Odisha judge gets used bullets, detonator in parcel

A judge in Odisha Tuesday received a parcel containing a threat letter, two used bullets and an obsolete detonator, police said.

The parcel, which arrived through the postal department’s speed post, was received at the office of Debasis Panda, sub-judge at Koraput town, about 500 km from the state capital Bhubaneswar.

Inspector in charge of Koraput police station S.C. Raiguru said police have seized the parcel and started investigations. “No one has been arrested yet,” he told IANS.

The name of the sender is mentioned as one Kameswar Rao. The letter which bears the name of the Communist Party of India-Maoist has accused the sub-judge of not giving justice to the people and torturing them on false charges.

In the letter, the judge has been warned that he would have to face the consequences if he does not mend his ways.

(Source: IANS)

Same-sex marriage drawing overseas couples to New Zealand

More than a third of the same- sex couples getting married under a new law in New Zealand are coming from overseas, authorities said Tuesday.

In the period till the end of September, 40 of the 177 same-sex marriages involved couples from abroad, Xinhua reported from Statistics New Zealand.

Out of these, 61 were between women and 56 between men.

New Zealand became the first country in the Asia-Pacific region and the 13th in the world to allow same-sex marriages when it passed the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Act earlier this year, and the law came into effect Aug 19.

In the quarter ending September, a total of 2,681 opposite-sex marriages were registered in New Zealand, but overseas resident couples accounted for just 10 percent of these, Statistics Minister Maurice Williamson said in a statement.

Figures released by the registrar-general a month after the law came into effect showed more than a quarter of the same-sex couples to be married were from abroad, including countries such as China, the US and Britain.

(Source: IANS)

Dubai court upholds death sentence for Indian

A Dubai court has upheld the death sentence awarded to an Indian national for killing a woman, from whom he had bought a washing machine, by slitting her throat.

The 28-year-old Indian man, identified by the initials of his name AM, admitted in a court of appeal in Dubai to attacking the woman with a knife and stealing her jewellery on September 26 last year, The National reported on Sunday.

The defendant, an accountant by profession, had gone to the victim’s apartment in the Al Rafaa area of Dubai on the pretext of getting a receipt for the second-hand washing machine he had bought from the woman a year earlier.

He waited until the woman’s husband and son left the house and attacked her with a knife.

He stole jewellery worth 25,000 dirhams (around $6800) from the house.

When the woman didn’t go to collect her son from school, neighbours called her husband.

The husband came home to find his wife’s body lying in a pool of blood.

The killer told police that he asked the woman not to scream because he was there only to steal, but when she dropped the glass of water and started screaming he decided to kill her.

“He told me that after the murder and the robbery, he put on one of her husband’s shirts because his was stained with blood,” a police officer said.

The case was referred to the cassation court for final hearing. The nationality of the victim and the family was not mentioned in the report.

(Source: IANS)

Cycle rally for safety of women

Jamia Milia Islamia will organise a 1,100-km-long cycle rally to spread awareness regarding safety of woman and to provide them a secure environment in the country.

The rally, to be flagged off Nov 9 by Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, will cover a distance of approximately 1,100 km.

It will pass through the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Chandigarh to finally reach the national capital, where it will be received by Delhi Governor Najeeb Jung at the Jamia Milia Islamia, said a press release Sunday.

A team of 25 students, including 11 girls, along with 15 staff members from Jamia Millia Islamia will participate in this rally led by Major (Prof.) N.U. Khan, National Cadet Corp officer and professor in the Department of Social Work at Jamia Milia Islamia.

During the rally, the participants will interact with villagers and students from other states on women’s safety issues.

(Source: IANS)

