High court prompts Mayawati to release Banda rape victim

Prompted by an Allahabad High Court directive, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati Saturday ordered the release of a 17-year-old rape victim whom a ruling Bahujan Samaj party lawmaker had falsely implicated in a theft case.

Though it was a court holiday, senior judge Justice Rajesh Agrawal decided to take suo motto cognizance of the case and promptly constituted a division bench comprising Justice Imtiaz Murtaza and Justice S.C. Agrawal to take up the torture and harassment of the girl by her alleged tormentor BSP MLA Purushottam Naresh Dwivedi, following which her release was ordered.

Taking serious note of the MLA’s threats to those who were responsible for raising the issue, following which he was arrested and jailed, the bench also directed the state government to provide immediate protection to the girl.

The court has fixed Jan 18 as the next date for hearing the case.

Within minutes of the court ruling, the chief minister’s official machinery got into action to hastily declare that it was her decision to release the victim.

The chief minister was still at the last lap of her 55th birthday celebrations, inaugurating a newly set up Sewage Treatment Plant, when Cabinet Secretary Shashank Shekhar Singh hurriedly called mediapersons covering the event and made the announcement.

“The chief minister has ordered immediate release of the rape victim as the CID inquiry has clearly found that she was falsely implicated in the case,” Singh told the media persons.

“She has also ordered a CID probe against all police officials involved in booking the girl for allegedly stealing Rs.5,000 and a mobile phone from MLA Purushottam Naresh Dwivedi’s home, where she was kept for four days last month,” Singh said.

As soon as the news ofr Mayawati’s decision was flashed across TV channels, reporters in Allahabad made frantic calls to their respective offices in Lucknow to inform them about the Allahabad High Court order. The high court division bench had issued the release order well before the chief minister’s announcement.

Speaking at another venue, the chief minister said: “Though personally I have reason to suspect that the girl was falsely implicated, I have still asked the CID officials to ascertain that; and let me assure you that in case such suspicion comes out to be true, the MLA would be dealt with most severely.”

She added, “Stringent action would also follow against the policemen responsible for the frame-up.”

Dwivedi, after raping the girl, who belongs to the Other Backward Classes (OBC), had got her arrested Dec 15 night on charges of stealing his licensed revolver, a mobile phone and Rs.5,000 in cash.

Mayawati Wednesday ordered the arrest of her party legislator after the preliminary report submitted by the crime branch of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) confirmed that the teen-aged girl was gang-raped.

Dwivedi was arrested Thursday and sent to Banda jail.

Court moved on Delhi’s power tariff

North Delhi Power Limited (NDPL) Friday filed a petition before Delhi High Court asking it to direct the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) to determine the tariff for 2010-2011.

In an application before a division bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Manmohan, NDPL, a joint venture of Tata power company and the Delhi government, said that litigation has put the company in a financial crisis.

The bench was hearing a public suit accusing the government of succumbing to pressure from discoms and directing the DERC not to issue a new tariff order for 2010-11.

According to the company, about 60-70 percent of finance goes towards power distribution and 10-12 percent goes towards the maintenance, salaries of staff and administrative expenses.

Earlier, the bench had rapped the government and the commission for their ongoing tussle over fixing of new power tariff for the national capital.

Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati, who assisted the court, had earlier said state government had no power to interfere with a decision taken by DERC and could only issue guidelines which the commission could consider.

Swamy moves court against Sibal’s attack on CAG

Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy Friday moved the Supreme Court against the ”intemperate and uncalled for public attack” by Communications Minister Kapil Sibal on the ”CAG methodology”for calculating the loss in allocating 2G spectrum in 2008 at 2001 prices.

Swamy said that the way Sibal has led the attack on the CAG methodology for calculating the losses suffered by the government may “prejudice the CBI investigations and cause an obstruction to justice”.

His application pleaded that the court should “ensure that the said CBI inquiry is carried out without interference for which purpose the monitoring was directed by this hon’ble court. Nothing must permit the slightest derogation from that objective”.

