ALLAHABAD, Feb 10 (CMC)The once-in-12-years MahaKumbh at Prayag in Allahabad is an occasion no devout Hindu wants to miss. While the elderly wish to take a dip at least once in their life time, many others want to experience the electric atmosphere to believe what they have learnt from mythology. But this year's Kumbh in Allahabad is more than a mere religious gathering, that too for only Hindus. It has emerged as an important platform for politicians and entertainment personalities to achieve what is important for them. Of course, for countless film-makers, photographers, businessmen and of course journalists it is an opportunity they won't miss for anything. The ritual bathing started at Kumbh on January 14 (Makar Sankranti day) and will continue till March 10 (Maha Shivratri), with many auspicious bathing dates in between. More than the millions who are visiting the vast Mela ground everyday it is the visit of those in the news that is making waves. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad traditionally holds its conclave in every Kumbh. There is this meeting of the Kendriya Margadarshak Mandal (central advisory committee) and the Hindu Dharma Sansad (religious council) where leading personalities from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) are invited, besides those from some other outfits. This year the presence of Rajnath Singh, Mohan Bhagwat, Pravin Togadia and Ashok Singhal made news for the topic of ratification of Narendra Modi's name as the BJP candidate for prime minister's post in next Lok Sabha election. But Modi himself is likely to visit the Kumbh on February 12, when a bigger news splash is certain. Politicians form other parties - notably the Congress - are yet to mark their presence but whenever they do, it will add to the local colour. As for entertainment personalities, actress Poonam Pandey was among the first to visit the Kumbh and take a dip. Known more for her photoshoots than acting talent, she made a picture of devotion as she stood in water with a prayer on her lips. Celeberated actress and BJP MP Hema Malini and renowned classical vocalist Pandit Jasraj are among some other big names who are now camping in Allahabad and plan to take holy dip at the Sangam on the auspicious occasion of 'Mauni Amawasya' on Sunday, February 10, which is also the fourth big 'snan' (bath). In their quest for salvation, they have sought the refuge in the sprawling camp of Swami Avdeshanand Giri Ji Maharaj, who is also the 'Achrya Mahamandleshwar' and the chieftan of the biggest sect of Naga Sadhus, also known as Juna Akhara. They are fourtunate enough to have the blessings of their Guru, who is said to have agreed to take them along with him for the holy dip at the Sangam on 'Mauni Amavashya.' Earlier on February 7, Juna Akhara chief was visited by Rajya Sabha MP, Amar Singh, who is virtually in a political wilderness after his break up with the Samajwadi Party. And now Ekta Kapoor, the TV producer, is likely to visit the Kumbh for performing a yagyato ward off evil spirits. Her next movie is a horror flick revolving around a witch and even if the Kumbh Mela administration has warned her not to use the venue to promote her film, she cannot be stopped from holding a 'ritual' against evil spirits, can she? Also not to be missed is the large number of foreigners at the venue, not only as visisotrs, journalists or photographers, but as members of teams of sadhus and their akharas. It is interesting to see so many of them donning saffron robes, performing Hindu religious rituals and preferring to be known by their new names. Most of the people who have already visited the Kumbh say that the management of people's movement and policing are among the two features that stand out for being efficient, even though the condition of the tented accommodation may not be very comfortable or convenient. As the winter chill has waned and bright sunshine marks the day, Allahabad looks forward to more celebrity visits in days to come. Meanwhile, Mauni amawashya is an occasion, which is likey to witness a huge crowds. They are in fact salvation-seekers, who are coming throught several routes: unreserved railway bogies that disgorge upcountry pilgrims; homes on wheels parked apart at parking lots scattered around the Kumbh venues; Tata Sumos ferrying road trippers and bagloads of snacks for the evening antaksharithat follows the bhajansand kirtans. With the promise of a grand spectacle, television crews have staked out vantage spots all over Kumbh area. Some of the bigger television stations have ferried in as many as eight television crews and promise to bring in more over the next fortnight so as not to miss out on the action. Security concerns are already high especially after the death sentence served on the kingpin of the parliament attack mastermind and a hardcore terrorist, Afzal Guru.
Suryanelli case: Ex-HC judge says girl used for child prostitution, not raped Clean Media Correspondent KOCHI, Feb 09 (CMC) Stoking controversy, a former Kerala high court judge on Saturday defended his judgment acquitting 35 accused in the Suryanelli gangrape case, in which Rajya Sabha deputy chairman PJ Kurien was allegedly involved, saying the victim was used in child prostitution and not raped. "There was ample evidence to show the girl was used for child prostitution, which is not rape," Justice R Basant, part of a two-judge bench that acquitted the accused in 2005, was shown as saying on a Malayalam TV channel. As a controversy erupted, the judge later maintained his comments were recorded using a hidden camera. Justice Basant told CMC, he had refused to talk to the TV journalist on camera, but there was some hidden camera. "I just walked into it. I know what I have said. All I can say, look into the judgment". He was only quoting from the judgment and it was a casual conversation, he said. The former judge's views came under attack from women and youth outfits, which condemned them as his verdict was recently set aside by the Supreme Court, reverting the matter back to the high court. "My response is, if anyone wants to know about the judgment, read the judgment," the retired judge said. "If I was asked to decide the case again, I would decide the same way. Please read the judgment", he said on the TV channel. The case pertains to the alleged abduction and rape of a 16 year-old from Suryanelli in the Idukki district in 1996. She was forcibly taken to different places and allegedly raped by several men over a period of 40 days. In September 2000, a special court had sentenced the 35 accused to rigorous imprisonment for varying terms. However, a divsion bench of the high court comprising Justice KA Abdul Gaffoor and Justice Basant, acquitted all. Kurien is not part of the 35 accused, but the victim had filed a private complaint later on accusing him of involvement in the sexual assault. Kurien's name figured again in connection with the case after the victim recently wrote to her advocate to explore the possibility of filing a review petition, seeking a fresh probe against him, triggering demands for his resignation. He has maintained that he has already been cleared of the charges by the apex court. "If you read the judgment you will know why Justice Gaffoor (the fellow judge who is no more) and me had acquitted the accused. Please read the judgment. You will know why the girl was disbelieved, how much time we took to write the judgment," Justice Basant was shown as saying on the channel. "You should read the judgment and not say things like politicians on the platform for getting applause ... Nobody reads the judgment, you just make comments," he said. When pointed out that the apex court had expressed "shock" on reading the HC judgment, he said those who have not read the judgment, will be shocked. "I am not blaming her. The girl is not normal, she is deviant. All these are there in the judgment", Justice Basant said. Women activists expressed shock at the former judge's statements. President of Anweshi, an NGO, K Ajitha said, justice Basant was an 'insult' to all judges in the country. Another activist Suja Susan said, she was shocked with justice Basant's views.
