Monday, February 28, 2011

Lawyer & Doctor Fees, Air Travel, Insurance, Hotels Now In The Net

Consulting a law firm or a doctor and getting tests done at the path lab are set to get more taxing with the Budget proposing to include these services within the ambit of service tax.
Ditto for air travel and meals at a restaurant that is air-conditioned and has a bar licence. The changes will take effect in June.
Besides, there will be a marginal increase in your life insurance premium for certain policies and stay at hotels will also get more expensive.
In fact, this year, service tax was one of the most important focus areas for the FM who is hoping to mop up an additional Rs 4,000 crore through the segment that accounts for more than half the economic activity in India.
As a result of the changes, the government has budgeted for an increase of over 18% in collections for next year, although it has left the overall rate unchanged at 10% as part of a strategy to move towards a single rate for goods and services once GST kicks in. As part of that strategy, the government is also looking at the option of notifying a negative list which will include services where taxes will not be levied.
There is, however, good news for exporters as transport charges on their consignments will be bereft of service tax burden and SEZ developers and units can also look forward to some relief.
Further, to reduce disputes, provisions related to input services are proposed to be rationalised by laying down clear definitions of services that are exempt.
For smaller businesses and individuals who pay service tax, there is soon going to be a hassle-free regime with those assesses having a turnover of Rs 60 lakh exempt from the ambit of audit.
The penal provisions are also being rationalised with a lower penalty for those who maintain documents but have been unable to discharge tax liability, Mukherjee said.
NEW SERVICES ADDED TO TAX NET AC restaurants with bar licence Short-term stay in hotels, clubs, guesthouses
To include advice, consultancy, assistance provided by a business entity to individuals
Services provided by arbitrators to businesses
Clinical Establishments
Those with over 25 beds, central AC
Diagnostic services through laboratories
Doctors who are consultants in these establishments
Life Insurance
To include all services, including investments
Club or Association
Service rendered to non-members
Air Travel
Service tax for economic class domestic air travel raised to 150
10% levy proposed for non-economy tickets For international travel, tax hiked by 250 to 750

SC notice to Dow, Eveready, UCC on Bhopal compensation

New Delhi: More than 26 years after poisonous gas leak killed 10,000 people and maimed over a lakh in Bhopal, the Supreme Court on Monday agreed to review its judgments in the criminal and civil cases, which allegedly helped the accused get away with light punishment and Union Carbide pay meagre compensation.
The court issued notices to Dow Chemicals, Union Carbide, Eveready Industries India ltd and McLeod Russel on the Centre’s plea seeking up to Rs 7,844 crore from them to pay additional compensation to the victims and their families.
The Centre wanted a review of the court’s 1989 judgment which supervised a settlement of $470 million between the Union government and Union Carbide towards compensation.
Six months ago, the court had asked the accused in the criminal case — Keshub Mahindra, V P Gokhale, Kishore Kamdar, J Mukund, S P Chaudhary, K V Shetty, S I Quereshi and Union Carbide India Limited — to respond to the CBI’s plea for fastening of the stringent Section 304-II Indian Penal Code charges against them.
The agency had sought review of the court’s 1996 judgment, which diluted the charges to Section 304-I of IPC dealing with rash and negligent act and attracting a maximum punishment of two years imprisonment. A person convicted under Section 304-II, which deals with the offence culpable homicide not amounting to murder, can be sentenced up to 10 years in prison.
On Monday, a Bench comprising Chief Justice S H Kapadia and Justices Altamas Kabir, R V Raveendran, B Sudershan Reddy and Aftab Alam fast-tracked the hearing in both the curative petitions and said that on April 13 it would take up the criminal matter and complete the hearing in three days.
Attorney General G E Vahanvati said the Centre wanted to fasten liability on the companies for the damage to environment caused by leakage of harmful chemicals at Bhopal. The petition for enhanced compensation, drafted by advocate Devadatt Kamat, sought Rs 315 crore to fix the green problem.
Vahanvati also argued for transfer to the Supreme Court of a petition on the same issue pending before the Madhya Pradesh High Court. When Dow Chemical’s counsel Harish Salve opposed any interim order, the AG said he was not pressing for it. The court issued notice on the transfer plea.
The curative petition said the death toll and injuries taken into account by the SC to approve the $470 million settlement was way off the mark as the figures increased dramatically over the years. Public outrage over the June 7, 2010, trial court judgment convicting the accused but sentencing them to two years imprisonment under Section 304A had made the government take a decision to file a petition seeking review of the Supreme Court’s 1996 judgment diluting the charges.

Key papers in 2G scam missing: CBI to court

New Delhi: Some crucial documents of a telecom firm given to department of telecom (DoT) for allocation of 2G spectrum to it and forming key evidence in the scam has gone missing from the department, CBI told a court on Monday.
“The documents submitted by one telecom company to DoT for allocation of spectrum, on the basis of which their (telecom firm’s) priority was to be determined, are reported to be untraceable and could not yet be traced or recovered,” CBI told Special CBI judge O P Saini. CBI made the submission in its reply opposing the bail plea of former telecom secretary Siddhartha Behura who was arrested with ex-telecom minister A Raja on February 2 for his alleged role in the 2G spectrum allocation scam.
CBI opposed the bail plea also saying “some more documents are yet to be recovered” be them.
Detailing the alleged role of Behura in the 2G scam, CBI said Raja and Behura had abused their official position as “public servants”. “Raja and Behura, by abusing their official positions as public servants and thereby ignoring the serious issues raised by the concerned section for further verification of eligibility conditions of Swan Telecom Pvt Ltd, have dishonestly approved the file on January 9, 2008 for issue of Letters of Intent (LoI) for 13 telecom service areas,” CBI said. PTI
Raja seeks judicial proceedings through video-conferencing: Wary of being transported with hardcore undertrials in a crowded jail van, former telecom minister A Raja on Monday moved a Delhi court seeking to conduct judicial proceedings through video-conferencing in the 2G spectrum allocation scam case. In an application filed before special CBI judge O P Saini, Raja said that he be allowed to appear before the court via video-conferencing. PTI

Senior Citizens and Budget 2011

If age is just a number, this round number has a large smiley on it. The Budget has some sweet treats for senior citizens, especially those over 80 years old.
One, the exemption limit for seniors has been increased by Rs 10,000 (from Rs 2,40,000 to Rs 2,50,000).
Two, a new category — very senior citizens who are 80 and above — has been created. For this group, the exemption limit has been lifted all the way up to Rs 5,00,000. That's twice the amount of the regular senior-citizen cutoff. The tax rate on income between Rs 5,00,001 and Rs 8,00,000 and Rs 8,00,001 and above will remain at 20% and 30% respectively.
Three, Mukherjee has also brought down the threshold age for senior citizen from 65 to 60 years.
According to revenue secretary Sunil Mitra, the number of taxpayers over 80 is only about 5,000. So Mukherjee's graceful gesture seems more like a tokenism. But with Indians living longer, the numbers are bound to plump up. This new category of taxpayers will save Rs 26,780 on an income of Rs 5,00,000 as tax after paying 2% education cess and 1% higher education cess.
Lowering the threshold age for senior citizen from 65 to 60 years means that taxpayers in the age group of 60 to 65 who were treated as general taxpayers in the existing regime will now be treated as senior citizens. This will benefit them by Rs 9,270 per annum if they have an income of Rs 2,50,000.
The new tax proposals for the elderly are an effort to align tax rates with the rates proposed in Direct Tax Code (DTC), which is likely to be implemented from 2012. The DTC proposes that the exemption limit for senior citizens be raised to Rs 2,50,000. Mukherjee has done so with his new Budget and has gained a year.
The introduction of an 80-plus category is a goodwill gesture to the grey brigade. However, a senior tax consultant says that in the present circumstances, when inflation is in double digits, increase in the exemption limit does not amount to much in real terms. He pointed out that the finance minister had increased the service tax on airconditioned hospitals with 25 beds, and this would increase the burden on senior citizens who require the maximum medical care.

Oscars 2011: Double loss for Rahman,Rahman fails to win Oscar

Rahman fails to win Oscar

Indian music maestro A.R. Rahman lost the Oscar for best original song to Randy Newman, who won it for "We Belong Together" in " Toy Story 3".
Rahman was nominated with Dido and Rollo Armstrong, who wrote the lyrics for the song "If I Rise" for the movie " 127 Hours". He was also nominated in the best original score category for Danny Boyle directed "127 Hours", but lost it to composer duo Trent Rezmor and Atticus Ross who won it for " The Social Network".