The manner in which Sibal has criticized the approach of the CAG in estimating the loss “tantamount to ridiculing the CAG, an institution enshrined in the Constitution”, Dr. Swamy said.

“The telecom minister has even gone to the extent of issuing a veiled warning of a breach of secrecy on the part of the CAG, thereby intending to overawe an institution constitutionally empowered to oversee the finances of the government,” the application read.

The application said that it was evident from Sibal’s “considered view” “that in fact there was little or no wrongdoing, and hence whatever had gone wrong could be set right with a small fine”.

In pursuance of this thinking, Swamy said that the ministry has already collected Rs.73.73 crores as penalty by way of liquidated damages for certain infractions of the issued licenses. It is apprehended that further such adjudication by the ministry may be carried out.

Thus the money that would be collected, (around Rs. 219 crores at the highest) may not be even one percent of what these licenses would have fetched in the open market even by conservative estimates, he argued.

The application further pleaded the court to direct that all such and further adjudication by the ministry not be carried out except under the supervision of the apex court, and all the actions of the ministry in respect of 2G spectrum be subject to the orders of the apex court and its final verdict in this matter.

Swamy said that though the matter was still pending before the apex court, Sibal was talking about putting in place the new National Telecom Policy within a 100 days.

Thousands offer Friday prayers at site of demolished mosque

Thousands of Muslims offered Friday prayers at the site of a mosque in south Delhi that was demolished by the authorities for being built on public land, as protests were held at three places in the capital, including the walled city, against the demolition.Around 1,500 people, including Syed Ahmed Bukhari, the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid, offered Friday prayers at the site of the Noor Masjid in Jangpura and on the road outside the police station there amidst tight security. The people were initially not allowed to offer prayers at the site of demolished mosque.

About 2,000 personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Rapid Action Force (RAF) and Delhi Police kept guard at Jangpura to avoid any untoward incident.

On Wednesday morning, the DDA demolished the mosque, triggering unrest with thousands of people gathering daily to raise slogans and the security authorities blockading the entire main road.

“We have asked the government to give the land to the Wakf board. Anyone demolishing another’s house is always sad. Then, this is a religious structure,” said Bukhari, as the assembled gathering nodded their heads.

Bukhari said he had held meetings with Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and Urban Development Minister S. Jaipal Reddy, and both had supported rebuilding of the mosque. “But, I don’t trust the government, and that’s why I am here,” Bukhari.After the prayers, some 40-50 people attempted to rebuild the boundary wall, by placing bricks, but without any cement.

Some of those gathered placed a bedsheet on the ground, asking for donations. Within a few minutes, currency notes and coins blanketed the piece of cloth.

Earlier, Bukhari had raised this issue at the Friday prayers at Delhi’s biggest mosque, Jama Masjid, after which the crowd had spilled onto the crowded Daryaganj road.

For over two hours in the afternoon, Netaji Subhash Marg in central Delhi was blocked as people raised slogans against the demolition. Stones were also pelted at parked cars, but the situation was brought under control, with senior area police officers stationed at the spot.

The traffic police had to issue advisories about the blockade of traffic at Nizamuddin and Daryaganj.

A protest march was also held at Seelampur in east Delhi. The people marched to the office of the district police chief, chanting slogans against the demolition of the mosque.

Meanwhile, the DDA filed a compliance report before the Delhi High Court stating that it had recovered 350 square metres of its land after demolition of the mosque.

The Delhi Wakf Board had also approached a division bench of the Delhi High Court, stating that the land belonged to them.

But, they withdrew the petition after they were castigated by the court for not filing the petition as per proper legal procedures.

A DWB official told that a fresh petition may be filed next week.

Plea for CBI probe into Goa’s cops-politician-drug nexus

The Bombay High Court

The Bombay High Court bench in Goa will next week hear a public interest litigation (PIL) that has sought the Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the police-politician-drug nexus case.

Hours after the petition was filed, Goa Police Friday appointed a special investigation team (SIT) to probe links of an anti-narcotics officer to the drug mafia.