Afzal Guru hanged in secrecy, buried in Tihar Jail Clean Media Correspondent New Delhi, Feb 09 (CMC) In a top secret operation, the 2001 Parliament attack case convict Mohammed Afzal Guru was hanged and buried inside the Tihar jail complex on Saturday. With this ended a decade-long uncertainty over the execution of the Sopore (Jammu and Kashmir) resident as his mercy petition became the issue of political slugfest. “He was hanged at 8 o’clock… All legal procedures were followed in the execution. The President [Pranab Mukherjee] rejected the mercy petition of Afzal Guru on February 3 and after that I gave my approval on February 4… The date and timing [of Afzal Guru’s hanging] was confirmed by a judicial official,” Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde told journalists here. “The new President sent back all mercy petitions for reconsideration... I examined the file carefully and recommended to the President on January 21 for rejection of Afzal Guru’s petition,” the Home Minister added. Notably, in 2011, the Ministry of Home Affairs had rejected his petition and forwarded it to the President. But when Mr. Mukherjee took over as President last year, he had returned all pending mercy petitions, including that of Afzal Guru and the Mumbai terror attack case convict and Pakistani national Ajmal Amir Kasab, for reconsideration after Mr. Shinde took over as Home Minister in August 2012. But before the Centre gave a go-ahead for the hanging, security across the country, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir, was beefed up to avert any backlash. The MHA also issued an advisory to all State governments to remain on high alert. “We are closely monitoring the situation in Kashmir and other States,” Mr. Shinde said. On Friday, the Home Minister had informed Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah about the hanging, while senior MHA officials were in touch with the State police chief Ashok Prasad to ensure that Afzal Guru’s wife was informed about his execution. “His family was informed about the decision of the government to reject his mercy petition… This was done through speed post,” Union Home Secretary R.K. Singh told journalists here. Afzal Guru was Parliament attack in the entire conspiracy leading to the attack on Parliament on December 13, 2001. He had been on death row for the past 10 years since he was first convicted and sentenced by a special court in December 2002, while his death penalty was upheld by the Supreme Court on August 4, 2005. In another controversial decision, the government decided not to hand over the body to his family members and buried it inside the jail complex as it feared a backlash in the Kashmir valley if his body had been taken there for last rites. “It was a conscious decision… we feared that his funeral could have been used to trigger violence and disturb peace in the Kashmir valley,” a senior MHA official said. “He was calm and happy at the time of execution. He spent the night before in his cell calmly and everything about him was normal,” Director General (Prisons) Vimla Mehra told The Hindu. Afzal Guru was woken up around 5 a.m. after which he offered namaz. He was served tea and medically examined before being taken to the gallows near his cell in Jail No.3. “The normal procedure was followed in the hanging. He was healthy and his blood pressure was normal. A doctor, a magistrate, a hangman and a “maulvi” were present at the time of execution, besides some jail officials,” said Ms. Mehra.
MDMK chief Vaiko protests Sri Lankan President's visit, courts arrest in Delhi Clean Media Correspondent New Delhi, Feb 08 (CMC) MDMK chief Vaiko courted arrest at Parliament Street police station in the capital on Friday along with 60 -70 supporters while protesting against Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa's visit to India. Vaiko was arrested while leading the MDMK protest march from Parliament Street to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's residence. MDMK holds Rajapaksa responsible for killing of innocent Tamils in the last phase of the conflict between the Sri Lankan army and rebel LTTE. Rajapaksa's visit led to an outrage among pro-Tamil groups with the DMK too taking to the streets to protest against the Sri Lankan President's presence in India. The DMK, led by M Karunanidhi and his daughter Kanimozhi, are leading protests in Chennai. The DMK-backed Tamil Ealam Supporters' Organisation will hold a protest wearing black outfits. The group will also stage a black flag protest at Tirupati. Prohibitory orders have been imposed in Tirupati in view of the protests. Rajapaksa would not be visiting New Delhi, officials asserted, dismissing notions that the Sri Lankan President might engage with some of the Indian leaders with a view to seek New Delhi's support on the US moved resolution against Sri Lanka at the next UN Human Rights Council sessions in March. Sri Lankan forces had crushed Tamil rebels in May 2009 after nearly three decades of brutal fighting. The conflict claimed up to 1,00,000 lives, according to UN estimates, and both sides are accused of war crimes. Sri Lanka while formulating an action plan for implementation maintained that most of the recommendations were already put in to effect.
