality of life is that even without a code on personal law of Muslim in so far as the marriage is concerned, the child marriage is going into oblivion. Education, changing pattern of the family structure, the structure of the family in the context of reality of the world, and economic necessities are on their own precipitating the situation. The members of the community have realized the evil consequences of getting a Muslim girl married at a tendered age of 16 or 17 years." 

Supreme Court slams government for not complying with orders

If judges in this country can be appointed by the government in 24 hours, why can’t they show the same alacrity in complying with court orders, asked Supreme Court Thursday, as it sent a strong message to authorities for reluctance to abide by its directives. “If you (government) can have judges appointed… in 24 hours, you can also comply with our orders in 48 hours but here you have taken two years and still counting,” said a bench of Justices Kurian Joseph and Arun Mishra.

It underlined that once an order has been passed, it must be complied with. “When we pass an order, you cannot sit in appeal. You cannot say you have become wiser after our orders and need to examine it again,” said the bench. It said the government may choose to act “dodgy” over implementing orders but the court knows how to get them implemented. “Nobody else needs to feel strained… Leave it to the court, which has passed the order, to also take care of its implementation,” added the bench. The top court made the observations as it took notice of the government’s delay in implementing its directions on providing promotional avenues and financial upgradation to the employees of the Song and Drama Division (SandDD). The SandDD is a media unit under the I&B Ministry that propagates various policy programmes and schemes of the Centre through live media. By a proposal dated April 9, 2014, the dispute over promotions and grade pay was held to be amicably resolved between the parties by the apex court, which asked the ministry to accord benefits to the employees. The court was hearing an appeal by the ministry against a Delhi High Court order. The high court had in 2008 granted four weeks to the ministry to grant benefits to the SandDD employees. Even as the dispute was said to be resolved, the government kept asking for more time from the Supreme Court to implement the directives relating to grade pay and arrears. Aggrieved, the SandDD employees moved a contempt plea, alleging non-compliance by the ministry. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

US Tourist on First Visit to India Alleges Gang-Rape in Himachal Pradesh

An American tourist has alleged that she was raped by two men in the popular hill station of Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh.

The 46-year-old woman, who is on her first visit to India, has said in her complaint to the police that she was walking through a crowded market area on Tuesday evening when she was attacked. She alleges that she was drugged and raped.

"She says she had gone out for dinner at around 9 pm. When she was returning at around midnight, someone grabbed her and then she fell unconscious. She said when she came to, she realized she had been raped. She then went to the police station," said senior police officer Renu Sharma.

Ashok Singhvi the Principal Secretary Rajasthan arrested in bribery case

A growing pile of cash had policemen in Rajasthan gaping as they counted what they had seized from raids on senior government officials in Udaipur.

The stacks at the anti-corruption department's office added up to Rs.3.8 crore. The trail led the police to senior bureaucrat Ashok Singhvi, who was arrested at around 3 am this morning for his alleged involvement in massive corruption in the mines department.

"It is one of the biggest seizures in Rajasthan," said Navdeep Singh, the chief of the anti-corruption department.

Ashok Singhvi, the Principal Secretary, and his juniors including additional director Pankaj Gehlot, allegedly had a share in the bribe money.

Over two crores in cash was found from middlemen who were allegedly delivering the money to a Chartered Accountant acting on behalf of the government officials. Raids at the homes and offices of the officials led to the rest of the cash.

The mining officials had allegedly cancelled the lease of six clay mines in Chittorgarh, belonging to a man named Sher Khan, and then demanded the money to allow their reopening.

Pankaj Gehlot had 14 bank accounts, the police found.

The raids continued through the night. A middleman was caught red-handed with more than R
4 lakh in cash as he came to deliver the money at the home of a mining engineer.

"We have arrested five people - two government servants and three middlemen including a chartered account. Our searches are continuing and we may come up with more disclosures soon," said Navdeep Singh said.

Meat Ban Not an Issue to Be Forced Down People's Throats: Supreme Court

Citizens in Mumbai can continue to buy and consume meat when they want, without any restrictions.  Endorsing a Bombay High Court order today, the Supreme Court said: "These are not issues forced down the throat of anyone. A Spirit of tolerance has to be inculcated."