The petition filed by National Students Union of India (NSUI) president Sunil Kavathankar asked that the case, allegedly involving several top politicians and police officials, be handed over to the CBI instead of the Crime Branch, which was ‘doing a shoddy job of it’.

‘There is doubt about the integrity of the police officers investigating the case as some of the prime accused in the case have been released,’ Kavathankar, who heads the Congress’s students wing NSUI, has said in his petition.

A Swedish model and a former girlfriend of Israeli drug dealer Yaniv Benail alias Atala has accused Home Minister Ravi Naik’s son Roy of being linked to the drug mafia. Naik, however, has denied the charges.

Both the opposition and Kavathankar have accused the key investigating officer, Deputy Superintendent of Police Chandrakant Salgaonkar, of sabotaging the probes.

Kavathankar on Wednesday gave Chief Minister Digambar Kamat a 48-hour ultimatum to hand over the case to the CBI.

Seven police officers have already been arrested and later released on bail. The high court had also passed strictures against the Crime Branch for shoddy investigations into the nexus.

Superintendent of Police Atmaram Deshpande said that an SIT led by a police superintendent was formed Friday and would probe allegations made by the sister and girlfriend of Israeli drug dealer David Driham alias Dudu against police sub-inspector Sunil Guddler. The two women said Guddler used to sell drugs and had illegally arrested Dudu.

India to ease travel permits for Pakistani Kashmiris

Pakistani Kashmiris

The government will “unilaterally” ease travel restrictions and give multiple-entry permits valid for six months to Pakistani Kashmiris who want to visit their families in Jammu and Kashmir, Home Secretary G.K. Pillai said Friday.

Pillai said Pakistan did not agree to the Indian government’s idea to ease travel curbs on families divided across the Line of Control – the de facto border that divides Jammu and Kashmir between the two neighbours.

“We will do it unilaterally now. People from the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (as Pakistani Kashmir is officially referred to by India) can have multiple entry one permit (to travel to Jammu and Kashmir) so that they don’t have to re-apply whenever they want to visit their divided families again,” Pillai said, adding the permit would be valid for six months.

“After six months, you can apply for another permit and the government won’t insist on security clearance for the second time.”

This, he said, was being done as part of confidence building measures to win the trust of people in Jammu and Kashmir – the valley last year saw a bloody summer agitation in which 112 civilians were killed in clashes with security forces.

India and Pakistan in April 2005 launched a bus service between Jammu and Kashmir’s summer capital Srinagar and Muzaffarabad , the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

The fortnightly bus service was part of the efforts of the two governments to foster peaceful and friendly relations and allow the divided families to meet each other.

The regional passport office in Srinagar is the designated authority to evaluate applications, verify identities and issue entry permits from the Indian side.

However, procedures in getting the entry permits have reduced the number of passengers on the bus.

The Indian government has long been proposing the improvement of travel permit procedures, increasing the frequency of the bus service to weekly instead of a fortnight, and starting bus services connecting Kargil in India to Skardu in Pakistan, and Jammu with Sialkot in Pakistan. However, the Pakistani authorities have rejected the ideas.

Pillai said the Indian government wanted to reach out to more Pakistani people to develop more people to people contact between the two neighbours.

“We are encouraging this despite the security risks and you know people to people interaction is at a very high level. People from art and culture, parliamentarians are travelling,” Pillai said.

Kalmadi aide Darbari gets bail in Baton Relay scam

T.S. Darbari,

The Delhi High Court Friday granted bail to former Commonwealth Games Organising Committee official T.S. Darbari, who was arrested for his alleged involvement in the Queen’s Baton Relay scam.

Justice Hima Kohli granted Darbari bail as the CBI was unable to file a charge sheet against him within the stipulated 60 days of his arrest.

Darbari, a former aide of organising committee chief Suresh Kalmadi, was arrested Nov 15 by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

The bail plea of M. Jayachandran, who too was arrested and sacked as the committee’s treasurer, is yet to be heard.

He was arrested Nov 21 for making suspicious payments to an Indian-owned London-based private firm AM Car and Van Hire Limited during the Queen’s Baton Relay function in London.

