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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
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N A T I O N

It was fake encounter, admits Gujarat Government
New Delhi, March 23
In a startling revelation the Gujarat Government counsel today admitted in the Supreme Court that the killing of Muslim youth Shorabuddin by the police in 2005, suspecting him to be a Lashkar-e-Toiba operative plotting the assassination of Chief Minister Narendra Modi, was a fake encounter.

Khushwant, Vohra among 58 Padma awardees
President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam presents Padma Vibhushan to N.N. Vohra at Rashtapati Bhavan in New Delhi on Friday. New Delhi, March 23
Eminent jurist Fali S. Nariman and novelist Khushwant Singh were among 58 public personalities presented with Padma awards by President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam here today.

President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam presents Padma Vibhushan to N.N. Vohra at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on Friday. — Tribune photo by Mukesh Aggarwal

 




EARLIER STORIES



Iran’s N-programme peaceful: Khatami
New Delhi, March 23
Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami attacked the US for pressurising his country over its nuclear programme and said without threat or use of power, “we can solve this problem in a peaceful way.”

Q opposes extradition
El Dorado, March 23
The trial for extradition of Ottavio Quattrocchi wanted in India in the Bofors case began in a local court here today with the Italian businessman strongly opposing it and the CBI expressing confidence about its success.

PM opens arms to neighbours
New Delhi, March 23
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has reassured India’s neighbours that it wants them to feel secure and prosper as their prosperity guarantees the welfare of the people of this country.

Panel on troop cut in J&K likely
New Delhi, March 23
Amid indications of a thaw in the relations between the People's Democratic Party and the Congress in Jammu and Kashmir, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today made it clear that there was no question of marginalising professional advice in deciding on the PDP's demand for the reduction of troops from the civilian areas of the state.

Wife recounts killing of Pramod
Mumbai, March 23
The widow of late Bharatiya Janata Party leader Pramod Mahajan today recounted the killing of her husband last year.

Another PIL makes it hot for Lalu
Patna, March 23
Even before RJD supremo Lalu Prasad could get his act together to reply to the notice served on him and his wife Rabri Devi in the Rs46 lakh case by the Patna High Court yesterday, his party, along with other opposition parties, faced another PIL in the court for prolonged boycott of the Assembly.

UP: Cong fails on alliance
New Delhi, March 23
It is now official. The Congress has failed to forge any alliances for next month’s Uttar Pradesh assembly polls and will now go it alone.

Mulayam’s assets
Counsel declines to appear sans notice
New Delhi, March 23
A reconstituted supreme court bench to hear the review petition in Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav’s assets probe case today could not take it up as it faced a peculiar situation when informed that counsel for petitioner Vishwanath Chaturvedi, on whose PIL the CBI inquiry was ordered, declined to accept advance copy of the petition filed by Chief Minister’s son Akhilesh.

TN Budget
A populist move
Chennai, March 23
The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) government in Tamil Nadu today announced a populist Budget, offering sops to the middle class, farmers and students, a metro rail project for the city and initiatives to boost the thriving IT industry in the state.

Salman case hearing on April 27
Jodhpur, March 23
The hearing on Bollywood actor Salman Khan’s appeals in the two poaching cases, involving two black bucks and a chinkara, could not take place in the lower court here today due to the ongoing strike by lawyers.



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It was fake encounter, admits Gujarat Government
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, March 23
In a startling revelation the Gujarat Government counsel today admitted in the Supreme Court that the killing of Muslim youth Shorabuddin by the police in 2005, suspecting him to be a Lashkar-e-Toiba operative plotting the assassination of Chief Minister Narendra Modi, was a fake encounter.

A joint team of the anti-terrorist squad of the Gujarat police and special task force of Rajasthan had allegedly killed Shorabuddin after making him and his wife alight from a bus on way to Sangli from Ahmedabad. His brother Rubabuddin’s petition for probing the killing was listed before a Bench, headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan.

Senior advocate K.T.S. Tulsi, appearing for the Gujarat Government admitted that it was a fake encounter and action was being taken against the police officials involved from both states.

Rubabuddin had also alleged that after the killing of his brother, his wife also went missing and apparently had been eliminated by the police for fear of being exposed. He added that co-passenger Tulsi Ram Prajapati, who had brought to light the killing, was also found dead under mysterious circumstances.

Noted journalist B.G. Verghese also filed a PIL seeking probe into the alleged 21 fake encounters in Gujarat but the court said unless some specific material was placed on record, a general direction for inquiry on unsubstantiated charges could not be issued.

Meanwhile, in a Gujarat riots related case being heard by another three-judge Bench, headed by Justice Arijit Pasayat, amucus curiea senior advocate Harish Salve placed on record an assessment report on major violent incidents with a suggestion that an independent inquiry in at least four of them was imminent.

