Children urge PM to champion their cause

Over 25,000 children have sent postcards to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urging him to keep issues that concern them in focus at the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly, NGO World Vision India said.

The over 25,000 postcards from children across the country represent the voices of over 400 million children in India, so that issues that concern them should be made part of the 2015 Millenium Development Goals (MDG), the NGO said.

The Prime Minister will participate in the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly and the special Sep 25 event to follow it on MDGs.

“Despite remarkable progress during the last few years after the launch of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), we still lag behind in meeting the MDG targets for improving child and maternal health by 2015,” said World Vision India CEO Jayakumar Christian.

“Children in India still lack life-saving vaccines, protection, live in fragile contexts, face inequality and discrimination and millions continue to die from largely preventable causes,” Christian said.

(Source: IANS)

Hindu terror remark: Plea to make PM, Sonia witness

A plea was on Thursday filed in a Delhi court to seek its nod to examine Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi as witnesses in a private complaint case filed against Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde for his alleged “Hindu terror” remarks made at Jaipur.

Taking up the application, Metropolitan Magistrate Harun Pratap asked complainant Vivek Garg, a RTI activist, to explain why was it relevant to summon the Prime Minister and Gandhi as witnesses.

“Complainant is directed to show relevancy of each and every witness sought to be summoned by him,” the court said.

 It also directed the complainant to “file an affidavit along with synopsis showing relevancy of witnesses sought to be summoned.”

The complainant also sought to call senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar and Chandrabhan of Rajasthan Pradesh Congress as witnesses.

Jairam Garg, appearing for the complainant, told the court that he wanted them to be summoned as witnesses as all of them were present in the AICC meet at Jaipur where Shinde had made the alleged remarks.

Garg had earlier filed the complaint seeking registration of an FIR against Shinde for his alleged comments during the AICC meet at Jaipur in January.

Earlier, the court had dismissed the plea for registration of the FIR, but had allowed the complainant to lead evidence in support of his allegations in the private complaint.

Shinde had at the AICC meet on January 20 said, “Reports have come during investigation that BJP and RSS conduct terror training camps to spread terrorism…Bombs were planted in Samjhauta express, Mecca Masjid and also a blast was carried out in Malegaon.”


Coal blocks scam: Law Minister Ashwani Kumar resigns

Law Minister Ashwani Kumar resigned on Friday following mounting pressure from the opposition, demanding his removal.
Kumar has been under severe attack by the opposition for vetting the CBI report on coal block allocation scam, with the Supreme Courtmaking critical observations over it.

Kumar’s resignation was the second in Congress’ cabinet on Friday just hours after that of Railway ministry Pawan Kumar Bansal who was earlier asked to put in his papers after a bribery scandal hit the ministry.

The resignation of the two ministers came after Sonia Gandhi’s meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi had asked the PM to take a final decision on the ministers. According to news channel CNN-IBN, Sonia Gandhi felt that allegations against the ministers may damage party’s image and that the damage must be controlled.

Congress Party earlier in the day made it clear that ‘it is not going to spare anybody mired in corruption’.

“The Congress is examining the issue very seriously,” Congress spokesperson Bhaktcharan Das told reporters, when asked about the bribery allegations against Bansal.

The Law Minister along with Bansal met the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at his residence, submitting their resignations.

Earlier, reports said that Kumar might be shifted to a different portfolio through a Cabinet reshuffle. Congress spokespersons maintained that the government is “seized” of the matter of continuance of Bansal and Kumar.



Devinderpal Singh Bhullar’s wife moves SC for stay of hanging

Devinderpal Singh Bhullar’s wife moved the Supreme Court seeking stay of his execution, Devinderpal Singh Bhullar was a Khalistani militant.

Ram Jethmalani, appearing for the petitioner, mentioned the matter before a bench headed by CJI Altamas Kabir.

Jethmalani sought a stay on the hanging of Bhullar who is facing death sentence for a terror attack in New Delhi in 1993 which led to the killing of 9 security personnels besides seriously injuring the then All India Youth Congress president Maninderjeet Singh Bitta.

The Supreme Court has already dismissed his petition seeking to commute his death sentence to life imprisonment on the grounds of inordinate delay of 11 years in a decision by the President of India.

Mercy petition has been rejected by the President Of India.

