Tuesday, April 22, 2014

'Modi is a Teli-Ghanchi OBC': BJP

Reacting to political allegations by opponents that BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi does not belong to Other Backward Classes (OBC) community, the Gujarat government and state BJP, in an official statement said Modi belongs to the "Teli-Ghanchi'' community which is one of the 146 communities classified as "Socially and Economically Backward Castes" (SEBC) or also known as OBCs, under Schedule 25-A of the Government of India.

The Gujarat government's spokesperson and state BJP in the statement said that according to the earlier Mandal Commission survey of Gujarat's OBC communities under schedule 91(A), "Modh-Ghanchi, Teli" caste is included in the OBC community by the Government of India's list of 105 OBC castes of Gujarat.

"Some opponents fearing defeat in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections are spreading lies about Narendra Modi's 'Modi' surname and OBC status. Modi belongs to OBC caste of 'Ghanchi-Teli', Gujarat Government spokesperson and the BJP said in the statement.

Surprisingly, BJP has not said anywhere exactly who is making these false allegations about Modi's OBC status.

Liquidation officer held for taking Rs 48.56 lakh bribe

A team of state anti-corruption bureau (ACB) caught two for taking bribe from ex-employees of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation Employees' Cooperative Bank on Tuesday at AMC's Danapith premises. The liquidation officer and his adviser were found in possession of Rs 48.56 lakh.

Vijay Bhavsar, an ex-employee of the bank, approached the ACB, alleging that liquidation officer Krishnakant Patel had demanded 30% cut of the final payment to be made to the employees towards the arrears. A team of ACB kept watch near the bank's office at Danapith and caught Saurabh Patel, a consultant to Krishnakant Patel.

Ashish Bhatia, special director, ACB, told TOI that the bag contained Rs 48.56 lakh in cash which belonged to Krishnakant. "It was a big scam in which Patel was taking money from more than 20 persons' payments," 

Not naming foreign bank account holders contempt: Supreme Court to govt

The Supreme Court on Tuesday said the Centre had committed "gross contempt of court" by not complying with its three-year-old judgment directing disclosure of names of Indian account holders in a Liechtenstein bank given to it by Germany. 

A bench of Justice HL Dattu, Justice Ranjana P Desai and Justice Madan B Lokur told solicitor general (SG) Mohan Parasaran, "We gave the judgment on July 4, 2011. Almost three years later, we find you have not complied with the orders to divulge the details of Liechtenstein bank account holders' names to the petitioner. This is nothing but gross contempt of this court's directions." 

It gave the government time till Tuesday to spell its stand on the issue. 

Parasaran argued that the court had directed setting up of a special investigation team (SIT) headed by Justice BP Jeevan Reddy with Justice M B Shah, both retired judges of the apex court, as his deputy. Since Reddy had expressed inability to head the committee, the SIT had not been set up, he said. 

Without the SIT going into the details received from Germany about Indians stashing their ill-gotten money in the Liechtenstein bank, their names could not have been divulged, Parasaran said. 

Appearing for petitioner Ram Jethmalani, senior advocate Anil Divan said the direction for supplying the information on foreign bank account holders to the petitioner was not linked to further investigation by the SIT, which comprised top investigating officers of different agencies like RAW, IB and revenue intelligence. 

The bench said, "SG please try to understand. Divan is justified in his submissions. The direction to share the information forthwith cannot be understood as after completion of investigation by the SIT. The court had said forthwith disclose. The SIT will come at a later stage. The language of the court is clear. The directions are crystal clear when it said disclose forthwith." 

Parasaran said he would take instructions and report back to the court. Giving him time till Tuesday to do the needful, the bench said, "From July 4, 2011 till now, the revenue secretary and the joint secretary in the ministry of finance had kept our orders in cold storage. The Centre appears to have been carried away by Justice Reddy's letter expressing inability to head SIT." 

