Land acquisition for Vedanta University quashed

The Orissa High Court on Tuesday quashed the process of land acquisition for Vedanta University in Puri and directed the government to return the acquired land to its owners, a lawyer said. The division bench of Chief Justice V Gopal Gouda and Justice B P Das delivered their verdict in response to eight petitions, said Subir Palit, one of the lawyers for the petitioners.

“The court declared that the land acquisition notification for Vedanta University project is illegal and void. The court quashed the notification,” Palit said.

He said that the government had been directed to return the land to its owners.

The Anil Agarwal Foundation, promoted by NRI industrialist and chairman of Britain’s Vedanta Resources Anil Agarwal, was setting up the multi-disciplinary Vedanta University near the Konark-Puri marine drive.

The university was to come up in over 6,000 acres with a phased investment of Rs.150 billion ($3.5 billion). But the project faces considerable opposition from local residents.

Some people who lost their land had sought the intervention of the court describing land acquisition for the project as illegal.

“We have been opposing land acquisition since the beginning because it was illegal. Now the court has came to the rescue of people. The judgment is historical,” Umaballav Ratha, one of the petitioners, said.

No one from the Anil Agarwal Foundation or the state government was available for comment.

The union environment ministry had earlier refused clearance to Vedanta’s mining project in Orissa’s Niyamgiri hills.

Kasab questions permission to NIA to quiz him

Pakistani terrorist Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab, the sole survivor out of the 10 Pakistani gunmen in the 26/11 attack, Monday filed an application witghn e Bombay High Court seeking to know how had the Maharashtra government given permission to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to interrogate him.

The application was filed Monday – the first day after the hearing on the confirmation of Kasab’s death sentence resumed after Diwali – on the basis of report in a Mumbai newspaper two days ago.

In his application, Kasab contended that the news report mentioned that an independent case had been filed by the NIA against him and the agency sought permission to interrogate him. The permission was subsequently granted.

Kasab claimed that these developments meant that the investigations into the Nov 26-29, 2008, Mumbai terror attack, in which he was convicted and sentenced to death were either ‘incomplete’ or that a fresh investigation was on the anvil.

This, he said in the application, would amount to double jeopardy and also directly interfere in the confirmation case pending before the Bombay High Court, according to Kasab’s government-appointed lawyer Amin Solkar.

In the application, Solkar has demanded to know on behalf of Kasab whether the NIA was authorised to conduct the 26/11 probe and also file a charge sheet, whether the investigation of all the 12 cases pertaining to 26/11 was assigned to Mumbai Police Crime Branch or the NIA, and hence, whether the Crime Branch’s probe and the subsequent trial was legal.

Kasab also questioned the legal provisions under which the state government permitted the NIA to interrogate him.

He sought to know whether his death sentence could be suspended when the confirmation of the sentence was pending and whether the NIA could register an independent case against him at this stage.

The court, while observing that it could not go by a newspaper report, directed the prosecution to file its reply by Nov 18 (Thursday) in the matter.

Ayodhya verdict challenged in Supreme Court

The Allahabad High Court’s Sep 30 verdict on the Ayodhya dispute was Monday challenged by a petitioner in the Supreme Court.

The appeal was filed by Mohammad Siddiq alias Hafiz Mohammad Siddiq on behalf of 90-year-old organisation Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (JUH). Siddiq is the general secretary of the JUH, which had taken part in the country’s independence struggle.

The appeal raised 33 questions of law and facts seeking to be addressed by the apex court.

A three-judge special bench of the high court had ordered division of the disputed 90 ft x 120 ft Ayodhya plot of land where the Babri Masjid once stood into three parts – one to Ram Lalla deity, one to the Nirmohi Akhara and one to the Sunni Waqf Board .

The JUH questioned whether the high court while deciding the case travelled beyond the pleadings of the parties because in none of the suit there was any prayer for the partition of the site.

It has also asked whether the high court could have taken the support of a report of the Archaeological Survey of India which had no evidentiary value.

The petition said that the high court judgment said that the structure in question was a mosque. Merely because in some portion of that structure Hindu prayers were being performed did not change the ownership status, it said.

The petition also raised the question whether the high court could have re-written history while delivering the judgment substituting its role from an adjudicatory body on law to that of historians.

The two certainly had different spheres and different fields, meaning thereby the established history had to be applied in consonance with the facts contained therein, it said.

The petition said that the high court fell in serious error by passing decree on the basis of faith and belief.

