LEGAL NEWS 09.09.2009

THE JUDICIARY

Supreme, but not infallible

http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/stories/20090925261902900.htm

V. VENKATESAN
in New Delhi

The Delhi High Court holds that the Chief Justice of India is a “public authority” under the RTI Act and is covered by its provisions.

IT was a landmark verdict that was delivered by Justice S. Ravindra Bhat in the Delhi High Court on September 2. The Supreme Court, for the first time, was a petitioner before the Delhi High Court, the first appellate court which is itself subject to the Supreme Court’s superior appellate jurisdiction. The issue pertained to a query under the Right to Information (RTI) Act seeking information from the Chief Justice of India (CJI) whether his brother judges in the Supreme Court have been disclosing their assets to him in accordance with a 1997 resolution adopted by the Supreme Court.

The CJI, Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, maintained that his office was not a public authority under the RTI Act and therefore he was not bound to answer the query. The Central Information Commission (CIC) held that the CJI was a public authority under the RTI Act and was, therefore, bound to answer RTI queries. The Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the Supreme Court appealed in the Delhi High Court against this ruling of the CIC. The Supreme Court was represented by Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati. Later, the Registrar of the Supreme Court was added as a party. Subhash Chandra Agarwal, the information-applicant under the RTI Act, assisted by counsel, Senior Advocate Prashant Bhushan, was the respondent.

Justice Ravindra Bhat prefaced the operative parts of his judgment saying that judges were not unaccountable, but they worked under visible constraints. A judge could be vilified, he said; but propriety required the judge to keep silence, he added. Judgments had to be based on reason; no clarification could be issued, he further explained. Impartiality and diligence were an inalienable part of every judge, he pointed out.

Then he read out the operative parts of his judgment: The CJI, he held, was a public authority under the RTI Act and the CJI held the information pertaining to asset declaration in his capacity as the Chief Justice; his office was a “public authority” under the Act and was covered by its provisions. Secondly, he held that the declarations of assets by Supreme Court judges to the CJI were “information” under the RTI Act, and therefore, subject to the provisions of the RTI Act.

The Supreme Court had argued that the CJI held asset declarations by his brother judges in a fiduciary capacity, which would be breached if they were disclosed to the applicant under the RTI Act. Justice Bhat found this argument insubstantial and held that the CJI did not hold such declarations in a fiduciary capacity or relationship.

Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act says that disclosure may be refused if the request pertains to “personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual”. If, however, the information-applicant can show sufficient public interest in disclosure, the bar (preventing disclosure) is lifted, and after duly notifying the third party (that is, the individual who is concerned with the information or whose records are sought), and after considering his views, the authority can disclose it.

The Supreme Court argued before the High Court that information about personal asset declarations had nothing to do with the individual’s duties required to be discharged as a judge.

The Supreme Court also emphasised that access to information regarding judges’ assets would result in unwarranted intrusion of privacy. Subhash Chandra Agarwal, however, argued that as the information-applicant, he was not concerned with the content of asset declarations. Justice Bhat held that the procedure under Section 8(1)(j) was inapplicable in this case.

THE 1997 RESOLUTION

As a last resort, the Supreme Court asked the High Court to decide whether lack of clarity about the details of asset declaration rendered asset declarations and their disclosure unworkable.

Agarwal relied on the resolution adopted in the Full Court meeting of the Supreme Court on May 7, 1997, which reads as follows:

“Resolved further that every judge should make a declaration of all his/her assets in the form of real estate or investments (held by him/her in his/her own name or in the name of his/her spouse or any person dependent on him/her) within a reasonable time of assuming office and in the case of sitting judges within a reasonable time of adoption of this resolution and thereafter whenever any acquisition of a substantial nature is made, it shall be disclosed within a reasonable time. The declaration so made should be to the Chief Justice of the court. The Chief Justice should make a similar declaration for the purpose of the record. The declaration made by the judges or the Chief Justice, as the case may be, shall be confidential.”

The Supreme Court suggested to the High Court that the 1997 resolution did not state with clarity what “assets” and “investments” were and that this ambiguity rendered the system unworkable. The High Court agreed with this interpretation of the Supreme Court and shared its concern that there was likelihood of individual Justices of the Supreme Court interpreting the expression differently.

But the High Court did not find this an insurmountable obstacle as the Supreme Court made it out to be. Justice Bhat concluded: “The CJI, if he deems it appropriate, may in consultation with the Supreme Court judges, evolve uniform standards, devising the nature of information, relevant formats, and, if required, the periodicity of the declarations to be made.”

It is tempting to consider the Delhi High Court’s judgment as a setback to the Supreme Court’s image as the provider of sober leadership to the judiciary in the country. It is felt that the Supreme Court contributed to this situation by stonewalling questions under the RTI Act.

Agarwal had avoided asking for details of the assets disclosed by the judges, as the resolution considered them confidential. It is felt that had the CPIO of the Supreme Court provided the preliminary information sought by the information-applicant, the matter may not have reached the High Court.

FUNDAMENTAL QUESTION

In its petition before the High Court, the Supreme Court argued at the outset that it had filed the petition not with a view to raise technical objections in order to avoid declaration of assets by the judges but on a fundamental question of law with regard to the scope and applicability of the RTI.

The Supreme Court also clarified that the judges of the Supreme Court were not opposed to declaring their assets provided that such declarations were made in accordance with due procedure laid down by a law that would prescribe (a) the authority to which the declaration would be made; (b) the form in which the declaration should be made, with definitional clarity of what are ‘assets’; and (c) proper safeguards, checks and balances to prevent misuse of information made available.

The Supreme Court might have been legally correct in justifying its petition before the High Court on these grounds, but in the process it was seen as compromising its moral duty to adhere to its publicly declared resolution adopted by the Full Court in 1997. That the 1997 resolution was without legal backing was obvious. Yet, it was precisely because of this that the resolution was supported whole-heartedly and endorsed by the Full Court, thus reaffirming the court’s abiding faith in the moral and ethical basis of the Constitution and the laws. In other words, the 1997 resolution sought to set the judiciary apart from the political class, which was seen as fast losing its moral authority.

However, in 2009 the same Supreme Court questioned the moral legitimacy of the 1997 resolution and exposed its reluctance to abide by any ethical commitments. In its petition before the High Court, the Supreme Court contended that the 1997 resolution was non-binding and, therefore, could not have been the source of the right to seek information. If one were to concede this contention, it would mean casting doubts on the judges of the Supreme Court who endorsed the resolution in 1997 that they did so only because they believed that the resolution was non-binding.

Besides, by refusing to abide by this resolution, the Supreme Court also left in doubt the applicability and relevance of another resolution adopted by the Full Court meeting on May 7, 1997. According to this resolution, an in-house procedure should be devised by the CJI to take suitable remedial action against judges who, by their acts of omission and commission, do not follow the universally accepted values of judicial life, including those indicated in the “Restatement of Values of Judicial Life”.

(The Restatement of Values of Judicial Life, a detailed moral code of conduct for judges of the higher judiciary, was subsequently also adopted by the Chief Justices’ Conference in December 1999. The code laid down 16 specific rules of conduct, illustrative of what is expected of a judge. The very first code suggested that the behaviour and conduct of members of the higher judiciary must reaffirm people’s faith in the impartiality of the judiciary. Accordingly, it advised the judges to avoid any act, whether in official or personal capacity, that can lead to the erosion of this faith.)

While pursuing the case the Supreme Court said individual judges had the choice of declaring or not declaring assets, an autonomy that could not be commented upon or interfered with by the CJI. It cited its own judgment in Indira Jaising vs Registrar General 2003 (5) SCC 494 to suggest that the only source or authority by which the CJI could exercise this power of inquiry over other judges was moral or ethical and, therefore, the CJI could not be asked to disclose a report made to him while exercising this power.

In contrast to the Supreme Court’s claim, the Delhi High Court Bar Association (DHBA), another party to the case, submitted that the 1997 resolution was meant to reinforce faith in the judiciary and that the present denial of information tended to undermine it. The DHBA contested the Supreme Court’s claim that the 1997 resolution had no legal sanctity. It suggested that judges functioned under the Constitution and owed their existence to it. It said that if, in the course of a judge’s tenure, a decision to declare personal assets was taken with a view to establishing a convention, such a practice had the sanctity of law as a convention of the Constitution.

Another stance adopted by the Supreme Court was to distinguish the CJI’s office from that of the Registrar of the Supreme Court and plead that the CJI performed a variety of functions than merely as the Chief Justice of India, and in such capacity, through his office, separately held asset declarations and information relating to them pursuant to the 1997 resolution.

Justice Bhat conceded the CJI’s prominent role in higher judicial appointments, and as the “head of the judiciary” or the judicial family. He also acknowledged that the CJI, for convenience, could maintain a separate office or establishment as he performed a multitude of tasks. But all these tasks were directly relatable to his holding the office of the CJI and heading the Supreme Court. Justice Bhat endorsed the CIC’s finding that the institution and its head could not be two distinct public authorities. Information available with the CJI, therefore, must be deemed to be available with the Supreme Court.

QUESTION UNANSWERED

Asked by the Appellate Authority (under the RTI Act) in the Supreme Court to reconsider Subhash Chandra Agarwal’s application, the CPIO left unanswered the principal question whether the information relating to asset declaration was held by the CJI or separately in another office of the CJI. The CPIO did not assign Agarwal’s application to either the CJI or any other office or authority. The CPIO was perhaps of the view that the CJI’s office was different from the Supreme Court, and not covered by the RTI Act.

Justice Bhat directed the CPIO to release the information sought by Agarwal about the declaration of assets made by judges of the Supreme Court within four weeks.

One aspect of the judgment is of concern, though. Since Agarwal did not seek the contents of the declarations, it was not necessary for Justice Bhat to pronounce on the disclosability of the contents. But he did precisely that by holding that the contents of asset declarations – pursuant to the 1997 resolution and the 1999 Conference resolution – are ‘entitled to be treated as personal information and may be accessed in accordance with the procedure prescribed under Section 8(1)(j); they are not otherwise subject to disclosure’. Observers expressed concern that this might be used as a loophole by judges who refuse to share the details of their assets in public.

Justice Bhat took note of the Supreme Court’s Full Court resolution on August 26 to put asset details of judges on the Supreme Court’s website, but refrained from commenting on it. (See interview with Prashant Bhushan.)

PRESSURE OF PUBLIC OPINION

The August 26 resolution, which has not yet been officially drafted and released in public, is the outcome of pressure of public opinion expressed in various forums.

The opposition to the introduction of the Judges (Declaration of Assets and Liabilities) Bill in the Rajya Sabha on August 3 was one such event, which showed the government and the Supreme Court in an unholy nexus. Clause 6 of this Bill mentions that the declaration made by a judge to the competent authority shall not be made public or disclosed, and shall not be called for or put into question by any citizen, court or authority, and no judge shall be subjected to any inquiry or query in relation to the contents of the declaration, by any person.

This clause appeared to defeat the very objective of the Bill, which was to ensure transparency. The opposition from members, cutting across party lines, forced Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily to defer the introduction of the Bill. It was a tactical decision, as the introduction of the Bill would have meant testing the government’s uncertain strength in the Upper House. Besides, a Minister cannot introduce a Bill in the House if members oppose it on the grounds that it is unconstitutional. On August 3, members opposed it saying it went against the letter and spirit of Article 19 (guaranteeing freedom of expression).

More developments followed. Justice Shailendra Kumar of the Karnataka High Court wrote a two-part article in a newspaper, distancing himself from the stand of the CJI and questioning his authority to speak on behalf of the entire judiciary on the disclosure of assets. He went ahead and published his asset details on the Internet. Justice K. Chandru of the Madras High Court also defended the disclosure of assets by judges. Justice K. Kannan of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, even while disagreeing on his blog with the demand for disclosing judges’ assets, made public his own asset details to carry credibility.

The CJI described Justice Shailendra Kumar as “publicity crazy” and opined that High Court judges could disclose their assets if they wanted but the Supreme Court was trying to evolve a consensus in this regard. Attorney-General Vahanvati has said that the Supreme Court will appeal against the judgment before the Division Bench of the Delhi High Court. The Supreme Court may well recall that an academic book published in 2000 to mark the golden jubilee of the court was titled “Supreme, but not infallible”.

Copyright © 2009, Frontline.

Republication or redissemination of the contents of this screen are expressly prohibited
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HE JUDICIARY

Of accountability to the people

http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/stories/20090925261903300.htm

V. VENKATESAN

Interview with Prashant Bhushan, convener of the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reform.

THE Indian judiciary is considered the most powerful in the world by many observers. In terms of standards of accountability, however, the higher judiciary in India is viewed as the least accountable. The August 26 resolution of the Supreme Court’s Full Court in favour of disclosure of judges’ assets on the court’s website is a result of a sustained campaign by various civil society groups and activists and the sheer force of public opinion, which viewed with suspicion the judiciary’s reluctance to disclose judges’ assets.

The Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reform (CJAR) is one such civil society initiative, which has from time to time brought together on a common platform various grass-roots activist groups to seek judicial accountability and to mobilise public opinion on the demand for transparency in the functioning of the judiciary.

In this interview with Frontline, Prashant Bhushan, senior advocate of the Supreme Court and convener of the CJAR, answers a range of questions on the assets controversy and its impact. Excerpts:

The CJAR has won a major success with the Supreme Court’s decision to place details of judges’ assets on its website. What explains this success?

Well, initially this was not the major focus of our campaign. But we began to campaign on this issue because it was related to Right to Information (RTI). The RTI has already caught the public imagination. We understood early on that the demand for disclosure of judges’ assets would also catch the public imagination.

It all started with an innocuous RTI application seeking to know whether the judges were indeed filing their asset details with the Chief Justice of India (CJI) in accordance with the 1997 Resolution. Despite the August 26 decision of the Supreme Court’s Full Court, this application has not yet been answered. What is the truth?

Nobody knows. The Supreme Court has been contesting this whole issue right up to the High Court. The CJI has made it clear that the case before the High Court has not become infructuous because the Central Information Commission (CIC) has wrongly decided the case in favour of the RTI applicant saying, ‘the CJI’s office is under the RTI’. The CJI has held the view that his office handles sensitive information. Sensitive information that can cause any kind of harm to the public interest can always be withheld under one or two exemptions. But it is an absurd proposition to say that because an office receives sensitive information it is outside the ambit of the RTI. The Prime Minister’s Office receives even more sensitive information. But the PMO is clearly under the RTI.

Does the case before the Delhi High Court become infructuous following the August 26 decision of the Supreme Court?

No. As you rightly said, the Supreme Court has not yet divulged any information about whether the judges have been complying with the 1997 Resolution or the Code of Conduct. Secondly, this issue – whether assets disclosure will be accessible under the RTI – still needs to be decided. The Supreme Court has directly raised this issue saying, ‘today the RTI applicant wants to know whether there has been compliance; tomorrow, they will ask for the actual assets disclosure’. Therefore, this issue will have to be decided.

Now that details of judges’ assets will be on the Supreme Court’s website, the question whether the RTI applicant will ask for asset details does not arise.

We don’t know in what way this will be put on the website and whether every judge will file it or not. We are also not sure whether the High Courts will put it up on their websites. Therefore, this principle needs to be decided.

Despite the resolution, can judges refuse to declare asset details on the Supreme Court’s website?

Yes, they can.

Will the Bill that is sought to be introduced in the Rajya Sabha be still relevant if the government agrees to delete the objectionable clause barring public declaration of judges’ assets?

Of course. In fact, we have said that it should be a Bill not merely for judges but for all public servants above a certain level. Today, other civil servants are required to disclose assets to the government, not to the public. Not merely assets, even income tax. Unless you know the income statements, you can’t compare their assets with their income to see whether the assets are disproportionate to their known sources of income or not.

The view that income tax returns filed with the Income Tax Department are exempt because they are personal incomes is certainly erroneous. If the assumption is that personal information or information that will cause unwarranted invasion of privacy has no relationship with the public interest, it is clearly wrong. Even if income tax returns can be considered to be personal information, certainly it is related to the public interest. The public interest requires that people know whether people are paying their taxes or not; whether their assets are disproportionate to their known sources of income or not. Not merely public servants but every citizen’s income tax return should be available under the RTI Act.

How do you draw the line between unwarranted invasion of privacy and the public interest?

There is no privacy about income tax. That is the public duty of every citizen. In my view, any information required to be submitted by law to a public authority cannot be considered personal information having no relationship with the public interest. If there is no relationship to the public interest, then there will not be a law requiring you to submit information to a public authority. And it cannot be considered an unwarranted invasion of privacy. If you have to submit information to a public authority, what is the problem in declaring it to other citizens? Whatever invasion of privacy has to take place has already taken place when information is disclosed to a public authority.

The dialogue between you and Justice K. Kannan of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, who also declared his assets unilaterally, was interesting. One of the points made by Justice Kannan is that judges are not politicians, who are accountable because they are elected. What is your specific response to this.

The fact that you can choose politicians at least makes them accountable to public opinion. The fact that you cannot choose judges makes them unaccountable even to public opinion. Therefore, it is even more important that judges have some accountability towards the people. That is why the disclosure of their assets and income, to my mind, is absolutely essential for their accountability to the people.

Justice Kannan has also said that if a litigant who is tried by a judge for disproportionate assets points out that the judge trying him also possessed disproportionate assets, it would compromise the judge’s ability to decide that litigant’s case fearlessly.

My answer is that it should not compromise an honest judge’s ability. Anybody whose assets are transparent and honest would not be deterred by such scurrilous attacks. First, nobody would make such scurrilous attacks because it amounts to defamation and contempt. But let us assume that somebody does; why should an honest judge be affected by that? Yes, it will compromise a dishonest judge’s ability to deal with that case. That dishonest judge needs to be off the Bench. He will cause a disaster in so many other cases. Therefore, the advantages of having him exposed far outweigh the possible disadvantage of compromising his ability to decide a case of a dishonest bureaucrat. That argument is like saying that a judge should not at all be accountable, because every accountability compromises the [judge’s] independence to decide matters.