Salary earners with income till Rs 5 lakh need not file returns

NEW DELHI: Salary earners having an income of less than Rs 5 lakh will not have to file tax returns from this year, a finance ministry official said.

"Salaried people, may be up to Rs 5 lakh...they need not file the (income tax) return," CBDT chairman Sudhir Chandra told reporters at the customary post-Budget press conference.

The exemption from filing tax returns come into effect from the assessment year 2011-12.

In case such a salary earner has income from other sources like dividend, interest etc. and does not want to file returns, he will have to disclose such income to his employer for tax deduction, Chandra said.

The government, he said, is working out a scheme and will notify it "very soon".

The Form 16 issued to salaried employees will be treated as Income Tax Return, he added.

Earlier, in the day, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee had proposed to exempt salaried employees from filing tax returns.

According to the Memorandum to the Finance Bill 2011, the government will be issuing a notification exempting 'classes of persons' from the requirement of furnishing income tax returns.

The decision, which will come into effect from June 1, 2011, will reduce the compliance burden on small taxpayers, it added.

Every person whose income exceeds the taxable limit is presently required to file returns.

Another finance ministry official said the decision to raise tax exemption limit of very senior citizens (80 years above) to Rs 5 lakh will benefit about 15,000 tax payers.

Mukherjee announced an increase in the income tax limit of very senior citizens to Rs 5 lakh. They will have to pay a tax of 20% for income between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 8 lakh and 30 per cent beyond Rs 8 lakh.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Balakrishnan should quit as NHRC chief Says Ex-CJI J S Verma

A day after Income Tax authorities in Kochi claimed that three close relatives of former Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan were found to possess black money, ex-CJI J S Verma on Sunday demanded that Balakrishnan quit as NHRC chief and if he did not, the President should intervene to get him removed from the post. “I think he (Balakrishnan) should quit and if the allegations are not true according to him, the burden lies on him to prove them wrong and silence is no longer an option,” Verma was quoted as saying by a news agency.
Asked what should be done if Balakrishnan refused to step down, Verma said, “Well, in that case, I think it’s time the President should move in to take action. There is after all a provision for removal. So if he chooses to keep quiet and doesn’t have himself cleared, well then, the removal proceedings should be commenced.”
Income Tax authorities claimed that Balakrishnan’s relatives were found to possess black money during the investigation into allegations of disproportionate income.
“As far as Justice Balakrishnan is concerned, I cannot say anything. But as far as his relatives — two sons-in-law and brother are concerned, we have found there is black money,” Director General of Income Tax (Investigation), Kochi, E T Lukose, had said on Saturday.
Balakrishnan’s sons-in-law P V Sreenijan and M J Benny, both advocates, and brother K G Bhaskaran, former special government pleader, have been found to be possessing black money, Lukose had said.
Verma said, “He (Balakrishnan) continues to be NHRC chairman. His words hold no credibility. See, it’s like this.” Verma added: “Corruption is the most egregious form of human rights violation. And a person accused of serious human rights violation heading the NHRC itself is a great travesty of justice.”

LIC exam paper leaked in Delhi, Hyderabad

New Delhi/Hyderabad: The question papers of Sunday’s Life Insurance Corporation recruitment exam, for which 1,65,000 aspirants appeared at 150 centres across India, were leaked in Delhi and Hyderabad hours before the test. Seven members of two gangs selling the papers were arrested. The exam has not been cancelled.
In Delhi, the crime branch arrested a failed IAS aspirant, Pawan Kumar, and his accomplice for leaking the papers to at least four candidates who allegedly paid Rs 5 lakh each. The department raided four centres in Delhi and Punjab where the exam for 250 posts of assistant administrative officer in LIC was being held. The four aspirants were also arrested. “The question papers have been leaked. We tallied copies of the leaked papers with the original and they were the same,” said Ashok Chand, deputy commissioner of police (crime branch). Chand said they went to three centres in Delhi and one in Chandigarh to cross check.
EdCIL, a public sector organization that conducts the exam, said it would await the police report. EdCIL chairman and managing director Anju Banerjee told TOI, “We decided to go with the exam. Any decision on cancellation would be taken only after the police report comes. So far, I have come to know that all the papers reached in sealed packets at all the centres”.
Kumar, a 33-year-old geography graduate from Delhi University’s Shivaji College, was arrested on Saturday night from Naraina village in west Delhi. He revealed the names of candidates who he got the papers from him. Kumar hails from Bihar and has been in the trade since 2005, police said. In Hyderabad, police arrested five persons and seized copies of the question paper, six mobiles and some cash from them. They too confirmed that the copies matched with the actual question paper.
A Hyderabad task force team raided the house of P Ashok Kumar, a car driver from Gandhinagar, and apprehended him along with Yogesh Kumar Rao, a teacher from Uttar Pradesh, B Anna Rao, a supervisor at a club in Begumpet, P Srinivas, a technician at a car workshop and G Srinivas, a sales officer in bio fertilizers. Ashok and Srinivas were earlier arrested by CBI sleuths in the Railway Recruitment Board question paper leak. They had recently got bail and went back into the trade.
According to task force DCP V B Kamalasan Reddy, Yogesh managed to get a photocopy of the question paper on February 23 from his childhood friend Lal Bahadur of Lucknow, who in turn secured it from his relative Dindayal, an employee of a printing press in Noida where the papers were printed.
Yogesh landed in Hyderabad on February 25 and handed the papers Ashok, his agent who had already selected prospective customers from coaching centres across the state. Police said the gang’s usual practice was to gather the aspirants at a secret location a day before the test and give them the question paper after collecting their original degree certificates. If the leaked paper matched the original, the candidate paid Rs 1 lakh after appearing for the test and Rs 6 lakh if he got selected. This time, however, they called the aspirants a few hours before the exam.
The Delhi Police raided three Kendriya Vidyalaya centres – Andrews Ganj, Janakpuri and R K Puram. Main accused Pawan Kumar’s associate, Arun Parashar, was also arrested. Parashar is from Aligarh. The four candidates who bought the papers from them – Inderjit, Rahul Kumar, Praveen and Dharamvir – are from Delhi and Bihar.The crime branch had got hold of copies of two sets of question papers, one each for the morning and afternoon sessions, from Kumar on Saturday evening.

FIRs against 300 lawyers for violating prohibitory orders

LUCKNOW: Police have registered FIRs against 300 lawyers for violating prohibitory orders and allegedly indulging in vandalism during their protest march on Friday.
The FIRs have been lodged in Hazratganj and Wazirganj police stations, police sources said.
Lawyers and policemen had clashed on February 25 leading to brickbatting and lathicharge. The incident took place when a number of lawyers were trying to march towards the chief minister's residence and were stopped by the police.
The lawyers said that they wanted to hand over a memorandum of their demands, including provisions in state budget for their welfare, to the chief minister.
"FIRs have been lodged yesterday against 300 lawyers for violating prohibitory orders and involvement in vandalism", the sources said.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Dalit school's wait for power ends after six years

AHMEDABAD: A school for dalits and underprivileged in a village near Rajkot got electricity connection on Friday, six years after it had applied for the same. And the students would have sweated much longer in wait but for the Gujarat high court, which rebuked and fined the power company for its apathy. The school is managed by a trust working for upliftment of scheduled castes.

The court has slapped fine of Rs 25,000 on the state-run Uttar Gujarat Vij Company Ltd (UGVCL), for denying power connection to Navsarjan Vidyalaya and its hostel in the outskirts of Rayka village of Rajkot.

The high court said, "It is not only unfortunate but shameful that in a country with democracy, where the right to education has been promoted and is made a fundamental right, such an attitude is adopted by the State organ or the company in providing necessary electricity."

The school authorities have been repeatedly applying for a connection since 2005, but power distribution company (discom) denied the facility even after teaching began and the students, ranging from 10 to 15 years of age, started living in the hostel that had no lights or fans.

The power connection was denied on technical grounds. What's more, even when the issue reached the high court last month and Justice RR Tripathi asked UGVCL to provide a connection within 24 hours, the company defied the order.