Narendra Modi protest: Students allege molestation Clean Media Correspondent New Delhi, Feb 08 (CMC) A day after police used lathis and water cannons to disperse students protesting against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the Shri Ram College of Commerce in Delhi University, several woman students complained they were molested and verbally abused by students who tried to stop them from protesting. Police have received several complaints of harassment and molestation and are looking into the allegations. Students claimed they were molested by "miscreants" and that police personnel at the spot did nothing to stop them. They said policemen looked on while rival groups hurled abuses at them. Reached for comments, Deputy Commissioner of Police (North) Sindhu Pillai said: "We have received complaints and are looking into it. I was there at the spot with other senior officers. No one reported to me or other senior officials about any such incident. The press was also there right at the spot. We are conducting an inquiry into the complaints." Meanwhile, a case of rioting has also been registered against unidentified persons at the Maurice Nagar police station. The FIR states that around 3 pm on Wednesday, more than 100 people marched towards SRCC, protesting against Modi's visit. It is alleged that students, who had been asked to conduct a peaceful protest, turned violent, broke a barricade and marched towards Gate No. 3 of SRCC. "Those people used force to break the first barricade. The wooden sticks of placards were used to beat up police officials. A warning was given to protesters and they were asked to withdraw but they continued to be violent. The students managed to march towards the second barricade and water cannon was opened for 30 seconds," the FIR states.
Alert Delhi cops rescue gang-rape victim from tinted car Clean Media Correspondent New Delhi, Feb 08 (CMC) After a midnight chase and high drama, Delhi Police arrested four men and rescued a young woman bundled inside a car with tinted windows driving towards North Delhi in the wee hours on Thursday. According to reports, a Police Control Room team spotted a Santro car near Burari roundabout around 2.30 am and asked it to stop. However, the vehicle broke through the barricade and sped away. So the cops, on duty, alerted other vans patrolling the area. Finally, the car was intercepted near Wazirabad flyover. After intercepting the vehicle, the policemen found a young woman inside the car with four men. On seeing the policemen, the woman narrated her story to them that she was kidnapped and gang-raped by the four men. The woman was then rushed to hospital, where medical tests confirmed that she has been sexually assaulted. The four men, identified as Abid (21), Shakeel (23), Irshad (30) and Lajpat Rai Sachdeva (38), were then arrested by the police.
After primary investigation, the police learnt that the victim allegedly knew one of the suspects, Shakeel, a tailor. When she met him last night, Shakeel called her to a house in Swaroop Nagar where he, along with three friends, allegedly took turns to rape her. "After committing the crime, the accused bundled the victim into a car and were heading towards Burari," a police official told reporters later. “Since the victim alleged that she had been raped, we have arrested the four under relevant provisions of the Indian Penal Code. Initially the victim refused to undergo a medical examination, but later it was done with her consent,” said a senior police officer. Though the police remain tight-lipped about the case, it has come to light that the victim has a two-year-old child and is separated from her husband. In December, a student was fatally gang-raped on a bus with tinted windows in Delhi, provoking angry protests and calls for better policing in the capital. Since then, the police claims it has introduced a burst of measures to improve safety includes checking vehicles and pulling over anyone with tinted windows.
We are a nation of mouse-charmers now: Narendra Modi at SRCC Clean Media Correspondent New Delhi, Feb 06 (CMC) Ignoring about 100 student protestors outside, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi spent an hour at Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC), pitching himself as just the sort of leader India needs. "I think differently," he declared. To demonstrate, he held up a glass of water. "Some people say this is half full, others say it is half empty. But I say it's full - half with water and half with air." 1,800 students - more girls than boys - were packed into the sports complex at the college. Mr Modi, known for his ability to connect with his audience, was bang on target. He said on a recent visit to Taiwan, India was referred to as a country of snake-charmers.He said his response was, "We are a nation of mouse charmers. Every young person in India uses a mouse on the computer." Applause from delighted students. At one point, he paused. "Should I continue?" he asked, theatrically.
While his party is debating whether he will be its candidate for prime minister for the national elections next year, Mr Modi's speech today paraded his qualifications. India is caught between good and bad governance, he said. He offers the former- " pro-people good governance" in Gujarat; the latter, in other parts of the country has created "a sense of despair and cynicism." Less astute politicians see young people as "new-age voters." He recognizes them as "a new-age power." Outside, many of those younger voters were hit by water canons and batons by the riot police as they demonstrated against Mr Modi's campus stop. Most of them were affiliated to student wings of the Left. Dressed in black with masks, they said Mr Modi needs to be held accountable for the riots in 2002, in which 1200 people were killed in Gujarat, most of them Muslims.
Protest outside Delhi University's SRCC over Narendra Modi's visit Clean Media Correspondent NEW DELHI, Feb 06 (CMC) A section of students protested outside Delhi University's Shri Ram College of Commerce ( SRCC) against Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, who is set to speak at the college at 4pm on Wednesday. Some students crossed the barricade and shouted slogans against Modi outside the college. Modi is set to address students and faculty of Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC), which has produced a string of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, including Arun Jaitley, Vijay Goel, Jagdish Mukhi and Vijay Jolly. Modi's talk will be on the theme: "Emerging business models in the global scenario". The Gujarat chief minister who is favoured by some BJP leaders to be the party's PM candidate, will deliver the first 'Shri Ram Memorial Oration', initiated by Shri Ram College of Commerce in Delhi University's North Campus in memory of its founder. The event will mark the conclusion of the Business Conclave 2013. The college has invited Modi after a campus survey in which students overwhelmingly indicated their preference to hear him, said a statement issued by Gujarat government. During his day-long visit to Delhi, Modi met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the first time after becoming chief minister of Gujarat for the fourth time. Modi will also visit Allahabad to participate in the Maha Kumbh on February 12. In recent weeks, there has been growing chorus in BJP for projecting Modi as party's prime ministerial candidate, arguing it will benefit the party in the next general elections.