Supposing a judge is answerable to a judicial commission, to say that it will compromise that judge’s ability to decide a matter involving a member of that judicial commission is not a valid argument. For that very small chance, you can’t leave the judges totally unaccountable.

Can you bring a comparative perspective to this controversy? Are other countries equally concerned about ensuring judges’ accountability through assets disclosure?

I think there are about a dozen countries, including the United States and South Africa, where assets disclosure by judges is mandatory. In the majority of the countries, it is still not mandatory, though countries are gradually moving towards that. This whole issue of right to information, transparency, disclosure of assets, and so on is all a relatively new phenomenon. Since India has one of the progressive Right To Information Acts in the world, we expect that even assets disclosure in India should be available under it. That way, India is perhaps the only country where the Supreme Court mandated the disclosure of assets of candidates in elections. In line with all that India should also be more progressive and take the lead in such matters.

It has been reported that in their August 26 resolution the Supreme Court judges have decided not to entertain questions on assets disclosure.

I think it is fair enough. If somebody raises legitimate questions on disproportionate assets, by getting access to income statements of judges under the RTI Act, where the value of the assets declared is much less than their market value at the time of their acquisition, such questions can be examined by authorities like the Income Tax Department or the CBI [Central Bureau of Investigation]. But the judges themselves answering such questions may lead to harassment.

Are the income statements now available?

The income statements, right now, are not available. I am of the view that they should be available under the RTI Act.

If answering such questions can lead to harassment, then what is the very purpose of assets declaration? If you cannot question a judge against whom there is prima facie evidence, the very purpose of assets declaration is defeated.

If there is a legitimate basis, normally that judge should answer that. Otherwise, the judge’s reputation will be at stake. Because anybody will be free to publish such allegations. The judge may take shelter under the resolution and refuse to answer the question, but that will be at the risk of ruining his public image and at the risk of being prosecuted under the Income Tax Act and the Prevention of Corruption Act because he will be shown to possess assets disproportionate to his income.

Is a watchdog body necessary to scrutinise the assets declaration?

Absolutely. There needs to be a national judicial complaints commission to entertain complaints against judges, to investigate them and take action. This commission should be independent of the government and the judiciary.

The government is proposing a National Judicial Commission, which is an in-house and ex-officio body. Judges are busy people and they cannot sit on this commission. It has to be a full-time body that can devote adequate time to these complaints. Besides, there are conflicts of interest. If there is a complaint against a brother judge, how could the judge on the commission decide a complaint if he is sitting with him every day in and out of the court?

You have said that the judiciary acts like a class, rather like an oligarchy.

In some respects, it does [act like a class]. Even on the assets disclosure, the majority of the Supreme Court judges were against it. It is the pressure of public opinion that has forced them to change their minds. There are a few judges who are not opposed to assets disclosure.

One important thing is the power of the Chief Justice of India. Unfortunately, the CJI has begun to wield enormous powers, far disproportionate to the fact that he is just a first among equals. Giving extraordinary powers to the CJI alone in the matter of appointments is not a healthy thing for the judiciary. Because it makes other judges subservient.

Even if it is assumed that all judges in the Supreme Court’s collegium (comprising the CJI and the senior-most judges) to select judges act honestly, in the absence of a scientific, methodical system, the present method of selection of judges through consultation with the collegium may yield unfair and arbitrary results.

Following a system means preparing an eligibility list, having some way of comparing the merits of the candidates in the list. In the absence of such a system, the CJI names somebody, the No.2 judge in the collegium names somebody else, the Law Minister may name somebody, and that is how it goes. It is a free-for-all.

The time has come to put in place an independent judicial appointments commission.

Even the fact that the CJI decides Benches is not the proper way of dealing with court management. The CJI decides which case goes to which judge. He is empowered to do so under the Supreme Court Rules.

Parliament can certainly limit his powers to decide Bench composition. This overlordship of the Chief Justice in the courts has had a very baneful effect.

There may be many other judges who share the view expressed by the Karnataka High Court Judge Justice Shailendra Kumar [who wrote an article in a newspaper urging disclosure of assets by judges]. But they may be afraid to speak out openly. He was one judge who was not afraid to speak out, despite whatever consequences that could be visited upon him in terms of denial of promotion as the Chief Justice.

Therefore, this court needs to be more democratised, and not so heavily weighted towards the Chief Justice. Under the Code of Conduct, it is the Chief Justice who will decide whether cognisance will be taken on a complaint or not against a judge. Why should it be left to just one person?

Make declaring judges’ assets mandatory for all further appointments

http://beta.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/article16588.ece

Sriram Panchu

It would be most unfortunate if newly appointed judges were found owning large assets with no credible explanation.

These past weeks have been difficult times for the Supreme Court, particularly the Chief Justice of India (CJI), over making public the details of judges’ assets. Reacting to the CJI’s statements rejecting such disclosure, Justice D.V. Shylendra Kumar of the Karnataka High Court wrote a forthright article in a newspaper stating the CJI did not speak for the many judges of integrity in India. Justice Kannan from the Punjab and Haryana High Court publicly declared his assets. The media, former judges and public opinion weighed in heavily on the side of these two.

Members of Parliament, cutting across party lines, earlier rejected a Bill, which sought to prevent public scrutiny of such declarations of assets. The Supreme Court’s isolation was complete. Perhaps for the first time since the days of the Emergency, when the court was reviled for letting down citizens on the issue of unlawful detention, the judges were at the receiving end of public criticism, and seen to be occupying the low moral ground. After all, it is a little difficult to answer the question posed by the common man, “if there is nothing to hide, what is there to fear?” Indeed, the public must have reacted in dismay at the stand taken here; just a few years ago, the Supreme Court made it mandatory for politicians to declare their assets. For many members of the Bench, current and retired, and the Bar, it was galling to see their institution come under suspicion and attack. Fortunately, the Supreme Court reversed course, agreed to disclosure and averted further damage to its reputation and credibility.

Just as well, because another embarrassment was waiting for it a week later. Under the Right to Information Act (RTI), the Central Information Commission directed the Supreme Court to furnish details whether judges had filed their declarations of assets; the Supreme Court challenged this in the Delhi High Court. On September 2, 2009, the High Court rebuffed the apex court, holding that the declarations were not immune from the RTI, and added for good measure that declaring personal assets resonated with the best practices and standards of ethical behaviour of judges.

It is crystal clear that the dominant mood in the country is that judges of the superior courts (Supreme Court and High Courts) must declare their assets and allow citizens to access such information. Indeed, such transparency must be welcomed as an aid to fighting corruption in the judiciary. As early as 1997 the judiciary, then headed by CJI J.S. Verma, resolved to make such disclosures. Compliance was partial; some judges declared their assets, some failed to periodically update the declarations, and some did not declare at all. The correctness of what was declared was not verified; no procedure or mechanism exists for that. No instance of any action against a judge for non- or wrong disclosure.

The primary area of concern is the acquisition of assets by a person after he became judge. The relevant questions are: “Has the judge failed to disclose an asset of value? Is there a declared asset whose acquisition cannot be explained, having regard to the judge’s legitimate sources of income?” These questions cannot be asked when disclosures are kept under wraps in a cupboard in the Supreme Court; but the answers will be sought when the declarations are out in the open. A suitable body and procedures will have to be devised to deal with the questions and get the answers. Safeguards must be erected to minimise harassment to judges, and this will be in addition to the extraordinary power that judges have to punish for contempt of themselves, and the common remedy of criminal and civil action for defamation.

Disclosure is all the more important now because we hardly have any weapon to fight judicial corruption. There is no specific forum to complain to, and no investigative machinery. The police cannot register an FIR against a judge on charges of corruption without the CJI’s permission. Corruption within the judiciary is no small matter; it grows horizontally and vertically. In 2001, a former CJI said 20 per cent of the judges across the board were corrupt; that figure would have to be indexed for inflation. Recent horror stories involve touting for appointments to High Courts, cash delivery to a judge’s house, and gifts to judges from employees’ provident funds. The judges implicated continue to sit on the seat of justice. The only existing remedy is impeachment by Parliament. This is illusory; no judge has ever been impeached. The CJI did recommend in vain impeachment of a Calcutta High Court judge for misdemeanours; a resolution has not even been tabled in the House. But if questions are raised about assets, then the public process of transparency may overcome institutional secrecy, and accountability may begin to replace inertia. After all, it is said, sunlight is the best disinfectant.

The Indian superior judiciary is the most powerful in the world, largely because of two features which are unique to it. The first is its extensive public interest jurisdiction, enabling it to exercise powers in executive and legislative areas. The second is the near total control it exercises over judicial appointments. Neither of these two features was envisaged in the Constitution; the court acquired them by rather creative interpretative exercises. It could do so because public opinion was solidly behind it; people saw it as the one organ of state that was clean and could be trusted. That public trust is the bedrock that sustains the court. It does not have the power of the elected vote, or purse or sword; its legitimacy, and extent of power, is defined precisely by how much public regard it is the repository of. The court lost that trust in August on the issue of public disclosure, could not long sustain isolation and fortunately reclaimed lost ground. The lesson in this for us who are supporters of the judiciary is that if the house is not kept in order and the occupants are not well chosen, the institution will forfeit public confidence, and with it the source of power.

A day after announcing its willingness to openly disclose the assets of its judges, the Supreme Court announced the names of five prospective appointees to the court and others to be Chief Justices of the High Courts. No mention was made of the requirement of declaration of their assets. It will be in the fitness of things for the court to immediately apply the high principle of transparency and require these judges to first declare their assets publicly, and await any information from the Bar or the public, before confirming the appointments. That would demonstrate judicial sincerity and commitment, and allay any residual public misgivings. It would be most unfortunate for the judiciary if any of these judges assumed high office, and was then found owning large assets with no credible explanation. The government too has a constitutional duty to ensure that proper procedures are followed and proper persons selected; and our President, a constitutional power, to advise and guide.

(Sriram Panchu is a senior advocate at the Madras High Court. Email: srirampanchu5@gmail.com)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

No one is above the LAW of the land…

http://vskesavan.blogspot.com/2009/09/no-one-is-above-law-of-land.html

Ruling in favour of transparency and accountability in higher judiciary, the Delhi High Court ruled that the Chief Justice of India (CJI) was a “public authority” under the Right to Information Act and had to make public the information on assets declared to him by judges.
The ruling by Justice Ravindra Bhat, which came on the SC’s appeal against an almost identical order from the Central Information Commissioner (CIC), ran counter to the consistent stand of Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan that the CJI could not be termed a public authority under the RTI Act.
Though the SC is sure to appeal against the ruling — it will decide in the coming weeks whether or not to move a division bench of the HC or the apex court — the ruling is being seen as a huge moral victory for all those who want more accountability in the judiciary.
CJI vs CIC
Nov 11, ’07: RTI activist Subhash C Aggarwal files a plea in SC seeking info on declaration of judges’ assets
Nov 30, ’07: Information denied in reply to him
Jan 6, ’09: CIC asks SC to disclose information
Jan 17, ’09: SC moves Delhi HC against CIC order
Sept 2, ’09: High Court upholds CIC’s order RTI applicable to judges’ assets too, says HC.
Upholding the CIC’s order directing the SC to disclose whether or not the judges were declaring their assets to the CJI as per a 1997 in-house SC resolution, Justice S Ravindra Bhatt of the Delhi High Court said the information pertaining to declaration given to the CJI and the contents of such declaration were subject to the provisions of the RTI Act.
“Declaration of assets by SC judges is information under Section 2 (f) of the RTI Act,” the HC said. Though the 72-page judgment defined what kind of information was in larger interest and could be made public from the CJI’s office, Justice Bhatt was firm in rejecting the SC’s stand that the CJI held the asset declarations in a fiduciary (held in trust) capacity and disclosing it would amount to breach of trust.
Stating that the argument was without substance, the HC said the CJI did not hold such declarations in a fiduciary capacity or relationship.
Describing transparency as a “powerful beacon”, Justice Bhat favoured evolving some uniform standards and modalities for declaration of assets by judges to bring in clarity.
“The CJI, if he deems it appropriate, may in consultation with Supreme Court judges, evolve uniform standards, devising the nature of information, relevant formats, and if required, the periodicity of the declarations to be made,” Justice Bhatt said.
Highlighting the importance of the RTI Act, the HC said, “The parliamentary intention in enacting this law was to arm citizens with the mechanism to scrutinize government and public processes and ensure transparency.”
The judge said it would be “highly anomalous” to say that judges had no obligation to disclose their personal assets as standards of disclosure for the legislators, parliamentarians and administrators were set by a Supreme Court order. “It would be robbing the solemnity of the resolution to say that they were made with the expectation of not being implemented.”
“The resolution was intended to reflect the best practices to be followed and form of standards of ethical behaviour of judges of higher judiciary… Declaring personal assets is to be seen as an essential ingredient of contemporary acceptable behaviour and establishing a convention,” the court said.
The Supreme Court had declined to reveal information on declarations made by judges that was sought by RTI activist Subhash C Aggarwal, on the ground that there was no law making it mandatory for judges to declare their assets.

Posted by V.S.Kesavan, Advocate, High Court, Chennai. at 5:57:00 AM

SC to hear on alleged tax evasion by PWC on Dec 9

http://www.ptinews.com/news/272271_SC-to-hear-on-alleged-tax-evasion-by-PWC-on-Dec-9

STAFF WRITER 12:39 HRS IST

New Delhi, Sep 9 (PTI) The Supreme Court will begin the final hearing in December on chartered accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers’ plea against a Calcutta High Court judgement imposing penalty for alleged evasion of tax by furnishing inaccurate particulars of its income for 2000-01.

A Bench headed by Justice S H Kapadia has posted the matter for the hearing on December 9.

PWC had challenged the Calcutta High Court’s judgement that held that the firm had failed to furnish its true and correct particulars of accounts while filing the returns.

The High Court had also upheld the penalty imposed by the authorities at 100 per cent of the tax alleged to have been evaded.

PWC senior counsel Harish Salve had submitted that the firm had paid the penalty and was not seeking a refund.

SP named in Ishrat report approaches high court

http://www.ptinews.com/news/272930_SP-named-in-Ishrat-report-approaches-high-court

STAFF WRITER 17:13 HRS IST

Ahmedabad, Sept 9 (PTI) A police officer named in magistrate S P Tamang’s report which concluded that encounter of Ishrat Jahan and three others was fake, today approached the Gujarat High Court demanding that the report should be declared null and void.

The petition has been filed by current Gujarat anti-terrorist squad Superintendent of Police G L Singhal, who was serving with the city crime branch at the time of encounter in 2004.

Singhal in his petition before the high court has also demanded that the court should immediately grant a stay on the judicial inquiry report of Tamang.

The matter will come up for hearing in the court this evening.

Singhal has also prayed that the three member committee of police officers formed by the high court should continue its investigations in the encounter

SC clueless about Min who tried to influenced Madras HC Judge

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/sc-clueless-about-min-who-tried-to-influenced-madras-hc-judge/514925/0

Posted: Wednesday, Sep 09, 2009 at 1202 hrs New Delhi:

The Supreme Court has said it has no information about the Union minister, who allegedly approached a Madras High Court Judge to influence his decision in an anticipatory bail case.

The Supreme Court registry also did not exercise section 6 (3) of the RTI Act wherein a public authority needs to transfer the application to the appropriate office, if the asked information was not in its possession.

“Information sought by you is not handled and dealt with by the Registry of the Supreme Court of India,” the reply of the Central Public Information Officer Raj Pal Arora said.

RTI applicant Subhash Chandra Agrawal had sought the details from the apex court about the Union minister who allegedly approached Justice R Raghupathy of Madras High Court to influence his judicial decisions.

Agrawal quoted media reports claiming that Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan had said that Justice Raghupathy had written to Chief Justice of the Madras High Court that the Minister had not spoken to him directly.

Agrawal then filed the first appeal in the apex court and said that in a recent decision, Delhi High Court had clarified that office of Chief Justice of India comes under the RTI Act and if any details are held by it, his application should be transferred to it as per section 6 (3) the Act.

But his appeal was turned down by the First Appellate Authority at the apex court who refused to interfere in the reply given by the CPIO.

“Appellate Authority did put on record my submissions dated September 4, 2009 mentioning esteemed verdict in the matter `CPIO, Supreme Court vs Subhash Chandra Agrawal, by Justice S Rabindra Bhatt at Delhi High Court,” he said.

He said that appellate authority did not pay heed to his arguments seeking transfer of his application to appropriate office which held the information, as mentioned by him in his RTI application and first appeal.

“File-notings also reveal that CPIO’s reply was also endorsed by first Appellate Authority at Supreme Court registry while general principle is that an appellate authority should not be a part of decision-making process,” the activist said.

Agrawal, who won the landmark case against the Supreme Court in the Delhi High Court which brought the Chief Justice of India under the ambit of RTI Act, had asked if the letter of Justice Raghupathy, quoted in the media reports, carried name of the minister.

He had also asked about steps taken against the referred minister and the advocate involved in the alleged incident.

Ex-top cop defends action on lawyers in HC

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/news/city/chennai/Ex-top-cop-defends-action-on-lawyers-in-HC/articleshow/4988284.cms

A Subramani, TNN 9 September 2009, 05:27am IST

CHENNAI: Giving a new twist to the circumstances leading to the February 19 violence on the Madras high court campus, the then commissioner of police, K Radhakrishnan, on Tuesday told the court that there was a mutiny-like situation among police personnel.

“If I had not spent adequate time on counselling the restless policemen and calming them down, there would have been a collapse of morale of the men, leading to a flash strike, plunging the whole city in chaos and confusion,” said Radhakrishnan, in his common counter-affidavit to a batch of petitions pending before a division bench comprising Justice FM Ibrahim Kalifulla and Justice R Banumathi.

Noting that the police had used only minimum force to chase away the advocates, the former commissioner said, “The advocates relentlessly continued their unruly activities. The situation and circumstances were such that the police had to resort to lathicharge but for which the life and safety of the public and the policemen would have been in peril.” In the process some two-wheelers and cars were damaged, he claimed.