The court had rejected the Centre's petition seeking review of the July 4, 2011 judgment, which had slammed the Centre for lacking in vigour to probe black money and took over investigations into it by setting up a multi-discipline SIT to investigate the crime in India and abroad as well as accused Hasan Ali Khan. 

Khan, who once was the prime focus of investigation by revenue intelligence agencies as well as Enforcement Directorate (ED), got an unexpected reprieve from the Centre. Parasaran told the Centre that there were no billions of dollars deposited by Khan's alleged associate Kashinath Tapuria in Swiss banks. 

The SG cited a Swiss government report saying most of the documents relied upon by the agencies were forged and that in reality, the deposits did not exceed $60,000. To this, Jethmalani responded, "The documents were forged? But these were seized from Tapuria's residence and were relied upon by the government's investigating agencies in charge-sheeting Khan and Tapuria." 

In the July 4, 2011 judgment, the court had directed the Centre to reveal names of Indians who stashed unaccounted money illegally in foreign banks provided they had been issued show cause notices by tax authorities after completing proceedings against them. 

It also dismissed the government's plea that the double taxation avoidance treaty between India and Germany prohibited revealing names of the 26 Indians who held accounts in the Liechtenstein bank. 

It had questioned the government's wisdom in allowing UBS, allegedly the most favoured among Swiss banks for Indians to stash black money, to open retail banking outlet in India.

Gay sex case: SC agrees for open court hearing

The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear in open court a curative petition of gay rights activists for decriminalizing gay sex.

The curative plea challenging SC verdict against gay sex will be taken up next week.

Earlier, gay rights activists had appealed to the Supreme Court to take into account its recent verdict on granting separate recognition to transgenders while deciding their curative petition against its judgment criminalizing homosexuality.

Appearing before a bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam, senior advocate Anand Grover had pleaded that it should consider the April 15 verdict recognizing transgenders or eunuchs as third category of gender while taking a decision on curative plea.

Curative petition is the last judicial resort available for redressal of grievances in court.

The petitioners, including NGO Naz Foundation which has been spearheading the legal battle on behalf of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community, contended that there was an error in the judgment delivered on December 11 last year as it was based on old law.

The apex court had earlier dismissed a batch of review petitions filed by the Centre and gay rights activists including noted filmmaker Shyam Benegal against its December 2013 verdict declaring gay sex an offence punishable up to life imprisonment.

The court had said it did not see any reason to interfere with the December 11, 2013 verdict and had also rejected the plea for oral hearing on the review petitions which are normally decided by judges in-chamber without giving an opportunity to parties to present their views.

The Supreme Court had on December 11, 2013 set aside the Delhi high court judgement decriminalizing gay sex and thrown the ball in Parliament's court for amending the law.

The judgment revived the penal provision making gay sex an offence punishable with life imprisonment in a setback to people fighting a battle for recognition of their sexual preferences.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Gujarat High Court seeks report from registrar general over missing case papers

Gujarat high court has asked the registrar general to take action against the responsible officers of the metropolitan court for misplacing records in a murder case and submit a report by April 24.

Misplacing case papers in this murder case has resulted in five-year long delay in trial, and prisoner Dilip Joshi was not produced before the court for all these years.

In this case, Joshi was accused in a murder case for which an FIR was lodged in Odhav police station in March 2008. Joshi was arrested in November that year and charge-sheeted in February 2009. Since then, there was no development in this case.

Five years after the arrest, when Joshi sought bail, the HC called for case papers and it was found that case record was not traceable. Finally, case papers were found on March 6. The HC found that Joshi's case has not come up on board for hearing since July 14, 2009, but no action has been taken so far for dereliction of duty on part of concerned staff and judicial officer for not verifying and monitoring the case for more than three years.

Joshi' counsel, Tulsi Savani submitted before the high court that lodging an undertrial for five years without committing chargesheet for trial and without having produced the prisoner before a concerned court amounted to pre-trial conviction.