Court notice to UGC over private varsities

himachal high courtTaking suo motu cognisance of a media report, the Himachal Pradesh High Court has issued notice to the University Grants Commission (UGC), asking it about the steps it has initiated to implement regulations pertaining to establishment and operation of private universities in the state.
From the news item that has appeared in The Tribune, it transpires that the UGC is abdicating its authority bordering on non-performance and disregarding the violations committed by the private universities, a division bench of Chief Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice Kuldip Singh observed last week.
The court observed that “this is polluting the environment of quality education to be imparted by the universities”. The high court Oct 19 set aside the State Private Educational Institutions (Regulatory) Act of 2010 that empowered a government regulatory commission to monitor universities. The court also directed the state through the chief secretary and the principal secretary (education) to file its reply on the issue.
It also sent a notice to registrars of all private universities to file their response pertaining to irregularities mentioned in the news item. The UGC, the state and the universities have been told to file their respective replies by Nov 13.
It was mentioned in the news item that the UGC seemed to be unconcerned about enforcing its regulations pertaining to the establishment and operation of private universities and till date it had conducted inspections of only five universities. After the judgment, Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh has made it clear that a regulatory body was required to maintain quality of education.
“We are considering to file an appeal against the high court judgment. We are taking legal opinion. A final decision in this regard will be taken only after that,” he told reporters here. The judgment to quash the State Private Educational Institutions (Regulatory) Act came on the petition of the Himachal Pradesh Private Universities Management Association, which was seeking setting aside of the act and quashing of notices issued to them.
The bench of Chief Justice Khanwilkar and Justice Kuldip Singh had declared the act unconstitutional on the ground that the state legislature was incompetent to enact such a law on a subject covered by the field occupied by Entry 66 of the Union List.
Entry 66 of the Union List stipulates that a teaching university will not come within the purview of the state legislation on account of the specific nature of determination of standards in institutions for higher education being in the Union List for which parliament alone is competent to legislate.
“Accordingly, we may have to declare the Act of 2010 ultra vires and void ab initio,” they ruled. Official sources told IANS that the regulatory commission had played a crucial role in pointing out irregularities by the universities. These were: enrolling students even before the institution came into existence; admitting students even without fulfilling minimum qualification; filling more than approved number of seats and registering research scholars to Ph.D courses without UGC approval.
(Source: IANS)

Need for statutory forum for electronic media

Concurring with an Uttar Pradesh court’s observation underlining the need for a statutory forum for the electronic media, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has said “it’s quite natural” to have such a mechanism when TV channels often compromise on the veracity of the news to improve their ratings. Kerala is home to a dozen Malayalam TV channels that air news and other programmes.
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy told IANS that even though TV channels here have no permanent friends and enemies, they are under tremendous pressure to improve their ratings. “In this run for better ratings, they at times compromise on the veracity of the news.
Yes, when the print media has a statutory forum, it’s quite natural that the electronic media too should have one,” said Chandy. Of the dozen TV channels in the state, six are 24-hour news channels. There is fierce competition in the state which has high literacy and TV proliferation.
Rajmohan Unnithan, Congress spokesperson and a film actor, said that in the West, the ‘idiot box’ has been thrown out of the drawing rooms and in Kerala, that scenario is just round the corner. “The credibility of news channels here has taken a severe drubbing because it’s a free for all and already many have told me that they rarely watch news as truth on many occasions is compromised.
“Hence if there’s a way out, then some sort of forum should be in place if someone has to air their grievances,” said Unnithan who a few years back faced the music when news-hungry TV channels went to town after he was found in the company of a female co-party worker at night. Though he was cleared by a court of having done no wrong, the controversy still haunts him.
The Lucknow bench — of Allahabad High Court — of Justices Devi Prasad Singh and Ashok Pal Singh while hearing a petition filed by social activist Nutan Thakur said Friday that since no such mechanism existed for the electronic media, the union government needs to provide one.
Retired Supreme Court justice K.T. Thomas, who in the past refused to head the Press Council of India for lack of adequate powers, welcomed the court’s observation. “Yes, no doubt, there should be a statutory forum in place.
I wish the Centre will look into the directive and also rise to the occasion,” Thomas told IANS. Roy Mathew, chief editor of Surya TV of Sun Network, welcomed the observation of the Lucknow bench but cautioned that the forum should not be a toothless tiger. “What happens today in most cases is irresponsible TV journalism and the victims in most cases are politicians…
Many of these news reports do not have a life beyond a few hours, but the damage caused by them is irreversible and hence some sort of a quasi-judicial body is required,” said Mathew.
(Source: IANS)

Supreme Court directions on civil servants will serve public interest

supreme courtThe Supreme Court’s directions that civil servants should have an assured minimum tenure and should refrain from acting on verbal orders given by politicians will serve public interest by improving governance and bringing greater accountability in the system, say retired bureaucrats who have held key positions in the government.

Former cabinet secretary T.S.R. Subramaniam said that assured minimum tenure was a basic requirement and many commissions have recommended it in the past.

“There has to be some method in transfers. The Supreme Court directions have implications for governance. The issue is on a different wicket now as public is involved. However, it should not be given colour of a politicians versus bureaucrats (issue),” Subramaniam told IANS.

Subramaniam, who was cabinet secretary during 1996-1998, was among the former bureaucrats and civil servants who had filed a public writ petition in the Supreme Court demanding reforms to ensure that bureaucracy was insulated from unwarranted political interference.

Subramaniam said the court had been moved as “there was deterioration in the quality of administration.”

He said on many occasions, political leaders give instructions to civil servants without taking responsibility. Insistence on written directions will help bring in greater accountability.

