L A T E S T      N E W S

SC questions status of LoP post in Parliament

NEW DELHI: In a significant development, the Supreme Court today decided to go into the issue of interpreting the provision of Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the Lok Sabha in the matter of selection of statutory bodies, when there is no recognised LoP.

Asking the government to make its stand clear within two weeks, a Bench headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha emphasised the importance of the post, saying the Leader of Opposition conveys the voice of representation different from the government in the House.

It said LoP is a very important component (under the Lokpal law) and the issue needs objective consideration in view of current political dispensation when there is no Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha.

Interestingly the issue has cropped up in the court at a time when the leader of the Congress group has been denied recognition as Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha.

The court was scrutinising provisions of the Lokpal law which says that the selection committee for choosing the anti-corruption watchdog should also include LoP in the Lok Sabha.

The Bench observed that the Act cannot remain in cold storage because of lack of LoP and some interpretation is needed on the issue. It raised a question whether the leader of a largest Opposition party can be granted the status of LoP for the purpose of the Act.

The Bench granted the government two weeks time to make its stand clear and come prepared on next date of hearing on September 9, saying that matter is very significant.

"The question is this committee must be constituted. LoP is a very important component, as a matter of fact very, very important. It gives objective considerations (in selection process)," the Bench said.

The apex court had earlier this month rejected a PIL seeking grant of Leader of Opposition status to the Congress Party, saying that decisions taken by the Speaker are not amenable to judicial review.

The Bench also observed that the issue of LoP is relevant not only in the Lokpal law but also in other existing and incoming legislations, and the issue cannot be prolonged.

It rejected government's plea which sought four weeks time to get prepared on the issue. The government informed the court that the Act is under review and some provisions of the Lokpal law can be amended. The government, however, refused to specify what is under review.

As the second largest party in the Lok Sabha with 44 seats, the Congress had demanded LoP post for it but the Speaker has rejected it saying it does not have the requisite 10 per cent of seats — 55 in a House of 543. — PTIBack


















Power rates up by 2.74 pc in Punjab

CHANDIGARH: Power regulator PSERC today announced a 2.74 per cent hike in power tariff across all consumer categories in Punjab for the year 2014-15.

This is considered one of the lowest increases in the past several years and was undertaken through "heavily" slashing the power utility's losses.

Besides, the power regulator also announced consumer friendly measures such as a rebate of Rs 1 per unit in tariff for consumers to encourage them to consume more energy.

The Punjab power utility is estimating a surplus power situation during the winter season.

Announcing the power tariff for 2014-15 fiscal, Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC) Chairperson Romila Dubey said, "there is an increase of 2.74 per cent in power tariff for the year 2014-15 to meet (PSPCL's) consolidated revenue gap of Rs 593.63 crore for the year." The "minimal" increase in power tariff was possible as PSERC brought down the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited's (PSPCL) projected consolidated revenue gap of Rs 15,550.64 crore to mere Rs 593.63 crore.

This is after "true-up" of the PSPCL's financials for the year 2010-11 and 2011-12 and review of 2013-14.

Dubey attributed the delay in the announcement of power tariff for 2014-15 to the code of conduct coming in place ahead of Lok Sabha polls, non-passing of the state budget and then the by-polls in Punjab.

She further said that the commission was ready with the power tariff, but it did not receive the consent from Punjab government with regard to bearing power subsidy burden.

Not announcing any hike in tariff for the first slab (0-100 units) of domestic supply consumers, the commission raised the power tariff in the range of 11-13 paise per kWh for all categories except agricultural pumpset (AP) category which was raised higher.

The power tariff for AP or agriculture category was increased by 31 paise per unit.

The new power tariff will be effective from April, 2014.

However, the power regulator has worked out the total power subsidy at Rs 4,951.14 crore including free power to farmers at Rs 4,454.54 crore and Rs 654.86 crore for free supply up to 200 units to SC domestic consumers and non-SC BPL consumers per month with connected load up to 1000 watts for the year 2014-15.

The power subsidy burden on account of free power to farmers is estimated lesser for 2014-15 as against subsidy burden of Rs 4,778.13 crore in 2013-14 as the power regulator determined the AP power consumption from AP feeders rather than taking sample meters into consideration.