After hearing this, the HC has sought action taken report from the registrar general by April 24.

Missing Documents

Supreme Court lifts ban on iron ore mining in Goa

The Supreme Court on Monday lifted the complete ban on extraction of iron ore in the state but made resumption of mining activities conditional on issuance of fresh leases. 

The decision offers a ray of hope to thousands thrown out of jobs after the court shut down mining in the wake of reports of massive illegal extraction of iron ore though awarding of fresh leases will be time-consuming. 

The SC order has implications beyond Goa as the mining sector's woes contributed to the economic slowdown along with low growth in manufacturing. Mining has been affected in Karnataka and Odisha as well. 

During April 2012-January 2013, India's iron ore exports fell about 68.27 per cent to 16.35 million tonnes year-on-year. In April-September 2013, the mining sector contracted 1.6 per cent. It has been negative in the two previous fiscals. 

The mining sector has also been hurt by Coalgate and long pendency of key amendments to the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act to allow private firms to engage in mining through competitive bidding. The Goa government and various bodies have been seeking a review of the ban, saying legal mining be allowed as thousands of livelihoods and state revenues are being severely impacted. 

In its order, the SC bench limited iron ore extraction at 20 million tonnes a year and cancelled mining leases that had been given extensions after 2007 after completion of 20-year renewal periods. 

This is a hurdle the mining industry and the state government have to cross and the role of the new government at the Centre, expected to be in office by May, will be crucial in ensuring quick clearances. 

On Monday, the green bench of justices AK Patnaik, SS Nijjar and FMI Kalifulla ordered cancellation of all mining leases given extension after 2007 even after completion of the maximum 20 years of renewal period and upheld the state as well as central government's decisions in September 2012 in this regard. 

It also set out conditions like defining a one-km buffer zone around national parks and sanctuaries as no-mining areas and asked the Union ministry of environment and forests to issue a notification within six months demarcating eco-sensitive zones around national parks and sanctuaries. 

As an interim measure, the court permitted resumption of iron and other ore mining by those granted fresh leases by the state government in accordance with "its policy decision and Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act". 

"Until the final report is submitted by the expert committee, the state government will, in the interests of sustainable development and intergenerational equity, permit a maximum annual excavation of 20 million MT from the mining leases in the state of Goa other than from dumps," said Justice Patnaik, who authored the judgment for the bench. 

The bench asked Goa pollution control board to strictly monitor the air and water pollution levels in the mining areas and furnish relevant data to the expert committee. The court also asked the state to prepare inventory of the sale of iron ore through e-auction. 

It asked the monitoring committee to submit its final report on the utilization and appropriation of the sale proceeds of the iron ore within six months and directed iron ore mining lessees to pay 10 per cent of sale price to Goan Iron Ore Permanent Fund. 

"The state government will within six months frame a comprehensive scheme with regard to the Goan Iron Ore Permanent Fund in consultation with the Central Empowered Committee for sustainable development and intergenerational equity and submit the same to the court," the bench said. 

Another petition filed by NGO 'Common Cause' sought immediate stoppage of iron ore mining in the wake of damning Justice Shah commission report. The bench asked Odisha government and the Centre to respond to the petition, which requested the court to cancel existing iron ore mining leases saying the situation in the state was worse than Goa and Karnataka. 

According to the NGO, Justice Shah commission had indicted Navin Patnaik government saying "from the inquiries conducted by this commission, it is apparent that all modes of illegal mining ... are being committed in the state of Odisha."

Delhi high court stays decision to ground 10 pilots

10 pilots and six cabin crew of GMR aviation who were grounded for skipping mandatory breath analyzer tests, the Delhi high court on Monday stayed the government's decision.

Justice Manmohan stayed the Directorate General of Civil Aviation's (DGCA) order against the pilots and cabin crew who were employed by political leaders during election campaigning.

"Problem is that you (DGCA) presume them to be drunk. How can you deem them to be drunk (without a test)?" the court wondered while staying the decision.