Terming it as a serious law and order problem, Radhakrishnan said a total of 292 policemen and officials, including 21 Tamil Nadu Commando Force personnel, had been deployed for security. Besides regulating massive traffic snarls on all roads leading to the high court, he said, he was also engaged in securing the nearby secretariat and the Assembly complex. “I also spent some time ensuring security around the Fort housing the state secretariat and the Assembly, which was in session, as the tension inside the court campus was fast developing into a major law and order problem, and spreading to other areas of Chennai.”

Denying that the police had deliberately violated the human rights of lawyers and outraged the modesty of women advocates, Radhakrishnan said, “The allegation that police officials struck terror and acted unconscientiously is completely wrong and exaggerated.”

In a separate affidavit, director-general of police KP Jain said: “It was the advocates who had invited the problem by organising themselves as an unlawful assembly and indulged in stone throwing, verbal abuse, attacking the police personnel and setting fire to the B-4 police station, which forced the police authorities to take action as per law.”

He further said: “At the same time, I do not want to justify the conduct of some police personnel, who may have exceeded their limits and they deserve to be punished,” he said, adding that they would be punished on being identified. “Equally, the advocates who indulged in violence are also bound to be identified and punished.”

Public secretary P Jothi Jegarajan, who is holding additional charge of home, said that if it was proved that police personnel had committed excesses they would be appropriately punished.

With this, almost all officials charged with either ordering the police crackdown or having led the force on February 19 have filed their responses before the bench. The hearing is scheduled to resume on Wednesday.

Ban on Jaswant’s book: state may file appeal against HC order

http://www.expressindia.com/latest-news/ban-on-jaswants-book-state-may-file-appeal-against-hc-order/514640/

Express News Service

Posted: Sep 09, 2009 at 0016 hrs IST

New Delhi The Narendra Modi government on Tuesday informed the Supreme Court that it is considering filing an appeal challenging the High Court order, which struck down the notification banning Jaswant Singh’s book on Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

State counsel Hemantika Wahi submitted this before the Bench comprising justices Altamas Kabir and Cyriac Joseph, before whom the petition filed by Singh was listed for hearing.

Singh had challenged the ban on his book — Jinnah: India-Partition, Independence.

The Bench said: “Since the notification challenged in the writ petition has been struck down, no interim order is required to be passed at this stage,” adding that since the notice has already been issued, the Gujarat government will have to file a counter affidavit.

During the pendency of the petition before the apex court, the Gujarat High Court had last week struck down the state government’s notification banning the book.

Singh, along with the book’s publisher, have challenged the state government’s notification, alleging that the book had been banned arbitrarily and without going through its contents.

The state government had banned the book on the Pakistan founder on August 19, two days after its launch, on the charge that its contents were against public tranquillity and national interest.

Terming the ban as illegal, the eight-time MP has submitted that the book was based on “historical facts” and five years of extensive research and that it could not be proscribed on the state government’s “specious” plea.

HC frowns at Puja in hospital

http://www.expressindia.com/latest-news/hc-frowns-at-puja-in-hospital/514831/

Express News Service

Posted: Sep 09, 2009 at 0546 hrs IST

Kolkata Justice Sanjib Banerjee of the Calcutta High Court on Tuesday asked the South 24-Parganas SP to consider should Puja be held in Belpukur Hospital premises at Kulpi without police permission.

Sujauddin Mollah, a resident of Kulpi, had filed a writ petition last week alleging that Durga Puja was going to be held in the Belpukur hospital as an organisation had started to construct a pandal on its premises.

Mollah’s counsel Idris Ali said the local police had not allowed a religious function to be held in the hospital premises in March 2009. But this time the police remained silent spectators as the organisation started work to construct the pandal, hence the police should take steps to prevent puja on the hospital premises.

Advocate Jaita Chakraborty, the counsel of the state government, informed the HC that local police did not give permission to the hospital to hold puja on its premises.

State order on ’93 blast convicts’ petition not acceptable, says HC

http://www.expressindia.com/latest-news/state-order-on-93-blast-convicts-petition-not-acceptable-says-hc/514799/

Mohan Kumar

Posted: Sep 09, 2009 at 0503 hrs IST

Mumbai The Bombay High Court on Wednesday orally observed that the Maharashtra Home department order to keep ’93 blast convicts — who had prayed for premature release as they had already spent 14 years in prison— behind bars for 60 years in accordance with the state government’s latest guidelines was not acceptable.

The observation came in response to petitions filed by 1993 serial blasts convicts who face imprisonment for 60 years or until they attain the age of 65 as per the state government’s latest guidelines for those convicted in terror offences.

“This is not acceptable,” Justice Bilal Nazki said.

The court had last month pulled up the state Home department for leaking its order on the matter of premature release of the petitioners to the press before the court was informed of the order.

The court had expressed displeasure at not being informed about the order during the hearing on August 12, even though it was passed on August 4 as per the report that appeared in a section of the media. The court had then sought an explanation.

On Tuesday, an affidavit by Anna Dani, Principal Secretary (Appeals and Security), stated they had no intention of keeping the court in the dark about the decision. Dani also stated that petitioners’ lawyer N N Gawankar was aware of the order as it was communicated to the convicts. Gawankar, however, told the court that he was not aware of the order and had come to know about it through the press.

“Besides, how will I know about it from convicts who are lodged in Aurangabad prison,” Gawankar argued.

Dani also apologised to the court and said she has taken up the matter with the authorities concerned and asked the office of the public prosecutor for proper coordination henceforth. At this, justice Nazki said as to who she (Dani) was to dictate such things to the prosecutor’s office.

Additional public prosecutor Aruna Kamat Pai submitted that the state advocate general (AG) was not aware of the Home department order and that she would communicate the same to the AG. Pai sought a day’s adjournment.

The petition for premature release had been filed by convicts Salim Mira Shaikh, Niyaz Shaikh, Shaikh Ali, and Moin Qureshi.

Find missing baby or be present in court, HC tells DGP

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/find-missing-baby-or-be-present-in-court-hc-tells-dgp/514808/0

Express News Service Posted: Wednesday, Sep 09, 2009 at 0512 hrs Mumbai:

After being summoned to Bombay High Court last month over a missing child — the boy was finally traced last week— Maharashtra DGP S S Virk has been now told to be present in court next week unless another child, a baby stolen from the BMC-run Sion Hospital around nine months ago, is found.

The court was hearing a petition by the baby’s parents Mohan and Mohini Nerurkar.

Last week, the missing son of complainant Priti Chug, who had alleged that her four-year-old son had been taken away by her absconding husband, was finally traced.

On Tuesday, the court gave police time until next Monday to trace the missing baby failing which Virk will have to remain present in court.

The BMC informed a division bench of Justice Bilal Nazki and Justice A R Joshi that almost all the guidelines for security of babies in corporation hospitals have been complied with.

“But what about the child?” justice Nazki asked.

On querying about the efforts made by the police, additional public prosecutor K V Saste informed the court that a baby was located in a local train at Bandra station. But investigations revealed it was not the missing baby. Saste submitted that the police are taking sincere efforts to find the baby.

“When you take sincere efforts you can find the child,” Justice Nazki remarked pointing out that it has been nine months since the baby was stolen.

The court then said that the DGP will have to appear in all such cases. Appearing for the petitioners’ lawyer, Ashish Chavan submitted that the question whether the corporation is responsible for the baby’s disappearance remains unanswered.

The court said that it would fix responsibility for the lapse and decide on the compensation to be given to the family during the next hearing.

HC nod to Darjeeling RTA office in Siliguri

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/news/city/kolkata-/HC-nod-to-Darjeeling-RTA-office-in-Siliguri/articleshow/4988337.cms

TNN 9 September 2009, 05:51am IST

KOLKATA: Calcutta High Court on Tuesday put its seal of approval on a West Bengal transport department notification on opening an Regional Transport Authority (RTA) office for Darjeeling district in Siliguri.

The district’s RTA head office in Darjeeling has not been functioning properly as tension prevails in the Hills due to the Gorkhaland agitation.

The court order will help vehicle owners and the transport department to complete official work like collection of road taxes and fees, renewal of permits and issuing of fitness certificates in Siliguri itself.

The order was passed following a writ by Mrinal Kanti Sarkar, of the Siliguri Minibus Syndicate, demanding an RTA office in Siliguri. The petition highlighted that the continuous political disturbance in the Hills had hampered work at the RTA office. Vehicle owners from the plains were finding it risky to visit the office in Darjeeling town, the petition stated.

On February 5, 2009, the transport department opened an additional counter of Additional Regional Transport Office (ARTO) in Siliguri for six weeks following a court order. When normality returned, the RTA office of Darjeeling started to function again.

But fresh disturbances before the elections saw regular work being disrupted again.

The petitioner then moved a fresh petition in Calcutta High Court in July, demanding that a full-fledged RTA office be set up in Siliguri. In course of hearing, the court wanted a report from the state government on this issue.

On Tuesday, state advocate N I Khan submitted before Justice Tapen Sen that the transport department had issued a notification on August 28 for opening an office of an Additional RTA in Siliguri.

HC nod to Darjeeling RTA office in Siliguri

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/news/city/kolkata-/HC-nod-to-Darjeeling-RTA-office-in-Siliguri/articleshow/4988337.cms

TNN 9 September 2009, 05:51am IST

KOLKATA: Calcutta High Court on Tuesday put its seal of approval on a West Bengal transport department notification on opening an Regional Transport Authority (RTA) office for Darjeeling district in Siliguri.

The district’s RTA head office in Darjeeling has not been functioning properly as tension prevails in the Hills due to the Gorkhaland agitation.

The court order will help vehicle owners and the transport department to complete official work like collection of road taxes and fees, renewal of permits and issuing of fitness certificates in Siliguri itself.

The order was passed following a writ by Mrinal Kanti Sarkar, of the Siliguri Minibus Syndicate, demanding an RTA office in Siliguri. The petition highlighted that the continuous political disturbance in the Hills had hampered work at the RTA office. Vehicle owners from the plains were finding it risky to visit the office in Darjeeling town, the petition stated.

On February 5, 2009, the transport department opened an additional counter of Additional Regional Transport Office (ARTO) in Siliguri for six weeks following a court order. When normality returned, the RTA office of Darjeeling started to function again.

But fresh disturbances before the elections saw regular work being disrupted again.

The petitioner then moved a fresh petition in Calcutta High Court in July, demanding that a full-fledged RTA office be set up in Siliguri. In course of hearing, the court wanted a report from the state government on this issue.

On Tuesday, state advocate N I Khan submitted before Justice Tapen Sen that the transport department had issued a notification on August 28 for opening an office of an Additional RTA in Siliguri.

HC stays proceedings against CM

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/news/city/patna/HC-stays-proceedings-against-CM/articleshow/4987491.cms

TNN 9 September 2009, 04:36am IST

PATNA: The Patna High Court on Tuesday stayed the cognizance taken against chief minister Nitish Kumar by Barh’s additional chief judicial magistrate (ACJM) on a protest-cum-complaint petition, alleging his involvement in a murder in 1991.

One Sitaram Singh was murdered during parliamentary poll in Barh. Nitish had eventually won the poll as the then Janata Dal nominee.

A single bench presided by Justice Seema Ali Khan stayed the proceedings and called for case records of the Pandarak police station case no 131/91.

In his petition, Nitish sought quashing of the entire proceedings, including the cognizance. Taking special permission from the government to appear for Nitish in the case, additional advocate general Lalit Kishore pleaded before the court that protest petitioner Ashok Singh, as a witness in the case, had earlier deposed that he had only heard about the murder that took place near a polling booth.

The charges against Kumar were found untrue during police investigations and the protest petition was filed after full 18 years with an ulterior motive seemingly at the behest of Nitish’s political opponents, Kishore said and added the informant of the case, Rajaram Singh, did not appear in the court all these years to pursue the case.

Ashok Singh’s lawyer Dinu Kumar submitted that Nitish had fired shots, causing injury to Sitaram who later succumbed. He told the court that the informant could not pursue the case because he was threatened by people having criminal antecedents.

Idea gets HC nod for infra demerger

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/News/News-By-Industry/Telecom/Idea-gets-HC-nod-for-infra-demerger/articleshow/4988227.cms

9 Sep 2009, 0050 hrs IST, ET Bureau

MUMBAI: Idea Cellular has got the Gujarat HC nod for demerging its passive infrastructure to Idea Cellular Towers Infrastructure, its wholly-owned subsidiary.

This arm will have Idea’s 11,000 towers in nine circles and will merge with Indus Towers, the JV between Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Essar and Idea. The HC also allowed Idea to adjust Rs 544-crore non-compete fee paid to Spice Communications against balance in securities premium account, it said.

Idea Cellular had announced the acquisition of Spice in June past year, paying over Rs 2,700 crore for a 40.8% stake. At that time, Idea Cellular had said it would pay Rs 544 crore as non-compete fee.

The towers hive-off was first proposed by the company board in July 2007 and was approved by shareholders and creditors in July 2009. Idea’s scrip closed at Rs 80.20, down 1.23% over the previous close.

Idea holds a 16% stake in Indus, while the other two JV partners have a 42% holding each. With the approval for the hive-off, this stake will be held through the new tower company. Increasingly, Idea is opting for shared towers, instead of owned towers to convert capex into opex. As a result, it will lower the operating margins going forward.

Law Minister: Need to infuse accountability in judiciary
http://www.indlawnews.com/Newsdisplay.aspx?9e2afbd2-61cf-4b7c-8037-ff3a6840d076

9/9/2009

Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily said the judiciary needed to be held accountable for its actions.

“We have the best and independent judiciary but independence without accountability is of no use,” Mr Moily said, addressing the National conference on Legal & Administrative reforms and double digit growth organised by ASSOCHAM here.

Mr Moily said legislation was already being developed to attract foreign investors and some provisions of the Arbitration Act 1988 which has some lacune was being amended so that disputes were resolved effectively.

“Legal or administrative reforms, we will put these in place within one year and India will become the destination to settle ADR (alternate dispute redressal) cases of the world,” he said.

“We have the capacity, able judges, able lawyers and we will do it. Like we did it in Banglore. Today Karnataka has captured the entireIT-hub. Likewise, we will capture the entire legal market,” Mr Moily said.

He pointed out that ruthless methods in administration were sometimes very harmful. “We have to build a citizen centric administration and its hallmark should be ethics, accountability, transparency, rule of the law, and efficiency,” he said.

“We have to target these qualities in administration and see to it that the victims of useless litigation are compensated. We have to reassure the foreign investors that India is a mixed economy and a welfare state where there is protection against unnecessary Government interference. corruption has to be curbed,” he added.

Mr Moily said, “when we introduced section 138 of the negotiable instruments act in 1988 for the cases of bounced cheques , little did we know that the cases will jump up to 38 lakh . Now we have developed special courts for such cases and these 38 lakh cases will be resolved soon.” He emphasised the need to encourage young entrepreneurs to change the mindset. “We should always think out of the box and come up with solutions. Have a global mind and think of the global Challenges .We need to prepare the Youth and develop a super high way for Industrial growth,” he added.

UNI

What about appointment of rights panel chief? Delhi High Court

http://www.samaylive.com/news/what-about-appointment-of-rights-panel-chief-delhi-high-court/655564.html

(Source: IANS)
Published: Wed, 09 Sep 2009 at 18:26 IST border=0>

F Prev Next L

// New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Wednesday asked the central government what steps it had taken for the appointment of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) chairman, a post vacant since May 31.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Ajit Prakash Shah and Justice Manmohan said: “We need some statement from government. It is a serious issue.”

The government counsel replied: “Government is under the process of amending the law.” According to the rules, the commission is to be headed by a retired chief justice of India.

The court was hearing a public interest petition filed by NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation claimed that there are two retired chief justices of India eligible for the post, but the government is reluctant to appoint them.

Former Gujarat Minister Writes To SIT
To Probe Modi’s Role Into Gujarat Pogrom

http://www.countercurrents.org/jaspalsingh080909.htm

By Jaspal Singh

8 September, 2009
TwoCircles.net

New Delhi: The mayhem in Gujarat was the result of a thoroughly thought-out, elaborate and heinous strategy to communalise the society at large in Gujarat, with a view to derive political benefits,” writes ex-IPS and former Cabinet Minister of Gujarat Jaspal Singh to the Supreme Court-appointed SIT that is looking into the role of Chief Minister Narendra Modi and his ministerial colleagues and police officers in the Gujarat 2002 riots.

Jaspal Singh, who has been Commissioner of Police and then Mayor of Vadodara, wrote the letter on September 7, 2009 to Dr. R.K. Raghavan, Chairman, Special Investigation Team (SIT).

Singh in the letter has urged the SIT to investigate in details the communalization of Gujarat and examine the participants (officials as well as ministers) of the crucial meeting chaired by the Chief Minister Narendra Modi on the day Godhra carnage occurred. In the letter Singh named some officers who attended the meeting, and urged the SIT to examine them. They include: Smt.Swarnakanta Varma, IAS, the then Acting Chief Secretary, Mr. Ashok Narayan, IAS, the then Home Secretary, Dr. P.K. Mishra, IAS, the then Principal Secretary to the CM, Mr. Anil Mukim, IAS & Mr.A.K.Sharma, IAS, Secretaries to CM and Mr.P.C. Pande, IPS, then Commissioner of Police, Ahmedabad.

Full text of Singh’s letter to SIT:

Sir,

Sub: Gujarat Riots of 2002 – Action thereon

Apropos my letter dated Jun 06, 2009, I write to compliment you for pursuing investigations in to the Gujarat riots of 2002 with vigour by recording statement of Mrs.Zakia Jafri, widow of late of Mr.Ehsan Jafri, a former member of the Parliament, Shri R.B.Sreekumar, IPS (Retd), former DGP of Gujarat, and Mr.Rahul Sharma a serving IPS officer of Gujarat cadre. While the progress of the case does bring some comfort to the victims of the genocide unleashed in Gujarat, lot more remains to be done as expeditiously as possible, so as to instil a sense of hope in the hearts and minds of Indians, that the rule of law would be respected and no one would be spared for flouting it. The happenings of 2002 have brought shame and disgrace of unfathomable proportions, and only investigation by the SIT under your command can redeem the honour of the country.