Supreme Court gives death sentence to man who kidnapped, killed Tamil Nadu boy Clean Media Correspondent New Delhi, Feb 05 (CMC) The Supreme Court has decided on the death sentence for a man convicted of kidnapping and murdering a seven-year-old in Tamil Nadu. The child was abducted in 2007 by a man named Sundar. A few days later, the boy's body was found in a gunny bag. An eyewitness identified Sundar and in 2009, a local court awarded him the death penalty, which was upheld the next year by the Madras High Court. The convict then approached the Supreme Court; his lawyers said that this was not a "rarest of the rare" case and so the death penalty should not apply, but the Supreme Court today rejected that appeal.
Delhi gang-rape trial: Victim’s friend testifies, father demands death for all accused Clean Media Correspondent New Delhi, Feb 05 (CMC) A fast-track court on Tuesday began the trial against the five accused in the Delhi gang-rape case, around 50 days after the 23-year-old woman's brutal rape, as the father demanded death penalty for the five men and a juvenile accused. "All the six accused should be hanged," the father said at a press conference here, stressing that he would pursue the case till the end. The fast-track court of Additional Sessions Judge Yogesh Khanna started day-to-day trial in the case after framing charges of murder, gang-rape and kidnapping, among others, under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against the five accused. The case of the juvenile accused is being heard by the Juvenile Justice Board. The gang-rape victim's male friend, a software engineer, who was also attacked along with her on the bus, appeared as a witness in the court on a wheelchair accompanied by his father, police said. Police Monday had filed a supplementary charge sheet that included the autopsy report of the physiotherapy intern who was gang-raped by the six on Dec 16 last year, in a moving bus. She died Dec 29 in a Singapore hospital.
The other charges framed against the accused are unnatural offence, destruction of evidence, attempt to murder, causing hurt while committing robbery, dacoity with murder, and common intent. The accused had pleaded not guilty to the charges. The court had earlier restricted media from reporting the proceedings in the case and ordered an in-camera trial. As the trial began in the court, the father of the young woman addressed a press conference to assert that he would approach the courts to ensure that justice was done. "I want all six of them to be hanged. We will go to the court and pursue the case till the end," he said, with one of his sons by his side. He said his daughter should not be addressed as a gang-rape victim. "It hurts me. She should be called the country's brave daughter," the father said. He also said he did not have "much knowledge" about the ordinance promulgated on Sunday that awards stricter punishment for sexual crimes against women, including death sentence in rare cases. "We have received Rs.15 lakh from the Delhi government," he said. "But the money cannot make up for our loss." He said the law should be amended so that the juvenile attacker could also be hanged.
‘I personally believe that every court should be a fast-track court... But you have to bring in balance’ Justice Verma Clean Media Correspondent New Delhi, Feb 03 (CMC) Justice (retd) JS Verma speaks about the making of the report of the committee he headed for amendment in criminal law after the Delhi gang rape and the need for social remedies and a moral stance. The session was moderated by Senior Assistant Editor of Indian Express Maneesh Chhibber Maneesh Chhibber: Could you give us a background to how the government approached you to head this committee? Justice (retd) JS Verma: On the afternoon of December 23, I got a call from Mr Chidambaram and he persuaded me to chair this committee. Not being the home minister, he must have been asked by the Prime Minister to get in touch with me. Since he has been a lawyer appearing before me, they might have thought that he would be more persuasive. I agreed and asked about the composition of the committee. He asked me what I thought and we decided on Justice Leila Seth...I said there ought to be a lady. I also suggested a comparatively young person in active practice, a lawyer, and Gopal Subramaniam who had worked with me as my counsel 21 years ago when I did the Rajiv Gandhi commission, and a very fine lawyer, so I suggested his name. It was late night when I was told that a notification was being issued. Next morning, one of the officers came, a public notice was published immediately and then the work started. Dilip Bobb: The Juvenile Justice Board has ruled on the sixth accused in the Delhi gang rape case being a juvenile. He will be getting off with a very light sentence. What is your view on that?
Justice (retd) JS Verma: I am not commenting on any matter which is sub judice. In our report, we have addressed mainly the larger issue. Hard cases make bad laws, so you do not make a law based on any particular case. Vandita Mishra: Fast-track courts have been set up. Does it worry you that balance may be tilting towards speed at the cost of deliberation or justice going through its proper paces? Justice (retd) JS Verma: I personally believe every court should be a fast-track court. If Article 21 has been interpreted to include the right to speedy justice within the right to life with dignity, then there is no reason why there should be any court which should not act speedily. But you have to bring in a balance and in that speed you have not to abandon due process. The principle of natural justice must be kept in mind. In my experience of almost 26 years at the highest level, I never thought I needed to be designated as a fast-track court to do my job. Shubham Aggarwal (Rukmini Devi Public School, Delhi): Death penalty and life imprisonment are curative measures and can be taken up only after the crime has been committed. What preventive measures have you suggested? Justice (retd) JS Verma: The first thing I said after I undertook the task was that once an offence has been committed, then catching the culprit and prosecuting is fine but why not take adequate measures to prevent the crime? The focus must be to shift from the patriarchal mindset. We have founded our report mainly on the constitutional guarantee of equality for gender justice. We have said most often an offence of rape is not entirely a sexual activity. It is a power game to show the male is more powerful. They think they are superior and that is a negation of the constitutional right to equality. Maneesh Chhibber: You were the author of the Vishakha judgment which dealt with sexual harassment. Even 16 years later that has not been turned into a law. So how do you now expect this government to act despite the clamour? Justice (retd) JS Verma: Well, I will preface my answer by saying this: I am an incurable optimist, so I don't give up. Secondly, with the current mood of the youth which has risen as one in protest, anyone in power who chooses to ignore this will do so at his or her own peril. I do not think the youth will accept it, and they should not. But they must not resort to undemocratic methods. What is necessary is that public anger should be properly channelised. Shalini Langer: Various parties made representations before your panel. Which representations most impressed you? Justice (retd) JS Verma: Let me not compare or contrast one party with another. There were a huge number of responses, and I can assure you each one was read. The representations were classified, the suggestions were not too many. There were a few important areas, for example, on the death penalty, castration, the age for a juvenile, that got many suggestions, and then people came with individual grievances which, of course, was not within our scope. Seema Chishti: The 19th century saw landmark judgments in India: the banning of sati, widow remarriage, etc. It is not as if the majority opinion at any given point of time is very progressive. So how does the law connect with this? Justice (retd) JS Verma: I don't think the majority opinion is what they (politicians) reflect. A lot of them are not true representatives of the people. I have an abiding faith in this: that the majority