On Monday, the high court put on hold a ban on the sale of meat that was to be enforced today in Mumbai for the Jain fasting period of "Paryushan".

A Jain organisation had challenged the order in the Supreme Court. The petitioner argued that the meat ban is a reasonable restriction, "keeping in mind the sensitivity of the people of a section of the society."

Refusing to interfere with the high court's order, the Supreme Court said: "It is only an interim order and the ban expires today   So you ( petitioner ) can go to the high Court."

The top court did ask the high court to decide within six months, whether the sale of meat should be banned during religious festivals.

The meat ban in Mumbai, originally for four days, had led to protests and debate. It was challenged by mutton traders, who have said that the ban will badly hit their earnings.

The ban during the Jain fast was introduced in 1994 by the then Congress government. Ten years later, the two-day ban was extended to four days but it had never really been implemented until the state government recently ordered a ban.

Last week, the ban was reduced from four days to only one more day, today, by Mumbai's Shiv Sena-dominated civic body. The Sena had opposed the ban, openly disagreeing with its ally, the ruling BJP, which wanted the slaughter and sale of meat to be restricted for eight days, not just four.

"We are only going by law and not by sentiment and politics," said the High Court, adding, "People should know in advance aboard such bans. At the 11th hour it creates complications. Sudden imposition especially on eating habits is not correct."

Monday, September 14, 2015

2002 RIOTS CASE-Gujarat high court has sought explanation on how non-bailable warrants (NBW)

Gujarat high court has sought explanation on how non-bailable warrants (NBW) were issued against six accused of a 2002 riots case in Anand district after they had been acquitted in the same case.
2002 RIOTS CASE After issuing notice to the state government, Justice J B Pardiwala stayed the NBWs till further orders.
According to case details, Kiran Patel and five others were booked by the police for rioting and torching properties belonging to Muslims on March 1, 2002, in Navli village of Anand district. This case was committed to the Sessions court in 2007 and all the six accused were tried and ultimately acquitted in 2009.
Meanwhile, in 2002, a Muslim from the same village -Sattarbhai Vora -filed a private complaint with the concerned magisterial court in Anand which began inquiring into the incident in 2008.
In 2011, the magisterial court issued summons to the accused. They claimed that the court had accepted their bail bonds in January 2012. A month later, the court issued a non-bailable warrants against them. The accused challenged this before a sessions court but it too upheld the NBWs in 2015. After that they moved the high court questioning how they could face another trial once they had been acquitted in the case.
The high court has posted the case for further hearing on October 24.

SC seeks details of road safety measures taken by AMC

The Supreme Court (SC) committee on road safety has asked Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) on measures it has put in place to ensure safer city roads.
Earlier, the committee had sent a list of 16 road safety measures that were to be put in place in a time bound manner by June. The committee now sought an “Action Taken Report“ from the municipal corporation. The special committee was formed in April last year while hearing a writ petition 2952012.
The measures include formulating a state road safety policy. The committee has also asked the state to set up a body that will co-ordinate with police, roads and building department, health, education, local bodies and other departments on road safety issues.
The committee has also sought details of enforcement relating to drunk driving, over speeding, red light jumping and seat belt laws. The AMC has been asked to provide details of accident spots in the city and how the civic body has made road design changes to curb accidents.The committee has also asked to set up a road safety fund and a road safety action plan. Removal of encroachments from pedestrian pathways, implementation of traffic calming techniques like constructing road rumble strips, removing hoardings that may distract drivers.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Registration of Teesta's NGO suspended

The home ministry on Thursday suspended the registra tion of activ ist Teesta Se talvad's NGO Sabrang Trust under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010, besides serving it a notice for cancellation of FCRA licence.
The grounds cited for freezing all foreign funding to the NGO include diversion of such funds to nonFCRA registered entities; using foreign contributions for purposes other than for which they were received, including for personal gains of Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand; utilization of over 50% of foreign funds received for administrative expenses and mixing its FCRA and domestic contributions, etc.
As reported first by TOI on Wednesday , the Union home ministry on Thursday suspended the FCRA licence of Sabrang Trust for a period of 180 days. A simultaneous notice for cancellation of the NGO's FCRA registration was served. The action follows an inspection of Sabrang Trust's records and accounts between April 9 and 11, based on which a report was made listing the FCRA violations detected. The report was shared with the NGO on June 5 and its comments received on June 25, which the MHA has “found unsatisfactory“.
“In exercise of the powers conferred by Section 13 of the FCRA 2010, the Central government has suspended the registration of Sabrang Trust...for a period of 180 days with effect from 10.09.2015,“ said the home ministry order while allowing the NGO to make a representation against the said order within 30 days of its receipt.