The case then went to the bench of Justice RH Shukla. The court was angry on learning that the discom did not comply with its order and observed, "It is required to be mentioned that in fact it would have a bearing on the human rights of the children who are studying there by not providing such minimum requirement of the electricity, which may be necessary in a country like ours, where the climate is hot. Not only that, even the State or such a licensee, which is supplying the electricity under the Electricity Act, is under an obligation to have a sensitive and reasonable approach rather then hostile approach in such matters."
Asking the company to provide electric connection within two days, the court further observed that education has the effect of transforming the society with more awareness and more empowerment to the children who are future citizens. The country has made legislation for free and compulsory education. "It is in this background, such an attitude adopted by the company has to be condemned."
The school's advocate, Shilpa Shah later told TOI that electric connection was provided to school and hostel on Friday.

NCP suspends Maharashtra MLA over rape charges

Mumbai: Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) state unit president Madhukar Pichad on Saturday suspended party MLA Dilip Wagh, from Pachora in Jalgaon district, who is accused of raping a 22-year-old woman. 
   The police have already booked Wagh and his secretary Mahesh Mali for allegedly raping the woman in Nashik on February 21 in a state government guest house. According to informed sources, both had promised a job to the victim from Aurangabad and called her for an interview to Nashik.
   The embarrassed party had to move quickly as the authorities were moving in to file a case against the MLA. The party confirmed Wagh's suspension but declined to give reasons.
   The budget session of the state legislature begins next month where ruling party will be grilled by the opposition on corruption and law and order situation. The accused has been on the run and created problems for the party since home department is handled by senior NCP minister R R Patil.
   Wagh is son of a veteran politician Omkar Wagh who had represented the constituency for two terms and the family has considerable clout in the area.
   This is the second major loss of face for the NCP in recent months after its MP Padamsinh Patil was arrested on the charge of murdering his cousin and Congress leader Pavan Raje Nimbalkar in 2006. 

No counsel, no decision in criminal cases: SC

New Delhi: Courts cannot decide a criminal case against an accused in the absence of his lawyer, the Supreme Court ruled to weed out exparte decisions in offences under penal laws. If the lawyer of the accused absents himself repeatedly, then the court will appoint an amicus curiae to proceed with the hearing on the criminal case, said a Bench comprising Justices Markandey Katju and Gyna Sudha Misra. 
   “In the absence of a counsel, for whatever reason, the case should not be decided forthwith against the accused but in such a situation the court should appoint a counsel who is practising on the criminal side as amicus curiae and decide the case after fixing another date and hearing him,” it said.
   The counsel, who absented from hearing, will not be allowed to argue further on behalf of the accused if he failed to give sufficient ground for his absence, the Bench said.
   “But, in such a situation, it is open to the accused to either engage another counsel or the court may proceed with the hearing of the case by the counsel appointed as amicus curiae,” the court said.
   “If a criminal case (whether a trial or appeal or revision) is decided against an accused in the absence of a counsel, there will be violation of Article 21 (which guarantees right to life) of the Constitution,” it said.

Woman pilot who landed on nose wheel had faked papers for captain’s licence

Chennai: The directorate-general of civil aviation has revoked a woman pilot’s licence alleging she used forged papers to get her airline transport pilot licence (ATPL), mandatory for aircraft captain. 
   On January 11, Indigo pilot Captain Parminder Kaur Gulati made a rough landing at Goa airport. When the plane flew back to Delhi, its nose wheel developed a snag. Investigations found fault with Gulati’s landing technique. She used the nose wheel to touch down instead of using the rear landing gear. She was grounded. Further investigations showed she had used the wrong technique several times.
   “We have revoked her licence. The pilot seems to have obtained an ATPL by submitting forged documents. We are going to file a police complaint,’’ director-general of civil aviation Bharat Bhushan told TOI.
   The DGCA is probing how she got her ATPL after having failed the examination seven times.
   Pilots aspiring to become captains must log 1,500 flying hours, pass an examination that comprises three papers: navigation, metrology and radio aids. While metrology is an oral test, the other two have written and oral components.
   Pilots have to submit the log of flying hours, medical certificate and other documents to apply for ATPL, a tough examination conducted by DGCA once in three months. Bharat Bhushan said the airline could not be faulted for employing the pilot since she had an ATPL licence.
   Asked what the airline was planning to do to prevent such incidents, Indigo Airlines president Aditya Ghosh said, “As an airline we completely rely on DGCA. We will follow any instruction from the regulator.’’
   Sources said touts in Delhi often help pilots speed up the process of getting a licence. “We are not sure if they still function, as DGCA has started to monitor the ATPL paperwork,’’ an official said. The regulatory authority is now checking if any agent helped Kaur get the licence.
   A senior pilot said it was puzzling how Kaur managed to land on the nose wheel.

80cr silver treasure found at Puri Mutt

Puri: Hundreds and thousands of people would have passed a dilapidated Mutt on their way to Puri’s Jagannath temple, not sparing a glance at the 200-year-old structure that on Saturday turned out to be a Rs 85 crore treasure trove.
Cops, probing a burglary, went into the Mutt only to find slabs of silver weighing more than 17 tonnes worth nearly Rs 85 crore at current high prices. There were 522 pieces of rectangular silver slabs, each weighing between 35kg and 40kg. These had been stashed in four wooden treasuries in a sealed room.
Emar Mutt is situated right in front of the Jagannath temple. Non-Hindus, who are not allowed to enter the Jagannath temple, use the Mutt’s rooftop to view the shrine but little else happens there. “We came to know about the silver here after the arrest of Barun Baral, who was trying to sell a silver slab in Dhenkanal on Friday. During interrogation he told us that he had stolen it from Emar Mutt,” said Puri SP Sanjay Kumar.
The SP said Baral worked as a labourer in the Mutt that is spread over four acres. “During renovation work, he stumbled upon the treasury. He might have stolen some pieces with the help of others,” Kumar said. When a stone fell off during renovation, the labourers caught a glimpse of the silver.

 Silver slabs recovered from the Mutt in Puri 

“Baral’s revelation led to the stunning recovery of stacks of silver slabs from the room that was sealed by walls. We broke the walls to enter the room,” Kumar added. The silver was recovered in the presence of Mutt authorities and officials of the state endowment department which controls religious institutions in the state.
There is no authoritative word on how the silver slabs landed in the Mutt. “The treasuries as well as the inventories seem to be a century-old. We are questioning Mutt authorities,” Kumar said. Mutt’s seer (Mahant) Rajgopal Ramanuj said he didn’t know about the silver or the sealed room in the Mutt although he has been staying there since 1987.

Ex-CJI’s kin have black money: I-T

Thiruvananthapuram: The incometax department on Saturday claimed three relatives of former chief justice K G Balakrishnan possessed ‘black money’. Director general of I-T (investigation) E T Lukose did not identify them while speaking to reporters at Kochi. When pressed for names, he said: “It is known to you all.”
I-T sources said the department was probing allegations that Balakrishnan’s brother K G Bhaskaran and sons-in-law P V Sreenijan and M J Benny had acquired assets disproportionate to their known sources of income. Bhaskaran, who was a special government pleader in the Kerala high court, went on leave soon after the charges broke. Lukose also refused to give details of the sums involved. He wouldn’t say if it was in the form of cash or invested in movable or immovable property. But he added that most of this ‘money’ was accumulated in the last five years.
The officer said the department had questioned some relatives of Balakrishnan, who is chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, and added that they would be quizzed again. He declined to reply when asked if the department had sought answers from the former CJI too.
Once the investigation is complete, the report will be passed to the assessment wing which, in turn, will decide whether to levy penalty or initiate prosecution, he stated. The revelations come a week after the I-T department rejected an RTI plea seeking details of Balakrishnan’s tax returns from 2005-2006 to 2009-2010. He was CJI from 2007-2010, before which he was the chief justice of the Kerala HC.