The four cases cited pertained to large-scale violence in Gulberga Society, where a Congress MP was also killed.

The court directed the Gujarat Government, NHRC and NGOs to submit responses to the suggestion of amicus curiea by April 5 and said the case would be listed for appropriate direction on April 16.

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Khushwant, Vohra among 58 Padma awardees

New Delhi, March 23
Eminent jurist Fali S. Nariman and novelist Khushwant Singh were among 58 public personalities presented with Padma awards by President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam here today.

Both Nariman and Singh received the Padma Vibhushan at a function at the Ashoka Hall of Rashtrapati Bhawan.

The other Padma Vibhushan awardees are former cabinet secretary Naresh Chandra, former home secretary N.N. Vohra and V. Krishnamurthy, chairman of the National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council.

Among those present on the occasion were Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his cabinet colleagues and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

Khushwant Singh (92) was second on the list of awardees and left the venue in a wheelchair immediately after the President honoured him as he was apparently unwell.

In all, 62 of the 120 awardees for 2006 were honoured today. Five of them were conferred with the Padma Vibhushan, 14 with the Padma Bhushan and 39 with the Padma Shri.

Among the Padma Bhushan recipients today were Ela Gandhi (South Africa), Suzuki Motor Corporation CEO Osamu Suzuki and V. Mohini Giri.

Pandit Rajan Misra and his brother Pandit Sajan Misra (both Padma Bhushan) received their honours, walking up to the President together.

The Padma Shri recipients included Geeta Chandran (dancer), Kiran Karnik (NASSCOM chief), M. Mohan Babu (actor), singer Remo Fernandes, Tamil lyricist Kavignar Vaalee and social activist Teesta Setalvad. — UNI

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Iran’s N-programme peaceful: Khatami
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 23
Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami attacked the US for pressurising his country over its nuclear programme and said without threat or use of power, “we can solve this problem in a peaceful way.”

Iran’s nuclear programme was a peaceful one and had nothing to with nuclear weapons, Khatami told the India Today conclave here today. “There was no need to refer the Iranian nuclear programme to the UN Security Council.”

Stressing that the US approach was unilateral, Khatami warned that exerting pressure could worsen the situation.

“Iran should not be deprived of peaceful atomic energy. We don’t want to have nuclear weapons. Iran is ready to sit at the negotiating table. It requires no precondition. It only requires goodwill,” Khatami said.

Khatami, who was president of Iran from 1997 to 2005, stressed that “we don’t have any special relationship with any country on nuclear research. Iran would not help any country which can be a threat to any other country.”

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Q opposes extradition

El Dorado, March 23
The trial for extradition of Ottavio Quattrocchi wanted in India in the Bofors case began in a local court here today with the Italian businessman strongly opposing it and the CBI expressing confidence about its success.

Less than two months after he was detained in Iguazo International Airport, about 100 km in the Misiones province, on an Interpol Red Corner notice, Quattrocchi appeared before the judge in the First Court in the city.

Asked by judge Hachi Rodoi whether he would like to be extradited to India, the businessman, accused of taking bribes in the Bofors Howitzer gun deal, said no.

The court adjourned hearing to an unspecified date when both Quattrocchi and the CBI will be asked to present evidence and arguments, a procedure that is expected to take between two and four months to complete.

After the hour-long hearing, Quattrocchi refused to make any statement to the media and left for the Argentinian capital Buenos Aires, about 1,500 km from here. He has been given bail and asked to confine himself to Buenos Aires ever since he was released from detention in Misiones province. — PTI

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PM opens arms to neighbours
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 23
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has reassured India’s neighbours that it wants them to feel secure and prosper as their prosperity guarantees the welfare of the people of this country.

“I want India to be more open to its neighbours. I want our neighbours to feel secure and confident that in India they have a well-wisher. We see their prosperity as a guarantee of ours,” Manmohan Singh observed in a talk on “Challenges for the Brave New World: Can India take the lead?” at the annual India Today conclave here today.

The Prime Minister stressed India was one of the frontrunners in showing the world the way forward in dealing with one of the biggest challenges facing mankind in the modern world. The biggest challenge is not just preventing the so-called clash of civilisations but creating a confluence of civilisations.

India, he noted, was a confluence of civilisations which believed in an open, pluralistic society within the framework of liberal and secular democracy. It has shown the world how to deal with complex heterogeneity of modern society.

He had no doubt that both in domestic politics and global conflict there was no issue which could not be resolved through dialogue and discussion.

“The approach of seeking an eye for an eye, as Gandhiji taught us, will only leave us all blind,” he added.