Advocate R.K. Handoo submitted before the court that his client Jaychandran should be granted bail on the ground that the CBI has been unable to file a charge sheet till date.

‘Information commissioners cause loss of Rs. 86 crores’

Information Commissioners across the country caused a loss of Rs. 86 crores to the exchequer during the last fiscal by not imposing penalties in cases where they should have under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, a study released here Thursday said.

Public Cause Research Foundation studied 76,813 orders passed by 87 information commissioners and joint benches of 27 states. Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand could not be included in the study as they refused to provide any information.

‘Information commissioners caused a loss of Rs. 86 crores and this loss is estimated only on account of delay in providing information to applicants,’ found the study.

The study said that if all the penalties were actually imposed, the running of the information commissions would not have been a burden on the exchequer but be a revenue generating source.

Under RTI Act, a commissioner has to impose a penalty for delays in providing information unless the basis of delay was held to be reasonable by the Commissioner.

‘Out of 76,813 cases analysed, there was a delay in providing information in 59,631 cases. Out of these, penalties were imposed in just 1896 cases (3.17 percent cases),’ it said.

Overall, the performance of commissions across the country as far as imposing penalties goes is abysmal, the study added.

PF scam: Judges plead illness against appearing in court

A court Thursday rejected the applications and medical certificates submitted by the six retired judges chargesheeted by the Central Bureau of Investigation in the Rs.6.58 crore provident fund scam.

The CBI special court had summoned 20 accused in the provident fund scam case Thursday. The CBI counsel demanded non-bailable warrant against the absent judges.

The special CBI court, however, reserved its decision on exempting retired judges from appearing in the court. ‘As the court proceedings have taken place during strike in the court no decisive order can be passed today. The decision on exemption of the presence of judges along with the CBI’s request of penalising absentees will be taken on Jan 31 which is the next date of hearing,’ CBI special judge A.K. Singh said in his order.

As the proceedings in the provident fund scam case started at 11 a.m., the representatives and counsels of six accused retired judges started filing applications and medical certificates in the special court. Nandit Srivastava, advocate of R.P. Mishra, Ajai Kumar Singh and Arun Kumar told the court that the accused were not able to mark their presence in the court due to medical conditions.

In the application submitted by Srivastava, R.P. Mishra claimed that he is suffering from Parkinson’s disease and could not appear before the court. Retired judge Ajai Kumar Singh said his wife Anita Singh is critically ill and as he is the only member who can take care of her and his absence in court should not be treated as an offence and he should not be penalised. Arun Kumar had given a medical certificate stating that he is down with viral fever.

Judge R.N. Mishra, in his medical certificate, stated that he is suffering from severe spondilitis, especially in his upper limbs. Retired judge R.P. Yadav’s counsel too submitted his medical certificate like others. Counsel of R.S. Chaubey, Ajay Choudhary, urged that the retired judge was 63 years old and would like his counsel to represent him in the case.

According to Chaudhary, all the retired accused judges except R.P. Yadav, have submitted a revision petition in the Allahabad High court. ‘The accused have argued that the special court itself is a witness in the scam case and therefore should not be allowed to hear the case. The date of hearing in the revision petitions is Jan 18,’ informed Chaudhary.

Non bailable warrants against three accused Shravan Kumar, Lokesh Kumar – peons in the court – and Jaya Asthana, sister of Ashutosh Asthana were re-issued.

When asked for CBI counsel, V.K. Sharma’s opinion on the application by the court, Sharma contested that the retired judges were served summons well in advance and they all had received the summons. ‘None of the judge then came forward and put an objection of not being present in person before the court. Today, all of the accused submitted their medical certificates, The permission of allowing the counsels to represent them in court without the retired judges presence should not be accepted. We demand non bailable warrant against them,’ said Sharma to the court.

The CBI counsel also said that grant of exemption from appearing before the court was at the discretion of the court. ‘But we want the retired judges to be present when charges are levelled against them and they are not eligible for exemption,’ added S.S. Islam, senior public prosecutor.