I list below some of the matters which need to be investigated in detail in pursuance of trust reposed in you, and your team by the Hon’ble Apex Court. Your efforts will assuage the terribly dented image of our great country, and hence your responsibility is immense. As a retired IPS officer I consider it a matter of pride that the job to redeem the honour of the country has been entrusted to the SIT headed by a IPS officer. The outcome of the SIT’s investigation and actions following it may prove to be a benchmark in the history of our country.

1. Communalisation of Gujarat: The mayhem in Gujarat was the result of a thoroughly thought out elaborate and heinous strategy to communalise the society at large in Gujarat, with a view to derive political benefits. Towards that end the exclusivist, fundamentalist and sectarian pseudo religious groups among Hindus and Muslims played a leading role, aided and abetted by those at the helm.

2. Examiniation of participants in the crucial meeting chaired by the CM – Narendra Modi:
Examination of the following persons is crucial for the purpose of the SIT:
a) Smt.Swarnakanta Varma IAS, the then Acting Chief Secretary
b) Mr.Ashok Narayan, IAS, the then Home Secretary
c) Dr.P.K.Mishra, IAS, the then Principal Secretary to the CM
d) Mr.Anil mukim, IAS & Mr.A.K.Sharma, IAS Secretaries to CM
e) Mr.P.C.Pande IPS, then Commissioner of Police Ahmedabad
f) Shri K.Chakravarty, IPS, the then DG of Police, Gujarat
g) Shri G.C.Raiger, IPS, the then Addl. DGP of Gujarat
h) Shri Nityanand, IPS, Secretary in the Home Department.

3. Representative of CBI: The SIT must examine Shri Rajendrakumar, the then Jt.Director, Central Intelligence Bureau (CBI) in charge of Gujarat who had insisted on the state DGP to deem the burning of the train at Godhra as a terrorist act mounted by the ISI.

4. Examination of Ministers: Examine all those ministers of Shri Modi Government about the details of the meeting held at the residence of the CM on 27.02.2002, including the then Minister of State for Home Shri Govardhan Zadapiya who had admitted in the State Assembly about the meeting convened by the CM. It may be mentioned that the State Assembly was in session on the day the tragic events took place at Godhra. This can be verified from the official records of the State Assembly. This will clarify that the CM had directed the officers to permit free play of Hindu revengefulness on the Muslims (Reference to June 03, 2002 issue of the weekly – Outlook).

5. Whether prompt action taken: Examine whether there was delay in requisitioning army and central para military forces with a view to give free hand to the anti Muslim rioters.

6. Law and order Review meeting minutes: Examine the minutes of the law and order review meetings chaired by the CM, the Chief Secretary, and the DGP jointly, or otherwise and subsequent follow up action by subordinate officers in the police department, and executive magistracy from District Magistrates to Mamalatdars. If minutes were not kept it would be obvious that monitoring of the implementation of decisions could not haven been done.

7. Follow up action: Examine how the monitoring of the implementations of the decisions in these review meetings was done by the CM to DGP without minutes of these meetings.

8. Media reports – sources: Conduct deeper probe in to the source of media reports about the meeting chaired by the CM, where the CM directed the officials to be soft on Hindu rioters.

Investigation on the above lines could provide evidence of extra judicial confessions.

Some further investigations that are necessary are:

a) Examination of documents on the communications between and among the CM’s office, CS Office, Home department, DGP Office and the Commissioners of Police of Ahmedabad, Baroda, and SPs of major riot affected districts in the period from 27.02.2002 to 31.05.2002. Similar correspondence from the relevant police stations to district / commissionrate level officers also be examined to find out whether there were major omissions and commissions to facilitate the Pogram against the Muslims

b) Examination of documents on communications between the DGP and the State Control room in Gandhinagar, and the Commissionarates, besides offices of the DSPs, Addl. DGP (Intelligence)

c) Examination of entries in the registers and log books of the police patrol vehicles in cities and important towns.

d) Examination of documents on various incidents and action reported by DGP and CP Ahmedabad and riot affected districts to their higher officers.

e) Examination of reports by DGP, Home department, Chief Secretary, ADGO (Intelligence) to the Central Government and to find out veracity of reports and efforts of anyone to suppress truth.

f) It is on record that the Gujarat State intelligence branch had sent daily reports to Shri B.K.Haldar, Jt. Secy, MHA, New Delhi from 13.03.2002 onwards. Besides, daily reports which were sent on various specific incidents that took place in Gujarat. A study of these reports will indicate that there was anti-minority prejudice explicit in the actions of the state police which prompted them to avoid arrest of Hindu rioters and concentrating on penalising the Muslims. Analysis of the statistics prepared by the Add. D.G., Intelligence, Gujarat in the form of daily reports will reveal that the casualties in the police action weighed heavily against the Muslims, as also the destruction and damage to properties.

g) Action must be taken to procure data regarding representations from the riot affected people and general public received through phone calls, written complaints and personal representations from 27.02.2002 to 31.05.2002. It is also necessary to examine the quality and character of response to these by the enforcing officers. In case responses are found to be inadequate, and unprofessional, an adverse inference can be drawn against the concerned officers.

h) Examination of documents on meetings held by CP, Ahmedabad and other police commissionarates and affected districts during the same period to find out the nature of instructions given and decisions taken thereon and the extent of their implementation.

i) Examination of concerned officers from DGP to field officers at the police station level on their failure to comply with the directions and instructions on handling of communal situation in Gujarat as per Gujarat State Police Manual Vol-III, Rule 21 to 31, and DGP Gujarat’s booklet on “Criminal Riots – Strategy and Approach” forwarded to all senior police officers by the then DGP Shri K.V.Joseph vide his letter No. SB/49/1050/1175 dated 19.11.1997, compilation of Government instructions captioned –“Criminal Peace”, and recommendations of Justice Reddy Commission and the Commission headed by Justice Dave.

j) Officers in charge of areas where large scale violence happened should explain the reason for their dereliction of duties in violation of the provisions of Gujarat Police Manual Vol-III, Rules 24, 134, 135 and 136. It is relevant to note that such culpable connivance by government functionaries with the rioters had prompted the Apex Court to portray the Gujarat bureaucracy as modern day Neros and the Hon’ble Supreme Court had actively intervened to correct the aberrations by ordering :

i) Transfer of Bilkisbano rape case to CBI in April 2004
ii) Transfer of Bilkisbano and Best Bakery cases to Maharashtra in April 2004.
iii) Review of 2000 odd closed cases (August 2004)
iv) Creation of SIT to reinvestigate 9 major carnage cases (March 2008)
v) Order of the Supreme Court to the SIT to investigate on all points contained in the complaint filed by Mrs.Jafre (April 2009)

k) SIT should go in to the series of circumstances indicating criminal motive of the CM, Gujarat and his collaborators in projecting the Godhra train fire incident as an outcome of conspiracy by ISI and a terrorist act. There is sufficient evidence to prove that even before the investigating or intelligence agency had any information about conspiracy behind the Godhra fire, the CM, Gujarat, a national leader of BJP, declared it to be a consequence of conspiracy. This is the starting point of anti minority carnage. The CM made a statement in the state assembly that the Godhra train incident was a pre-planned terrorist act and was a result of a conspiracy.

l) In fact the Gujarat police brought out the questionable conspiracy element only by the end of March 2002. The Apex Court had not supported the Gujarat State Government’s application of provisions of the then prevailing POTA on the accused of the Godhra train fire.

m) Revelations by some witnesses in the Godhra train fire case in the operation ‘kalank’ brought out by ‘Tehelka’ magazine about the Gujarat police bribing them to give false evidence. The then Home Secretary Mr.G.C.Murmu, and Government pleader Mr.Arvind Pandya tried to tutor the then Addl. DGP. Shri R.B.Sreekumar to support Government’s conspiracy theory during his cross examination by the Nanavati Commission. The then Godhra Collector Ms.Jayanti Ravi openly stated that the Godhra incident was criminal and she did not mention either about the conspiracy or it being a terrorist act.

n) In fact in my view the ill motivated declaration of ISI being behind this conspiracy was a part of the larger conspiracy to perpetuate genocidal crimes against the minority community for ensuring political consolidation of the majority community in favour of the BJP to procure electoral dividends. Simultaneously the Sangh Parivar could achieve their ever pursued hidden agenda of treating the Muslim minority as second class citizens. Having denied proper relief and rehabilitation in pre-riot vocations/trades, commerce and agriculture, many riot victims were forced to compromise with the perpetrators of the violence and consequently not even 25% of the cases reviewed on the Apex Court’s orders could end up in prosecution of accused persons.

o) Abnormality and impropriety in the following actions by Shri Modi government after the Godhra incident need to be uncovered, as they are linked to the plans to inflict maximum damage on the Muslims.

I. A condolence resolution was passed in the state assembly to condone those who were killed in the train fire, though no person for whom such resolutions are customary were killed.

II. No condolence resolution was passed to condone the death of Ehsan Jafri, a former MP as was customary. This was in total violation of legislative norms.

III. No discussion in the state assembly on the riots was held for over 10 days as the assembly remained closed during the period.

IV. The CM and BJP leaders supported the Gujarat Bandh call given by the VHP on 28.02.2002.

V. Neither the CM or any senior BJP leader made any appeal for peace on the eve of the Bandh on 28.02.2002.

VI. Parading of dead bodies of Godhra fire victims in Ahmedabad city was done in violation of all regulations in this connection. Please enquire in to how the dead bodies were handed over to unauthorised persons viz. VHP leaders and not the legally entitled kin of the diseased. SIT should procure all documentary evidence about the whole process viz. Which officer had released the dead bodies to the VHP. Please procure and confiscate the relevant records immediately. Who were the persons who received the bodies, why unidentified dead bodies were also handed over to such unauthorised persons. The concerned officers be asked to produce the details of Government order, if any, in this connection. In case relevant officers take the cover of non availability of records, they should be prosecuted for deliberate destruction of evidence.

p) Mr.P.C.Pande the then Commissioner of Police, Ahmedabad should be examined on the following fatal acts of negligence facilitating the blood bath in Ahmedabad city.

I. Non initiation of preventive measures as per numerous instructions including those in Gujarat Police Manual etc. from 27.02.2002 onwards when anti minority riots started.

II. Why imposition of curfew on 28.02.2002 was delayed up to 1300 Hours?

III. Why no redeployment of the SRP and additional police force was not done on 28.02.2002? The SRP continued to be at the same places as they were before.

IV. Please examine as to what follow up action he had taken on the state IB reports as cited in the affidavits filed by the then Addl. DGP Intelligence.

V. What further action did he take on his letters to the DGP, and the Secretary Home, about the role of VHP in fomenting trouble and extortion of protection money from miscreants.

q) Examine the officers of the state intelligence branch Ahmedabad City and other major riot affected areas as to whether they reported the anti minority stance of the police at the ground level during and after the riots resulting in non registration of FIRs by the riot victims. Misinformation of the intensity of crimes, clubbing of numerous offences as just one single incident.

r) Not arresting Hindu accused promptly, and not taking them on remand for collecting additional evidence, and recovery of looted or stolen property.

s) Prejudicial stand of Special Public Prosecutors some of who were office bearers of the Sangh Parivar.

t) Examine the officers in charge of the riot affected areas regarding the instructions given by them in response to distress calls from the riot victims, monitoring of the implementation of these instructions, any disciplinary action taken against anybody for non compliance etc. Examination of relevant documents in the CP or SP offices, Offices of Range DIGs/IGs and SDPOs, and police station officers absolutely imperative.

u) Electronic and print media had brought out graphically the pictures of parading of dead bodies, ghastly scenes of riots etc. These be procured and analysed, and further probes be done like arresting those found indulging in violence.

v) Many Sangh Parivar leaders and accused in anti minority carnage had boasted about their active involvement in the riots to Shri Ashish Khaitan, the Tehelka correspondent in the video. Make further inquiries about the information brought out in operation ‘kalank’. These revelations are extra judicial confessions. The forensic test of all these persons is also necessary.

w) Please examine state home department officials and DGP, Shri K.Chakravarty about follow up action initiated by them on the state IB reports regarding prejudices of the state police against the riot victims. Please examine Home Secretary Shri Ashok Narain, as to what action he had taken on the demand by the National Minority Commission about highly inciting and incendiary speech of the CM in 2002.

x) Please examine the Secretary, Law Department for appointing supporters and office bearers of the Sangh Parivar as Special Public Prosecutors to present cases against the accused belonging to Hindu community.

y) Please examine the District Magistrates of relevant districts as to why they recommended supporters and office bearers of the Sandh Parivar for appointment as Police Public prosecutors to the state law department.

z) Please examine the Chief Minister Shri Narendra Modi, about the details of instructions given by him to the Chief Secretary, Home department officials and the DGP during the riots and subsequently. Did he notice any acts of omission or commission by such officers, if so what action he had initiated to correct the system and discipline those who derelicted their duties. Did the CM initiate any curative measures to redress the grievance of the victims before the intervention by the NHRC, the Apex Court, and the national level bodies. If no such action was taken, then this must be deemed as part of a conspiracy to perpetuate violence on the Muslim minority and subversion of criminal justice system. Please examine Mr.Modi on the action taken by him about malicious role of one of his cabinet ministers, Mr.Bharat Barot in inciting anti minority violence as reported by the CP, Ahmedabad.

It is quite likely that the Government functionaries who collaborated with the CM and the Sangh Parivar in executing anti minority violence will refuse to provide relevant evidence to the SIT. Therefore the SIT will have to depend on the documentary evidence in Government and police records heavily. Once clear picture about planning and execution of conspiracy emerges, the relevant culprits should be confronted and their forensic test be carried out.

I strongly feel that a few officers known for their competence, professionalism and integrity need to be inducted in to the SIT from the Gujarat Police. The supervisory officers in the SIT at present are handicapped by their lack of knowledge Gujarati language. To overcome this problem I would strongly recommend the induction of the following officers in to the SIT.
1. Mr.Satish Verma, IPS 1986
2. Mr.Rahul Sharma, IPS 1992
3. Mr.Rajnish Rai, IPS 1992
4. Dr.(Mrs) Neerja Gotru Rao, IPS 1993 and
5. Mr.Hasmukh N. Patel, IPS 1993
For probing points contained in the complaint filed by Mrs Jafri.

Any failure by the Indian Judicial system to bring under the clutches of law, the real planners and executioners of anti-minority genocide in 2002 would further energise anti Indian forces internationally and particularly those jihadi groups who have been denigrating the Indian State authorities for their failure to protect the minority community. The Islamic terrorists who had claimed responsibility for explosions and terror acts throughout India since 2002 have declared their dastardly acts as revenge and retribution for Gujarat genocide. These groups will fully capitalise on any situation which will provide immunity from prosecution to the CM, Shri Narendra Modi and his aides and attract frustrated riot victims to their camps to the detriment of our national interest.

Praying for expeditious actions on the above suggestions/requests.

Yours sincerely,

Jaspal Singh IPS (Retd)
4, Green Park, Akota, Vadodara 390020
Telephone: 0265 2332555
Email: jaspalofbaroda@yahoo.com

Appoint full-time NCW chief, Brinda tells PM

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/News/Politics/Nation/Appoint-full-time-NCW-chief-Brinda-tells-PM/articleshow/4988483.cms

9 Sep 2009, 0321 hrs IST, ET Bureau

NEW DELHI: On a day Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a national mission to empower women, his government faced accusations of being “indifferent” to the National Commission for Women (NCW), an autonomous body which monitors implementation of constitutional and legal guarantees for women as well as policies.

Irked over the absence of a full-time chairperson for the statutory body, CPM on Tuesday sought prime minister’s intervention to ensure the post is filled and has the status of a Cabinet minister. In a letter to Mr Singh, CPM polit bureau member Brinda Karat said three months had passed since the present incumbent Girija Vyas was elected to the Lok Sabha, but the government had not taken any step to appoint a new chairperson.

Praising Ms Vyas, she said her work in the Commission has earned her the highest regard and respect. Ms Karat said both Ms Vyas and Ms Krishna Tirath had agreed that a full-time chairperson was required. “On an earlier occasion, I had drawn your attention to the injustice meted out to the Commission in that the chairperson of other similarly constituted commissions had the status of a Cabinet minister which was denied to the chairperson of the Women’s Commission and was therefore discriminatory.

But now instead of undoing that injustice, the government has shown its indifference and neglect of the commission by the inordinate delay in appointing a full-time chairperson,” said the CPM MP, who is also a leader of the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA).

She said NCW was not a government department and was born out of long struggle of women for a statutory autonomous body to monitor the implementation of constitutional and legal guarantees for women and to intervene where there were violations by the state as also on all policy matters concerning women. “There is resentment among women about the approach of the government to the Commission,” Ms Brinda Karat said.

Woman files complaint against TV reporter

http://www.ptinews.com/news/271775_Woman-files-complaint-against-TV-reporter

STAFF WRITER 21:17 HRS IST

Lucknow, Sep 8 (PTI) A day after National Commission for Women (NCW) sought a report from Uttar Pradesh government on alleged selling of women in Bundelkhand region, the woman concerned today lodged a complaint against television reporter for portraying her in bad picture in Jhansi district.

Kusum alias Sallo lodged a complaint at Todafatehpur police station in Jhansi today alleging that a news channel aired a story on September 5 in which her character was portrayed indecently, police said here.

In her FIR, Kusum said that as claimed by the news channel, she was never sold by her brother-in-law Shripath, nor her husband Deshraj paid any money to “buy” her.

“I am willingly living with Deshraj Ahirwar as his wife for the last six years,” she said her FIR.

