A T E S T N E W S
Delhi gang-rape case moved to fast-track court
NEW DELHI: The trial in the gangrape and murder of a 23-year-old girl in a moving bus in New Delhi was on Thursday committed to sessions and proceedings in the fast track court would commence from January 21.
Additional Sessions Judge Yogesh Khanna, who will be heading the fast track court, will conduct the case against the five accused.
The case was committed to the sessions judge by Metropolitan Magistrate Namrita Aggarwal, who conducted the proceedings in-camera and all the accused were on Thursday supplied with documents related to the case.
Defence counsel M.L. Sharma, V.K. Anand, Vivek Sharma and A.P. Singh told reporters outside the court that they have also received the e-challan copy of the charge sheet and all the documents related to the case has also been supplied to them.
The counsel also said that the court has rejected prosecution’s plea for bringing the accused in handcuffs.
The court had earlier fixed today for scrutiny of the documents which has been completed.
The five accused — bus driver Ram Singh, his brother Mukesh, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta and Akshay Singh
— were produced before the court.
The case of the sixth accused — a minor — is being heard by a Juvenile Justice Board.
The victim, a paramedical student, was brutally raped and assaulted in a moving bus here on the night of December 16, 2012 and she died of injuries on December 29 in a Singapore hospital. — PTI
Govt raises LPG cap to 9 cylinders per year
NEW DELHI: In a mix of populist and reform measures, government today raised the cap on supply of subsidised cooking gas (LPG) to nine cylinders per household from six and virtually deregulated diesel prices allowing "small" hikes over a period of time. Diesel prices in all probability may be hiked by Rs 1.50-2 per litre in the first instance that can be as early as tonight following the decision taken by the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA) headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The CCPA however left LPG and kerosene prices unchanged.
"The CCPA considered the issue of raising the cap from six to nine and the CCPA has agreed and raised the cap from six cylinders (per household in a year) to nine," Oil Minister M Veerappa Moily told reporters here.
"As far as diesel is concerned, oil marketing companies have been authorised to make price correction from time to time," he said. "It (price correction) can commence even from today."
However, Finance Minister P Chidambaram maintained that the oil companies have been allowed to make "small correction ... I am looking at same subsidy bill as was expected earlier".
Administered diesel price has always been a sensitive issue with the fuel being consumed in large measure by public transport and freight carriers. It is always feared that any hike in its rates can lead to a cascading effect on prices.
Price of diesel was last revised on September 14 when it was hiked by a steep Rs 5.63 per litre. At present, diesel costs Rs 47.15 per litre in Delhi.
Subsidised LPG costs Rs 410.50 per 14.2-kg cylinder and any household requirement beyond the new limit of 9 cylinders will cost a near market price of Rs 895.50 per bottle.
The government had in September capped the supply of subsidised cooking gas to six cylinders per household in a year, with a view to checking diversion to unintended beneficiaries.
However the decision met with widespread protests as only 44 per cent of population used six or less cylinders in a year.
With today’s decision, consumers will get five subsidised cylinders instead of the previously mandated three in the period up to March 31, 2013. From April 1, 2013 they will get nine cylinders in a year.
Moily said there will be no change in price of LPG and kerosene.
The increase in the LPG cap would mean an additional subsidy outgo of Rs. 9,300 crore annually.
On diesel front, sources said the government has kept the quantum of hike and the timing a secret to avoid petrol pumps stopping sales to make quick profits.
Oil Secretary G C Chaturvedi said CCPA has authorised oil firms to make "small changes over a period of time".
"There was no discussion on the quantum of price increase or the period over which these changes are to be effected. It has been left to the oil companies," he said.
He, however emphatically stated that the government had not deregulated diesel prices. "If we are to deregulate, then diesel price will have to be raised by Rs. 9.60 per litre, which is not the case. Only a small quantum of change has been permitted over a period of time."
Asked if it was partial deregulation, he said "it wasn’t even partial deregulation."
The government, he said, will continue to subsidise diesel, cooking gas and kerosene.
"The finance ministry will meet all of the under recoveries (loss)," he said.
State-owned oil companies sell diesel at a loss of Rs 9.60 per litre, kerosene at Rs 30.64 a litre and LPG at Rs 490.50 per 14.2-kg cylinder.
For the full 2012-13 fiscal, they are projected to lose about Rs 165,000 crore.
'No objection to govt's proposal'
The Election Commission has granted no objection to the government's proposal for an increase in the cap of subsidised LPG cylinders from six to nine in a year.
The decision was taken at a full commission meeting held on Thursday under the chairmanship of Chief Election Commissioner VS Sampath, and communicated to the Union Cabinet, which met to take a call on the matter.