Third-party Inspection (TPI) Engineer caught taking Rs 1L bribe

The anti-corruption bureau (ACB) in Gandhidham, Kutch, caught an engineer of a German consulting agency , red-handed accepting bribe of Rs 1 lakh from a contractor in Adipur town.
The accused, Shital Prashad Tripathi, was authorized to conduct third-party inspection (TPI) for various projects of the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI). He was currently inspecting construction of a six-lane highway between Mundra and Gandhidham.“Kamlesh Valand, representative of a company that was given the contract by NHAI to remove electric wire poles which fall on the six-lane highway route, had lodged a complaint against Tripathi,“ C J Sureja, inspector of ACB Gandhidham, told TOI.
The agency had completed the work and submitted a claim of Rs 82 lakh. NHAI asked TPI agency to carry out inspection and submit the report to pass the claim amount. Tripathi, who was assigned the job to do the inspection, called up Valand saying that the work was not satisfactory and that he could only pass claim of Rs 53 lakh. Valand then asked him to submit a report to the NHAI so that he could claim that amount. “Tripathi demanded Rs 1 lakh from Valand to submit the report,“ said Sureja.“Valand approached us and accordingly we laid a trap at Tripathi's office in Adipur and caught him red-handed while accepting bribe of Rs 1 lakh,“ he added.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Diplomatic immunity, geopolitical complications: Gurgaon rape accused Saudi diplomat may go scot-free

The Gurgaon Police on Wednesday filed a case against a Saudi Arabian diplomat and ‘unknown persons’ under Sections of gang-rape (376 D), rape (376), unnatural sex (377) and other sections of Indian Penal Code including 342, 323 and 120B (conspiracy). The Ministry of External Affairs has already sought a detailed report from the police.

The case against the Saudi diplomat comes at a delicate time for India-Saudi relations, given that seven Indian nationals are still believed to be missing in an air-strike in Yemen carried out by a Saudi-led alliance. But, with a recently-signed defence agreement  and Saudi Arabia’s extradition of 26/11 plotter Abu Jundal in 2012 (not to mention those who were brought back covertly to India through less orthodox means), New Delhi is unlikely to upset the apple-cart by pushing Riyadh too hard on the prosecution of the diplomat, the gravity of the crime notwithstanding.

The alleged crime occurred in India, and has been charged under the Indian Penal Code. However, with the alleged perpetrator being a Saudi national and the victims Nepali, a spanner may have been thrown into what is already a complicated situation.

While Nepali nationals have often faced hardships in India, this particular case could blow into a three-way diplomatic crisis if not handled sensitively. The Indian MEA is likely to push the Saudis to waive the diplomat’s immunity, but this is likely to be in vain. What is more likely is a situation that sees Riyadh recall the diplomat in question and administer internal punishment.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

HC ends preferential treatment for Gujarati students in NRI quota

Gujarat high court on Monday scrapped the new rules made by the state government for admissions under the NRI quota in medical courses, by which preferential treatment was given to candidates of domiciled in Gujarat.

A division bench of Acting Chief Justice Jayant Patel and Justice N V Anjaria junked the new amendment on the grounds that it discriminates against students from other states and this is in clear violation of the constitutional right to equality of opportunity.

The HC intervened in the issue in response to a petition by a student, Kolasani Sai Yaswant Reddy from Andhra Pradesh, who complained that in the name of preferential treatment to local students, the new provisions gave merit the go-bye. Even if a student from another state had secured a higher percentage of marks, he would lose admission under the NRI quota to a Gujarati student with fewer marks.