Bhullar has also filed a review petition requesting the apex court to re-consider its decision.

The apex court refused to pass any order.

Shiromani Akali Dal(SAD)’s Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has already appealed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to intervene.

Sikh protests at 10 Janpath, Congress office

On the second day of protests, Sikh groups shouted slogans outside Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s residence and the Congress office Thursday, over the acquittal of Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case.
Burning effigies of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sajjan Kumar, different Sikh groups gathered outside Gandhi’s 10 Janpath residence.

“Over a thousand protesters marched towards Sonia Gandhi’s residence, breaking two barricades. But they were blocked by the policemen. Similar scenes were witnessed at 24 Akbar Road (the Congress office).”

A traffic police officer told IANS that several roads in central Delhi had been blocked  to prevent angry protesters from reaching the Congress office and the residence of Sonia Gandhi. Among the roads closed to traffic and pedestrians were Akbar Road, Motilal Nehru Marg, Krishna Menon Marg, Mansingh Road, Maulana Azad Road and Janpath.

Police barricades, however, failed to deter protesters who stood as close as they could to the places they wished to reach, shouting slogans.

On Wednesday, protesters had blocked busy roads in the national capital. Metro services were also disrupted by the protests for a few hours.

The Sikh groups are angry at the acquittal of Sajjan Kumar by a city court Tuesday in a case related to the killing of five people in the Delhi Cantonment area during violence against Sikhs following the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi Oct 31, 1984.

The court convicted five others in the same case.

Sajjan Kumar’s acquittal comes almost three decades after an estimated 3,000 Sikhs were killed in three days of riots in India’s capital and elsewhere.



India demands justice from Pakistan after Sarabjit’s death

Justice for the death of Sarabjit Singh has been demanded by the India from Pakistan  in a “barbaric” attack in a Lahore jail with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh saying it was “‘particularly regrettable” it did not heed pleas to take a humanitarian view of the prisoner’s case.

As an outraged government and political parties across the spectrum showed solidarity with 49-year-old Sarabjit’s family, his sister Dalbir Kaur said he should be declared a martyr.

Prime Minister Singh told that Pakistan should ensure that those who are responsible were punished.

Hailing Sarabjit as a “brave son of India”, he attacked Pakistan for not heeding to pleas for taking a humanitarian view on this issue after the attack by the jail inmates.

In a statement here hours after Sarabjit succumbed to injuries suffered in last week’s assault, Singh underlined that the criminals responsible for “the barbaric and murderous attack must be brought to justice”.

“I am deeply saddened by the passing away of Sarabjit Singh. He was a brave son of India who bore his tribulations with valiant fortitude,” the Prime Minister said in his condolence message.

“It is particularly regrettable that the government of Pakistan did not heed the pleas of the government of India, Sarabjit’s family and of the civil society in India and Pakistan to take a humanitarian view of this case,” he said.

Asserting that Sarabjit’s death was a killing of an Indian citizen while in the custody of Pakistan jail authorities, the External Affairs Ministry demanded that Pakistan conduct a through probe into the incident to ensure that those who are responsible were punished.

BJP termed as a “cold blooded murder” the death of Sarabjit.

“It is a cold blooded murder. This is not the way civilised nations behave,” BJP leader Sushma Swaraj wrote on microblogging site Twitter.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said he was “extremely anguished”.

Union Minister Manish Tewary said that what happened to Sarabjit was “extremely inhuman and barbaric” since India has been pressing with Pakistan to take a humanitarian view in his case.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal demanded an independent probe by an international agency into the circumstances leading to death of Sarabjit.

Badal also criticised the Centre’s approach in handling the matter.

Law to prevent crime against women soon: Sonia

A law to prevent crime against woman will pass soon in the country according to the UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

Sonia, who was speaking after the foundation stone laying ceremony of Ghani Khan Choudhury Institute of Engineering and Technology here in the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, said the UPA government had taken various steps for the cause of women and establishing their rights.

“The UPA government has taken several steps for the betterment of women and to make them self dependent. With a fund of around Rs 1000 crores, we are planning to set up a Women Bank, which will be run by women and help women in their business ventures,” according to Sonia, who is also the AICC president.

“We are also constituting a Nirbhaya fund with Rs 1000 crore. This fund will be used to protect the honour and dignity of our mothers and sisters,” according to her.