HC however, refused to stay the show-cause notice issued by DGCA to the charter airline for allegedly violating the civil aviation requirement of pre-flight breath analysis of its pilots.

The court gave its nod to the ongoing probe against the pilots, cabin crew and the doctor who had conducted their pre-flight medical test. HC told additional solicitor general Rajeev Mehra and standing counsel Jatan Singh to carry on the investigations and directed the airline and its pilots/crew to cooperate with the investigation. It said the final report of DGCA will come into effect a week after it is passed by the authority.

DGCA, on the basis of a surprise inspection of the offices of GMR Aviation on April 14, had issued a show-cause notice the very next day asking why the airline's licence would not be cancelled for violation of air safety norms. It had also suspended the licenses and privileges of 10 pilots and six cabin crew of the airline for three months with the final punishment of endorsing the same on their licences.

The DGCA has claimed its inspection team found that several flights operated by GMR Aviation in the last month, including one on April 14 when its aircraft flew Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi to Bhubaneshwar, had skipped some mandatory tests.

ASG Mehra appearing for DGCA, told HC that pre-flight breath analysis of pilots and cabin crew have not been conducted since February 22 and also rubbished GMR Aviation's claim that its breath analyser kit was non-functional. The civil aviation ministry said that the pilots and cabin crew have undertaken flight operations without undergoing breath analysis several times in the past one month, with some not having undergone the test 11 times.

The airline challenged the grounding of its staff and alleged the breath analyser was non-functional and that their pilots had undergone the pre-flight clinical tests and were certified fit to fly by a registered doctor. It also questioned DGCA's order in which it held the pilots, all retired Air Force officers, to be breath analyser positive (drunk/intoxicated) as they had not taken breath analysis test.

Why seriously affected clinical trial patients not compensated? Supreme Court

Multinational pharmaceutical majors compensate those who die during clinical trials of their new drugs, the Supreme Court on Monday pulled up the Centre for not forcing the sponsors to provide similar relief to those suffering serious adverse effects during such trials.

Taking up PILs seeking stringent yet transparent guidelines and norms for conduct of clinical trials in India, a bench of Justices R M Lodha and Kurian Joseph asked additional solicitor general Sidharth Luthra for details on compensation paid to patients adversely affected during clinical trial of new drugs.

The health ministry had responded to allegations by NGO, Swasthya Adhikar Manch, that Indians were used as guinea pigs by foreign pharmaceutical majors for human trials of their new drugs and said of the 57,303 enrolled subjects, 39,022 completed the trials.

"Serious adverse events of deaths during the clinical trials during the said period were 2,644, out of which 80 deaths were found to be attributable to the clinical trials," the ministry had said. Luthra said kin of all 80 patients, who died because of adverse effects, were compensated by the sponsors.

But the bench was focusing on the ministry's statement that "around 11,972 serious adverse events (excluding death) were reported during the period from January 1, 2005 to June 30, 2012, out of which 506 events were found to be related to clinical trials".

The bench of Justices Lodha and Joseph asked, "Why those patients who suffered serious adverse effects during the clinical trials be not compensated by the sponsors of the test? They may have endured more suffering than those who died during the clinical trial."

Luthra conceded that the ministry had not looked into this aspect and sought eight weeks to get back with instructions from authorities. Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, for one of the petitioners, said rules had been in place since 2005 mandating payment of compensation to those seriously affected by such trials.

The bench said, "As per the own admission of the government, 506 patients suffered serious adverse effects. They must be compensated at the earliest. The one visited with serious adverse effects in 2005 cannot be in the same state for the last eight years. They must be compensated immediately by the sponsors of the clinical trial."

When Luthra said the authorities have to dig into the records to locate patients seriously affected by clinical trials, the bench suggested that the government could put out advertisements and seek applications for payment of compensation to such patients.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Delhi to make helmets must for women

Women travelling on two-wheelers in the city may soon have to wear a helmet by law. The transport department has proposed to amend the law that exempts them from wearing protective gear after a direction from Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung last month.