NALCO chief AK Srivastava sent to CBI custody

AK Srivastava, the Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) of National Aluminium Company Ltd (NALCO) a Public Sector Undertaking - who was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for a bribery case yesterday, was produced in court today along with three other accused. All four have been sent to police custody till March 3.
According to CBI, the agency had a tip-off that Srivastava was expecting a favour. The CMD had got his wife Chandni to accept an illegal gratification of three gold bricks, each weighing one kg. His wife had accepted this illegal gratification from the wife of a middleman who was brokering a deal between the CMD and Madhya Pradesh-based private group of companies.
At the time of CBI raid, the CMD's wife had just deposited the three gold bricks in a bank locker in Bank of Maharashtra, New Delhi.
The locker, which is in the name of wife of the middleman, was being operated by Chandni as benami.
A search of this locker resulted in a further recovery of seven more gold bricks of 1 kg each, golden ornaments weighing 188 grams and Rs. 9.5 lakh.
Personal search of the CMD's wife also led to a recovery of Rs. 5 lakh from her handbag and key to another locker. Further search of this second locker led to recovery of Rs. 15 lakh in cash.
The total recovery, including the gold at current prices, value at around Rs. 2.43 crore.
All the four accused - Chairman and Managing Director of NALCO, his wife, a middleman and his wife - were arrested. The agency is carrying out searches across the country.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Davis refuses to sign chargesheet claiming diplomatic immunity

CIA official Raymond Davis, charged with double murder after he shot dead two men on a busy Lahore street in December last, refused to sign a chargesheet on Friday, insisting that he had diplomatic immunity. 
According to the charge-sheet, Davis fired from inside his car at the two men, Fahim and Faizan, and then continued shooting from a Glock handgun with the bullets hitting Faizan in his back as he ran for cover. 
The chargesheet mentions that Davis later took pictures of the two men from his mobile phone and called someone in the American embassy through a wireless set to retrieve him. 

The hearing took place amid tight security in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail where US  consulate officials were also present. Public prosecutor Abdul Samad told reporters that Davis refused to sign the chargesheet saying he be released as he enjoys diplomatic immunity. Guarded by hundreds of policemen, Davis was produced handcuffed in the prison court. 
The lawyer for the family of the deceased, Asad Manzoor Butt, too appeared in the court and rejected the American’s immunity claim. “We, too, have received copies of the charge-sheet. We’ll pursue this case as we want Davis to be punished. We believe he does not enjoy immunity,’’ Samad said. 
The Davis issue continues to embarrass the Pakistan government. While American authorities insist that Davis has diplomatic immunity, a section of vocal Pakistanis led by former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi — he lost his job over the issue — says he was told by his advisors that Davis was not covered by any blanket immunity. 
The government has so far not declared Davis’s status. The court trying Davis has set a deadline of March 14 for the government to take a call on his immunity. Given public hostility, media’s proactive role and uproar within the religious right, it’s hard to see how the government will resolve the issue. 
“Davis’s case is not as simple as it is sometimes portrayed. It’s a complex case involving issues of national and international law as well as grave sensitivities that can’t be wished away,’’ said presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar. 
“The court has not only taken cognizance of it but also declared that it will decide on the immunity issue. We respect the court and await its verdict,’’ he added. 

American held in Pak for spying    

Islamabad:A second American national was arrested on Friday, in Peshawar, on charges of being a spy, a development that is bound to hit United States-Pakistan relations already strained by the Raymond Davis affair. Without specifying his status, the American embassy here said they are looking into the case. Aaron Mark Dehaven, known in Peshawar as Ahmed Haroon, is from West Virginia (US) and the law enforcement agencies say he is living illegally in Peshawar since his visa expired on October 23, 2010. Dehaven was taken by intelligence agencies to an undisclosed location for interrogation. Reliable sources told TOI that Dehaven has been living in Peshawar’s tony and secure Falcon Colony for the past three years. Dehaven had set up a private office in Pakistan’s most volatile city and hired several local people to work for him. He converted to Islam sometime back and married a Peshawar woman working in his office. A source said Dehaven was originally tasked to provide security to US officials visiting Peshawar. Intelligence officials have confiscated his car (registered in Islamabad; number: QB 565) and two cell phones. A case has been filed against him under the Foreigners Act. He will be produced in a local court on Saturday. Minister of state for foreign affairs Hina Rabbani Khar said that around 2,500 officials from 78 countries in Pakistan have diplomatic immunity while 55 are not covered by immunity.

SC seeks probe into illegal mining in Karnataka

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday ordered an environmental probe into alleged illegal mining in Karnataka, which had been the focus of a long standing political tussle between governor H R Bhardwaj and the B S Yeddyurappa government. 
 A special Bench comprising Chief Justice S H Kapadia and Justices Aftab Alam and K S Radhakrishnan asked the court-appointed Central Empowered Committee to inquire into the allegations of illegal mining in Karnataka and submit its report within six weeks. 
This direction came after counsel Prashant Bhushan, appearing for an NGO “Samaj Parivartan Samuday”, alleged that Karnataka Lokayukta and former judge of the Supreme Court Justice N Santosh Hegde had given a stinging report on the thriving mining mafia operating in the `no-go’ green zones. 
Bhardwaj had repeatedly accused the BJP-ruled state of turning a blind eye to his requests to take action against the politically powerful Reddy brothers indulging in illegal mining in forest areas. 
Just over a month ago, the CEC had given a report to the court on the illegal mining activity in Bellary reserve forest areas in Andhra Pradesh carried out by mine lease holders, including the Reddys. The CEC’s Andhra Pradesh report said that the Reddys continued with their mining activity on permission from the earlier YSR Reddy government and with approval from the environment ministry in UPA-I in Bellary reserve forest. The CEC had recommended cancellation of all three mining leases given to Reddy-owned Obulapuram Mining Corporation (OMC), recovery of market value of illegally mined mineral since 2004 and demarcation of boundaries using satellite imagery.

Nalco chairman held in bribery case -Recovered 10.18 Kg. Gold Bricks

New Delhi: CBI on Friday arrested chairman-cum managing director of state-owned Nalco A K Srivastava and his wife besides two others in an alleged bribery case and claimed to have recovered 10 kg of gold bricks worth Rs 2.11 crore from a bank locker and nearly Rs 30 lakh in cash. 
Besides the head of the Bhubaneswar-headquartered National Aluminium Company Limited (Nalco) and his wife Chandni, the other two arrested were an alleged middleman Bhushan Lal Bajaj and his wife Anita, official sources said. All the arrests were made in the capital, the sources said. 
Sources said Chandni accepted an illegal gratification of three gold bricks, each weighing one kg of 24-carat gold, the sources said. The team nabbed Chandni along with Anita just after the duo had deposited these gold bricks in a bank locker in a Bank of Maharashtra branch in New Delhi, they said. 
“This bank locker, in the name of wife of the middleman was being operated by the wife of CMD, Nalco as a benami. A search of this locker resulted in a further recovery of 7 more gold bricks of 1 kg each, golden ornaments weighing 188 grams and Indian currency of Rs. 9.5 lakh,” an official spokesperson said in a statement. 
“All the four accused CMD of Nalco, his wife and a middleman and his wife have been arrested and further investigations are continuing,” the spokesperson said. 
It is alleged that Bajaj was brokering a deal between the CMD and a Madhya Pradeshbased private group, official sources said. 
“Personal search of wife of CMD of Nalco also led to a recovery of Rs 5 lakh from her handbag and a key of another locker in the name of wife of middleman. Further search of this second locker led to recovery of Rs 15 lakh in cash. Hence total recoveries so far have been 10.18 kg of gold and Rs 29.5 lakh of cash, the overall value of which comes to approximately Rs 2.43 crore at current prices of gold,” the spokesperson said.

New Zealand earthquake and Marriage

Woman trapped for six hours after office block collapsed in New Zealand earthquake marries fiance who dug through rubble to find her.
Emma Howard was trapped for more than six hours after her office block collapsed in the 6.3-magnitude earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Her frantic fiance Chris Greenslade ran to the Pyne Gould Corporation building and began digging by hand to find his bride-to-be in the rubble.
But after she was pulled from the wreckage of the building, the couple decided to go ahead with their nuptials despite the devastation.