of the people in our country are positive. They want the right things to happen, but they have a Hobson's choice. That is one of the reasons we have spoken about persons with dubious antecedents being eliminated so that proper persons can come in. A lot depends on the kind of environment in which you grow up. For example, when I was a lawyer, and that was more than 40 years ago, one of my juniors in the chamber was distributing sweets and I heard a very odd remark which I found quite jarring. Someone asked my junior, "Ladka hai ki ladki hai?" He was quite offended and replied, "Dekhte nahi ye laddoo hai". I didn't quite comprehend his remark. I asked him to explain it. Very sheepishly he explained that if it's a boy you distribute laddoos, if it's a girl you distribute pedas. At that very time, one of the seniormost lawyers at the Allahabad High Court had a grandchild and sweets were being distributed at the Bar, and someone again asked the same silly question—boy or girl? He was so angry, he said, "What do you mean, a child is always grand." The question is that if you have a mindset of laddoos and pedas, how are you going to help in the enactment of laws which are gender friendly? Seema Chishti: Could you tell us about the bill of rights which seems to be a very bold and a very big nugget of your report? Justice (retd) JS Verma: On the bill of rights, we thought that if someone does not have the time or the interest to read the whole report, why not create a document which has the gist of it, like the Magna Carta? It is a bill of rights for women, and it is all encapsulating. We have tried to make it as comprehensive as possible. Prawesh Lama: A juvenile in conflict with law is sent to a correction home, but is there any mechanism or any committee to ensure that this juvenile is reformed and, if so, should the committee not be made accountable to ensure that the juvenile is reformed once he comes out of the correction home? Justice (retd) JS Verma: That is an area we have dealt with at length (in the report). For instance, trafficking in children. Trafficking in women and children is a major problem, and children who are trafficked are sexually abused and used for all kinds of crimes including beggary and stealing. When you are dealing with a juvenile delinquent, it is important to bear in mind the background from which the juvenile comes, and therefore society has a role. What we have tried to emphasise in our report is that it is not merely the government, but every citizen and civil society has a role to play. When I was in NHRC, I learnt more about the way these juvenile homes and other correctional homes are run. They are actually dens of corruption. Very often, the protection homes which are supposed to protect the female child are the ones involved in (malpractices). NP Singh: Recently, in two judgments, the Supreme Court has overturned the death penalty granted by the trial courts and supported by high courts. The SC has speculated on the state of mind of the accused. In one case, they said the accused may have been drunk, in the other that he was driven by revenge. What is your opinion of this, and doesn't it reduce the deterrence of death penalty? Justice (retd) JS Verma: Voluntary drunkenness is no excuse, that is basic law. So if that has been said, I am sorry to hear that has been said. That is why I am more in favour of a life sentence meaning the whole of the remaining life. About those judgments, the less said the better. Monojit Majumdar: In your report, you have backed your refusal to reconsider the age of juvenility with judgments from the US Supreme Court and neurosciences research by Laurence Steinberg. Did you consider that in doing so, you might be extending the conclusions of university research done overseas to a real court case in India, besides foreclosing the possibility of the existence of specific circumstances that might be peculiar to individual cases? Justice (retd) JS Verma: You don't make law for a single case. The law is for general application. We cannot focus attention only on the facts of the case which has brought about all this attention. It is not correct that we have based our opinion on something which happened in America. Our opinion is based mainly on the existing situation in India and the environment in which juveniles ultimately end up becoming juvenile delinquents in our country. It is taking into account the Indian conditions that we have set out our recommendations. And it is based on empirical data produced by people like Professor Ved Kumari, a distinguished professor and fairly well-known expert in this field. We reached the conclusion that the conditions in the juvenile homes, etc., is not something which you can ignore. And when you make a law, it is not for that Delhi gang rape alone, it is for all juveniles. Vijaita Singh: There was a lack of interest shown by the Home Ministry and other senior government officials in sending suggestions to your committee. How far did it impact the findings? Justice (retd) JS Verma: I don't think it would have made any difference because we thought a great deal about the issues, and if there was any deficiency we had suggestions from people. We interacted with more than 100 persons representing all the stakeholders and persons who had been working in the field for decades, so I don't think anything worthwhile could have been added. But certainly, they could have contributed better. At least, they could have been active to start their work as soon as the report was given. Praveen (EXIMS) : There is a feeling that lawyers provided through the legal aid services are not competent. What can be done? Justice (retd) JS Verma: I think one way to handle this problem is that the judge should see what kind of lawyer would be suitable to appear in the particular case. If he finds that the lawyer allotted is not equipped, he has to step in. In spite of the mercenary trend in the Bar which is very obvious, whenever they are called upon to perform a public duty, lawyers do it without grudging it. The public interest litigation would not have been possible but for the cooperation of the lawyers. Seema Chishti: We have noticed that increasingly there is a clamour to not defend a lot of accused people, especially in terror cases. Justice (retd) JS Verma: I am personally disturbed that there should be such a trend. It is wrong. In a civilised system, even the worst criminal, accused of the most heinous crime, is entitled to a fair hearing. That is what establishes the credibility of the judicial process. For example, with Raju Ramachandran appearing for Ajmal Kasab, who can say that he was not represented properly? There is a juristic principle involved: once the entire Bar refuses to appear, you condemn the man before the trial has commenced and that is not consistent with civilised jurisprudence. They should be defended, and they should be given the best legal advice so that ultimately, if they are convicted, no one can say that they didn't have proper legal advice. Amulya Gopalakrishnan: Could you clarify why you have said in your report that MPs and MLAs should step down if they have criminal cases against them? Justice (retd) JS Verma: In this country, you had a Lal Bahadur Shastri, who was once the railway minister. There was a railway accident, and he owned moral responsibility and resigned. Now, there is a stronger reason for politicians stepping down: when they took up office, they took an oath to abide by the Constitution and the laws. And every day they claim to be doing that. If that is their verbal commitment, then they should show it. There is something like institutional integrity. The Supreme Court in the PJ Thomas case has said it in as many words—not only individual integrity but institutional integrity is important. Hardly a day passes when people don't say Parliament has so many persons with criminal antecedents, state legislatures have so many persons with criminal antecedents. What is the credibility of these institutions? If you leave, you'll rise in the esteem of others and you will also help to restore the institutional credibility of the institution to which you belong. That's a call of morality and what is law? Law is institutionalised morality. I don't think I will be able to divorce morality from law.