The exemption had been granted on religious grounds after protests by Sikh women. Later, in the wake of increasing road fatalities involving women, the Sheila Dikshit government continued to resist attempts to make helmets mandatory. The transport department has now proposed to amend rule 115 of the Act, which allows this exemption.

A proposal making it mandatory for women travelling on two-wheelers to wear helmets has been sent to the Election Commission for approval, pending which the transport department will come out with a notification. A month after the notification, the rule will become applicable, said sources.

Official said helmets were being made mandatory for all women two-wheeler riders because of safety concerns. "Though the exemption had been allowed for Sikh men and women, there have been reports of increasing number of accidents where women were injured or died due to not wearing a helmet," the official said.

The issue had also come in the Delhi high court last year where the government said it did not intend to change the law in deference to religious sentiments.

The new policy cites the increasing number of two-wheeler accidents taking place, as high as two riders dying every day. It goes on to say that wearing helmets will help save lives. Senior officials said that the move also comes after recommendations of the Delhi Commission for Women as well as the traffic police, which cited data that showed 63 women had died in two-wheeler accidents in 2013, up from 42 the previous year.
According to department officials, head injuries are the major cause of death, injury and disability. "Many of these head injuries could have been prevented or their severity reduced through the use of helmets," added the official. The ministry of road transport and highways had two months ago also written to the L-G, recommending that Delhi do away with the exemption to women on wearing helmets.

Said Delhi transport commissioner Gyanesh Bharti, "The policy has been sent to the Election Commission for approval. Once the notification comes out, a month will be given to people to come up with suggestions and objections. We will implement the policy only after due process."

SC allows CAG to audit accounts of private firms

 The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) could audit the account books of private companies which were doing business using national wealth or natural resources on a revenue-sharing basis with the government.

Though the judgment came in a case related to telecom service providers doing business using spectrum on a revenue-sharing basis, it will have vital impact also on private companies engaged in natural gas extraction and coal mining on the basis of production-sharing contracts (PSC) with the government.

"When nation's wealth, like spectrum, is being dealt with either by the Union, state or its instrumentalities or even the private parties, like service providers, they are accountable to the people and to Parliament. Parliamentary democracy also envisages the accountability of the council of ministers to the legislature," a bench of Justices K S Radhakrishnan and Vikramjit Sen said.

The verdict comes at a critical time when the apex court is dealing with 2G spectrum scam, coal block allocation irregularities and also hearing arguments on MP Gurudas Dasgupta's petition alleging that Reliance Industries Ltd and the Union petroleum ministry were hand-in-glove to give the private party 'windfall profit' causing loss to the exchequer.

Private companies have resisted the demand for scrutiny by CAG on the ground that the auditor's remit was limited to public entities.

Writing the judgment for the bench, Justice Radhakrishnan said the court was of the firm belief that CAG must audit the accounts of private firms because "instances are not rare where even the executive, at times, acts hand-in-glove with licence providers, who deal with the natural resources, hence, necessity of parliamentary control over the resources".

Dismissing petitions by Association of Unified Tele Services Providers and Cellular Operators Association of India, the bench said, "CAG's examination of the accounts of service providers in a revenue sharing contract is extremely important to ascertain whether there is an unlawful gain to the service provider and an unlawful loss to the Union of India, because the revenue generated out of that has to be credited to the Consolidated Fund of India."

Justices Radhakrishnan and Sen said such audit by CAG was important when the executive dealt with natural resources, like spectrum, which actually belonged to the people of India.

"Parliament should know how the nation's wealth has been dealt with by the executive and even by the UAS licence holders and the quantum of revenue generated out of the use of the spectrum and whether the same has been properly assessed, collected and accounted for by the Union and the licence holders," the bench said.