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Panel on troop cut in J&K likely
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 23
Amid indications of a thaw in the relations between the People's Democratic Party and the Congress in Jammu and Kashmir, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today made it clear that there was no question of marginalising professional advice in deciding on the PDP's demand for the reduction of troops from the civilian areas of the state.

Responding to a query during the India Today conclave here, the Prime Minister said that professional advice, wherever relevant, would be given full scope and there was no question of marginalising such advice. That misunderstanding or misapprehension had no basis, he said.

At a luncheon meeting with PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed here yesterday, the Prime Minister had not given any assurance for troop reduction in the state but had agreed to continue discussions. The Prime Minister today said that the government was in process of discussing the matter with the Mufti and he would not like to conduct a dialogue through the media or public fora.

The PDP leader, who put up a strong case for party's demands which include the withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act and vacation of agricultural land held by the security forces, appeared hopeful of some concessions from the Centre. The Mufti has stayed back in Delhi for any consultations with the government.

Sources said the Centre was likely to set up a panel to look into issues of troop reduction in civilian areas and repeal of anti-terror laws in Jammu and Kashmir.

They said the demands of the PDP were likely to be met by giving greater role to the police in the civilian areas which have seen minimum level of violence and looking at the possibility of withdrawing the Special Powers Act from such places. The government is also likely to take some measures to meet PDP's demand relating to the vacation of agricultural land.

Sources said the PDP leadership, which would meet on March 25 to discuss the response of the Centre on its demands and decide about its continuance in the coalition government, expects "concrete measures." 

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Wife recounts killing of Pramod
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, March 23
The widow of late Bharatiya Janata Party leader Pramod Mahajan today recounted the killing of her husband last year.

Taking the witness stand in the sessions court today, Rekha Mahajan said Pramod's brother Pravin fired several shots at her husband on April 22, 2006. "Pravin Mahajan had a pistol in his hand and I saw him fire shots at Pramod with it," Rekha told the court.

Rekha who rushed to the family's living room on hearing the first few shots said she immediately jumped between the two brothers in order to protect her husband.

She then forced Pravin out of the room. However, Pravin kept trying to shoot at Pramod but could not do so as the gun was jammed, she recounted.

Rekha also identified the weapon used by Pravin in court.

Rekha, who fainted in court yesterday during her testimony, appeared more calm and composed initially today. But she remained emotional and broke down afterwards.

A doctor who examined her in court said she was not fit to continue giving her statement.

The hearing has been adjourned to March 26.

Rekha was accompanied by a number of relatives, including her daughter Poonam and Prakash Mahajan, brother of Pramod and Pravin.

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Another PIL makes it hot for Lalu

Patna, March 23
Even before RJD supremo Lalu Prasad could get his act together to reply to the notice served on him and his wife Rabri Devi in the Rs46 lakh case by the Patna High Court yesterday, his party, along with other opposition parties, faced another PIL in the court for prolonged boycott of the Assembly.

The RJD-led opposition was boycotting the proceedings of the Assembly for the past 10 days, demanding the withdrawal of the censure motion against five opposition MLAs for their alleged misconduct in the House.

Patna High Court lawyer Shruti Singh on Thursday filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the high court against the RJD-led opposition leaders' decision to boycott the Assembly for a prolonged period of time.

In her PIL, Shruti observed that these legislators and councillors were being paid from the taxpayers’ money and if they failed to show up in the Assembly for a long period of time, their salaries should not be paid to them.

Meanwhile, Rabri today led the Opposition to meet the Governor to apprise him of the high-handedness of the NDA government. "We exposed them (ruling NDA) for what they are and asked the Governor to intervene," she said. — TNS

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UP: Cong fails on alliance
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 23
It is now official. The Congress has failed to forge any alliances for next month’s Uttar Pradesh assembly polls and will now go it alone.

The Congress had held a series of meetings with Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) and the V.P Singh-Raj Babbar-led Jan Morcha in an effort to arrive at an electoral pact but to little avail.

“The talks have not materialised so we will be contesting these elections on our own,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi announced today.

Party sources said the dialogue broke down as the RLD and the Jan Morcha had staked claim on a large number of seats. The Congress has gone ahead and announced the names of 229 candidates so far. The Congress named Ashwani Sharma from Atrauli in the list of 34 names it put out today.

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Mulayam’s assets
Counsel declines to appear sans notice
S.S. Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, March 23
A reconstituted supreme court bench to hear the review petition in Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav’s assets probe case today could not take it up as it faced a peculiar situation when informed that counsel for petitioner Vishwanath Chaturvedi, on whose PIL the CBI inquiry was ordered, declined to accept advance copy of the petition filed by Chief Minister’s son Akhilesh.