“The Supreme Court directions are now the law of the land,” he said, adding that non-compliance could invite contempt proceedings.

Former chief election commissioner (CEC) S.Y. Quraishi said that the issue of fixed tenures for civil servants had been discussed in the government many times over and the apex court’s directions will help in its implementation.

“There is need to strike a balance between the powers of a government to transfer and a need for civil servants to have a fixed tenure,” he said.

He said the court directions for insistence on written instructions from political bosses will allow civil servants to express their views more independently.

“The real question is implementation of the directions as the issues have been in the air for long,” Quraishi told IANS.

The court has asked the government to enact a Civil Services Act under article 309 of the constitution to set up a Civil Service Board (CSB) that can guide and advise the political executive on issues such as transfers, postings and disciplinary action. The court has suggested that CSB should consist of high-ranking service officers who are experts in their respective fields.

Article 309 deals with recruitment and conditions of service of persons serving the union or a state.

Quraishi said that CSB should have some members who were no longer in the government as they can give their views more independently.

Former cabinet secretary Prabhat Kumar said that the question was whether the Supreme Court directions will be implemented by all states.

He said the central government had mostly been following the principle of fixed tenure for civil servants.

“Frequent transfers are mostly in states and are often guided by what interests of politicians are. The main question is whether we can have a system in which civil servants can do their job,” he said.

Prabhat Kumar, who was cabinet secretary during 1998-2000, said fixed tenure postings in the field will help civil servants act according to their conscience.”They (civil servants are) always under fear of being transferred.”

He said that there cannot be greater force than the Supreme Court directions and the political leadership should be penalised if these were not implemented.

“I think the apex court should come down heavily on state governments not implementing its directions,” Kumar told IANS.

Apart from Subramaniam, the public interest petition in the apex court was filed by former CECs T.S. Krishnamurthy and N. Gopalaswami, former Indian Ambassador to the US Abid Hussain, former CBI Director Joginder Singh, former Manipur governor Ved Prakash Marwah and 77 others.

B.K. Agarwal, joint secretary in the ministry of housing and urban poverty alleviation, said there were instructions from the government emphasising the need for civil servants to obtain written instructions from their political bosses.

“It is good that the court has reiterated it. An uncertain term is not good for the administration,” he said.

Agarwal said an assured minimum tenure posting will help a civil servant to plan and realise targets in a better way.

The apex court directed the central government, state governments and the union territories to constitute boards within three months, if not already constituted, “till the parliament brings in proper legislation in setting up CSB.”

It said fixed minimum tenure would not only enable civil servants achieve their professional targets but also help them to function as effective instruments of public policy. It said civil servants did not have stability of tenure now, particularly in the states, where transfers and postings are frequently made at the whims and fancies of the executive head for political and other considerations and not in the public interest.

It said the necessity of minimum tenure has been endorsed and implemented by the central government.

(Source: IANS)

Ensure encroachment-free water bodie

delhi-high-courtThe Delhi High Court has directed the city police to ensure that water bodies like lakes and ponds are not encroached upon or allotted in future to make good the deficiency of land during consolidation proceedings.

A division bench of Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and Justice Manmohan, in an order earlier this week, asked the police to take back water bodies, if allotted, to the villagers during consolidation proceedings where no permanent structure had been constructed.

“In our opinion, water bodies/johads/lakes/water tanks are not only community assets, but also help in preserving and improving the environment,” the bench observed.

The court was hearing a PIL filed by the resident’s welfare association of Ekta Vihar seeking strong action against encroachers of lakes, ponds and water bodies.

Disposing of the plea, the court said: “All deputy Commissioners are directed to ensure that none of the water bodies… are encroached or allotted in future to make good the deficiency of land during consolidation proceedings.”

“If any water bodies have been allotted in the past to a villager during consolidation proceedings and no permanent structure has been constructed thereon, the Deputy Commissioners are directed to ensure that possession of the said bodies is taken back after giving them alternative land”.

The bench further asked the deputy commissioners to ensure that water bodies are “maintained, developed as well as kept clean and if necessary, the same be revived”.

In its reply to the court, police has said water bodies belonging to the Gaon Sabha had been allotted to persons in accordance with the orders of the Financial Commissioner under section 42 of the East Punjab Holdings (Consolidation and Prevention of Fragmentation) Act, 1948 to make good the deficiencies in allotment of land during consolidation proceedings.

The court, however, said that as per Aug 19, 1997 order passed by the Financial Commissioner and they are of the opinion that order does not stipulate that water bodies are to be allotted to villagers who have been allotted land less than their entitlement during consolidation proceedings.