In May, the state government issued a notification and made changes to the Gujarat Professional Medical Educational Courses (Regulation of Admission and Payment Fees) (Amendment), 2015. By providing new provision to the sub clause (i) of clause (4) of sub rule C of Rule 7 of the laws, the state government has denied admission to students coming from states other than Gujarat. The petition questioned this amendment as violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.

Earlier, during a hearing of this petition former ACJ V M Sahai commented, "The secretaries make policies to please their bosses and do not bother to see whether they are in accordance with law." With this remark, the HC had stayed the recent amendment.

Monday, September 7, 2015

No mercy for the corrupt, says SC

The Supreme Court on Monday called for 'zero tolerance' approach towards corruption and advised the courts not to get swayed by mercy and forgiveness while awarding punishment to the corrupt. 

Asking the courts to impose stringent punishment in corruption cases, a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla C Pant said courts must deal with corrupt people with an iron hand, particularly when the country is witnessing cancerous growth of corruption which had polluted moral standards of people and administration.

Ordering termination of services of a conductor in UP State Road Transport Corporation for indulging in corrupt practices in 1992 to allow 25 passengers to travel ticketless, the bench said the degree of corruption was immaterial while awarding punishment to an accused. It quashed concurrent findings of a labour court and the Allahabad High Court, which had ordered reinstatement of the conductor. 

The bench said the HC and labour court appeared to have been swayed by the concept of forgiveness and mercy while remaining oblivious to the great harm caused to the institution, the transport corporation, through the corrupt act which had the potential to hit at the root of the faith of employer in the employee. 

"Does he deserve leniency," the bench asked. It said: "When such kind of indiscipline causes financial loss to the Corporation, adequate punishment has to be imposed and in our view such misconduct does not stand on a lesser footing than embezzlement and more importantly results in loss of faith and breaches the trust."
The bench held that HC order granting the erring conductor a chance for reformation and to make him disciplined was wrong and terminated his services 23 years after he was caught red-handed for allowing the passengers to travel without ticket. 

"The delinquent employee has harboured the notion that when the cancerous growth has affected the system, he can further allow it to grow by covering it like an octopus, with its tentacles disallowing any kind of surgical operation or treatment so that the lesion continues. The whole act is reprehensible and such a situation does not even remotely commend any lenience," it said. 

The bench said the approach of the HC and labour court showing leniency towards the conductor is not judicially maintainable. 

"Go and fall at the feet of the girl and seek her forgiveness" - Supreme court

The pitfalls of one-sided love dawned on a man on Monday when the Supreme Court told him that it could reduce his five-year sentence to one year if he fell at the feet of the girl and sought her forgiveness for entering her bedroom 10 years ago and holding her hand.

A resident of Bhagyalaxminagar in Kaviguda area of Secunderabad was smitten by a girl who lived just two houses down the road. He followed her to her coaching classes. She informed her parents and they took local elders with them and warned the man not to follow the girl.
But blinded by love, the man continued to follow the girl and on January 30, 2005, he could no longer keep his emotions under control and entered her bedroom early in the morning while she was asleep. Finding him in the room, she rushed out. But he held her hand and asked whether she would marry him. In the process, she fell and hurt herself.

The girl filed a complaint with the police and accused the man of entering her bedroom and forcing her to marry him. The trial court convicted him for attempting to outrage the modesty of the girl and also trespass and sentenced him to five years in jail with a fine of Rs 1,000.
On appeal against the trial court order, the high court maintained the conviction but reduced the sentence from five years to two years. He appealed against it in the Supreme Court. On August 8, the SC suspended the sentence and granted him bail on furnishing a bond of Rs 20,000 with two sureties of like amount.

On Monday, a bench of Justices T S Thakur and V Gopala Gowda told the man's counsel ATM Ranga Ramanujam that there was no escaping the imprisonment given the evidence on record and the concurrent findings of the trial court and the HC.

The bench said, at best, it could reduce the sentence to one year jail term. However, it said the only way to escape being led back to prison was to "go and fall at the feet of the girl and seek her forgiveness".

"If she pardons you and you can convince her for a compromise, only then we can permit the sentence to be limited to the period already undergone by you," the bench said. It gave him time till October 6 to seek mercy from the girl.