Among new consumer friendly measures, the power regulator announced rebate of Rs 1 per unit (kWh) for all categories except street lighting and AP categories for consuming power exceeding the threshold limit.

The threshold limit will be calculated after considering consumers' power consumption in the past three years. Time of Day Tariff, which was introduced last year for large supply consumers, has also been offered for medium supply consumers by the power regulator.

With an intention of reducing load and power cuts, Time of Day (ToD) tariff for large supply industrial category was introduced last year in the state whereby a rebate on normal tariff was announced for consuming power during off peak hours (10 pm till 6 am).

Though ToD will be optional for both large supply and medium supply, the commission has raised the rebate available under ToD tariff from Rs 1 per unit to Rs 1.50 per unit for large supply.

Medium supply consumers will get rebate of Rs 1 per unit for using power during off peak hours, Dubey said.

Transmission charges for 'open access' consumers have been reduced from 27 paise kW h to 19 paise kWh while wheeling charges were increased from 119 paise to 121 paise per kWh.

The regulator also announced the introduction of kVAh tariff for large supply, medium supply, bulk supply, railway traction and domestic supply (load more than 100 kW) and NRS (load more than 100 kW).

"The introduction of kVAh tariff will motivate consumers of these categories to have higher power factor which would help in improving system parameters and reduce technical losses," she said.

The regulator also introduced 'contract demand system' for medium supply industrial category which will facilitate consumers to install the load as per their requirement without any upper limit of 11 Kw.

The power regulator also announced rationalisation of late payment surcharge with effect from October, 2014.

The Commission also approved capital investment plan of Rs 500 crore for transmission business of PSTCL and Rs 2,000 crore for PSPCL for strengthening their infrastructure to improve service quality.

Transmission & Distribution losses for 2014-15 have been estimated at 16 per cent as against 17 per cent for last fiscal. –PTIBack





















Cabinet decides to reduce SGPC members in
Nanded Takht Board

MUMBAI: The representation of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) in the Takht Hazur Sahib Board at Nanded will be reduced, with the Maharashtra Cabinet approving the report of the Bhatia committee.

The Bhatia committee, headed by former High Court Justice (retd) J S Bhatia, has recommended increasing the representation of local Sikhs in the Board.
The committee had been constituted by the state to recommend amendments in the 
Takht Sri Hazur Abchalnagar Sahib Board Nanded Act, 1956.

The Cabinet decision last night paves way for the formation of a new gurudwara Board to manage the affairs of the Takht at Nanded.

Accordingly, there will now be 21 members in the Board instead of 17 earlier. Also, instead of the earlier four nominated SGPC members, now there will be only one SGPC nominated member, an official said after the Cabinet meeting.

Of the 21 members, 18 will be elected of which nine will be from Nanded district. Two will be nominated by the Maharashtra government and one by the SGPC.

The Nanded Collector will be on the Board. All members, except the Collector, will be Sikhs. — PTI Back

















Pak targets two border out posts in Jammu

JAMMU: Violating the ceasefire for the 14th time in the past 12 days, Pakistani troops today targeted two border out posts (BoPs) along the International Border in Jammu sector drawing retaliation from Indian troops.

Pakistani Rangers resorted to indiscriminate and unprovoked firing on two BoPs along IB in R S Pura sub-sector of Jammu district around 0100 hours, a BSF officer said.
BSF troops guarding two BoPs along IB, took positions and responded with equal caliber weapons which resulted in intermittent exchange of fire, which continued till 0500 hrs.

This is the 14th ceasefire violation along the Indo-Pak border during the past 12 days, and the 16th ceasefire violation in August.

On August 20, Pakistani troops had violated the ceasefire twice in Mangalnarh forward belt of Rajouri's Manjakote sub-sector and Hamirpur sub-sector of Poonch district.

On August 19, Pakistani troops had violated the ceasefire twice by resorting to firing at Indian forward posts along the LoC in Hamirpur sub-sector of Poonch district On the intervening night of August 17 and 18, Pakistani troops resorted to heavy night-long mortar shelling and firing in Arnia and R S Pura sub-sectors of Jammu district, in which one villager was injured.