New CBI team to probe Aarushi murder

http://www.dailypioneer.com/201414/New-CBI-team-to-probe-Aarushi-murder.html

IANS | New Delhi

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is forming a new team to probe the sensational murders of 14-year-old Aarushi Talwar and her family’s domestic help Hemraj last year, the agency announced on Wednesday, days after reports said the vaginal swabs of the teenager may have been substituted.

“A new team is being formed to probe the Aarushi murder case,” CBI spokesman Harsh Bhal told IANS.

Bhal said CBI Deputy Inspector General “Arun Kumar (who was leading the probe) is completing his term in October. Arun Kumar has sought early repatriation (to Uttar Pradesh) and that is why the new team will be formed before his term ends”.

The new team is being formed 17 months after Aarushi was found murdered in her parents’ Jalvayu Vihar apartment in Noida May 16 last year. The family’s domestic help Hemraj was found murdered a day later on the terrace of the house. The case has remained an unsolved riddle.

On Sep 5, IANS reported that Kumar has been asked to return to his home state following poor handling of the sensational double murder case. The decision follows the startling reports of a surreptitious replacement of Aarushi’s vaginal swabs with another women’s.

Kumar, a senior Indian Police Service (IPS) officer of the Uttar Pradesh cadre, was on deputation to the CBI.

Earlier on Wednesday, the CBI maintained it had known “for eight months” that the vaginal swabs of Aarushi may have been substituted and that it was probing the tampering of evidence.

“Our investigators have been following this angle for the last eight months and will soon file a status report in the Supreme Court,” Bhal said, when asked about the DNA sample of the teenaged victim reportedly being changed with that of an unidentified woman.

“There is nothing new in it (the allegations of tampering) as far as investigations are considered,” he said.

Bhal refused to divulge any more details, saying the murder was being investigated and the matter was sub judice. “Nothing can be shared with the media right now.”

The double murders have remained one of the country’s biggest whodunits. After meandering through unexpected twists and turns, the probe had almost reached a dead-end.

All those who were picked up for interrogation in the initial weeks of the murder – Aarushi’s dentist-father Rajesh Talwar, his medical assistant Krishna and two other domestic helps, Raj Kumar and Vijay Mandal – are out while the CBI still continues to hunt for material evidence.

But latest reports that the vaginal swabs were substituted has re-ignited media and public interest in the case.

There have been allegations that a pathologist, Richa Saxena, who works for a government hospital in Noida, had tampered with the DNA samples. But Saxena, who collected the swab samples taken by doctor Sunil Dohre during the autopsy, insisted that there was no mix-up.

“It is sheer mischief to rake up another controversy,” Saxena, who was at that time assisting Dohre, told IANS. Saxena, who was said to be absconding, also insisted that she was being “dragged into a bigger conspiracy”.

“I am not absconding but have been very disturbed with false allegations against me. This is a conspiracy to shield the real culprits in the case and I am being dragged into this large conspiracy,” said Saxena.

Gujarat picks holes in Tamang report on ‘fake encounter’

http://www.dailypioneer.com/201395/Gujarat-picks-holes-in-Tamang-report-on-%E2%80%98fake-encounter%E2%80%99.html

Rathin Das | Ahmedabad

BJP defends Modi

The Gujarat Government on Tuesday rejected the findings of the Metropolitan Magistrate’s probe report that called the June 15, 2004 encounter killing of four people, including Mumbai college girl Ishrat Jahan, as fake. The statutory inquiry report by Metropolitan Magistrate SP Tamang on Monday said the police officers had ‘staged’ the encounter to gain appreciation of Chief Minister Narendra Modi and get promotions.

Rubbishing the report, State Government spokesman and Health Minister Jay Narayan Vyas said the probe report was “bad in law” and would be challenged in an appropriate court. Vyas said the report by the Metropolitan Magistrate did not have any sanction of appropriate law as the High Court too has ordered a committee to probe the same incident.

The inquiry by the Metropolitan Magistrate should have been stopped when it became known that the Gujarat High Court too has appointed a committee of three IPS officers to probe the same incident.

The Health Minister questioned the findings of the report as the Metropolitan Magistrate had not bothered to question the accused police officers who are alleged to have ‘staged’ the encounter.

As a strange coincidence, both the Metropolitan Magistrate and the High Court appointed panels with three IPS officers each as their members. The panels were asked by respective courts to conduct the probe on the same day – August 13 this year, and given time till November 30 for submitting the reports.

Vyas questioned the hurry with which the Metropolitan Magistrate submitted his report even while the High Court-appointed panel too was at the same job.

Vyas said the probe panel did not give time and opportunity to the accused police officers any chance to defend themselves and also referred to the intelligence inputs from the Centre about the terrorists’ link of the four persons killed in the ‘encounter’.

Challenging the logic of giving a clean chit to the four victims in the report, Vyas quoted from the affidavit filed by the Ministry of Home Affairs in the Gujarat High Court wherein the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba links of the foursome were clearly stated.

About the ‘innocence’ of the college girl Ishrat Jahan, Vyas said the Lahore-based Ghazwa Times, mouthpiece of Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, had said on July 15, 2004 that its woman activist was unveiled by Indian police and her body was kept with other mujahideens on the ground.

The Home Ministry had filed the affidavit in the High Court to oppose the demand for a CBI inquiry into the whole episode made by Ishrat’s mother Shamima Kausar.

The affidavit filed by the Home Ministry made clear references to the terrorist connections of the four who were gunned in the encounter in the eastern suburb of the city around 4.30 am on June 15, 2004.

The Centre had received specific inputs that LeT had been planning to carry out terrorist activities in various parts of the country, including Gujarat, and it was planning to assassinate top national and State leaders, Vyas quoted from the Home Ministry affidavit.

“Javed was in regular touch with LeT operatives to carry out terrorist activities in Gujarat,” Vyas quoted from the affidavit to refute the Metropolitan Magistrate’s report’s view that the killed youth were innocent.

Vyas also said that Javed — born Pranesh Pillai but converted to Islam after marriage to one Sajida — had four criminal cases against him in Thane and had two passports in different names.

The Home Ministry affidavit also pointed out several contradictions with regard to the activities, occupation and movement of Javed and Ishrat in the last few days till their death in the encounter on June 15, 2004.

Acting on a writ petition filed by Ishrat’s mother Shamima Kausar, the Gujarat High Court has ordered a high-powered committee headed by Additional DGP Pramod Kumar to probe the controversial encounter. Other members of the committee are IPS officers Mohan Jha and JK Bhatt.

In Delhi while the BJP defended Modi, the Congress and CPI(M) have slammed the Gujarat Government over the fake encounter allegations.

Senior BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu has said the Gujarat Chief Minister cannot be held responsible for everything that happens in the State. “Do you think anything that happens in any State the Chief Minister is responsible? If anything happens in the national Capital, is the Prime Minister responsible?” Naidu said in reply to a question on whether Modi should be held accountable for the Ishrat Jahan encounter.

Naidu accused the media of suffering from “Modi-mania”. “How is the Chief Minister concerned with this (Ishrat Jahan case)? Let law take its own course,” he said.

But holding Modi squarely responsible for the Ishrat’s killing, Law Minister M Veerappa Moily said Modi would have been in “some other place” if the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter had taken place in a foreign country.

He told reporters that Modi could be headed for bigger trouble as “there are many such cases which are coming up now. If more investigations are conducted, more skeletons may tumble.”

Noting that the law will take its own course, he said the revelations in the encounter were a “very serious matter for the country and in any other foreign country, Narendra Modi would have been in some other place.”

Terming the incident as “most unfortunate”, Moily said, “Many things are done brutally and in inhuman way.”

The CPI(M) has demanded resignation of Modi and said he should take moral responsibility for the killing of a college girl and three others in the fake encounter case.

“The targeted killings of persons belonging to the minority community by the State police reveal the state-of-affairs under the Narendra Modi Government,” the CPI(M) Politburo said in a statement.

“The enquiry has revealed the hand of senior police officials, including then Ahmedabad Police Commissioner and DIG Vanzara who is now facing trial for another fake encounter killing — of Soharabuddin Sheikh and his wife,” the statement said.

A contested inquiry

The Pioneer Edit Desk

Jumping the gun on Ishrat killing
http://www.dailypioneer.com/201318/A-contested-inquiry.html
Ametropolitan magistrate in Gujarat has come to the conclusion, in roughly three weeks and without going through the process of collecting evidence, that the police faked the ‘encounter’ with four ‘terrorists’, among them a young college student, Ishrat Jahan, to secure promotion and appreciation. The incident occurred on June 15, 2004, in the outskirts of Ahmedabad. The police claim that they had real time, actionable intelligence input that Ishrat Jahan and the three men who were travelling in a car, had entered Gujarat from Mumbai to carry out terrorist attacks, including the assassination of Chief Minister Narendra Modi. The three men were Javed Gulam Mohammad Sheikh alias Pranesh Kumar Pillai, a Hindu who had embraced Islam to marry a Muslim woman, held two passports and was wanted for crimes committed in Mumbai, and two Pakistanis, Amjad Ali alias Rajkumar Akbar Ali Rana and Jisan Johar Abdul Gani. They were believed to be Lashkar-e-Tayyeba operatives; nobody came forward to claim the bodies of Ali and Gani. Within days, the LeT had admitted that all four were its members and had been martyred. The Metropolitan Magistrate, Mr SP Tamang, has claimed in his 240-page hand-written report that all this is fiction; that the police killed the Ishrat Jahan and the four men in cold blood; and, that the killings were later shown as an ‘encounter’.

Three points need to be made about Mr Tamang’s report. First, it has been produced with amazing speed; second, the policemen who have been named were not questioned; and, third, the due process of conducting a magisterial inquiry was not followed. That apart, on August 13, the same day Mr Tamang was asked to probe the deaths, the High Court set up a Special Investigation Team, comprising senior police officers, to conduct a similar inquiry. The SIT is still at its job, but Mr Tamang has completed his report and given it to the media. The Gujarat Government has contested Mr Tamang’s claim and, apart from declaring its intention to contest the report, has let it be known that the intelligence input came from the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, which has also submitted an affidavit in the High Court reiterating that the four were linked to the LeT and they were on a terror mission, including assassinations. The Congress-led UPA was in power at the Centre when the encounter happened; hence, the Gujarat Government could not have ‘manipulated’ the Home Ministry’s affidavit.

The political reaction to Mr Tamang’s claim has been predictable with the Congress seeking to gain political mileage out of it by slyly dragging Mr Modi’s name into the affair. This is reprehensible, not least because the last word has not been heard on the killings. With the High Court setting up an SIT, the probe conducted by Mr Tamang should have been called off; instead he has sought to pre-empt, if not influence, the SIT’s inquiry. This is patently unacceptable. An issue as serious as ‘fake’ encounters or extra-judicial killings by the police, which deserve to be condemned in unequivocal terms and have no place in a civilised society governed by law, should not be trivialised in so cavalier a manner as has been done by Mr Tamang. If indeed Ishrat Jahan and the three men were innocent victims, then the guilty policemen must be brought to justice and given exemplary punishment. But a flawed report is not the way to go about this task, nor does partisan politics help reveal the truth.

Murder most foul

The Pioneer Edit Desk

CBI botched up Aarushi probe

http://www.dailypioneer.com/201316/Murder-most-foul.html

The latest revelations in the infamous Aarushi-Hemraj murder case have further exposed the rot that plagues our criminal justice system. After the confirmation that Aarushi’s autopsy samples were tampered with — her vaginal swab was swapped with that of another female — it now appears that the CBI, which was asked to investigate the case, had adequate reasons to believe that crucial evidence related to the crime had been mishandled as much as eight months ago. For, late last year the country’s ‘premier’ investigative agency had found some original medical papers of Aarushi’s autopsy missing from the district hospital in Noida where the test slides of Aarushi’s vaginal swabs were also prepared. Given the nature of the crime — murder with possible rape — analysis of the correct samples could have been critical to nabbing the culprits. But the Central Forensic Laboratory in Hyderabad has established that the sample slides do not even contain Aarushi’s DNA. And since Aarushi’s body has long been cremated — on May 17 last year, exactly a day after the autopsy — there is no way to verify the samples. On the other hand, Hemraj, the other victim in the double murder, was cremated without anyone drawing his DNA samples. Yet the CBI has done little to go after those responsible for spiking the investigation. It has belatedly formed an internal committee to look into the mishandling of evidence in the case. Meanwhile, Dr Ritcha Saxena, who is supposed to have made the pathological slides for Aarushi’s swabs, has long gone into hiding.

Cases like the Aarushi-Hemraj murder case or the Jessica Lall and Priyadarshini Mattoo murder cases are classic examples of how our criminal justice system can easily be subverted if one has the resources. Crucial evidence can be tampered with, witnesses can be ‘bought’, and investigations can be derailed with the slightest of external influence. Let alone the local police, that the CBI too cannot seem to be able to prevent botching up of investigations under its scanner is truly worrisome. It is no secret that corruption is the cancer that is eating away at the vitals of our criminal justice system. Greasing a few palms has become the difference between establishing guilt and getting away with murder. Unless corruption is fought tooth and nail things will only go from bad to worse. The Aarushi-Hemraj murder case, despite being a high-profile case that was significantly tracked by the media, is yet to see justice even after more than a year. If this is the state of affairs with this case one can very well imagine the status of those thousands of criminal cases that go unreported. Revamping the criminal justice system is a solution. But words need to be backed up with action.

HC raps litigants for deploying time wasting tactics

http://www.dailypioneer.com/201368/HC-raps-litigants-for-deploying-time-wasting-tactics.html

Parvaiz Sultan | New Delhi

The Delhi High Court has expressed its displeasure over the undue advantage of the court’s procedure and technicalities taken by the litigants for dragging matters for long as per their convenience.

The Court was also peeved at counsels appearing for their client and observed that it seems they are also part of such practice and are supported by the Bar. Justice Shiv Narayan Dhingra was unhappy in particular with one Sohan Singh, who facing contempt proceedings, moved an application in the Court with a prayer of modification or withdrawing an order after a month it was passed saying that his counsel (senior counsel) appearing for him has submitted undertaking without his instructions and sought more time to comply with the order.

“It has become a normal practice to give undertakings in the Court and then to deny them, defy them and not act on them and then try to wriggle out of the undertakings by adopting one or the other method,” the Judge noted in the judgement while dismissing his application. He further remarked that these attempts are adopted to humiliate the Courts and also slapped him a fine of Rs 25,000 for wasting Court’s precious time.

The Court also observed giving undertakings has become another strategy for gaining time and the statements that may be made in the Court are losing their sanctity because of these tactics being adopted and supported by the bar. “It is most unfortunate that senior counsels are allowing themselves to be used in this manner and are prepared to argue that earlier senior counsel acted without instructions and the Court should, on the weightage of an affidavit of instructing counsel, discard the submissions of the earlier senior counsel and believe the present senior counsel,” Justice Dhingra said.

“I consider that these kind of applications which try to demean and degrade the proceedings in the Court and where the Advocates are changed only with the motive of taking advantage of the procedural technicalities of the Court should be deprecated,” he said, adding that the application is hereby dismissed with the costs of Rs 25, 000 to be deposited in Prime Minister’s Relief Fund within 30 days.

Singh, who was involved in some property dispute submitted through a senior counsel during the argument of contempt proceedings, said that he would be vacating the premises in his occupation within two weeks. Later, he approached the Court and sought more time to comply with the order saying that the counsel appearing for him acted without his instructions.

HC directs State Govt to pay compensation in land case

http://www.dailypioneer.com/201365/HC-directs-State-Govt-to-pay-compensation-in-land-case.html

PNS | Jabalpur

The Madhya Pradesh High Court has directed the State Government to decide compensation within three months over the alleged illegal acquisition of 122 acre land here belonging to a certain family.

Hearing a petition by Vishvanath Pachouri and Azad Kumar Pachouri challenging the acquisition of 122 acre land under the Land Acquisition Act, a single-member bench of Justice Rajendra Menon on Friday observed that the government had failed to implement court orders passed on April 7, 2005, to settle the compensation afresh. The court directed to settle the compensation before November to avoid initiating Contempt of Court proceedings.

Ganjam lawyers seek constable’s suspension

http://www.dailypioneer.com/201351/Ganjam-lawyers-seek-constable%E2%80%99s-suspension.html

PNS | Berhampur

The attack on a lawyer by a police constable within the court premises has taken a new turn as the Ganjam Bar Association has resolved to ask the city Superintendent of Police RK Sharma to suspend the guilty constable within a week.

The Association had convened an emergency meeting on Tuesday in which several veteran lawyers and members of the association expressed concern that a police constable had dared to assault a practicing lawyer and that too within the court premises. They further said the police personnel were frequently attacking lawyers and even do not hesitate to rain lathis at times.

It was also resolved that the constable should appear at the bar and he should bag apologise before the lawyers. An Inspector should inquire into both the FIRs lodged by the lawyer and the constable. And the inquiry should be completed within one month as per the resolution of the bar association, informed an office-bearer.

It may be recalled that one constable had allegedly attacked a lawyer on Monday. Lawyer Rabi Narayan Bisoyee had lodged an FIR against constable Purna Chandra Sahu. Constable Sahu had also filed a counter FIR at the police station against lawyer.

Rs 50 cr spent on illegal flights: AG office to HC

http://www.dailypioneer.com/201339/Rs-50-cr-spent-on-illegal-flights-AG-office-to-HC.html

Ratnaker Bhengra | Ranchi

With the office of the Accountant General conclusively arriving at a figure of a little over Rs 50 crore accrued during the relevant period on helicopter flights misuse, and submitting these accounts to the Jharkhand High Court, the attention grabbing case seems to be heading for a climax.

On presentation of the accounts, the State sought time for replying to the same. The HC granted the Government the requested time.

It will be recollected that in the PIL, Bindu Bhusan Dubey alleged that there has been gross misuse of the helicopters at the disposal of the State Government by various known and unknown persons. The sums cited fluctuated from Rs 34 crore to Rs 17 crore.

While Dubey had initiated the matter, being an issue of money, the office of the Accountant General was responsible for delving into the various sums alleged to have been spent or as put forward by the State Government. The State had arrived at the figure of around Rs 17 crore for the relevant flights or those that mattered.