BSE Sensex falls 114 points; profit-booking weighs Clean Media Correspondent Mumbai, Feb 02 (CMC) The BSE Sensex fell on Friday to mark its lowest weekly close since January 13 after a sudden slump in Tata Motors and Ultratech Cement shares about 20 minutes before the close spooked investors. Tata Motors Ltd (TAMO.NS) and UltraTech (ULTC.NS) shares briefly dropped as much as 10 percent each, before sharply cutting losses, after a series of shares were sold at lower prices. The sharp falls in shares of the two companies sparked reminders of a flurry of erroneous orders for a broad basket of shares placed by Emkay Global that sent the stock market tumbling in October. Analysts say such incidents can sap the confidence of investors at a time when the RBI has cautioned that further rate cuts are conditional on government action to control India's twin deficits. "These incidents would affect sentiment of investors and government should therefore bring the physical settlement of derivatives to avoid such instances," said Kishor Ostwal, chairman and managing director, CNI Research. The BSE Sensex fell 0.57 percent, or 113.79 points, to end at 19,781.19. It lost 1.6 percent for the week. The broader Nifty fell 0.59 percent, or 35.85 points, to end at 5,998.90, closing below the psychologically important 6,000 level, also ending 1.2 percent lower for the week. The sudden fall in the share prices of these index stocks added to investor worries after Indian manufacturing slowed to a three-month low in January, and Bharti Airtel Ltd (BRTI.NS) missed its earnings estimates by a wide margin. Shares also fell on profit-taking after the BSE Sensex added 2.4 percent in January to post its third-straight monthly gain. Tata Motors shares fell 5.49 percent after six separate block deals comprising 2.07 million shares took place at an average price of 274.92 rupees. The sales sent the auto maker's shares as low as 268.25 rupees. UltraTech shares fell 3.4 percent after one block deal of 41,863 shares at an average price of 1,853.80 rupees. They dropped as low as 1,712.35 rupees. Shares in Bharti Airtel, India's top telecoms carrier, fell 3 percent, after October-December profit missed estimates by a wide margin. Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL.NS) shares fell 1.2 percent after India's top power equipment maker missed analyst estimates with a 17.5 percent fall in third-quarter net profit, hit by a slowdown in new orders. Hindustan Unilever (HLL.NS) fell 1.9 percent after Morgan Stanley reduced its weightage on consumer staples stocks in its Indian model portfolio by 1 percent. It also raised weightage of energy stocks to 3 percent. Satyam Computer Services (SATY.NS) shares fell 1.6 percent after Kotak Institutional Equities downgraded it to "reduce" from "add", noting October-December revenue growth was "muted", given the impact from furloughs in the high-tech and manufacturing segments. Among the gainers, Maruti Suzuki India (MRTI.NS) shares rose 1.8 percent after reporting better-than-expected January vehicle sales at 114,205 units. Bajaj Auto (BAJA.NS) shares also rose 1.4 percent ahead of its monthly sales data.
'Vishwaroopam' row settled: Kamal Haasan agrees to edit 7 scenes Clean Media Correspondent Chennai, Feb 02 (CMC) Actor-director Kamal Haasan has agreed to run seven scenes that Muslim groups had found objectionable in his movie Vishwaroopam without audio. This paves the way for the movie, which was banned for two weeks by the government, to be finally released in Tamil Nadu, its biggest market. The compromise deal came after a six-hour meeting today between Mr Haasan, government officials, and representatives of Muslim groups in Chennai. Emerging from the meeting, Mr Haasan said, "I will let you know the date of the release soon," and thanked Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa and the home secretary for facilitating the meeting. The chief minister had mooted conciliatory negotiations on Thursday. Mr Hassan and his elder brother Chandra Hassan, who is also the co-producer of the movie, met with 13 representatives of various Muslim organisations in Chennai on Saturday. Sources say the protestors wanted 15 scenes in all to be audio edited. After tough negotiations, which were mediated by Home Secretary R Rajagopal, Mr Haasan agreed to edit seven scenes.
Mr Haasan said, "We will take back our petition and hope that the ban on the film would be lifted."