Pakistan troops had violated the ceasefire twice on August 17 by resorting to heavy firing with automatic and small arms along Arnia sub-sector along IB and Hamirpur sub-sector along Line of Control in Jammu and Poonch districts.

On August 14, Pakistani troops had resorted to unprovoked small arms and automatic weapons firing on Indian posts in Poonch district. There were two other violations in Balakote and Hamirpur sectors in Poonch on August 14.

On August 13, Pakistani troops had violated the ceasefire by resorting to firing on forward posts along LoC in Poonch district, in which one jawan was injured.
Pakistan violated the ceasefire on August 12 by firing on 5 BoPs and civilian areas along the IB in Jammu district.

On August 11, two BSF jawans were among four persons injured when Pakistani troops violated the ceasefire in Arnia and R S Pura belts of Jammu district and on August 10, Pak violated ceasefire along LoC in Poonch district. –PTIBack















Six rescued after building collapses in Srinagar, 
more feared trapped

SRINAGAR: Six people were rescued after a building collapsed on Friday in this Jammu and Kashmir summer capital, while the police said rescue operations are on to locate those still feared trapped under the debris.

It was not clear how many people are trapped under the debris. Those rescued said there were 10 people working inside when the building came down, police said.

An old two-storey private building which was in the process of being demolished in Parraypora area of Srinagar, police said.

The old building was being razed for new construction when the crane that was used to demolish it, came down on the building, causing it to collapse, police said. -IANS Back












1984 riots: Man let off after CBI fails to prove presence

NEW DELHI: A court here has let off a man, accused in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case in which a mob had set afire a gurdwara leading to the death of three people, holding that the CBI has a "very, very weak case" as it has failed to prove his presence on the spot.

Additional Sessions Judge Sanjay Bansal acquitted Suresh Kumar alias Panewala of various charges dealing with murder, rioting, damaging a place of worship with an intent to insult the religion of any class of persons and mischief by fire.

"It must be held that the prosecution has a very, very weak case. It has not proved the charge beyond reasonable doubt against the accused. It has failed to establish presence of the accused at the spot at the time of commission of the offences," the court said in an order delivered on Wednesday but released on Thursday.

In the case, investigation against senior Congress leader Jagdish Tytler is still pending. Tytler's name had also cropped up in the case for his alleged involvement.

However, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) did not find any material against Tytler and filed a closure report. The court April 2013 set aside the closure report and ordered further investigation into the matter concerning him.

Meanwhile, the court observed that key witnesses, who had seen the incident have also not identified the accused, Panewala.

It noted that record reveals that prosecution itself is not clear about the correct name of the rioter.

The case dates back to Nov 1, 1984 - in the aftermath of the then prime minister Indira Gandhi's assassination - when a mob of over 1,000 people had set afire Gurdwara Pulbangash in north Delhi, killing three people - Sardar Thakur Singh, Badal Singh and Gurcharan Singh. –IANS Back














Irom Sharmila re-arrested 

IMPHAL: Two days after she was released on court orders, civil rights activist Irom Chanu Sharmila was today re-arrested by the police on fresh charges of attempt to commit suicide and forcibly taken away to a city hospital from a makeshift shelter where she was continuing her fast.

"We have re-arrested her this morning and will produce her in the CJM court later in the day on charges of attempt to commit suicide (Section 309 of IPC)," Manipur ADG (Intelligence) Santosh Macherla told PTI.

A local court in Imphal had on Tuesday absolved 42-year-old Sharmila of charges of attempt to commit suicide by means of fasting after which she walked out of a hospital-turned-prison on Wednesday.

"The court released her for her past act. Now she is again refusing to take food and water and resisting any medical check-up as well. Her health is deteriorating and now she will be kept at the same Jawahar Lal Nehru Hospital ward, where she was kept earlier," Macherla said.

Her medical check-up will be done and she will be force fed once again through nose, he said.

Earlier in the day, she was forcibly taken away by the police to a city hospital from a makeshift shelter outside the hospital ,where she was continuing her fast after being released from detention.