The police also assured the court that it will take action to evict the allottees of the water bodies.

(Source: IANS)

Employee can’t escape recovery of excess payments: SC

madras hcThe Supreme Court has said that even after retirement from service, an employee can’t escape the recovery of the excess amount that is credited due to an error in salary calculations. Rejecting the submission that no amount should be recovered from the excess salary paid to employees, the apex court bench of Justice Anil R. Dave and Justice Dipak Misra said, “…if any amount had been paid due to mistake, the mistake must be rectified and the amount so paid in pursuance of the mistake must be recovered”.
“It might also happen that the employer might have to pay some amount to the respondent as a result of some mistake and in such an event, even the appellant (employer) might have to pay to the respondent (employee),” said Justice Dave in the judgment pronounced on Friday.
Employee can’t escape recovery of excess payments: Supreme Court Employee can’t escape recovery of excess payments: Supreme Court “Be that as it may, upon settlement of the account, whatever amount has to be paid to the respondent employee or to the appellant employer shall be paid and the account shall be adjusted accordingly”, the court said setting aside a Punjab and Haryana High Court order.
The apex court said this while allowing an appeal by Chandigarh administration challenging the March 20, 2008 decision of Punjab and Haryana High Court by which it had allowed the plea of Gurcharan Singh against the recovery of excess of money that was paid to him due to erroneous fixation of his salary by the Chandigarh Transport Undertaking where he had worked as a clerk.
Gurcharan Singh had moved the High Court after his plea against the recovery of excess money was junked by the Central Administrative Tribunal Jan 4,2002. Singh, who had served as Combatant Clerk, was discharged from the army January 31,1990.
He got employed with Chandigarh Transport Undertaking April 15, 1990 against ex-servicemen quota. Two years later, he got his pay that was fixed by an order of September 2,1992. Upon his retirement, it emerged during an audit that his pay was wrongly fixed by the communication of September 2. On retrospective re-fixation of his salary, it emerged that he was paid excess payment and same were sought to be recovered.
(Source: IANS)

Non-compliance of court orders costs varsity officials dear

Defying a Himachal Pradesh court’s directive to clear the dues of around 850 pensioners of an agricultural university has cost its top functionaries dear.

Expressing displeasure over non-release of pension arrears with dearness allowance even after the high court ordered this in 2011, a division bench consisting of Justices Sanjay Karol and Rajiv Sharma has directed that the salary of the vice chancellor and the registrar of the Palampur-based Chaudhary Sarwan Kumar Himachal Pradesh Krishi Vishwavidyalaya be stopped for contempt of court.

The bench, in its order earlier this week, observed: “The salary of the vice chancellor and the registrar of the respondent – university – shall not be released without seeking liberty from this court.”

However, the court refused to restrain the two functionaries from using an official vehicle.

“We refrain from passing any order today, granting liberty to the petitioners to move an appropriate application in this regard,” the judges observed on the demand of the petitioners that their vehicles should also be attached.

The order came following contempt proceedings moved by the Himachal Pradesh Agriculture University Pensioners’ Society, comprising over 450 members.

“We find that despite sufficient opportunities afforded to the respondents, they have not complied with the judgment dated Sep 15, 2011, passed by a division bench of this court,” the judges said.

“This court had directed the respondents to release retirement gratuity, death gratuity and arrears of pension with dearness allowance within six months. Time to comply with the judgment was extended by this court on request of the respondents. But despite that, the respondents failed to comply with the judgment. The respondents also failed to respond to the legal notice served upon them by the petitioners’ society,” the bench observed.

The court will now hear the matter Nov 5.

University officials said there are over 850 pensioners in the university.

“The total arrear liability on the university is over Rs.34 crore and its monthly pension bill is around Rs.2 crore,” a senior official told .

He said the university has almost exhausted the corpus for the pensioners as neither had it put matching grants nor was it provided by the state for over 13 years.

“We have been running from pillar to post for over two years now to get our arrears despite winning the battle in the high court. The state must bail out the university on this front,” said Sushil Kumar Phull, president of the pensioners association.

He said the pensioners have also been demanding their money should be disbursed from the state treasury.

The pensioners said the previous BJP government had discriminated against Palampur university and the Dr Y.S. Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry of Solan in favour of Shimla’s Himachal Pradesh University (HPU).

“While the HPU was given grants to implement revised pay scales with a gratuity limit of Rs.10 lakh, the government froze it at Rs.3.5 lakh for the Palampur university pensioners. So we had to take legal recourse,” said a pensioner.

He said even 59 pensioners of the Y.S. Parmar University had got relief from the high court in a similar case this year and got their dues.

(Source: IANS)