Court lets off rapist love-bird with 5-month jail term

NEW DELHI: Observing that "love-end can be tragic, but court cannot make it cruel", a city court sentenced a 26-year-old youth to five months in jail for raping his minor girlfriend, but freed him by setting off the sentence against his detention during the trial.
"Love affair between the convict and the prosecutrix was there and continued even after the apprehension of the convict as was evident from the letters written by the prosecutrix to the convict," ruled Additional Sessions Judge Paramjit Singh, while convicting Bihar native Mohd Irshad for raping his 16-year-old neighbour in Jehangirpuri here in 2003.
But imposing a lesser sentence of five months on the convict, the judge said, "Love-end can be tragic, but court can not make it cruel. In view of the peculiar circumstances of the present case, I find it to be a fit case where there exists special and genuine reasons to award lesser sentence."
"Mohd Irshad has been sentenced to undergo imprisonment for a period he has already remained in custody during the investigation and trial of this case," the judge said, setting off his sentence against the five month period of his detention.
Under the Indian Penal Code, a person convicted of rape is liable to be punished with minimum seven years of imprisonment, but the courts may impose lesser sentences on special grounds.
The case dates back to January 5, 2004 when Mohd Irshad, then 18, was arrested on charges of kidnapping and raping his 16-year-old neighbour, with whom he had gone missing on November 27, 2003.
The case against Irshad was registered on a complaint by the victim's father, who alleged that his daughter had been kidnapped.
The victim during her examination deposed in the court that she was taken away by Irshad, who kept her in a room in Mangolpuri area for about one and a half months during which he raped her repeatedly without her consent.
But during her cross-examination, she told the court that she went with Irshad on her own free will. At this, the court dropped the charges of kidnapping against Irshad, saying that "there was no taking or enticing" by the accused.
The court, however, held Irshad guilty of raping the girl saying that as per municipal records the victim was a minor at the time of her rape and her consent or its absence was immaterial in arriving at the guilt of the accused.
But, while sentencing the convict, the court heavily relied upon the fact that there was an affair between the two, taking note of the 'love-letters' written by the victim to Irshad, both before and after his apprehension.
"The prosecutrix (victim) was willing and consenting party and it seems that everything has happened with her sweet will and consent," said the judge adding, "In addition, the convict was only about 18 or 19 years of age at the time of the incident."
The court showed leniency to the convict saying that "the guilty has clean antecedents, belongs to a poor family and is the sole bread earner of his family consisting of old age parents, a wife and an infant daughter."

Several New Trains Proposed in Railway Budget

A railways technical supervisor walks across railway tracks at a station in Hyderabad on February 25, 2011. (AFP Photo)NEW DELHI: As many as nine new Duronto trains, three Shatabdi Express trains and double-decker air conditioned services on two routes were announced by railway minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday.
The new Shatabdi Express would link Pune-Secunderabad, Jaipur-Agra and Ludhiana-Delhi while the AC double-decker services are proposed on Jaipur-Delhi and Ahmedabad-Mumbai routes.

The Duronto trains are Allahabad-Mumbai AC (bi-weekly), Pune-Ahmedabad AC (tri-weekly), Sealdah-Puri non-AC (tri- weekly), Secunderabad-Visakhapatnam AC (tri-weekly), Madurai- Chennai AC (bi-weekly), Chennai-Thiruvananthapuram AC (bi- weekly), Mumbai Central-New Delhi AC (bi-weekly), Nizamuddin- Ajmer non-AC (bi-weekly) and Shalimar-Patna (tri-weekly).

To mark the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda in 2013, Banerjee in her rail budget proposed introduction of new trains called "Vivek Express".

The first four such trains would be introduced on Dibrugarh -Thiruvantharam-Kanyakumari Express (weekly) via Kokrajhar, Dwarka-Tuticorin Express (weekly) via Wadi, Howrah-Mangalore Express (weekly) via Palghat and Bandra(T)-Jammu Tawi Express (weekly) via Marwar-Degana-Ratangarh-Jakhal-Ludhiana.

Four Kavi Guru Express trains would also proposed to be introduced to mark the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore.

They will be on the routes of Howrah-Azimganj Express (daily) via Sagardighi, Guwahati-Jaipur Express (weekly) via Kasganj-Faizabad-Gorakhpur-Kokrajhar, Howrah-Bolpur Express (daily) and Howrah-Porbandar Express (weekly).


Following is the list of 56 new express trains proposed to be introduced in Rail Budget 2011:

1. Raebareli-Jaunpur Express (daily)

2. Tirupati-Amravati Express (bi-weekly) via Akola, Nizamabad, Gooty, Dharmavaram

3. Asansol-Gorakhpur Express (weekly) via Chhapra, Siwan

4. Nagpur-Kolhapur Express (bi-weekly) via Kurduwadi, Lathur road, Purna, Akola

5. Malda Town-Digha Express (weekly) via Rampurhat

6. Pune-Nanded Express (weekly) via Latur

7. Visakhapatnam-Koraput Intercity Express (5 days a week) via Vizianagram

8. Howrah-Secunderabad Express (weekly) via Kharagpur

9. Mumbai-Chandigarh Express (weekly) via Phulera-Ringus-Gurgaon-Kurukshetra

10. Bardhaman-Rampurhat Express (tri-weekly)

11. Bikaner-Delhi Superfast Intercity (daily) via Ratangarh

12. Hyderabad-Darbhanga Express (weekly) via Muri-Jharsuguda-Nagpur

13. Howrah-Tirupati Express (weekly)

14. Narsapur-Nagarsol Express (bi-weekly) via Secunderabad, Nizamabad

15. Puri-Shalimar Express (weekly)

16. Ranchi-Pune Express (bi-weekly) via Bilaspur

17. Shalimar-Udaipur Express (weekly) via Katni, Kota

18. Chennai-Shirdi Express (weekly) via Bangalore

19. Coimbatore-Tuticorin Link Express (daily)

20. Howrah-Mysore Express (weekly) via Gondia, Adilabad

21. Yesvantpur-Mysore Express (daily)

22. Digha-Visakhapatnam Express (weekly)

23. Mysore-Chennai Express (weekly)

24. Ahmedabad-Yesvantpur AC Express (weekly) via Hubli, Bijapur

25. Bhavnagar-Kochuvelli Express (weekly) via Panvel, Madgaon

26. Gorakhpur-Yesvantpur Express (weekly) via Faizabad, Kanpur, Bhopal Kacheguda

27. Bhuj-Dadar Express (bi-weekly)

28. Kolkata-Ajmer Express (weekly) via Asansol

29. Jabalpur-Indore Intercity Express (tri-weekly) via Guna, Bina

30. Porbander-Kochuveli Express (weekly) via Panvel, Madgaon

31. Kolkata-Agra Express (weekly) via Kasganj, Mathura

32. Lucknow-Bhopal Express (weekly)

33. Varanasi-Singrauli Intercity Express (daily)

34. Nagpur-Bhusawal Express (tri-weekly) via Itarsi-Khandwa

35. Puri-Gandhidham Express (weekly) via Durg

36. Howarh-Visakhapatnam Express (weekly)

37. Guwahati-Dimapur Express (daily)

38. Howrah-Darbhanga Express (weekly)

39. Vasco-Velankani Express (weekly)

40. Bilaspur-Ernakulam Superfast (weekly)

41. Digha-Puri Express (weekly)

42. Jodhpur-Delhi Express (bi-weekly) via Degana, Ratangarh

43. Kharagpur-Viluppuram Express (weekly) via Vellore

44. Udaipur-Bandra (T) Express (tri-weekly)via Ratlam

45. Purulia-Viluppuram Express (weekly) via Midnapore, Kharagpur, Vellore

46. Asansol-Gonda Express (weekly) via Chhapra, Mau, Shahganj, Ayodhya

47. Delhi-Puducherry Express (weekly)

48. Asansol-Tatanagar Express (tri-weekly) via Purulia

49. Indore-Kota Intercity Express (daily) via Ruthiyai

50. Bhagalpur-Ajmer Express (weekly)

51. Howrah-Jaisalmer Express (weekly) via Rae Bareli, Ratangarh, Lalgarh

52. Ernakulam-Bangalore Express (weekly)

53. Mangalore-Palghat Intercity Express (daily)

54. Varanasi-Ahmedabad Express (weekly) via Ajmer

55. Howrah-Nanded Express (weekly)

56. Hardwar-Ramnagar Link Express (tri-weekly)

Following is the list of 13 new passenger trains proposed:

* Delhi-Garhi Harsaru –Farukhnagar Passenger (daily)

* Kendujhargarh-Bhubaneswr Fast Passenger (5 days a week)

* Koraput – Bolangir – Sambalpur Passenger (daily)

* Barkakhana-Dehri-on-Sone Passenger (daily)

* Jodhpur-Hissar Fast Passenger (daily)

* Tirupati – Guntakal Passenger (daily)

* Coimbatore-Mettupalayam Passenger (6 days a week)

* Bhuj-Palanpur Passenger (daily)

* Silghat-Chaparmukh Passenger (daily)

* Siliguri-Dinhata Passenger (daily)

* Abohar-Fazilka Passenger (daily)

* Bilaspur-Katni Passenger (daily)

* Raipur-Korba Passenger (daily)

Following new diesel-electric multiple unit (DEMU) train services will be introduced:

* Gondia-Ballarshah

* Vasai road-Diva

* Ratlam-Neemuch

* Ratlam-Chittaurgarh

* Sealdah-Jangipur

* Ahmedabad-Patan

* Bangalore Cantt-Bangarpet

* Dharmapuri-Bangalore

* Marikuppam-Bangarpet

* New Jalpaiguri – Balurghat

* Falaknuma-Medchhal

* Mriyalguda-Nadikudi

* Kacheguda-Raichur

* Raichur-Gadwal

* Radhikapur-New Jalpaiguri

* Jalna-Nagarsol

* Nizamabad-Secunderabad

* Kacheguda-Mriyalguda

* Baripada-Bangariposi

* Sealdah-Bhagwangola-Lalgola

* Kolar-Bangalore

* Krishnanagar-Behrampore Court

The following Mainline Electrical Multiple Units (MEMU) train services will be introduced:

* Ranchi-Asansol

* Ernakulam-Kollam (via Alappuzha)

* Vasi Road-Panvel

* Bangarpet-Koppam

* Falaknuma-Bhongir

* Midnapore-Jhargram

* Kollam-Nagercoil

* Jhargram-Purulia

The run of the following trains have been proposed to be extended:

1. Chhindwara-Gwalior Express to Delhi (11101/11102)

2. Jhansi-Chhindwara Express to Delhi (11103/11104)

3. Udaipur-Gwalior Express to Khajuraho (12965/12966)

4. Solapur-Gadag Express to Hubli (11423/11424)

5. Jabalpur-Nagpur Express to Amravati (12159/12160)

6. Nizamuddin-Bapudham Motihari Express to Muzaffarpur (12211/12212)

7. Jammu Tawi-Sonpur Express to Muzaffarpur (12491/12492)

8. Lucknow-Allahabad Express to Vindhyachal (14209/14210)

9. Chandigarh-Jaipur Garib Rath Express to Ajmer (12983/12984)

10. Indore-Ajmer Express to Jaipur (19655/19656)

11. Lucknow-Saharanpur Express to Chandigarh (15011/15012)

12. Chennai Egmore-Nagore Express to Karaikal (16175/16176)

13. Visakhapatnam-Nizamabad Express to Nanded (18509/18510)

14. Sambalpur-Nizamabad Express to Nanded (18309/18310)

15. Mysore-Shimoga Town Express to Talguppa (16205/16206)

16. Valsad-Vadodara Express to Dahod (12929/12930)

17. Surat-Bhavnagar Express to Mahuva (19025.19026)

18. Sultanpur-Ajmer Express to Ahmedabad (19603/19604)

19. Ajmer-Kishanganj Express to New Jalpaiguri (19601/19602)

20. Mumbai-Allahabad Express to Faizabad via Jaunpur, Shahganj (12563/12564)

21. Yesvantapur-Mangalore Express to Karwar (16515/16516)

22. Saharanpur-Delhi to Farukh Nagar (14546/14545)

23. Lucknow-Bhopal Express to Pratapgarh (12183/12184)

24. Delhi-Shahjahanpur Passenger to Sitapur Cantt. (54075/54076)

25. Moradabad-Chandausi Passenger to Bareilly (54311/54312)

26. Hajipur-Phulwaria Passenger to Bathua Bazar (55221/55222)

27. Hajipur-Thawe Passenger to Kaptanganj (55007/55008)

28. Nagercoil-Thiruvanthapuram Passenger to Kochuvelli (56318/56317)

29. Hyderabad-Wadi Passenger to Gulbarga (57135/57136)

30. Hubli-Bijapur Passenger to Solapur (56909/56910)

31. Nagda-Kota Passenger to Ratlam (59803/59802)

32. Ambala-Una DEMU to Amb Andaura (74991/74992)

33. Ambala-Amritsar DEMU to Kurukshetra (74645/74646)

Rail Budget 2011: No increase in train fares this year

NEW DELHI: For the third successive year, the Railway Budget for 2011-12 spared the passengers of any increase in fares and proposed no hike in freight rates while introducing 56 new trains, including nine non-stop Duronto trains and three Shatabdis.

Regretting the two incidents of sabotage that led to a large number of deaths last year, Mamata said to avoid such incidents in future, anti-collision devices will be commissioned in three more divisions and all unmanned crossings will be done away with in the next fiscal.

Mamata, however, said rail accident rate has declined from 0.29 per cent last year to 0.17 per cent at present. The states with lowest number of rail accidents will get two new projects and two new trains as an incentive, she said.

The booking charges for A/C as well as non A/C seats have been slashed by 50 per cent and online ticketing is all set to get cheaper.

The minister also extended concession for physically-challenged persons and Kirti and Shaurya Chakra awardees to travel in Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains, besides extending facility of card passes to parents of unmarried posthumous Paramvir Chakra and Ashok Chakra gallantry award winners.

Also, the lower age limit for female senior citizens will be reduced from 60 to 58. Concession for male senior citizens has been increased by 10% to 40%.

One of the highlights of the budget was the introduction of over 200 new routes, especially for the North-East. Another special addition is the introduction of double-decker air-conditioned train service on the Jaipur-Delhi and Ahmedabad-Mumbai routes.

Three new Shatabdi trains will be introduced on Pune-Secunderabad, Jaipur- Agra and Ludhiana-Delhi routes, she said. New Duronto trains will be introduced on Allahabad-Mumbai, Pune-Ahmedabad, Sealdah-Puri, Madurai-Chennai, Chennai- Thiruvananthapuram and Mumbai Central-New Delhi routes.

As many as 47 additional trains will be introduced for the Mumbai suburban section and nine for Chennai, Banerjeee said.
Also, trolleys will be introduced at railway stations, said the minister. The 'Go India' smart card ticket project will be launched this year.
The railways is planning to invest Rs 57630 cr in the 2011-12 fiscal and railway earnings, she said, are set to exceed the Rs 1 lakh crore mark.
As many as 442 stations are to be completed and 584 upgraded by 2012 and new railway line capacities are to be increased to 700 km, she said.
Banerjee announced that the first coach from the new rail factory at Rae Bareli will roll out in the next three months. Also, there is a plan to set up a rail industrial park in Nandigram and a metro coach factory in Kolkata. A coach factory is also planned to come up at Singur as is a track-machine industry in Uluberia.
A locomotive centre is to come up in Manipur's Imphal. Railways is to set up a bridge factory in J&K considering need for large number of bridges on railway projects in the state, Banerjee said.
Enthused by the high number of medals in international sports competitions won by the Railways, a Sports Cadre will be set up in the department.
As many as 16,000 ex-servicemen will be inducted by March in the Railways for the first time. A 700 MW gas-based power plant will be set up at Thakurli in Maharashtra, she said.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Court notice to RBI in co-op bank merger case

The petitioner challenged the legality of Abhyuday Co-operative Bank’s merger with Manekchowk Co-operative Bank
Gujarat High Court has issued notices to Reserve Bank of India, Abhyuday Co-operative Bank Ltd and the registrar of co-operative societies while hearing a petition challenging the merger of a multi state co-operative bank with a state level bank. 
The petitioners questioned the legality and validity of the order passed by joint registrar (audit), co-operative societies, Gandhinagar, on October 8, 2008, which paved way for the merger of Abhyuday Co-operative Bank Ltd with erstwhile Manekchowk Co-operative Bank Ltd.
The plea was filed on the grounds that there is no directive in law on the merger of a co-operative bank constituted under state mechanism with a multi state co-operative bank. The petitioners sought an appropriate writ, order or direction to quash and set aside the joint registrar’s order.
The petitioners, alleged debtors of Manekchowk bank, stated that they received no individual notice prior to the merger.
While Abhyuday Co-operative Bank Ltd is constituted under the Multi State Co-operative Societies Act, Manekchowk Co-operative Bank Ltd was formed under the Gujarat Co-operative Societies Act.
Manekchowk bank had instituted summary lavad suit No 182 of 2003 for an amount of Rs 1,77,04,503 against the petitioners before the board of nominees. The court has posted the case for further hearing on March 1.