The court rejected the telecom service providers' argument that CAG could not be given unhindered access to account books and could look into only those relating to revenue sharing. It said revenue share receivable by the Union being a receipt payable into the Consolidated Fund, the CAG was entitled to seek the records relatable to such revenue receipts.

"We are of the view that unless the underlying records which are in the exclusive custody of the service providers are examined, it would not be possible to ascertain whether the Union of India, as per the agreement, has received its full and complete share of revenue, by way of licence fee and spectrum charges," the bench said.

Clarifying that such scrutiny by CAG did not amount to statutory audit of accounts of private companies, the bench said, "Service providers are bound to provide all the records and documents called for by the CAG so as to ascertain whether the Union of India is getting its full share of revenue."

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Mirzapur court to maintain register of missing documents

AHMEDABAD: To deal with the increasing problem of missing case papers at the Ahmedabad district court, the Bar association and the judges have decided to keep a register, in which the lawyers will have to record their case numbers.

The Ahmedabad District Bar Association on Wednesday put a notice on the campus that henceforth a register will be kept by the registrar in the administrative branch of the court, and the lawyers are required to request the officials to find their case papers that are not traceable. This register will be operated under the supervision of a district judge, and the lawyers will be informed after their case papers are found.

Advocate Jigar Pandya, a member of the Bar association, said that due to the present sitting arrangement of judges and deployment of new and inexperienced court staff, the case papers in many cases have gone missing. At the time of hearing, the lawyers come up for arguments but the court staff cannot place case papers before the judicial officer. Another Bar member said that the problem has become so acute that some litigants have filed complaints before the Bar Council of Gujarat against the lawyers for the delay in court proceedings. "It is shameful for us that we have to admit such mistakes in the open, but we have to resolve this issue. For this, the Bar and the bench have come together now," he said.

Pawar under Bombay HC scanner - Land allot

There might be more trouble for NCP chief and Union minister Sharad Pawar. The Bombay high court on Tuesday asked the state how it could have given land meant for cattle grazing to an educational trust headed by Pawar.

The HC had issued notice to the state government after a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by a farmer Jyotiram Jadhav questioned the government's decision to allot land reserved for cattle-grazing in a village near Baramati in Pune district to an educational trust Vidya Prathisthan headed by Pawar.

Assistant government Molina thakur had filed an affidavit on Tuesday justifying the allotment. The state said it had relied on a circular of 1983 which permits the state to give land to educational institutes, dispensaries or any other philanthropic use.

But the HC said, after observing that the Supreme Court has held that cattle land must be secured too, how a cattle feeding ground could be given. Such land cannot be allotted for any other use, the bench headed by Justice Abhay Oka said.

Thakur said the allotment was made in 2006-07 and the school has already come up and was functioning. She said she would have to verify whether the allotment was made before the SC ruling or after. The counsel for Sharad Pawar said he would like to go through the state's affidavit and also make its submission.

The PIL alleged that no rules were followed by the state and the collector in Oune district as no auction was held. The collector has now power to allot land valued over Rs 2.5 lakh. It said the land measuring over two hectare in a village Waghalwadi was allotted in 2009. Pawar is one of the respondents to the PIL as chairperson of the trust.

"If you want to allot the land then you must adopt transparent and fair means, otherwise people would not know whether the land is available for allotment," the bench said.

The high court adjourned the hearing to June 23.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

SC recognizes transgenders as 'third gender'

 In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court on Tuesday created the "third gender" status for hijras or transgenders. Earlier, they were forced to write male or female against their gender.

The SC asked the Centre to treat transgender as socially and economically backward.

The apex court said that transgenders will be allowed admission in educational institutions and given employment on the basis that they belonged to the third gender category.

The SC said absence of law recognizing hijras as third gender could not be continued as a ground to discriminate them in availing equal opportunities in education and employment.

This is for the first time that the third gender has got a formal recognition. The third gender people will be considered as OBCs, the SC said.

The SC said they will be given educational and employment reservation as OBCs.