The judgment and decree could not have proceeded since the law did not recognize the “faith” or “belief” for the purpose of a determination of issues between two or more litigating parties.

The petition said that the belief that Lord Ram was born on the site of Babri Masjid was not the same as that Lord Ram was the king of Ayodhya and son of King Dashrath.

Without naming the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its senior leader L.K. Advani, the petition said that the high court failed to take into account motives and vested political interests in nurturing such beliefs.

The petition said that the Ramjanmabhoomi movement of the 1980s-90s was aimed at political gains.

This agitation created a communal divide between Hindus and Muslims, it said.

The petition expressed its surprise over a high court judge having “castigated and passed extremely uncharitable remarks against some of the expert witnesses of history/archaeology produced by Muslims”.

While no such comments were made against the so-called expert witnesses produced by the Hindus related to the construction of the disputed building and giving much more self-contradictory statements, it said.

Yeddyurappa made party in lawmakers’ disqualification case

The Karnataka High Court Monday rejected the plea of Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa not to make him a party to a petition of five Independent lawmakers who have challenged their disqualification from the assembly.

A three-judge bench of Justice Mohan Shantanagoudar, Justice S. Abdul Nazeer and Justice A.S. Bopanna ruled that the chief minister be made a party to the case and adjourned the hearing till Nov 28.

Yeddyurappa had contended that he had no role in the disqualification of the lawmakers and hence the issue was between them and the speaker of the assembly.

The chief minister ‘is not a party before the speaker’, Yeddyurappa’s counsel argued. Counsel told the court that the decision to disqualify lawmakers was based on the complaint of voters.

The five Independent lawmakers were disqualified Oct 10 by Speaker K.G. Bopaiah on the basis of the complaint by five voters, who said these legislators had betrayed their voters by rebelling against Yeddyurappa.

The five Independents along with 11 lawmakers of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party wrote to Governor H.R. Bhardwaj Oct 6 they no longer had confidence in Yeddyurappa.

Bopaiah disqualified all the 16 lawmakers Oct 10, a day ahead of the trust vote sought by Yeddyurappa. The chief minister won a second trust vote Oct 14 as the first one on Oct 11 was termed by Bhardwaj to be not in order.

The disqualification of the 11 has been upheld by the high court.

The five Independents are Shivaraj S. Thangadagi, D. Sudhakar, Gulihatti D. Shekhar, Ventakaramanappa and P.M. Narendraswamy.

The three judges had Nov 2 issued notices to the five voters, the speaker and the chief minister to respond to the Independent lawmakers’ petition challenging their disqualification.

NCPCR to recommend programmes for HIV/AIDS affected children

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) is preparing a comprehensive document recommending programmes to provide assistance to HIV/AIDS affected children.

The document includes suggestions like juvenile centres and providing legal and social support for children suffering from HIV/AIDS, NCPCR officials said.

‘We are formulating a comprehensive policy document. The recommendations will include all issues related to children suffering from HIV/AIDS,’ an NCPCR member told .

‘The documents deals with all issues relating to health, education, social stigma, legal assistance, and property and inheritance related issues,’ she said.

‘Among the recommendations is a suggestion for juvenile centres for orphans. Support that needs to be extended to families who have lost their breadwinners is also included.’Set up in March 2007, the commission’s mandate is to ensure that all laws, policies, programmes and administrative mechanisms are in consonance with the child rights perspective as enshrined in the constitution as well as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

According to NCPCR, a child is defined as a person in the 0 to 18 years age group.According to sources, the recommendations are likely to be handed over to government in time for World AIDS Day on Dec 1.

More than 21,000 children contract HIV every year through parent-to-child transmission in India, where 3.8 percent or 70,000 children below the age of 15 live with the infection.

Chaha, a critical programme supporting nearly 60,000 HIV/AIDS effected children run by international NGO HIV/AIDS Alliance, is due to end in March next year.

‘Resource is one of the major problems for India as we mostly rely on international aid. Moreover, the performance of government institutions varies from state to state,’ Sonal I. Mehta, who heads the Chaha programme in India, told.

‘Macro solutions can not solve micro problems. If there are care and support programmes, children can be helped, but the need for the government is to take resource allocation in its own hands,’ she said

Supreme Court asks Vodafone to deposit Rs.2,500 crore

The Supreme Court Monday directed telecom major Vodafone to deposit Rs.2,500 crore ($550 million) as part of a tax liability in the takeover of Hutch Essar group’s India operations.