The government had on Wednesday written to the Commission, seeking its view on the issue of raising the cap on LPG cylinders since the Model Code of Conduct is in operation in Nagaland, Meghalaya and Tripura which are going to polls next month.
During the last phase of elections in Gujarat in December, the Commission had taken a serious note of the government's announcement regarding a possible raise in the number of subsidised LPG cylinders each family can have in a year.
The poll body had then asked the government against making any such announcement in future without its approval when the model code is in operation. — PTI
PM to decide on talks with Pakistan: Khurshid
NEW DELHI: Talks between India and Pakistan have not been frozen, external affairs minister Salman Khurshid said on Thursday while stating that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would decide on Islamabad's offer of foreign minister-level talks.
"The differences have to be resolved and for that we need to proceed with wisdom, keeping in mind the interest and sentiments of the nation. We will await the prime minister's direction in this regard," Khurshid told CNN-IBN news channel.
"Having said that, it is certainly something that we noted and something that we would look very carefully and let us see what is acceptable. Talks have not frozen between India and Pakistan."
Pakistan foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar has called for talks with Khurshid, saying that continued tension along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir was not in the interest of South Asian peace.
Khurshid said any problem between the two countries had to be solved by them only.
"What we have always maintained that there is a problem and we have to resolve among ourselves and we cannot be hoping and working towards finding somebody else to step in and resolve it."
Khurshid said that India was hopeful that Pakistan had understood the "strong message" of the Prime Minister, who Tuesday said it could not "be business as usual" following the brutal killing of two Indian soldiers near the LoC, and would respond positively.
"An atmosphere is needed for the talks to go on. We are hopeful that Pakistan will understand the message sent by our Prime Minister," he said.
"Some signals are positive. What we heard from the military is welcoming. But we have to assess the overall situation," he added.
Ties between the two neighbours have been strained ever since the January 6 killing of a Pakistani soldier allegedly in firing by Indian troops.
Two days later, Pakistani soldiers brutally killed two Indian soldiers, including beheading one of them, near the LoC. — IANS
Not enough proof to arrest Pak PM, official tells SC
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's anti-graft body NAB's chief on Thursday told the Supreme Court that the evidence in a corruption case involving Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf was weak and unlikely to lead to conviction, a statement that irked the top court which directed him to submit to it all records of the investigation.
National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman Fasih Bokhari's statement came two days after the apex court directed the anti-corruption agency to arrest the Prime Minister and more than 20 other suspects in connection with alleged graft in the rental power projects. Appearing before a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, Bokhari said an investigation report on alleged corruption in rental power projects, submitted earlier to the apex court, was inaccurate.
Bokhari said the evidence gathered so far by NAB investigators was weak and that the allegation about the power projects causing losses to the national exchequer had not been proved. The investigation officers had worked in a hurry and did not provide adequate proof in their reports, he said.
If a case is filed on the basis of the investigations done so far, the suspects will be acquitted, he added.
Bokhari's remarks angered the bench, which said the stand taken by the NAB did not reflect the reality.
The Chief Justice directed Bokhari and other NAB officials to submit all records of their investigation so far to the Supreme Court.
NAB prosecutor K K Agha argued that the apex court could not see the agency's investigation records, but the bench maintained that the records should be submitted on Thursday.
NAB officials said the records were with an official in Rawalpindi and would be submitted to the Supreme Court's Registrar.
Chief Justice Chaudhry remarked that some persons involved in the rental power projects case seemed to think they were "above the law" and made it clear that the apex court was determined to take action in the matter.
Officials and federal ministers have already said that premier Ashraf is unlikely to be arrested soon as several procedures will have to be completed before an arrest warrant can be issued.
Legal experts have said Ashraf can continue to perform his duties as the chief executive even if he is arrested.
The graft charges against Ashraf date back to his tenure as power minister, when contracts were signed for several rental power projects as part of the PPP-led government's strategy to overcome a crippling energy shortage. Though Ashraf was dropped during a cabinet reshuffle in 2011, he remained close to President Asif Ali Zardari. Ashraf became Prime Minister after the exit of Yousuf Raza Gilani, who was convicted of contempt by the Supreme Court last year for refusing to write to Swiss authorities to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.
The apex court began investigating the rental power plants in 2009 following a complaint of corruption from PML-Q parliamentarian Makhdoom Faisal Saleh Hayat.
The court had directed NAB to take action against all government functionaries involved in clearing the power projects, including ministers who held the power portfolio since 2006 and officials of state-run power utilities who derived financial benefits from the contracts. — PTI