The apex court also said states and the Centre will devise social welfare schemes for third gender community and run a public awareness campaign to erase social stigma.

The SC said the states must construct special public toilets and departments to look into their special medical issues.

The SC also added that if a person surgically changes his/her sex, then he or she is entitled to her changed sex and can not be discriminated.

The apex court expressed concern over transgenders being harasssed and discriminated in the society and passed a slew of directions for their social welfare.

The apex court said that trangenders were respected earlier in the society but situation has changed and they now face discrimination and harassment.

It said that section 377 of IPC is being misused by police and other authorities against them and their social and economic condition is far from satisfactory.

The bench clarified that its verdict pertains only to eunuchs and not other sections of society like gay, lesbian and bisexuals who are also considered under the umbrella term 'transgender'.

The bench said they are part and parcel of the society and the government must take steps to bring them in the main stream of society.

The apex court passed the order on a PIL filed by National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) urging the court to give separate identity to transgenders by recognising them as third category of gender.

Welcoming the Supreme Court decision, Lakshmi Narayan Tripathi, transgender rights activist said, "the progress of the country is dependent upon human rights of the people and we are very happy with the judgment as the Supreme court has 
given us those rights."

Monday, April 14, 2014

Rape trials: Law panel, SC

Law Commission of India has doubted the efficacy of the Supreme Court's suggestion that a magistrate record a rape survivor's statement instead of police and said it would not only hamper investigation but also negate fair trial to the accused.

A bench headed by Justice Gyan Sudha Misra had last year taken suo motu cognizance of inordinate delay in the trial of rape cases and said setting up of fast-track courts would not achieve the desired result as long as trial procedures were not changed to dispense speedy justice.

The bench had also asked the government why the Criminal Procedure Code be not drastically amended to allow a magistrate to straight away record statements of all witnesses in sexual assault cases and keep them in sealed cover. "Thereafter, the same be treated as evidence at the stage of trial which may be put to test by subjecting it to cross-examination," it had said.

The Law Commission headed by Justice A P Shah lauded the apex court's keenness to fast track trial in rape cases and minimizing harassment caused to rape victims due to repeated recording of statements during investigation and trial.

But it said, "The amendments sought to be proposed by the Supreme Court may lead to certain difficulties and may not achieve the desired results." The commission said recording of statement by police opens up various possibilities to obtain information about the accused during investigation.

It also clarified that recording a rape survivor and other witnesses' statements by a magistrate under Section 164 of Criminal Procedure Code in no way improved its evidentiary value in comparison to statements recorded by police under Section 161 of the code.

The commission pointed out four pitfalls in substituting the rape survivor's statement to police with that recorded by the magistrate:

* The police will not be able to make any investigation with regard to crucial aspects like details of the accused, what forensic evidence to look for as the statement would be kept in sealed cover

* Police will find it difficult to investigate the case without regularly speaking to the rape survivor to elicit the complete version

* Every discovery of new evidence during investigation would require the police to take the rape survivor to the magistrate for fresh recording of statement, which would actually delay the process

* Police not speaking to the survivor regularly would actually slow down investigation into various possibilities.

The commission also focused on fair trial, a right guaranteed to an accused. "The basic tenets of criminal trial requires that all evidence taken in the course of trial should be taken in the presence of the accused. This is to ensure fairness of trial and to permit the accused or his advocate to point out the demeanor of the witness to the court," it said.

The commission also said police records a rape survivor's statement after questioning her for hours to ensure that all details of the incident are on record. A magistrate was not equipped with the abilities of an investigating officer to achieve the same result while recording her statement, it said.

"If the rape survivor's statement is recorded by the magistrate and kept in sealed cover and not given to the accused before framing of charges, and the accused is made to advance arguments on charge, it would drastically reduce his chances of being discharged, even if genuine circumstances arise in his favour," it said.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

US to soon allow spouse of H-1B visa holder to work in America

 The US will soon come out with a series of policy initiatives and changes in the existing rules including allowing the spouses of H-1B visas to work in America.