Man who hurled shoe at Bush held

Baghdad: The Iraqi reporter arrested for throwing his shoes at former President George W. Bush, Muntadhar al-Zeidi, has returned to the country for his first public visit since being freed from prison, and was forcibly detained for questioning Thursday by the Iraqi army. Al-Zeidi became a celebrity in the Arab world after throwing his shoes at Bush during a news conference in December 2008 and calling him a dog. After being freed from an Iraqi prison in 2009 at the end of his nine-month sentence, he left the country and had not appeared publicly in Iraq since. One of al-Zeidi’s brothers told The Associated Press that he returned Tuesday to join anti-government protests scheduled to take place all over Iraq on Friday. 
   Iraqi officials are on high alert ahead of Friday’s protests, which have been billed as a ``Day of Rage.’’ Iraqis have been holding a number of small-scale protests around the country to demand better government services, more assistance for widows and orphans and greater protection for human rights.
   Al-Zeidi left a mosque in a Sunni neighborhood of Baghdad Thursday and then visited a nearby cemetery. He was then confronted by an Iraqi army commander backed up by soldiers who said al-Zeidi should come with them for questioning. An Associated Press photographer who witnessed the exchange said the former journalist asked whether he was under arrest and the commander said he was not. Al-Zeidi refused to go with them and was forcibly led away by soldiers who gripped his arms on either side and escorted him to a waiting Humvee. Iraqi military personnel holding rifles forbid a crowd of photographers from taking photos of the altercation. A Baghdad military spokesman did not respond to repeated requests for information about the incident.
   Al-Zeidi was convicted of assault for the 2008 incident in which he threw both his shoes at Bush and shouted: “This is your farewell kiss, you dog!’’ His prison time included three months in solitary confinement and he alleges he was beaten and electrocuted. He now lives in Lebanon and is suing Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who was standing next to Bush during the news conference. AGENCIES

UK court orders Assange extradition to Sweden

London: Australia-born founder of whistleblowing website WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, was on Thursday ordered by a London court to be extradited to Sweden for questioning and possible prosecution on three charges of sexual assault and one for rape. The order upholds European arrest warrant (EAW) issued by a Stockholm prosecutor. An EAW is rarely refused by any European nation. 
   “I am satisfied that extradition is compatible with the defendant’s convention rights. I must order that Mr Assange be extradited to Sweden,’’ said district judge Howard Riddle at the end of a 28-page decree. Assange denies any wrongdoing.
   Assange will appeal against the ruling and has seven days to do so. The case will then be heard at the High court of England. The Aussie believes the allegations against him are politically motivated because of Wikileaks’ publication of sensitive material including secret American diplomatic cables.
   Judge Riddle dismissed the argument that Assange would not receive a fair trial in Sweden because the Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt had described him as Sweden’s “public enemy number one’’. Riddle said, “I don’t accept this was the purpose of the comment or the effect.’’ On Assange being deported to the US by Swedish authorities, the judge said, “There was no evidence that Mr Assange would be extradited to US for torture as a traitor.’’ 
During the hearing two weeks ago, Assange’s lawyer argued that rape trials in Sweden are ``tried in secret behind closed doors in a flagrant denial of justice’’. But the judge accepted the prosecution’s view that while evidence is recorded behind closed doors, arguments are open.
The judge also rejected the defence’s plea that none of the suggested offences constituted a rape under English law. Assange is one of the nominees for this year’s Nobel peace prize. Late last year, he was adjudged by editors of Time magazine as runner-up for the Person of the Year award. In the readers’ poll, he was the overwhelmingly the first choice.
Assange was arrested on December 7 last under an EAW and spent nine days in prison before being released on bail. Whether he will continue to be out on bail or held in custody will be decided later on Thursday.

President and Governors can’t pronounce a convict innocent: SC

‘They May Grant Pardon, But It Is For Courts To Convict Or Acquit’
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the President and governors, while granting pardon to a convict by a court of law, could not encroach upon the judiciary’s domain and pronounce him innocent.
   “The powers of the court of law in a criminal trial and subsequent appeal right up to the SC and that of the President/governor under Article 72/161 of the Constitution operate in totally different arenas and the nature of these two powers are also totally different from each other. One should not trench upon the other,” a Bench of Justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly said.
   Punjab governor S F Rodrigues, while granting pardon to three persons convicted in a murder case, committed the mistake of recording their innocence and said they were fighting to secure justice for a rape victim.
   “The instant order of the governor, by pronouncing upon the innocence of the accused, has therefore, if we may say so with respect, exceeded the permissible constitutional limits under Article 161 of the Constitution,” Justice Ganguly, who wrote the judgment for the Bench, said.
   The Bench set aside the governor’s order pardoning Manjit Singh while noting that two others — Narain Dutt and Prem Kumar — had already been acquitted by the high court. It remanded the matter back to the governor for reconsideration.
   The Bench said constitutional courts have a limited power to review governor’s power to grant pardon under Article 161 of the Constitution. However, it said the governor’s order suffered from a vital lacuna — observations relating to guilt or innocence of the accused persons.
   “It is well settled that to decide on the innocence or otherwise of an accused person in a criminal trial is within the exclusive domain of a court of competent jurisdiction as this is essentially a judicial function,” Justice Ganguly said.

SC decides open court hearing in Bhopal case:
The Supreme Court on Thursday decided to hear in open court on Monday the Union government’s plea for review of a 22-year-old settlement by which the US-based Union Carbide paid $470 million to compensate victims of the Bhopal gas leak.

   All curative petitions are heard in the judges’ chamber without the lawyers being present. However, the departure from the tradition signified the importance of the issue involved. The Centre’s curative petition, filed on December 3 last year, was taken up in chamber for discussion by a five-judge Bench compris-ing Chief Justice S H Kapadia and Justices Altamas Kabir, R V Raveendran, B Sudershan Reddy and Aftab Alam.

Govt Proposes Changes To Sec 498-A Of IPC

Dowry offence may become bailable
Jaipur: The law ministry is out to tone down provisions dealing with cruelty by a woman’s husband or his relatives, which, if implemented, could result in dowry harassment becoming a bailable offence. The changes are supposedly aimed at protecting family life and checking alleged misuse of the law. Accordingly, Section 498-A of IPC, which defines matrimonial cruelty, will be amended.
   Under the Section, inserted by an IPC amendment in 1983, offenders, including husband or any other family members, are liable for imprisonment as well as fine. The offence is non-bailable, non-compoundable (cannot be closed by way of fine) and cognizable on a complaint made to the police by the victim (wife) or designated relatives. If changes are made, offences, including dowry harassment, will become bailable and compoundable.
   “Relevant data and opinion are being sought from states to evaluate the misuse of law and possibilities of changing it,” said Law Commission of India member Justice Shiv Kumar Sharma. The commission will meet the police of different states to collect statistics regarding its misuse.
   “After a husband is arrested, possibility of reconciliation becomes difficult. So the aim is to strike a balance,” Sharma told TOI on Wednesday. However, he said the commission was equally concerned about genuine cases of cruelty and data regarding the same was being collected. “The focus is to see that a family is not ruined for trivial reasons,” he said.
   Last Friday, the Law Commission held a meeting in New Delhi, also attended by law and justice minister Veerappa Moily, to discuss improvement of justice delivery system, review of Section 498-A and expanding the ambit of compoundable offences under the IPC.

Under Section 498-A of the IPC, which defines matrimonial cruelty, offenders, including husband, are liable for imprisonment and fine. The offence is non-bailable, noncompoundable and cognizable

   Law Commission of India member Justice Shiv Kumar Sharma said once a husband is arrested, possibility of reconciliation between warring spouses becomes difficult 


Explain non-utilization of scholarship funds: HC
Ahmedabad: The Gujarat high court has sought an explanation from the Centre and the state government in connection with allegations that the Gujarat government is denying scholarship funds to student belonging to minority communities. 
   A division bench headed by chief justice has issued notice to the respondents on basis of a PIL filed by a Congressman from Bhuj, Adam Chaki. He, through his lawyer Hashim Qureshi, filed this petition after TOI published news in this regard stating that the union ministry of minority affairs has recently warned the state government that if it failed to utilize the fund, which was released for scholarships to pre-matric students belonging to five different minority groups, the Centre would have to divert it to other states.
   “Such funds, given by the Centre for education, upliftment of minorities, could lapse because the state government has not been utilizing it for long,” the petitioner told the court.
   The Centre had set a dead line of January 31 for response from Gujarat government. The petition said that the Centre had allotted Rs 9.82 crore for award of 52,260 pre-matric scholarships to students in Gujarat. But the central government noticed that no scholarships had been availed and neither has any money been utilized in this regard. The union government had then asked the Gujarat government to act quickly on guidelines, if it did not want to get funds diverted to other states.