It will take some time though before the movie can be screened in the state. For starters, the state government will need to formally lift section 144, which it imposed in all 31 districts of the state along with the movie's ban last month. District collectors will have to be notified that the movie has been cleared for screening. Mr Chandra Hassan told CMC that the process of audio-editing and finalising the revised version of the film would take about six hours, after which digital reprints would be ready. But, the movie will now have to compete for screen time with two other big weekend releases - Mani Ratnam's Kadal and actor Vikram's David. Both are running to packed houses and have advance bookings for the next three days.
Mr Haasan has refused to reveal which portions of the movie will be edited. He said that a list identifying the audio edits would be sent to the censor board, which would formally declare them. The Rs. 95-crore blockbuster, which has been cleared by the censor board, first ran into trouble in Tamil Nadu after some groups alleged that it portrayed Muslims in poor light. The state government put its release on hold for two weeks on January 23 citing law and order concerns. The order was upheld by the Madras High Court. Soon protests against the movie spread to neighbouring Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala and screenings of the movie were affected. Meanwhile, the movie's Hindi version, Vishwaroop has been well-received in north India, barring some minor protests in Lucknow.
Hockey India League: Ranchi Rhinos held to a 1-1 draw by Punjab Warriors Clean Media Correspondent Ranchi, Feb 02 (CMC) Jaypee Punjab Warriors and Ranchi Rhinos played out a 1-1 draw at Birsa Munda Astroturf Hockey Stadium in Ranchi in the Hockey India League, here today. After Malak Singh put the visitors ahead, Mandeep Singh scored a superb diving goal to bring the hosts back in the game. Warriors had goalkeeper Jaap Stockmann to keep them in the game, with the Dutchman making at least 10 saves in the match. Punjab Warriors started the match well, and entered the Rhinos` scoring area twice in the first five minutes. Rhinos responded by making their own move, but neither of the goalkeeper was really tested. Warriors earned their first penalty corner in the 10th minute, when SV Sunil was checked by Kothajit. The first drag flick hit the rusher`s leg, resulting in another penalty corner. The second one, struck by Christopher Cirielo, was brilliantly saved by Cortes. Malak Singh eventually put the visitors ahead in the 14th minute. Robert Hammond made a hard long pass, and Malak was in the right place to just deflect the ball past Cortes. Warriors played much more defensively in the second quarter and Rhinos took full advantage. They entered the Warriors circle regularly, and most part of the quarter was played in Warriors half. The equaliser just looked like a matter of time, and eventually arrived in the 33rd minute. A good counter was started by Birendra Lakra, who gave the ball to Nick Wilson. Wilson did the spade work, attracted a number of defenders and passed the ball right in front of the goal where Mandeep Singh made a diving connection to beat Jaap Stockmann and bring the hosts right back in the game. Rhinos could have taken the lead in the third quarter, when Ashley Jackson and Nick Wilson combined well. Nick had a clear strike on goal, which was once again beautifully saved by Stockmann in the 40th minute. Rhinos again missed a chance of going ahead in the 52nd minute when Lakra`s clever pass went to Stanley. Stanley tried to guide the ball past Stockmann, but ended up hitting it just wide. Warriors almost took the lead in the last few seconds of the third quarter when Jamie Dwyer`s cross was deflected by Malak Singh, before Cortes made a fabulous diving goal-line save. Both teams made some good moves in the last 10 minutes. Mauris Fuertse had a chance to score for Rhinos, but his low and powerful reverse hit was kicked out by an ever alert Stockmann. Stockmann made two more brilliant saves in the last two minutes to ensure Warriors got two points from the game.
Hazare warns of fresh stir Clean Media Correspondent New Delhi, Feb 02 (CMC) Anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare on Friday accused the government of “betrayal” in legislating an independent and strong Lokpal bill and warned the government of another prolonged agitation at the Ramlila Grounds if it went ahead with a “weak” Lokpal bill. Separately, Aam Aadmi Party member Arvind Kejriwal charged the government with going back on its word with regard to specific demands on the Lokpal bill. “The government version of Lokpal is toothless. It is the first anti-corruption body in the world without independent powers to investigate,” he said, referring to the CBI and the CVC being kept out of the purview of the Lokpal. At a press conference, Mr. Hazare rejected the amendments to the Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill cleared by the Cabinet on Thursday. The fight against corruption would not be effective unless the government loosened its stranglehold on the CBI and the CVC. “The government control on them is causing corruption,’’ he said, citing examples of the 2G and Commonwealth Games scams and demanded that both be made autonomous like the Election Commission. Keywords: Lokpal bill, Anna Hazare, CBI, CVC, government control, India Against Corruption, Jantantra Morcha.