Finally, the Accountant Generals office was tasked to come out with the flights and corresponding figures after submissions of the relevant papers.

In its affidavit which it presented on Tuesday, the AG office submitted that the total flights in question are 946, of which 784 are chartered, 138 are Dhruv flights and 24 are air force flights.

The total numbers of hours of flying are given as 2236.27 hours, and the total apportioned cost is indicated as Rs 50.9878597 crore. The cost per hour of flight time is calculated as Rs 2.28 lakh per hour. The affidavit submits that the total expenditure includes such expenses as office expenditure, maintenance, insurance, rent, taxes.

In one paragraph, the AG has stated that on the basis of scrutiny of records and replies by the State and in the absence of any rules, none of the journeys made by the hired or owned aircrafts during the period in question are regular and authorised.

The AG office also submitted the names the passengers which differed from the names of passengers who actually traveled as per the records of the Civil Aviation Department.

Don’t delist dental colleges: Haryana to HC

http://www.dailypioneer.com/201268/Don%E2%80%99t-delist-dental-colleges-Haryana-to-HC.html

Monika | Chandigarh

Haryana’s Health and Medical Education Department on Tuesday requested Punjab and Haryana High Court not to de-recognise six dental colleges of the State alleged for illegally admitting 144 students considering loss to the admitted students.

Informing the court through an affidavit following the petition filed by Gurgaon resident Mohan Lal Pipal, Deputy Secretary of the State’s Health and Medical Education Department, submitted that in order to curb the practice of illegal admissions without affecting the future of already admitted students, the State Government has recognised the matter and recommended to the Government of India vide letters dated August 21, 2009 and August 24, 2009 that admissions to the alleged dental colleges may be reduced by 25 per cent of their present intake every year for four years.

The affidavit informed that the total of 2,217 students were admitted to the Bachelors of Dental Surgery (BDS) and 217 to Masters of Dental Surgery (MDS) in the sessions 2005-06 to 2008-09 in the six institutions and admissions for 2009-10 is under process.

“Out of 2217, 144 students have been admitted illegally,” posited he adding that if these institutions are de-recognised, all the students who have incurred their time and money for the course will not be able to get their degrees causing a huge loss to them.

The views of Haryana were also sought earlier vide letters dated March 23, 2009 received from Union ministry of Health and Family Welfare while intimating the number of illegal admissions made in the six private un-aided dental institutions.

HC records statement of ‘dead man’: Put to death 13 years ago, dead man -Jasgir Singh – once again walked into the court on Tuesday and accepted before the division bench of Justice Mehtab Singh Gill and Justice Jitendra Chauhan that he was indeed Jagsir Singh, son of Sukhdev Singh of Tallewal village and denied any knowledge regarding his family or Nachhatar Singh.

The court had recorded his statement and maintained that the state authorities are liable to pay the compensation and not the investigating or low-rung officers.

Undergone five years of imprisonment in a murder case, that actually never happened, the petitioner Nachhatar Singh, while talking to reporters, stated that he was framed due to political conspiracy and eventually climaxed with suicide of his only son.

He said: “Two members of legislative assembly are behind this as I were the village sarpanch belonging to Congress. We even complained to police that Jagsir is still alive, but SP and DSP built up false evidence and even recorded confessional statements after torturing us.”Exemption from personal appearance not granted: Taking cognisance of contempt of court petition filed by surveyor-cum-loss assessor KN Sethi, the Punjab and Haryana High Court elucidated that exemption cannot be granted to the respondent in contempt cases from personal appearance on grounds of observance of orders.

Pursuing the petition, Justice Rakesh Kumar Garg averred, “National Insurance Company’s (NIC) former chairman-cum-managing director S Ramaswami and United Insurance Company’s (UIC) chairman-cum-managing director N Sriniwasan were not granted any exemption from personal appearance before this court, yet they have chosen not to be present before this court.”

Panel on Rent Control Act implementation
http://www.tribuneindia.com/2009/20090909/punjab.htm#3

Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 8
The Punjab government has set up a committee to study the implementation of the Rent Control Act in the state. The committee will visit the country’s states which have implemented the Rent Control Act.

The committee is expected to give a report by the end of the month following which the process of implementing the Act in the state will start.

Sources said the constitution of the panel might be a “delaying tactics” of the government to avoid implementing the Act.

The Punjab Rent Bill was passed by the Vidhan Sabha in April 1995 and it got the President’s assent in 1998, but even after more than a decade the Bill has not been notified by the government.

The Bill regulates the landlord-tenant relationship, demarcates their rights and obligations and lays down grounds of eviction of tenants. The tenant lobby has been reportedly responsible for not allowing the Act to be notified all these years as the implementation of the Act is expected to hike rent.

The government is said to be under pressure from the Union government to implement
the Act.

“In case the state wants the Centre to fund its schemes under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), the state will have to implement the Act soon,” said a source.

“Amendment of rent control laws is mandatory reform in the mission. States are expected to implement the reform in the mission period. It is believed existing rent control laws are in favour of the tenant. The objective of the reform of the Rent Control Act is to bring out amendments in existing provisions for balancing interests of landlords and tenants. Reform in the rent control laws is believed to improve housing situation in urban areas, lessen distortions in the market, and have beneficial impact on urban finances,” states the JNNURM brochure.

The previous Congress government in the state headed by Capt Amarinder Singh had agreed to undertake reforms following which the money under the scheme was released by the Centre.

Till now, the state has taken Rs 1,300-crore grants for development projects. However, the further funding will be allowed only after the state informs the Centre that the reforms are being carried out.

Benipal to oppose Bains’ bail plea
http://www.tribuneindia.com/2009/20090909/punjab.htm#13

Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 8
Following allegations that the special investigation team (SIT) constituted to look into the tehsildar attack case would not oppose the bail application of SAD councillor and accused Simarjit Singh Bains, the victim tehsildar has taken upon himself the task of arguing on the plea.

The tehsildar, Major Gurjinder Singh Benipal (retd), said today that he would argue the case himself in the court tomorrow. Bains’ plea, along with those of six others, would come up for hearing in a local court tomorrow.

“I will be there with my lawyer and will oppose the bail application. I do not care whether SIT opposes it or not,” said Major Benipal.

Stating that he had lost faith in the Punjab police and was only trusting the judiciary, he added he would leave no stone unturned and argue the plea. “If I feel the police is not playing a fair part, I will go up to the High Court. I have to get justice,” he said.

All 18 revenue officials posted in the district would proceed on mass protest leave and remain present during the hearing.

Doc gets jail for removing kidney
Dr SN Gupta had removed the kidney of a woman, who had come to his nursing home in June 2003 reporting pain in the abdomen
http://www.tribuneindia.com/2009/20090909/haryana.htm#1

Manish Sirhindi
Tribune News Service

Panipat, September 8
The district courts today found a city doctor guilty of removing kidney of an unsuspecting patient and sentenced him to an imprisonment for five and a half years.

The court of ACJM JB Gupta, while pronouncing the verdict, also imposed a penalty of Rs 7,000 on the doctor, who runs a nursing home in the district.

According to the case, Suresh Kumar, a resident of Uttar Pradesh, had filed a complaint alleging that his wife Omal Malik had reported pain in the abdomen, following which she was admitted to Geeta Nursing Home in June 2003. Dr SN Gupta told them that his wife had a stone in the kidney and she had to be operated upon at the earliest.

He got his wife operated at the nursing home, but Omal again reported pain in the abdomen in November 2005.

Suresh got her examined by other doctors, who reportedly told him that one of her kidneys was missing, following which he and his relatives held a protest outside the nursing home.

The police registered a case under Sections 326, 420 and 406 of the IPC and Sections 18 and 19 of the Transplantation of Human Organs Act against the doctor in November 2005.

The couple then moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court seeking justice. After hearing the prosecution and the defense counsels, the local court held the doctor guilty and sentenced him to five and a half years.

HC reserves judgment on police officers’ bail plea
http://www.tribuneindia.com/2009/20090909/j&k.htm#6

Kumar Rakesh
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, September 8
The Jammu and Kashmir High Court today reserved its judgment on the bail application of two police officials arrested for destroying evidence in the rape-and-murder case of two Shopian women.

The defence lawyer, who is representing suspended SP Javid Iqbal Mattoo and DSP Rohit Baskotra, presented his arguments against the opposition to his clients’ bail plea by the state and the Bar Association. He said the special investigating team (SIT) had failed to produce any material evidence to implicate both officials’ crime even 55 days after their arrest. When he was asked by the court why the SP did not reach the spot after the bodies of both women were recovered on May 30 morning, he said he was busy with other work and had directed the SHO, also in detention, to probe it.

The Bar continued with its objections and its lawyer said a Division Bench of the High Court headed by Chief Justice Barin Ghosh had ordered their arrest on strong suspicion of their involvement in the crime.

After hearing the arguments, Justice Sunil Hali reserved his judgment.

He had earlier asked the SIT to file an affidavit to tell the court about the number of days it would take to finish the probe. Farooq Ahmad, IG, Kashmir, who is also supervising the SIT probe, had said that they could not say in advance as how many more days they would take.

The SIT has to produce a challan against the four arrested cops within 60 days of their arrest made on July 15, or the court is bound by the Supreme Court guidelines to release them on bail.

Official sources said the SIT had no tangible evidence to link these four cops with the crime they had been accused of, but it was trying its hardest to prepare a challan as bail on this count would further embarrass the state government. The government has told the SIT to go ahead with the filling of a challan with whatever substance it has.

The bail application of two more cops, the then SHO and the investigation officer, is to come up before the High Court tomorrow.

Cong seeks CBI probe into sex scandal
http://www.tribuneindia.com/2009/20090909/himachal.htm#3

Tribune News Service

Shimla, September 8
The Congress has demanded a CBI inquiry into the alleged call-girls scandal at a local hotel and has sought an immediate action against the ruling party politicians and the officer of the Environment Department involved in the case.

General secretary of the party Kuldeep Rathore said the police was under tremendous pressure to hush up the matter and the truth could be brought out only through an impartial probe. The politician, who heads an important committee of the government, should quit forthwith and if he refused to so, the government should sack him. The officer should also be suspended till an inquiry is conducted into the scandal, he added.

He said the Prime Minister had, at a recent meeting, expressed concern over corruption in environment clearances and the current episode had only highlighted the deep nexus between politicians and officers in the state. The BJP was always infamous for corruption, including financial corruption, land scams and now even moral turpitude.

The conflicting statements of the superintendent of police in various newspapers indicated that the police was trying to shield the guilty. It was not for the first time that the police was behaving in such a manner under the present regime. During the recent Lok Sabha poll, the “currency wad” episode was covered up, he said.

The BJP government has, in the past 18 months, promoted a political culture alien to the state which is inhabited by honest and hard-working people. The moral fibre has been weakened and the people were bearing the brunt of rampant corruption, he said.

RTI queries baffle central power sector staff
http://www.tribuneindia.com/2009/20090909/himachal.htm#5

Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Dharamsala, September 8
The right to information (RTI) has empowered Indian citizens to procure facts regarding public offices.

However, certain queries by citizens are illogical and far-fetched. One such query made by one Sanjay Giri, a resident of Nimatpur area of Burdwan district of West Bengal, has been keeping the entire central power sector establishments in the country on tenterhooks for past more than one month.

Highly placed sources told The Tribune that Giri sent his set of queries under the RTI to the Union Minister for Power who further forwarded it to all central government power establishments as the NHPC, the NTPC, power grid and BBMB etc.

The applicant had sought a list of all material purchased in the power sector since 1989. He had also sought department-wise daily reports of all concerned departments of power sector, bearing purchased since 1989, make of bearing, number, size, indents of their purchase and usage.

He had also sought the list of material repaired and reconditioned, medical facility provided to employees and casual labour, tender prices in detail, names, addresses and telephone numbers of all power sector suppliers.

Officials, who have been busy collecting the information sought, are perplexed about its use. While talking to The Tribune, they said the list of materials ranged from simple safety pins purchased for office purpose to highly sophisticated parts of turbines. To make a list of these materials since 1989 was an almost impossible task as some of 20-year old record might have got destroyed, they alleged.

However, the most difficult part of the set of queries is the list of trees and plants in power sector areas along with their names and numbers. The areas of some of the power sector establishments as the NHPC, NTPC and BBMB extend to thousands of acres spreading across various states. To calculate the numbers of trees and plants in these areas along with their names was an intricate task, they added.

Employees, who are busy trying to collect the information sought, said the public information officers were pressing them to provide the information at the earliest as they were liable to be fined if they failed to do so. However, the applicant might also have to shell out lakhs of rupees as the information sought would comprise many pages, they said.

Muthoot murder: Two surrender before TN court

http://www.thestatesman.org/page.news.php?clid=2&theme=&usrsess=1&id=267855

TIRUNELVELI (TN)/THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, 8 SEPT: Two persons wanted in connection with the murder of Kerala-based businessman Paul Muthoot George, today surrendered before a
court here. Om Prakash and Puthenpalam Rajesh, who surrendered before judicial magistrate Mr S Selvam, were remanded in judicial custody till 11 September. Mr Selvam ordered that they be produced before a magistrate court in Pattanamthitta in Kerala on 12 September.
The duo was suspected to have travelled with George, the day he was murdered by a gang in Alappuzha in the wee hours on 22 August. They had escaped from the spot by George’s car and fled to the neighbouring state.
Meanwhile, the Congress-led United Democratic Front today walked out of the Kerala assembly and staged a dharna outside the House after the Speaker refused leave for an adjournment motion to discuss the case. Alleging a nexus between the police and criminal gangs, the Opposition also demanded that the home minister Mr Kodiyeri Balakrishnan resign from his post for misleading legislators in the murder case. Leader of the Opposition, Mr Oommen Chandy, said that the media has done more to bring facts to the table while the current government was doing its best to blotch up evidence. “Mr Balakrishnan had asked the media to stay away from the case and let police do the job but a recent undercover operation by a local TV channel has clearly revealed that the police is trying to cover up for their bosses,” he said, after walking out of the Assembly today.
Inspector General of Police, Mr Vinson Paul told the Press that a man called Kari Satheesh (now in police custody) had used an S-shaped knife to stab the 32-year-old businessman. CPI-M state secretary Mr Pinarayi Vijayan improvised on the IG’s statement and said that it was the RSS that used weapons of this nature and that the media was probing the wrong political connection. Mr Balakrishnan’s son, Bineesh Kodiyeri, is also said to be friends with the accused. The BJP has demanded an apology from Mr Vijayan.
In another twist, a blacksmith from Alappuzha told an undercover reporter that he made an ‘S-shaped’ knife as per the directions of investigating officer Mr KA Thomas, which according to the channel could have been planted in Kari Satheesh’s house.
Police had said George was murdered by a criminal gang, which stabbed him to death after a sudden provocation following a heated exchange over the businessman’s car hitting a motorcyclist.
Both Om Prakash and Rajesh had been listed as wanted persons under the Goonda Act. SNS & Agencies

RIL contract provides no govt role in gas price fixation: RNRL New Delhi, Sep 9 (PTI):
http://www.deccanherald.com/content/24190/ril-contract-provides-no-govt.html

Anil Ambani group firm RNRL on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that the government has no role to play either in the utilisation or the fixation of gas price as per its contract with Mukesh-led RIL.
“RIL has complete marketing freedom for sale of gas within India. The marketing freedom would include within its scope the freedom to sell the gas on such terms and at such price that RIL deems fit and proper,” RNRL said in an affidavit while replying to the petition filed by RIL.

Stating that Reliance Industries Ltd has been changing its stance with regard to the MoU (family agreement), Reliance Natural Resources detailed RIL’s response on different occasions and said “this fully exposes RIL’s blatant lie and falsehood.”

The two sides had approached Supreme Court challenging a decision by the Bombay High Court on June 15, which said RIL should provide 28 million cubic metres of gas per day to RNRL at USD 2.34 per mmBtu and both the parties should sign a necessary agreement for the same within a month.

RIL, however, is pleading that it was only a contractor for the gas from the Krishna-Godavari basin’s D6 block and did not have the power to fix the price, while the government has also moved a special leave petition in the case asserting its right on pricing and distribution of natural gas.

The apex court has decided to commence hearing on this matter on October 20.

Stating that the supply of gas was not subject to any gas utilisation policy of the government under the PSC with RIL, RNRL said in its affidavit that “the petitioners (RIL) are seeking to mis-interpret the terms of the Production Sharing Contract to suggest that any sale of gas has to be in accordance with the gas utilisation policy.”

RNRL further said that RIL had made a “valid, binding and enforceable commitment in the year 2005 to supply gas on the agreed terms to RNRL” and the said commitment and obligation was not affected in any manner by the gas utilisation policy announced by the government in 2008.

The Anil Ambani group company also said that it had never questioned the government’s ownership over natural resources, but noted that the government being owner of the gas fields was also bound by the terms of the PSC, under which the ownership of gas produced was shared with the contractor RIL.

In terms of PSC, RIL has complete market freedom to deal with the gas that belongs to it and the “Company Court and the Division bench had given directions only with regard to the gas that belongs to RIL and has not given any direction in relation to the gas that belongs to the Union of India,” RNRL said.

RNRL further submitted that the Bombay High Court order had not disregarded the PSC between RIL and the government of India.

Scam effect
http://www.deccanherald.com/content/24062/scam-effect.html

“A clear set of rules for land acquisition is needed”
Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya’s dream of reviving industry in West Bengal seems to be running aground. The latest casualty of the Bengal government’s failure to resolve problems arising from land acquisition for industry are projects that Infosys and Wipro were hoping to set up in the state. The government has said it is scrapping the proposed IT township at Rajarhat, a Kolkata suburb, where it was to provide the two IT majors with land. This is a serious setback for Bhattacharya’s ambitions of transforming Kolkata into an IT hub. It is the third major blow dealt to his effort to revive industry in the state. As in Nandigram and Singur earlier, where problems over land acquisition forced the withdrawal of major projects — Tata Motors pulled out its Nano project from Singur following violent protests there — in Rajarhat too, questionable land deals have aborted the IT township. It has been alleged that the land for the township was acquired from farmers at gun point. In fact, the violent flare-up in the area a fortnight ago is believed to be linked to the improper methods that were used by developers to acquire the land.