RDX LANDING CASE - HC asks govt for ATR

Ahmedabad: Gujarat high court on Thursday directed the state government to submit an action taken report (ATR) in the Gosabara RDX landing case. The directive came following a PIL seeking action against two IPS officers for their alleged inaction in not arresting suspects in the case. 
   The high court has sought the ATR within three weeks. A senior counsel, Yatin Oza filed the PIL demanding action against senior IPS officers Satish Verma and Atul Karwal, who are joint commissioners of police in the city at present. He claimed that the two officers had not acted as per the law to nab the accused in the RDX landing case, which led to the 1993 Bombay blasts.
   This PIL was rejected in 2005, and an appeal was filed in the Supreme Court. The Apex court has asked the high court to hear the case again on merit.  

Vastanvi Praises Modi- Controvarsy

Vastanvi gets hero’s welcome
Darul Uloom V-C Received By A Huge Crowd At Ahmedabad Airport

Ahmedabad: Maulana Ghulam Mohammad Vastanvi, who kept his job as vice-chancellor of Darul Uloom of Deoband, stopped here on the way home to break his silence on the controversy on the Modi comment and his appointment.The first Gujarati vice-chancellor of the Deoband seminary got a hero’s welcome at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport here when he landed on Thursday afternoon on way to his hometown Akkalkuwa near Surat.
He refused to take political questions in the brief media interaction and described the anger against him on the Deoband campus as a combined effect of his comment on Gujarat and decision to rusticate students who reacted to it.
Soon after his appointment, Vastanvi told TOI in an interview that all communities were prospering in Gujarat and there was no discrimination against the minorities in the state as far as development is concerned. The comment enraged his colleagues at Deoband who demanded his resignation.
Vastanvi called the meeting of Deobands Majlis-e-Shoora (supreme governing council) on Wednesday as historic for the country and said that he resigned because of the controversy. First, my comment on Gujarat was misinterpreted by the Urdu media and then there was uproar on the campus by students who were later rusticated for their behaviour. Some of the senior members of the board intervened and the students were taken back after their assurance, Vastanvi said.
A huge crowd of supporters and students from 10 schools and madrasas in the city came to the airport to receive Vastanvi. They were flashing banners saying Vastanvi as Mohtamim (V-C) yesterday, today and tomorrow, we are proud of you Maulana.The shoora, in its Wednesday meeting, asked him to continue till a 3-member committee comes out with a verdict.
“Whatever the outcome will be, I will continue to work for education," he said. He refused to answer a question on whether he became a victim of regional politics of Uttar Pradesh Muslims. Vastanvi headed for Akkalkuwa where he plans to spend some time at the institutes he had established in his hometown.

Official Secrets Act violated by tapes leak: Tata to SC

New Delhi: Tata group chief Ratan Tata on Thursday argued before the Supreme Court that telephone intercepts by law enforcement agencies, including the Niira Radia tapes, formed part of official secrets and their leakage and unauthorised use by media were punishable under the Official Secrets Act. He requested the court to order either the CBI or a similar agency to probe leakage of the 

Radia tapes and their unauthorised use by media breaching his right to privacy. It was necessary because the government’s delayed response in setting up an inquiry by two bureaucrats did not cover the length and breadth of the issues, he said. 
Tata’s counsel and senior advocate Harish Salve told a bench of Justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly that the law enforcement agencies were rightly empowered to intercept telephones to protect national interest and security, but this could not mean that private conversations be also recorded. The hearing saw the bench saying that the court would seek to reconcile the competing issues inherent in the case. “The court will attempt and try a balance between right to privacy, right to interception and right of public to know.” 
Notably Salve seemed to recognise the problem the agencies might face in leaving out purely personal conversations of somebody they have to eavesdrop on, and suggested that a way out could be found by recording only those which were relevant for the purpose for which tapping was authorised. He said corporate lobbyist Radia’s telephones were intercepted between August 20, 2008 and July 9, 2009. As the mobile licences were allotted in January 2008, it was wrong to assume that the phone interception was done in connection with the 2G spectrum scam, he said. 
He said: “There is a difference between interception and recording. The agencies may intercept all conversations during a specified period but keep record of only those relating to alleged illegal acts for use during investigation and trial.”

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

All-India Bar Examination

Bar exam: Hall tickets available from today


While controversy rages over the All-India Bar Examination (AIBE), the Bar Council of India has released roll numbers of the candidates and announced distribution of examination hall tickets from today.
The copies of the admit card will be available at the exam centres on furnishing an identity proof. The cards could also be downloaded from the BCI website. The exam is scheduled from March 6. The BCI website has also displayed the details of candidates whose demand drafts have errors and whose forms are incomplete.
An RTI activist had written a letter to the chief justice of India, seeking postponement of the exam until the apex court decides on the petition of BCI. He has requested a stay on the exam or putting it off until final decision is made on BCI’s plea.

Kasab to plead for life before SC

Mumbai: Ajmal Amir Kasab may have come prepared to die as the trial judge had observed. But now that the Bombay high court has confirmed his death sentence the Pakistani gunman says he will appeal against it before the Supreme Court.
Kasab’s court-appointed lawyer, Farhana Shah, with advocate Shaikh Yakub Yusuf met him at Mumbai’s Arthur Road jail on Wednesday, two days after the HC upheld the capital punishment handed out by the trial court. “Main appeal karoonga (I will appeal),” said Kasab after Shah explained to him that he has the right to challenge the verdict. He has three months to file the appeal.
The lawyers said he appeared weak and was mostly quiet. But, displaying a sense of awareness and alertness, he repeatedly asked for a newspaper to read about the court ruling. “He kept asking for a newspaper,” Yusuf said. Kasab nodded to most things lawyers said with a quiet theek hai (okay) and returned to his cell after expressing his resolve to appeal.
The jail superintendent had explained the verdict to Kasab on Monday and when Shah spoke to him he said he would exercise his right to appeal. The copy of the voluminous verdict is yet to reach Kasab. The 1208-page judgment bound into five volumes will be delivered to him soon. After that, he will have to write a letter to the jail superintendent about his wish to appeal against it.

Indo-Pak home secy level talks on Mar 28-29:

Marking the first step in resumption of the stalled dialogue process, home secretaries of India and Pakistan will hold talks in New Delhi on March 28 and 29 onvarious issues covering terrorism and progress in 26/11 trial. This will be the first structured bilateral secretary-level meeting on counter-terrorism after the recent Indo-Pak decision to resume talks. PTI

JPC to have 30 members

New Delhi: The government will announce a 30-member joint parliamentary panel with terms of reference expected to cover the period of the execution of the first-come first-served policy for telecom licences including the Opposition NDA’s term in office.
The committee is expected to submit a report in six months but official sources were doubtful if this might be sufficient. The announcement on the JPC, its membership and terms is to be made on Thursday afternoon when Lok Sabha begins discussing the 2G scam.
The proportional representation on the committee will see 22 Lok Sabha and 10 Rajya Sabha members. The Congress will have eight from LS and three from the upper House while the numbers for BJP will be four and two respectively.
BSP and JD(U) will have one member each from both Houses.
Larger parties like BJD, DMK and Trinamool Congress will have one member each from Lok Sabha even though no party apart from BJP and Congress has 27 MPs needed to claim a seat in the JPC. Since AIADMK, though lacking numbers, is to be accommodated, BJP will give one seat on the panel out of its quota to ally Shiv Sena.
The BJP is preparing to field former ministers Yashwant Sinha, Jaswant Singh and Ravi Shankar Prasad along with S S Ahluwalia and Harin Pathak as its representatives on the parliamentary committee.
Congress sources said the party list is being finalised. Kerala MP P C Chacko is still tipped to chair the JPC, though a strong opinion in the party holds that someone less combative will better serve the purpose.
The Left will have two MPs on the JPC, one each from Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
BJD has chosen Arjun Charan Sethi as its member. Lok Sabha MP Kalyan Banerjee will be the Trinamool Congress member of the panel. UPA ally NCP will have Y P Trivedi of Rajya Sabha as its only member. JD(U) will be represented by Sharad Yadav (LS) and R C P Singh (RS) while Samajwadi Party will have one member.
M Thambidurai, leader of AIADMK in Lok Sabha, is likely to represent the party. He met Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and NDA chairperson L K Advani on Wednesday to request that the principal opposition take up its case for a 30-member JPC. Both Advani and Swaraj conveyed these sentiments to the government and suggested that a bigger JPC be formed.