In a statement, the White House said that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will soon publish several proposed rules that will make the US more attractive to talented foreign entrepreneurs and other high-skill immigrants who will contribute substantially to the US economy, create jobs, and enhance American innovative competitiveness.

"These proposed regulations include rules authorizing employment for spouses of certain high-skill workers on H-1B visas, as well as enhancing opportunities for outstanding professors and researchers," it said in a statement.

"These measures build on continuing DHS efforts to streamline, eliminate inefficiency, and increase the transparency of the existing immigration system, such as by the launch of Entrepreneur Pathways, an online resource center that gives immigrant entrepreneurs an intuitive way to navigate opportunities to start and grow a business," it said.

From the statement, it appears that spouses of H-1B visas are unlikely to get a blanket approval to work in the US. Only certain category of spouses of H-1B visa holders - mainly from the science and tech category, are likely to get the nod.

The White House also said the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) are launching a new collaboration to empower entrepreneurial scientists and address the critical gap between fundamental research and the development of a commercial entity.

The H-1B work visas for highly skilled professionals have been most beneficial from IT sector professionals from India.

As per the Congressional mandated cap, US Citizenship and Immigration Services can allocate a maximum of 65,000 H-1B visas for the fiscal year 2015 beginning October 1, 2014.

Academic researchers and entrepreneurs who receive Small Business Innovation Research funding from NIH will be eligible to pilot a new version of the NSF Innovation Corps programme that is specially tailored for biomedical technologies.

This intensive, mentor-driven experience is changing the way that NSF-funded researchers think about the commercialization process, the White House said.

NIH will also help scale up I-Corps by augmenting existing NIH-funded programs, such as the NIH Centers for Accelerated Innovation (NCAI), that focus on promising technologies developed by academic researchers.

"Faculty and students who participate in these new I-Corps programs will receive mentorship opportunities, entrepreneurial training, and modest funding to enable them to move their ideas from the lab to the market," it said.

The White House said fostering entrepreneurs and strengthening entrepreneurial ecosystems are vital elements of USAID's newly launched US Global Development Lab (The Lab).

A new USAID Research and Innovation Fellowships Program will send more than 60 young US leaders in science and technology to universities, NGOs, and companies in 12 developing countries this year, it added.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Kejriwal govt’s FIR against Moily, Ambani illegal, solicitor general Parasaran tells Centre

The decision of the AAP government in Delhi filing an FIR against petroleum minister M Veerappa Moily on the gas pricing issue is against the principles of federalism, a senior law officer has said but cautioned against any action by the lieutenant governor on it. 

In his opinion given to the government, solicitor general Mohan Parasaran has said the "course of action" adopted by the Arvind Kejriwal government is against the federal structure of the country. 

His opinion was sought by the Centre which is working on a way to end the controversy. 

But he has cautioned that the Delhi lieutenant governor should not take steps to get the FIR against Moily, former petroleum minister Murli Deora and Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani, declared as "non est" (non-existent). 

Instead, either the Centre should file an original suit in the Supreme Court or the affected parties should approach the high court for remedy. 

Parasaran said a state government does not have policing powers over the Centre, its functionaries or the Union Cabinet. 

He said the decision of the then Delhi government to order registration of the FIR on a policy decision of the Centre will not be a "healthy precedent" and poses threat to the federal structure. 

Parasaran said these issues relating to Centre-state relations have been settled in the Supreme Court in a number of cases. 

In February this year, the Delhi government had ordered filing of criminal cases against Moily, Deora, Ambani and others following complaints of irregularities in pricing of natural gas in Krishna Godavari basin. 

The then chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had said the anti-corruption branch of the state government will probe the matter based on a complaint filed by former Cabinet secretary TSR Subrmanian, former Navy chief Admiral AH Tahiliani and eminent lawyer Kamini Jaiswal besides a former expenditure secretary.