The scrapping of the IT projects will undermine Bengal’s image, already sullied by mass protests and the Singur fiasco, as an investment destination. This is a pity because Bhattacharya had worked hard to invite investors to the state. His initiative had sparked some hope that the terminal decline of Bengal’s once great industrial sector would be arrested and that its revival would provide employment. That hope has now been dashed. Investors will be wary of putting their money in Bengal.

It is not West Bengal alone that is facing problems over land acquisition for industrial purposes. Violent protests have erupted in Goa, Maharashtra and Haryana when state governments sought to acquire land for special economic zones. Industry bodies have been calling on the Centre to come out with a comprehensive policy that ensures fair and transparent acquisition of land and clear rehabilitation and resettlement guidelines. The Centre did come out with a Land Acquisition Amendment Bill and a Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill but has dragged its feet on the matter since. A clear set of rules for land acquisition will protect farmers’ rights and allow infrastructure and other projects to move easily. Bengal, indeed India, cannot afford to lose investment and projects.

Court flays police actions during probe

http://www.hindu.com/2009/09/09/stories/2009090957570100.htm

Director-General of Prosecution defends police action

High Court disposes of writ plea for CBI probe into Paul murder

Kochi: The Kerala High Court on Tuesday orally criticised the police for some of their actions during the ongoing investigation into the murder of businessman Paul Muthoot George.

Justice M. Sasidharan Nambiar flayed the police during the hearing on a writ petition seeking a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the murder. The court orally pointed out that the investigation officer holding a press conference to announce the arrest of the accused even before the investigation was complete was unheard of. The court orally said that such actions would set a bad precedent.

Criticising the action of the police in allowing the accused to speak to the media, the court orally said that it was not proper.

Director-General of Prosecution V.G. Govindan Nair justified the actions of the police claiming that it was a mysterious murder case.

The court orally deprecated the tendency of the media to hold discussions on the investigation.

The Director-General of Prosecution submitted that the media were holding a trial in the case by themselves. He said the case was being conducted properly and that the investigation would not be influenced by any external agencies.

Disposing of the petition filed by P.S. Vilasini, mother of Satheeshkumar alias ‘Kari’ Satheesh who was arrested in connection with the murder case, the Judge said it did not find any need to issue directives during the initial stage of the investigation. If circumstances warranted it, the petitioner was entitled to approach the court.

According to the petition, she suspected that her son had admitted to the crime in return for the money offered by someone. She alleged that the involvement of other persons had not been meticulously examined by the State police due to political interference. They had tampered with crucial evidence and fabricated new evidence against her son. She alleged that the case was foisted on her son to protect certain “kingpins and real goondas” who had perpetrated the crime.

Bofors case: CBI given time

http://www.hindu.com/2009/09/09/stories/2009090957540100.htm

NEW DELHI: A Delhi court on Tuesday allowed a CBI plea for two weeks’ time to explore the options available in the Bofors case after the withdrawal of Interpol’s Red Corner Notice against Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi. — PTI

U.P. government rapped for construction of memorials

http://www.hindu.com/2009/09/09/stories/2009090960551100.htm

J. Venkatesan

Wasteful expenditure of taxpayers’ money subject to judicial review, says Supreme Court

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday pulled up the Mayawati government in Uttar Pradesh for constructing memorials and statues for Kanshiram, Mayawati and other leaders using taxpayers’ money and said spending huge amounts for this purpose would be subject to judicial review.

When a Bench of Justices B.N. Agrawal and Aftab Alam was inclined to pass an interim order staying all further construction activities, the subject matter of various petitions pending in the Allahabad High Court, senior counsel S.C. Mishra, appearing for the State gave an undertaking that no further construction would be carried out on the properties in question.

When Mr. Mishra defended such constructions saying that there was no illegality as all the expenses had been approved by the Assembly, Justice Agrawal said: “As per the reports, you [State] are spending over Rs. 2,000 crore on such memorials. Your [the State’s] Gross Domestic Product is only around 2 per cent. We may ask the government as to how such a colossal expenditure can be incurred. We can even ask it to produce the Budget papers.”

Mr. Mishra tried to defend the State government’s action saying the petition was not maintainable. He said: “There is the Teen Murti Bhavan [memorial for Nehru] worth over Rs. 5,000 cr. There is opposition only because memorials are built for Dr. Ambedkar or Kanshiram. Nobody raised a whisper when memorials were built on Raj Ghat [area] for the former Prime Ministers and four members of one family [Nehru] at a cost of Rs. 10,000 cr.”

Justice Agrawal said: “There is no memorial for the former Prime Ministers late P. V. Narasimha Rao and Mr. Deve Gowda.We have to examine a larger issue. Your decision cannot be arbitrary because it involves taxpayers’ money. You cannot spend it as you like.”

When Mr. Mishra said the issue was being raised for political purposes, Justice Agrawal said: “We are not concerned with political mileage. The Court can act upon legal issues. It can be subject to judicial review because constitutional propriety is involved. It involves constitutional issues. There will be colossal wastage of money if we order demolition of the constructions. It will be a wasteful expenditure. You cannot fritter away public money like this.”

Justice Alam told Mr. Mishra: “Your action is not bona fide. You are trying to put a fait accompli before this court. This may have serious implications and consequences. If you say that all demolitions were carried out prior to February 27, 2009 [when the Supreme Court passed the restraint order] why was this not brought to the notice of this court?”

Senior counsel Abhishek Singhvi appearing for the petitioner submitted that the Mayawati government took upon itself the task of demolishing recently built government buildings for the construction of smaraks and in certain cases built concrete parks, devoid of greenery.

The counsel said that the Supreme Court had, by an interim order passed on February 27, restrained the State from further demolishing government buildings which were the subject matter of writ petitions pending in the Allahabad High Court. The petition also sought a direction to stop construction of memorials, statues, memorials, parks and symbols (elephants) at the cost of public money. The Bench in its brief order said that in view of the undertaking, no formal interim order was necessary and posted the matter for further hearing on September 29 on the applications filed by Mithilesh Kumar Singh. Meanwhile, the Bench asked the State to file its response and rejoinder, if any, by the petitioner.

Modify pill advertisements: Drug Controller

http://www.hindu.com/2009/09/09/stories/2009090960661600.htm

Gargi Parsai

It should not suggest that one could go in for unprotected sex because of ready access to pill

Doctors say repeated use as a method of contraception must be discouraged

NEW DELHI: The Drug Controller of India has asked manufacturers of the Emergency Contraception (EC) pill to modify their advertisements that have suddenly burst on the television channels. The advertisements show a woman expressing fear of pregnancy after unprotected sex, and her friend advises her to take the EC pill. Both women are then seen walking hand in hand with their male partners — all television stars — saying they were now “tension free.”

Medical practitioners, who participated in the National Consensus on Rational Use of Emergency Contraception in India here on Monday, while appreciating the “positive impact” of the ads in generating awareness, suggested that they carry a word of caution about the “emergency use.”

‘No substitute’

“The EC pill is not a substitute for regular methods of contraception. It should not be conveyed that you could go in for unprotected sex because you have access to EC pill. Rather, it should be that because you’ve had unprotected sex, you have the option of an EC pill to prevent pregnancy. Repeated use of the EC pill as a method of contraception should be discouraged,” said Suneeta Mittal, chief coordinator, Consultation and Head of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences. The doctors wanted this aspect highlighted in the ad campaigns.

They stressed that the EC pill was not a protection against reproductive tract infections, sexually-transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS. Also, it was not to be used as an abortion pill. At the same time, they did not want television ads to “stigmatise” abortion.

Depending upon when the EC pill is taken during the menstrual cycle, it could prevent or delay egg formation, interfere with fertilisation to stop a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus. It should be taken within five days of unprotected sex. However, the EC pill is not effective once pregnancy is already there, say the doctors.

Labour Commissioner told to verify membership figures of MRF unions

http://www.hindu.com/2009/09/09/stories/2009090960220700.htm

Special Correspondent

Division Bench allows petition filed by one of the unions

CHENNAI: The Madras High Court on Tuesday directed the Labour Commissioner to call upon the MRF United Workers Union (MRFUWU), Arakkonam, and the MRF Arakkonam Workers Welfare Union, Ichipudur, Arakkonam, to submit their membership figures published as per the code of discipline and examine them.

A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice H.L. Gokhale and Justice D. Murugesan allowed a petition filed by the MRFUWU seeking a direction to official authorities to take steps to implement the recommendations contained in the 348th report of the International Labour Organisation governing body committee on freedom of association and ensure recognition of the petitioner union by the management.

The petitioner, a registered trade union, claimed to represent a majority of the workmen functioning in the company. The other union also claimed to have majority of membership.

The Bench said that in the event of any objection, it may be verified in the light of the code of discipline by personal interrogatories so as to arrive at the correct membership. Alternatively, ballot system, which although was recommended by the ILO committee, was not accepted in any of the statutes which had been brought to the court’s notice.

The court said that in its view the only alternative was to direct the State government and the Commissioner of Labour to conduct the exercise as per the code of discipline to which the State government was agreeable.

Accordingly, the petitioner union may apply to the Labour Commissioner within two weeks presenting its claim of membership figures during the last six months. On receipt of the application, the official would issue notice to the two unions within two weeks thereafter calling upon them to submit their membership register and the necessary supporting documents.

The notice would call upon them to produce their records as per the code of discipline during the period of six months prior to the notice. The Labour Commissioner should thereafter proceed to decide as to which union was the representative union of the workmen.

The Bench said it could not permit the management to say that the union which showed the larger membership at the end of the exercise would not be recognised. It should be recognised.

“Bill to be introduced soon”

http://www.hindu.com/2009/09/09/stories/2009090957830200.htm

Special Correspondent

CHENNAI: A Bill seeking to make all medical testing laboratories register themselves with the Quality Council of India (QCI), will soon be introduced in Parliament, Thuppil Venkatesh, Principal Advisor, QCI, has said.

The Central Laboratories Establishment Bill, to be introduced in the next session of Parliament, once passed, will mandate all testing laboratories to register with the QCI. “Only a handful of labs are accredited. Most others are merely registered under the Shops and Establishments Act. Anyone can start a lab today, with no formal accreditation. This poses a risk to the public at large,” he told the audience at a seminar on quality control in diagnostic labs.

Diagnosis is a crucial step in determining healthcare planning, including medication and it is imperative we give it the attention it deserves, Dr. Venkatesh stressed. “Quality control in diagnostic labs is a critical step in establishing standardised testing procedure for patients. We are committed in our efforts to help diagnostic labs across the country follow world-class practices to ensure the best patient care,” he added.

The seminar was organised by QCI in association with Bio-Rad Laboratories in Chennai on Tuesday.

Court orders notice on PMK candidate’s plea

http://www.hindu.com/2009/09/09/stories/2009090959840400.htm

Special Correspondent

CHENNAI: The Madras High Court on Tuesday ordered notice on an election petition filed by the Pattali Makkal Katchi candidate in the Sriperumbudur Lok Sabha constituency challenging the election of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam nominee, T.R. Baalu.

Justice S. Rajeswaran said the notice would be returnable on October 8.

In his petition, A.K. Moorthy of the PMK alleged that Mr. Baalu managed to win the election by “large-scale corrupt practices.” Out of the six Assembly segments in the parliamentary constituency, many irregularities were found in the Pallavaram and Sriperumbudur Assembly constituencies.

High Court directive on ‘Erudhu kattu’

http://www.hindu.com/2009/09/09/stories/2009090957890200.htm

Staff Reporter

MADURAI: The Madras High Court Bench here has asked the Aakavayal panchayat President in Ilayankudi Taluk of Sivaganga district to submit a demand draft (D.D.) for Rs.5 lakh as a pre-condition to permit ‘Erudhu kattu’ (a sport in which oxen are tamed by pulling ropes across their neck) in a local temple festival.

A Division Bench comprising Justice Chitra Venkataraman and Justice M. Duraiswamy directed the panchayat president to present the D.D. by Thursday. In the meantime, the Sivaganga Revenue Divisional Officer and Superintendent of Police were directed to inspect the venue and file a report on the safety arrangements made.

The Bench said that the condition to deposit money was being imposed by following earlier orders passed by the High Court while according permission for ‘jallikattu’ (bull fight). The amount could be used to compensate the participants or spectators who suffer injuries in the sporting event.

The court recorded submission made by a Government counsel that the Legislative Assembly has passed a Bill recently to regulate jallikattu and such other sports. Producing a copy of the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Bill, 2009, he said that it would be notified soon after obtaining the President’s assent.

The Bill states that permission shall not be granted unless the District Collector was satisfied that the event was conducted between January and May and the venue was suitable for orderly conduct of the event. The spectators would be allowed to watch the event only from the gallery

Lawyers distribute chicken in protest

http://www.hindu.com/2009/09/09/stories/2009090951510300.htm

MADURAI: A section of lawyers in the Madras High Court Bench here distributed pieces of fried chicken and ‘mutta bonda’ (a snack made with egg) free of cost in protest against not serving non-vegetarian food in court canteens across the State.

“Give information sought by people”

http://www.hindu.com/2009/09/09/stories/2009090951800300.htm

Special Correspondent

Call to approach Public Information Officers

THANJAVUR: The State Information Commission had taken up 8,616 petitions in the last three years for an enquiry and provide information to people, said Sharadha Nambi Arooran, State Information Commissioner here on Tuesday.

She told presspersons that all public institutions — both government and government-aided institutions — are required to provide the necessary information sought by the people under the Right to Information Act. They can’t deny information to the people. Mrs. Arooran said that many private complaints with demand for ration cards, pension benefits, etc have also been received by the commission. But these can’t be entertained as they don’t come under the purview of the Act.

Hence, out of the total petitions received one-third of them is rejected.

People can approach the Public Information Officers appointed in each government department and office for getting the required information. He can take 30 days for providing information. If he doesn’t provide information in the stipulated period, they can appeal to the appellant authority in the same office. There also 30 days of time are permitted. If no information is provided here too, they can approach the State Commission.

“I am here for the past two days and received petitions from people of Thanjavur, Tiruchi, Tiruvarur, Nagapattinam, Cuddalore and Pudukottai districts. Revenue and land-related petitions are presented more in Thanjavur. Many people have taken information about lands and this helped them establishing their rights and getting pattas in court cases,” she said.

There is no prescribed format for submitting the petition. Mere a white paper will do. They can write their complaints and put the signature and give the petition to the Public Information Officer.

The State Information Commission will take a stern action against the official, if he or she has provided wrong information, misleading information or incomplete information.

A fine amount of Rs. 25,000 can be imposed on the erring official as per the act. Fines were imposed on 50 officials so far. Departmental disciplinary actions suggested in many cases.

Not a NICE alignment, petitioner tells HC

http://www.hindu.com/2009/09/09/stories/2009090959680400.htm

Staff Reporter

Court orders issue of notices to Ashok Kheny and other NICE officials

‘Kheny and other NICE officials refused to accept earlier notice’

BANGALORE: The Karnataka High Court was on Tuesday told that Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises (NICE) had not obtained permission from Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) before changing alignment of the Bangalore Mysore Infrastructure Corridor Project (BMICP).

The BMICP comprises of an elevated expressway between Bangalore and Mysore and several link and peripheral roads and interchanges. It also consists of townships. The project has run into controversy as landowners and even the State Government has claimed that excess land has been acquired for the project.

In his petition before the High Court, a resident of Bangalore, Vijay Raghavan, claimed that NICE had not obtained permission from MoEF before embarking on any change in the alignment of the project. He said this fact had been admitted by the Public Works Department.

The petitioner told Justice Mohan Shantangouder that a batch of petitions challenging the alignment of the project at Gottigere, Pantharpalya and other areas were being heard by Justice B.S. Patil.

Justice Mohan Shantangouder directed the High Court Registry to place the case before the Chief Justice so that all NICE cases could be clubbed and heard together.

Court notice

A Division Bench comprising Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice Jawed Rahim ordered issue of court notices to Managing Director of NICE Ashok Kheny and other NICE officials.

The Bench passed the order after the petitioner, Vijay Raghavan, who had filed a contempt petition against Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyruppa, Revenue Minister Karunakara Reddy, Chief Secretary Sudhakar Rao and several others, including officials of NICE, said Mr. Kheny and other NICE officials had refused to accept the notice.

Mr. Vijay Raghavan had filed the contempt petition against the alleged violation of several court orders on the construction of a peripheral road, as part of the BMICP, at Gottigere.

HC quashes demand notices on cinema

http://www.hindu.com/2009/09/09/stories/2009090951720300.htm

Staff Reporter

BANGALORE: The Karnataka High Court has quashed demand notices by the Department of Commercial Taxes on a cinema in Periyapatna in Mysore district seeking payment of entertainment tax.

The department, in its notice to Mahadeswara Swamy Picture House on July 16, 2009, had sought payment of entertainment tax for exhibiting a Kannada film, Krishna, between October 5, 2007 and December 20, 2007.

The cinema moved the High Court against the demand notices. It said the Commissioner of the Department of Information, Bangalore, had certified Krishna as an original Kannada movie. Since it was certified as an original Kannada movie, the theatre management did not collect entertainment tax from movie-goers or remit any tax.

Subsequently, the Department of Commercial Taxes issued demand notices to the cinema asking it to pay entertainment tax, saying that the movie was not original and that it was a remake of a Tamil film. The cinema urged the court to quash the demand notices, saying that it was illegal and arbitrary. Justice A.N. Venugopala Gowda allowed the petition and quashed the demand notices, saying that it was illegal.