An apex court bench headed by Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia also said Vodafone has to provide a bank guarantee of Rs.8,500 crore to the government. The cash amount of Rs.2,500 crore has to be deposited in three weeks and the bank guarantee within eight weeks, it said.

Apex court grants interim relief to Amar Singh, Jaya Prada

The Supreme Court on Monday granted interim relief to former Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh and actor-turned politician Jaya Prada from being expelled as MPs even if they defy their party’s whip in the house.

The apex court bench of Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice Cyriac Joseph granted the relief while referring their matter to a larger bench of the apex court. While Amar Singh is from the Rajya Sabha, Jaya Prada is a Lok Sabha member.

In their six points of references, the bench asked the larger bench to deliberate on the status of the members of parliament who have been expelled from their parties, as also the status of an unattached member.

Both Amar Singh and Jaya Pradha were expelled from Samajwadi Party for their alleged anti-party activities Feb 2.

Both of them were declared as unattached parliamentarians after their expulsion.

Under the existing provisions of the anti-defection law, both of them would forfeit their membership of the parliament if they defy their party’s whip or join any other party.

Both of them had filed a petition, saying that the application of the provisions of the anti-defection law in respect of them was violative of the basic structure of constitution.

No rape by cops, girls tell Chhattisgarh court

Two days after accusing four policemen of gang raping them in a police station complex in Chhattisgarhs Raigarh district, the two victims Friday retracted their earlier statements in a court Saturday.

The girls told a local court at Gharghora town Friday that they were not raped by policemen.

The girls, one of them a minor, belong to Dharmjaigarh yown where residents were outraged late Thursday by the alleged rape of the girls by four policemen Nov 9.

The girls escorted by dozens of angry local residents registered a first information report (FIR) at Dharmjaigarh police station against the identified four policemen. The town is located in Raigarh district, about 280 km from Raipur.

During the court proceedings Friday, the two refused to identify the accused policemen when Raigarh police chief Rahul Sharma produced all policemen who were on duty Nov 9, before the girls for identification.

The girls have also refused to undergo medical tests.

The rape charges had on Thursday sparked severe criticism against police force and Home Minister Nankiram Kanwar had reacted to the incident an “extremely shocking” and promised “total justice to the victims”.

Now residents of Dharmjaigarh town were reported to be embarrassed after girls refused to substantiate their charges that they made in an FIR that they went to see off two relatives at the bus stop on the night of Nov 9 when a police patrol team picked the men up and took them to the Dharmjaigarh police station.

The girls reached the police station to find out why their relatives were nabbed but were forcibly taken to a house in the complex by two policemen who raped them. They then called two other colleagues over the phone, who too raped them, they alleged.

CBI files first charge sheet against Koda in graft case

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has filed the first charge sheet against jailed former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda and his two associates in a graft case, a source in the federal agency said Saturday.

The charge sheet against Koda, Vinod Sinha and Sanjay Chaudhary was filed in a Ranchi vacation CBI court Friday. Both Koda and Sinha are in jail. Chaudhary is absconding.

“The investigation revealed that Koda and his associates had shown favour to a company by obtaining illegal gratification to the tune of Rs.13 crore in the matter of recommending the company for allotment of land for mining of iron ore,” said the CBI source.

The charge sheet said Sinha and Chaudhary played a key role in the mining contract and accepted kickbacks, the source said.

The CBI is investigating several corruption allegations against Koda and his associates. These include Rs.2,500 crore worth money laundering, amassing assets beyond known sources of income and taking kickbacks while awarding mining contracts.

The income tax department and the enforcement directorate raided the houses of Koda and others in October last year and February this year.

Koda is in jail since Nov 30 last year. He was arrested in a case of disproportionate assets.

Colors dragged to court for vulgarity, ‘fake’ wedding on ‘Bigg Boss’

A civil court here has served notice to the chief executive officer (CEO) of Colors TV channel for showing vulgar content on reality show “Big Boss” and cheating the audience by organising the wedding of an already married couple.

“The court of class two judge Suresh Srivastava served notice to the CEO of Colors TV and told him to be present on November 19,” Yawar Khan, advocate of the petitioner said Saturday.

Shamshul Hasan, a local resident, filed the petition Friday, saying that apart from showing vulgar content, the channel cheated viewers by organising the wedding of participants Sara Khan and Ali Merchant, who are already married.

The wedding has been mired in controversy after the brides parents claimed that Sara and Ali had married two years back.

“The issue is over and we have nothing to say,” Saras mother Seema Khan told when contacted Saturday.