Suicide Bomber Targets U.S. Embassy in Turkey Clean Media Correspondent ISTANBUL, Feb 01 (CMC) Local security guard was killed and several people wounded on Friday in a suicide bombing at the U.S. embassy in Ankara, in the first deadly assault on an American target in Turkey since 2008. Ambulances and fire engines rushed to the capital's downtown Cankaya district, just a few blocks from the Parliament, while police cordoned off the area in case of a secondary explosion. Television footage showed an embassy door blown off its hinges and debris strewn around the heavily fortified district. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Turkey's government said the bomber was likely connected to a domestic left-wing militant group, which has previously conducted brazen attacks against Turkish security forces and government buildings. Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the attack demonstrated a need for international cooperation against terrorism and was aimed at disturbing Turkey's "peace and prosperity." The American embassy said in a statement that it was working with Turkish authorities to investigate the blast and warned U.S. citizens to avoid traveling close to diplomatic missions in Turkey. In Washington, the White House immediately declared the blast a terrorist attack, extending condolences to the family of the Turkish guard who was killed and to those injured. "A suicide bombing on the perimeter of an embassy is by definition an act of terror," said Jay Carney, the White House press secretary. "It is a terrorist attack." He added that U.S. officials didn't know who was behind the attack, but praised cooperation from Ankara. "Turkey remains one of our strongest partners in the region, a NATO ally," Mr. Carney said. "We have worked shoulder to shoulder with the Turks to counter terror threats… and this will only strengthen our resolve." Analysts said although it remained unclear who was responsible for the bombing, early evidence suggested the operation bore little resemblance to last year's deadly attack by Islamist militants against a U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, which killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. "This attack looks amateurish and not very well organized. It seems very different from the Benghazi operation," said Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat in Istanbul, now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Turkey's interior minister, Muammer Guler, said that although no group had claimed responsibility for the attack, law enforcement authorities had information the bomber was a member was a Turkish man in his 30s who had been previously jailed on terrorism charges and was a known member of the outlawed leftist group, the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front, or DHKP-C. The group, which wants a socialist state and is vehemently anti-American, according to the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center, is listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. The DHKP-C has been relatively quiet in recent years, but has used suicide bombers in the past, including in an attempt on a police station in September, in which a policeman died along with the attacker. Analysts said that militant leftist groups, although marginal, have mobilized against Ankara's cooperation with its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies and Washington during the Syria crisis. Some 50 alleged members of the organization, including nine lawyers who have represented it, were detained in a police operation last month. Turkish media reported that DHKP-C members earlier this month assaulted German troops they mistook for U.S. soldiers who were accompanying a Patriot-missile battery in southern Turkey set to be deployed along the Syrian border next week. "Although such groups represent a marginal political current, they could have an outsized impact. Iranian and Russian media have covered these incidents extensively in order to feed an anti-NATO slant and increase Ankara's political costs for supporting the Syrian opposition," said Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkey Research Program at the Washington Institute, a think tank. "This narrative could spur further unrest in Turkey, amplifying perceptions of instability." Turkey has been attacked by a diverse number of extremist groups in recent years. The U.S. moved its consulate in Istanbul to a safer location on top of a hill from a busy and cramped downtown district after a 2003 al-Qaeda attack on the U.K. consulate a few blocks away. In four bombings during November 2003, the terrorist organization targeted two synagogues, the British consulate and the local headquarters of HSBC HSBA.LN +0.40% bank, killing 67 people. In 2008, three Turkish nationals fired on the policemen outside the U.S. consulate in Istanbul, killing three officers. All three assailants were shot dead on the scene. The attackers were initially speculated to be al-Qaeda members, but local authorities never confirmed the reports, saying only that they were terrorists.
BJP yuva morcha activist files complaint against Shinde Clean Media Correspondent BARNALA, Feb 01 (CMC) Accusing him of spreading hatred among Hindus, a BJP yuva morcha activist has filed a complaint against Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde in a Barnala court against his statement about BJP and RSS on spreading terrorism. Neeraj Kumar, state committee member of BJP yuva morcha has filed complaint in the court chief judicial magistrate Manoj Kumar u/s 500, 501, 502. The court has fixed February 15 to hear about the complaint. Neeraj said "taking strong note of Shinde' statement that BJP and RSS conduct terror training camps to spread terrorism, I have filed a complaint u/s 500, 501 and 502 against him in the court of Barnala CJM". He said by giving such a malicious and highly objectionable statement, the union home minister has tried to play with the sentiments of crores of Hindus. Neeraj said going by the live coverage at various TV channels and reading his statements in newspapers my feelings got hurt. By giving such a defamatory statement, the home minister is liable to be punished and I pray to the court to register case u/s 500, 501 and 502 against him". BJP district president Gurmeet Singh Bawa and senior party leader Dhiraj Kumar too echoing similar sentiments said we are with Neeraj in this complaint as the court has fixed February 15 to hear about the complaint.
Cabinet OKs anti-rape law ordinance; death penalty in extreme cases Clean Media Correspondent New Delhi, Feb 01 (CMC) Rape that leads to death of the victim or leaving her in a vegetative state can now attract death penalty under an ordinance cleared by the Union Cabinet on Friday night in a bid to fast-track stringent amendments to the criminal laws to check crime against women. The ordinance, based on the recommendations of the Justice JS Verma Committee and going beyond, proposes to replace the word 'rape' with 'sexual assault' to expand the definition of all types of sexual crimes against women. It also proposes enhanced punishment for other crimes against women like stalking, voyeurism, acid attacks, indecent gestures like words and inappropriate touch and brings into its ambit 'marital rape'. The Union Cabinet, at a specially-convened meeting just three weeks ahead of the Budget Session of Parliament, went beyond the Verma Committee's recommendation by providing for capital punishment in the cases where rape leads to death of the victim or leaves her in "persistent vegetative state".
In such cases, the minimum punishment will be 20 years in jail which can be extended to the natural life of the convict or death, sources said, adding discretion will be with the court. Being brought against the backdrop of the gang-rape and brutal assault of a 23-year-old girl in Delhi in December, the ordinance entails changes in the criminal law by amending Indian Penal Code (IPC), Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the Evidence Act. The government will now recommend to President Pranab Mukherjee to promulgate the ordinance with immediate effect. "We believe that this is a progressive piece of legislation and is consistent with felt sensitivities of the nation in the aftermath of outrageous gang-rape in Delhi," Law Minister Ashwani Kumar said. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had on Wednesday assured Justice Verma, a former Chief Justice of India, that the government would be prompt in pursuing the recommendations of the committee he headed. The Verma committee had not suggested lowering the legally defined age of "juvenile" from 18 to 16 years, a demand by women activists after one of the accused in the Delhi gang-rape was found to be below 18 years of age. In its recommendations, the committee came down heavily on the administration, including police and citizens, for not helping the grievously wounded young woman and her male friend who were thrown off the bus after the gang-rape. It also took an open dig at the "peculiarity" of the Delhi government of not having the power over police in the city and said this "ambiguity" needs to be removed to maintain law and order and ensure accountability.