Gandhi’s remarks come against the backdrop of the Union Cabinet clearing a bill on Thursday providing for stringent punishment for rape, acid attack, stalking and voyeurism besides reducing the age of consent for sex to 16 years.

The bill, brought against the backdrop of the December 16 Delhi gang-rape, provides for minimum jail term of 20 years for rape which may be extended to ‘natural life’ of the convict in jail or even death if the victim dies or is left in a ‘persistent vegetative state’

Referring to the proposed Food Security Bill, Gandhi said UPA was looking into passing it. “We are trying to pass the Food security bill so that poor people of this country don’t have to starve.

“Education is also an important sector in the growth of the nation. Our UPA government under the Manmohan Singh has given special attention to technical education and education. We have also taken measures to provide proper education to kids of rural India,” she also said

Steps have also been taken for the development of minorities, added by her.

Rioting case: Kejriwal, Bhushan comply with summons & released

Delhi court released  Amid high drama, Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan and other members of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) when they appeared before it following summonses for alleged involvement in rioting cases in New Delhi last year.

The court released Kejriwal, Bhushan, Manish Sisodia and 23 others on an undertaking that they will appear before it to face trial in the case after they refused to seek bail before it.

Bhushan objected to the use of words “released on bail” in the initial order which was later changed by the judge by dropping the word bail from the order.

The court room at the Patiala House was jampacked with the supporters and members of AAP who shouted “no bail, no bail” while the order was pronounced.

“All the aforesaid accused are released, subject to their signing this order as acknowledgement of their undertaking to this court that they will face trial, appear on all the dates of hearing and abide by the conditions imposed by this court, during trial,” Metropolitan Magistrate (MM) Jay Thareja said and fixed the matter for further hearing on February 23.

Kejriwal and other AAP members appeared before the court following summonses issued against them in connection with three separate cases for allegedly violating prohibitory orders imposed under Section 144 of the CrPC during their protest on the coal blocks allocation scam in August last year at the Prime Minister’s residence and other places here.

During the day’s proceedings, they told the court they will not seek bail in the case as the police has filed false cases against them to harass and curb their protest.

However the magistrate told that he was bound to grant them bail in the case.

“The law says if the accused appears before the court after filing of charge sheet in such cases, accused should be granted bail. I need atleast a surety. I cannot violate the law of the land,” the magistrate said and told the accused that he would conduct an expeditious trial in the case.

In response, Kejriwal told the court that they respect the law of the land but whether to take bail is their right and they have decided not to take bail in the case.

“We respect the law and your (magistrate’s) position. Our only weapon is truth and we are on that way only. We deliberately violated Sec 144 and we are ready to face the punishment. We have decided not to seek bail in this case,” according him.

Bhushan, an accused in the case, argued that the imposition of Sec 144 by Delhi police was “illegal” and in violation of the orders passed by the Supreme Court.

“The point here is that this (imposition of Sec 144) has become the easiest way for police or the government to harass activists and political opponents…the charge sheet and trial is itself a punishment for us,” according to him.

Bhushan further told that Sec 144 is a provision which is meant to take care of an emergency situation only.

“How can the police apprehend that there was threat to law and order if we will march to PM’s residence? We have been holding protests during our anti corruption movement for a long time and nowhere we have indulged in any violent protest,” he told.

Similarly, Sisodia and another AAP leader Kumar Vishwas, told the court that these are false cases registered by the police just to curb their anti-corruption protest against the government.

All the accused repeatedly told the court that they will not seek bail and will not furnish any bail bond or personal bond for their release.

According to the charge sheet, on August 26 last year, these accused had violated Sec 144 and had staged protest outside the residence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi against the alleged coal block allocation scam case.

The police has said that they accused had also damaged public property during the protest and some of their senior officers were injured by them.

The police had registered three FIRs against them under various sections of the IPC which deal with rioting, unlawful assembly and use of force to obstruct public servants from discharging their duty as well as section 3 of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act.

Women activists urge president not to sign sexual crime ordinance

Women groups on Saturday urged President Pranab Mukherjee not to sign the ordinance of Criminal Law amendments passed by the Cabinet. Human rights lawyer Vrinda Grover said, “The ordinance is complete betrayal of the people’s faith.”