Since the appearance of Chaturvedi’s counsel was necessary for hearing of the review petition, which was unusually put up for open court hearing, the new bench of Justice C.K. Thakker and Justice Altamas Kabir had to adjourn the case.

The case had mired into a controversy after Justice A.R. Lakshmanan, who retired on March 21, had withdrawn from the bench last week citing the receipt of a threatening anonymous letter asking him not to change the order for CBI inquiry against Mulayam Singh and his family members into their assets.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Akhilesh (Lok Sabha MP) said Chaturvedi’s counsel D.K. Garg had declined to accept the advance copy of the review petition.

But when the court asked Salve whether he had any proof to show that the petitioner’s counsel had refused to accept the advance copy, he could not produce any and merely said a request was made to him.

The court had to adjourn the case for March 26 with assurance to Mulayam’s counsel that the copy would be served officially to Garg to ensure his presence.

When contacted later by The Tribune, Garg said as per the supreme court’s rules of procedure, after a final judgement has been passed by the apex court in a case, it is deemed to be over and out of the court. If any review petition is filed and it is listed for open court hearing, the petitioner will appear only when notice is issued to him.

“Since no notice has been issued by the court so far on the review petition, there is no occasion for me to appear as my relation with my client has ended with the final verdict in the case. I can appear only if on receiving fresh notice on the review petition my client chooses to engage me again. This is the rule,” Garg said.

He said the review petitions are normally heard in chambers and in that case too intimation is sent to the parties by the court registry officially.

“Review petition is not a normal process. It is like asking for the moon after a case has got finality in the supreme court,” he asserted.

Akhilesh, who is also under the CBI scanner for allegedly acquiring assets disproportionate to his known sources of income along with his wife Dimple and step-brother Prateek Yadav, had sought review of the apex court judgement delivered by Justice Lakshmanan and Justice Kabir on various grounds.

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TN Budget
A populist move
Arup Chanda
Tribune News Service

Chennai, March 23
The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) government in Tamil Nadu today announced a populist Budget, offering sops to the middle class, farmers and students, a metro rail project for the city and initiatives to boost the thriving IT industry in the state.

Presenting the Budget 2007-08 at the state Assembly today, Tamil Nadu finance minister K. Anbazhagan announced exemption and reduction of VAT on certain items but imposed 4 per cent tax on many items used by the industry, which might lead to an increase in prices of superior commodities.

The Budget showed a total fiscal deficit of Rs 7,800.56 crore, a revenue deficit of Rs 101.38 crore and an uncovered overall deficit of Rs 3.75 crore.

To ease the difficulties of the city commuters, he announced a Rs 9,000 crore metro rail project as part of the mass rapid transport system which would stretch over a distance of 49 km but only 5 km underground.

To help the farmers, he announced a 2 per cent reduction in co-operative farm loans from 7 to 5 per cent and said that farmers would be taken to countries like Australia and Israel to expose them to modern agricultural techniques practiced there.

The state finance minister exempted VAT on kerosene pressure stoves, fertiliser mixture made out of chemical fertilisers, seeds for sowing purposes, pencils, ball pens, ink, pillow covers, bedsheets and towels, note books, geometry boxes, refined oil used for cooking.

VAT has been reduced from 12.5 per cent to 4 per cent on unbranded coffee powder, masala powders, unbranded ghee, plastic goods, audio cassettes, school bags and used cars. Anbazhagan announced that IT parks would be set up at Coimbatore, Madurai, Tiruchirappalli, Salem and Tirunelveli.

He stated that a working women’s hostel complex would be built in the state capital with the objective of providing safe accommodation to women working in IT companies with the help of the Central Government.

However, he certainly did not please the state industry captains as he imposed a 4 per cent tax on superior kerosene oil, molasses, industrial gases and textile machinery.

Anbazhagan also announced setting up of a Special Economic Zone in the backward Virudhunagar district.

He stated that two shipyards in the private sector at a cost of Rs 3,700 crore at Ennore and Cuddalore would be established 

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Salman case hearing on April 27

Jodhpur, March 23
The hearing on Bollywood actor Salman Khan’s appeals in the two poaching cases, involving two black bucks and a chinkara, could not take place in the lower court here today due to the ongoing strike by lawyers.

The next hearing would take place on April 27. Salman Khan appeared in the court here in connection with the case. District and Sessions court judge Goverdhen Singh Surana was to hear his appeals in two different poaching cases.

Challaned

Salman Khan was in trouble once again on Friday this time for overspeeding here.

The Jodhpur traffic police issued a challan against Salman’s driver for high speeding while he was on his way to the court for marking his attendance in two poaching cases against him. — UNI

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