Court orders status quo on tree-felling plans

http://www.hindu.com/2009/09/09/stories/2009090958910300.htm

Sudipto Mondal

MANGALORE: In a development that is held as a “partial victory” of the agitation against felling of trees in Kankanady, the Principal Civil Judge (Junior Division) issued a “status-quo” order to the Mangalore City Corporation and the Forest Department on Tuesday. Advocate Suma R. Nayak, who argued the case for the agitators, told The Hindu that as per the order, there should be no attempt at felling the 40-odd trees along the stretch connecting the Kankanady and Kotichennaiah circles. The order will be in place until the Mangalore City Corporation’s Commissioner, its executive engineer and the Tree Officer of the Forest Department file their objections before the court. The “partial victory” notwithstanding, questions are now being raised by some sections on the massive attention that the felling of trees on this stretch had received, compared to the thousands of trees that were felled for the first phase of the Mangalore Special Economic Zone project.

Why did the anti-MSEZ activists, who were part of the campaign in Kankanady, not move the court about the destruction in MSEZ Phase-I? Why did local leftwing groups such as the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), which were again part of the Kankanady agitation, not join hands with the same activists in agitating against the MSEZ? Were all the people in the Kankanady agitation worried about the trees alone, or were there some who were anxious about losing prime property?

Vidya Dinker, an activist, concedes that the Phase-I of the MSEZ went through without resistance from the locals. “We always base our agitations on people’s support,” she says.

State vice-president of the DYFI Muneer Katipalla says that his organisation too was of the view that there were wanton violations in the Phase-I of the MSEZ project.

SBI recruitment norm flouts apex court verdict

http://www.hindu.com/2009/09/09/stories/2009090953360400.htm

C. Gouridasan Nair

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The State Bank of India (SBI) norm that pregnant women would be ineligible for recruitment and promotion during pregnancy, which clearly violates Constitutional guarantees of equality of opportunity and protection against gender discrimination, has gone unchallenged for years now despite the Supreme Court holding a similar provision in the recruitment norms of the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) of India unconstitutional way back in 1991.

The SBI has been insisting on women candidates and serving women undergoing medical examination at the time of recruitment/ promotion to determine whether they are pregnant and submitting a declaration giving details of their menstrual cycle so as to defer posting/ promotion during the period of pregnancy. Despite news reports exposing the discriminatory provisions and strong denunciations from the State CPI(M) and various women’s organisations, the bank has not taken any step to take corrective action so far.

Bank unions, which had not taken serious note of the issue all these years, have now entered the fray urging the bank management to scrap the discriminatory provisions.

The Supreme Court had handed down its verdict on October 31, 1991 against almost identical provisions in the recruitment norms of the LIC when allowing an appeal filed by Meera Mathur of Delhi against the decision of the LIC management to retrench her from service during probation as an assistant on the ground that she had withheld information about her pregnancy at the time of recruitment.

The apex court had held that the particulars that were sought to be furnished in the declaration were ‘indeed embarrassing, if not humiliating.’ “While we are moving forward to achieve the constitutional guarantee of equal rights for women, the Life Insurance Corporation of India seems to be not moving beyond the status quo,” the court had observed.

The provisions in the SBI recruitment norms that insist on women providing information about their menstrual history, date of last menstrual period, any evidence of pregnancy and history of diseases of the uterus cervix, ovaries or breasts have remained in place almost two decades after this verdict.

State Bank Staff Union (Kerala Circle) general secretary K. Raja Kurup told The Hindu that the SBSU had already taken up the issue with the bank authorities and sought scrapping of the anti-women norms.

Contempt of court petition: High Court reserves verdict

http://www.hindu.com/2009/09/09/stories/2009090953530400.htm

Kochi: A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court on Tuesday reserved its verdict on a contempt of court petition filed against the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in connection with the Sister Abhaya death case.The Bench comprising Justice K. Balakrishnan Nair and Justice P. Bhavadasan reserved its judgment after the conclusion of the arguments by counsel for the CBI and the petitioner.

The petition was filed by M. Thomas, father of Sister Abhaya. He contended that CBI Dy.SP Nandakumar Nair had not complied with the court’s earlier directive for retrieving the original video tapes containing the narco-analysis procedure done on the three accused in the case.

Refuting the allegation, Mr. Nair said in an affidavit that he had fully complied with the directive. The three video cassettes handed to him by S. Malini, former Assistant Director, Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL), Bangalore, were the originally recorded narco-analysis test videos. They had been submitted before the Chief Judicial Magistrate Court, Ernakulam.

Supreme Court to consider Lyngdoh report modification

http://www.hindu.com/2009/09/09/stories/2009090959600400.htm

J. Venkatesan

NEW DELHI: With the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union seeking modifications in the Lyngdoh Committee’s recommendations on student union elections, the Supreme Court has posted the matter for final hearing on October 27 to consider amendments and modifications.

A Bench of Justice Markandey Katju and Justice A. K. Ganguly asked amicus curiae and Solicitor-General (S-G) Gopal Subramaniam and counsel for various parties to give their suggestions so that the Court could examine modifications.

The S-G said pursuant to the earlier directions of the Supreme Court the Lyngdoh Committee recommendations had been fully implemented by the universities and colleges and the mechanism was working very well. However, when Mr. Justice Ganguly referred to the application from the JNUSU for amendments, the S-G said certain amendments could be considered. The Bench then posted the matter for final hearing on October 27 and asked the parties to complete the pleadings by then.

When the S-G informed the Court how the R. K. Raghavan Committee’s recommendations on ragging had been implemented, Mr. Justice Katju observed that ragging was a barbaric practice resorted to by seniors. He said freshers should not be scared and there should not be any apprehensions in their minds.

“Seniors should not behave in a barbaric manner. They should behave like elder brothers to freshers,” he said.

The JNU students’ union wanted the upper age limit raised from 28 years to 32 for research students.

Rejecting this stand, the amicus curiae recommended that the upper age limit for candidature in student elections in respect of M.Phil./Ph.D. students be increased to 30 years and no further. On the stipulation that a candidate should contest only once for the post of office-bearer and twice for the post of an executive member, the application wanted the restriction should be removed.

However, the amicus curiae said: “A candidate shall have three opportunities to contest for the post of office bearer/executive member, provided that he/she may hold that post for no longer than two consecutive terms.”

Election Commission is a constitutional body of equals”

http://www.hindu.com/2009/09/09/stories/2009090959340300.htm

J. Balaji

Now ECs will join CEC in preparing confidential reports

‘CEC is first among equals with certain leadership and administrative responsibilities’

‘This has not been done ever since the Commission became a multi-member set up’

NEW DELHI: As part of bringing in more transparency and reforms in the functioning of the Election Commission, the Commission has now decided that the performance appraisal report or annual confidential report would hereafter be written jointly by the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and the two Election Commissioners (ECs).

Hitherto, writing or reviewing such reports was the prerogative of the CEO and the ECs had no role to play.

As per the EC guidelines, the Annual Confidential Reports on the officers in the rank of Deputy Election Commissioners and above, and Deputy Secretaries and above in the State/Union Territories election departments have to be written or reviewed by the CEC alone.

In the States/UTs, the ACRs of officers like Deputy Chief CEOs or Joint CEOs/additional CEOs were written by Chief Electoral Officers and then forwarded to the for approval/review of the CEC. Now, the system has been totally changed and all three members are to be involved in the job.

When contacted, CEC Navin Chawla confirmed the report and informed that the Commission had already issued a circular in this regard. Though the CEC was the first among equals with certain leadership and administrative responsibilities, “I wanted to involve both the Election Commissioners – S.Y. Quraishi and V.S. Sampath — in the exercise,” he said.

The legal position was that the three-member Election Commission was a constitutional body of co-equals, with equal voting power, he added.

Multi-member set up

“Hereafter all three of us would jointly write the report. This has not been done ever since the Commission became a multi-member set up, during the period of then CEC T.N. Seshan,” he said.

Apex court hints at shifting PF case

http://www.hindu.com/2009/09/09/stories/2009090959590400.htm

J. Venkatesan

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday indicated that the case relating to the Provident Fund scam of Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh might be transferred to a CBI court in Delhi from the court of Special Judge, CBI, Ghaziabad.

A three-Judge Bench of Justice D. K. Jain, Justice V. S. Sirpurkar and Justice G. S. Singhvi hearing the PF scam case asked Attorney-General G. E. Vahanvati to explore the possibility of shifting the case from Ghaziabad in view of an application filed by petitioner Nahar Singh Yadav seeking such a direction.

Mr. Vahanvati submitted that the CBI had made a lot of progress in the case and pointed out that already four status reports had been filed. “The investigation has passed the stage of preliminary enquiry (PE) and is in the stage of RC (Registration of case). I am not in favour of filing the charge-sheet in a peace-meal manner,” he said.

Senior counsel Shanti Bhushan and Anil Divan, appearing for the petitioners, said not a single charge-sheet had been filed since the CBI took over the probe.

When the Bench wanted to know the reason for delay, Mr. Vahanvati said the CBI was awaiting the report of the Central Forensic Science Laboratory which was examining 21,000 documents and 6,000 specimen signatures.

The petitioners alleged that despite four status reports no charge-sheet had been filed against any judicial officer. Since the case involved misappropriation of funds from the public exchequer and manipulation of government accounts, it would be appropriate if the case was shifted from the Ghaziabad court to a CBI court in Delhi. The Bench asked Mr. Vahanvati to respond to the application and file a fresh status report within four weeks.

The Bench posted the matter for further hearing in November.

Court quashes age criteria for short-listing

http://www.hindu.com/2009/09/09/stories/2009090959870400.htm

Staff Reporter

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court has quashed short-listing of applications for recruitment of teachers on the basis of age by the MCD, saying that it is a violation of the Fundamental Right against discrimination on the basis of age.

A Division Bench of the Court comprising Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice A. K. Pathak quashed the short-listing of the applications on a bunch of petitions by a group of applicants whose applications were rejected by the local body.

“A State may fix short-listing criteria on the basis of educational qualifications or experience or marks obtained in an examination or an interview or any other criterion which enables the most competent person to be selected,” the Bench said.

The civic body had invited applications for recruitment of teachers in the age group of 18 to 30 years.

But, at the time of short-listing of applications for test and interview it had called for completing the recruitment process only those candidates who were in the 28-30 age group.

Ridiculous answers to RTI queries, says citizens’ association

http://www.hindu.com/2009/09/09/stories/2009090952920300.htm

Staff Reporter

Info sought about ‘appointment of men to posts reserved for women’

Query made about allotment of land to university

BHUBANESWAR: Citizens’ Apex Association (CAA) on Tuesday charged that various departments were furnishing “ridiculous” answers in response to Right To Information (RTI) queries.

CAA alleged the organisation had filed a series of RTI applications with various departments, but on many occasions it received replies such as “documents are not readily available” and “enquiry is on”.

The association, an organisation of concerned citizens, sought information from Home Department regarding, “whether five male candidates were appointed against the five vacancies reserved for general women and such appointment was given within the orbit of Women Reservation Rule, 1994” in the year 2007.

First Home Department came up with answer, “the required information/documents as sought for are not readily available in the concerned section and it will take some more time to prepare the information,” said CAA President N. K. Panda here on Tuesday.

‘No action’

A few days after the department again replied that “no such information is available in this department… However, enquiry is going on in this regard.” Mr. Panda pointed out. He charged that the SIC too did not take tough action against concerned and till date the reply was yet to be delivered.

Similarly, GA department also took similar pleas as of Home Department to a question regarding “out of the land allotted to Utkal University, how many acres of land are being utilized, how many acres of land are under the encroachment by outsiders and how many acres of land are under the occupation of slum dwellers and steps taken to evict them?”

CAA said if information to be furnished in 30 days took 30 months and correct information was avoided at all costs, SIC should take effective steps against the culprits, otherwise like other laws, this law would also fail to achieve its objective.”

Rajasthan CIC grilled at public hearing in Jaipur

http://www.hindu.com/2009/09/09/stories/2009090953570500.htm

Special Correspondent

Speakers clamour for change in style of CIC

7-hour meeting also discusses 201 case studies

JAIPUR: The performance of the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) was put to public scrutiny here in the Rajasthan capital on Monday with aggrieved citizens, activists and a panel of eminent persons debating it for seven long hours at a large gathering which included village folks.

The “Jan Sunwai” conducted by Soochana ka Adhikar Manch (Right to Information Platform) was the first of its kind in the country after the passage of the Right to Information Act in 2005.

One heartening aspect of the public trial was the presence of the State Chief Information Commissioner M. D. Korani amid charges of indifference and insensitivity flying fast and thick from the complainants, some of whom lost their cool in the process. After attending the forenoon session he left with the observation that such a “public forum has no right to discuss the decisions of the CIC”. However, to everybody’s relief, he returned to the public hearing towards the end.

The panel, which included three former Rajasthan High Court judges, National Federation of Indian Women general secretary Annie Raja and senior journalist Prabhash Joshi, acted as moderators though there were not many kind words from them too for Mr. Korani, a former IAS officer, who chose to defend himself. The Information Commission came into existence in Rajasthan in April 2006. Mr. Korani, the only Commissioner so far in the State, took the oath the same year in November.

“This is the first meeting to make the CIC accountable,” said Harnesh Pandey, an RTI activist from Gujarat. “The negative environment is causing a lot of damage to RTI,” he said. “The CIC’s style has to change,” said Mr. Joshi, observing that Rajasthan has been the cradle of the RTI movement.

“Let the other States replicate this initiative,” added Ms. Raja. A word of sympathy came from Justice Pana Chand Jain, though with a rider: “I appreciate the CIC for his courage to be present here. But unless corrective measures are carried out soon, there will be public reaction.”

Magsaysay Award winner Aruna Roy, who termed the transparency movement a “bloodless revolution” taking place in the country, said the Act has strengthened democracy in the country and added: “Everyone needs transparency. Without information you cannot make an informed choice.” Mr. Korani defended his position pointing out that those who were satisfied with the information they received were not here to report it but only those who were frustrated over the denial of it. “I expect only negative responses here. But we have our own problems which I am not anyway going to discuss here,” he said.

He also told them initially that if they talk in a polite manner they would elicit a better response from him.

The case studies presented by activists found Mr. Korani’s performance “poor”, if not dismal. But some blame went to the State Government also. “If the Government does not take interest, nothing is going to happen. Sometimes the very act of seeking information is termed ‘politically motivated’ by the Government,” said information activist Nikhil Dey, adding, “In one case, asking for information led to filing of a case against the individual on charges of creating hurdles in government functioning.”

The group had taken up case studies of 201 persons from 28 Rajasthan districts out of 700 whose complaints were disposed of by the CIC. Out of these, 106 reported not getting any information at all after several attempts — including many visits to the CIC office as well as the concerned departments and even paying Rs.34,000 in a Barmer panchayat for getting copies of muster rolls at an NREGS site.

As many as 41 persons complained of receiving incomplete information while 24 reported getting wrong information. In four cases, appeals were rejected. Only 14 persons were happy about the information they got.

Perhaps it all ended well as Mr. Korani, addressing the gathering for the third and last time, said he would try to “carry out the suggestions”, adding, “I respect both complaints and suggestions.”

HC issues contempt notice against Jet pilots

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/hc-issues-contempt-notice-against-jet-pilots/515034/

Agencies

Posted: Wednesday, Sep 09, 2009 at 2024 hrs Mumbai:

The Bombay High Court issued a contempt notice to the pilots’ union of Jet Airways for continuing the strike despite an earlier order restraining them.

The contempt notice was issued by Justice Dhananjay Chandrachud who sought a reply by September 14 on a petition by the airline.

A division bench of Chief Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justice A M Khanwilkar had yesterday restrained the pilots’ union from continuing the strike.

Jet had moved the court after the pilots proceeded on sick leave en mass on September 7 to protest sacking of two of their colleagues.

Jet’s lawyer had argued that going on sick leave in such a way was tantamount to strike.

Jet’s contention is that pilots cannot go on strike when conciliation proceedings are underway under the provisions of Industrial Disputes Act.

Child Commission approaches SC against gay sex

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/child-commission-approaches-sc-against-gay-sex/515030/

Agencies Posted: Wednesday, Sep 09, 2009 at 1946 hrs New Delhi:

The Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights has approached the Supreme Court challenging the Delhi High Court’s verdict legalising gay sex on the ground that it would adversely affect child rights.

The Commission, in its petition, contended gay sex would have adverse impact on psychological, physical and mental development of children.

The petition is likely to be taken up on September 14 when the apex court would hear similar petitions filed by others challenging the High Court’s verdict.

The apex court had earlier issued a notice to the Centre on a petition filed by a Christian body, a disciple of Yoga guru Ramdev and a astrologer Suresh Kumar Kaushal seeking a stay on the High Court verdict legalising gay sex on the ground it will have a catastrophic effect on the society’s moral fabric.

All the petitioners have sought setting aside of the July two High Court verdict legalising gay sex between consenting adults in private, which was earlier a criminal offence punishable with up to life imprisonment.

Gujarat HC stays Tamang report on Ishrat encounter

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/gujarat-hc-stays-tamang-report-on-ishrat…/515033/

Agencies Posted: Wednesday, Sep 09, 2009 at 2016 hrs Ahmedabad:

The Gujarat High Court stayed metropolitan magistrate S P Tamang’s report which had described as ‘fake’ the police encounter in which alleged terror group operative Ishrat Jahan and three others were killed.

Acting on a a Gujarat government petition seeking a stay on the report, Justice Kalpesh Javheri said the observations made in the report were beyond the jurisdiction of the judicial magistrate.

Justice Javheri also ordered the appropriate authority of the High Court to look into the actions of magistrate Tamang and take necessary action.

The next hearing of the case is on September 30. However, the court has given liberty to Ishrat’s mother to produce the report before the three-member committee constituted by the High Court last month to investigate the encounter.

It further said the report can be considered as evidence by the committee.

The four persons, claimed to have been killed by the police in an encounter on the outskirts of the city on June 15, 2004 were Ishrat, Javed Ghulam Sheikh alias Pranesh Kumar Pillai, Amjad Ali alias Rajkumar Akbar Ali Rana and Jisan Johar Abdul Gani.

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