She also questioned as to why the ordinance remained silent on Armed s Special Powers Act. “Justice Verma Committee targeted the impunity of family, policemen, Army officers, and a bureaucrats. But the government went soft on that. Why are the recommendations on AFSPA not accepted. It’s completely scandalous what the government has done.”

She also said that women organisations were alarmed to see the ordinance as it ignored many recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee. “We are alarmed by the ordinance content. We do not see any recommendation of the Verma Committee in the ordinance,” Vrinda Grover said. “The ordinance is a trick to sideline Justice Verma report,” she added.

The opposition BJP and Left too have joined the activists in saying the ordinance is not tough enough. While the government claims it has accepted most of recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee on punishing sex offenders, it has not included proposals like changing rules for the armed forces under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. The ordinance has also left out recognition of marital rape as a crime.

“We’ve accepted almost all the recommendations. The Central Government is committed to giving stringent punishment to the culprits. We’ve included acid attacks and stalking in the definition of sexual crimes against women. We feel that this will send out a strong message,” Union Minister Krishna Tirath told.

CPM leader Brinda Karat said the government has ignored the main recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee. “We do not approve of this ordinance. The ordinance has ignored the main recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee. The ordinance is an attempt to divert attention from the main questions being raised in the Justice Verma Committee report,” Karat said. Women groups have also called the ordinance a dilution of the Verma panel recommendations.

Meanwhile, former IPS officer and activist Kiran Bedi welcomed the passing of this ordinance calling it the beginning of a long journey. “I think the people demand a holistic response, it is a very part law response. Very well, it’s a beginning made, but it’s still a long way to go, as the Justice Verma recommendations are a holistic correction,” Bedi said.

Just days after the Justice Verma Committee made its recommendations to amend laws relating to sexual assault, the Cabinet has passed an ordinance. The punishment for rape could range from 20 years to even death in extreme cases. “The UPA government has responded to the sensitivities of the people,” Law Minister Ashwini Kumar said. The Cabinet met at a short notice to approve the ordinance just to prove this point.

It has faced criticism on inability to feel the pulse of the people in the street protests and also Justice JS Verma. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi were keen on a damage control.

The ordinance accepts most of the suggestions of Justice Verma Committee report. According to the ordinance, the punishment for rape can go up to 20 years in jail. A death sentence can also be given in extreme cases, which includes permanent body damage to a woman. The word ‘rape’ will now be called ‘sexual assault’. Sexual crime means unfavourable portrayal of women, stalking, women trafficking and acid attacks.

But the ordinance remains silent on marital rape. It also remains silent on another recommendation of the Justice Verma Committee, that is, changes in AFSPA. The Cabinet has also not accepted that politicians who face charges of sexual abuse should be debarred. The Cabinet is waiting for a consensus on this. The government now hopes to make more changes once the ordinance is referred to Parliament for approval.



BJP may revoke Ram Jethmalani’s suspension

According to the sources, “the suspension may be revoked of veteran lawyer Ram Jethmalani from the BJP, for daring the party to act against him on the issue of appointment of CBI director.”

Indications to this effect were available after Jethmalani met senior leader L K Advani and BJP chief Nitin Gadkari this morning.

Jethmalani was also vocal on the resignation of Gadkari as BJP president in the wake of reported irregularities in the latter’s Purti Group.

BJP spokesman Shahnawaz Hussain told, “At the meeting with Advani and Gadkari, Jethmalani reaffirmed his faith in the BJP’s ideology and wished that the party may come to power in the country.”

He also said the lawyer had also handed over a letter at the meeting to this effect.

According to BJP Leader Shahnawaz Hussain, “The matter will be considered by the BJP Parliamentary Board,” .

Later, Jethmalani said he had met Advani and Gadkari but refused to go into details.

Jethmalani said, “Ask the leaders… I am just a sevaadhari (servant),” was his response to questions on what transpired during the meeting.

Asked whether a decision would be taken on revoking his suspension, he said, “I hope it will happen. It should happen.”

Jethmalani was suspended from the BJP on November 26 for attacking the party stand which had taken a critical view of the appointment of Ranjit Sinha as the director of the CBI.

In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, leaders of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley had asked him to keep the CBI director’s appointment in abeyance.


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