Women police personnel took her to the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Science and Hospital for a medical-check-up after she refused to eat or drink, the police said.

Before she was whisked away this morning, officials had said that her condition was deteriorating.

They said doctors tried to feed her through nose but she refused and her health was deteriorating very fast.

The activist had refused to take food even after being released. The hospital where she was taken today had served as her make-shift prison in the last several years.

Sharmila is on fast for the last 14 years demanding the withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers (Assam and Manipur) Act 1958.

After her release on Wednesday, Sharmila had begun her fast at a place near the hospital.

Even after her release, the former journalist-cum-social activist had decided to keep her vow of neither entering her house nor meeting her mother till the government repeals AFSPA.

"I will continue to fast till my demand (withdrawal of AFSPA) is met. The order of the sessions court that I am not attempting to commit suicide (by launching fast to remove the controversial Act) is welcome," she had said.

She had launched her fast-unto-death on November 2000 after the Assam Rifles killed 10 persons at Malom area here in an alleged encounter with insurgents.

For the last many years, she was released from time to time and rearrested again and again under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code for attempting to commit suicide. — PTIBack















Kerala readies new liquor policy

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala's new liquor policy would be submitted to the high court on Aug 26, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said Friday.

"Today (Friday) morning we have finalised the details of the liquor policy that was recommended last evening by the UDF (United Democratic Front)," Chandy told reporters here, just hours after declaring that Kerala will be on the road to becoming a "dry state" in a decade's time. 

"On the 27th, the cabinet would ratify the policy that we submit to the court. This shows that we have no ulterior motives, and making Kerala a dry state is not a political gimmick," said Chandy.

The UDF Thursday cleared the liquor policy that states from next fiscal, only five-star hotels in Kerala can serve liquor.

"We have now got legal opinion that the 312 bars that are now open can be closed anytime as the license was given subject to the new liquor policy. So we need not wait till the end of this fiscal to shut them down. 

"Once the procedures for closure of these 312 bars are taken by repaying them around Rs 45 crores...are completed, then all (of them) would be closed down," added Chandy.

The UDF arrived at the decision following state Congress president VM Sudheeran's tough stand when he, citing a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, argued that the 418 bars with poor infrastructure should not be given new licences this fiscal.

The issue reached the Kerala High Court which asked the government to come up with a new liquor policy, and also directed a two-member government committee to submit its report Aug 26, on the condition of these bars.

"The cabinet meeting will decide on what needs to be done with regards to the various clubs in the state that now serve liquor to its members. The sale of liquor taking place in defence canteens in the state is not in our purview," he said.

The chief minister added: "With regard to the concerns of the tourism industry, there need be no concerns at all, as liquor would be available in five star hotels." He, however, said that the real concern would be to tackle the illicit liquor trade once the new policy comes into effect.

"This is a concern that we are having and it's for that we have decided to impose a five percent cess on all liquor that would be sold and this money would go into a corpus fund set aside for running anti-liquor campaigns, to educate the ill-effects of liquor, for rehabilitating the employees who are currently working in the bars. 

"We are now giving a call to the people of the state to contribute one day's income to a new fund which has been named as the Kerala Alcohol Education Research Rehabilitation Compensation Fund to be used for all these activities," said Chandy and pointed out that he has already received the first contribution of Rs 1 lakh.

Starting Oct 2, apart from the already declared dry days, all Sundays would be dry days, he said.

While the state-owned Beverages Corporation is the sole wholesaler of liquor in the state, there are 383 retail outlets also belonging to the state and it has been decided that every year 10 percent of these retail outlets would be closed.

"The so called loss of revenue (around Rs 7,000 crores by way of taxes) is not at all a concern because the indirect loss caused due to the ill-effects of alcohol like accidents, alcohol induced crimes and such things are a few times more than the revenue earned by the state. This is not an issue at all," said Chandy. –IANS Back














Srinagar Book Fair to begin tomorrow

SRINAGAR: The week-long Srinagar Book Fair organised by the National Book Trust (NBT) will kick start here on Saturday with an aim to promote book reading habits among the people and revive the intellectual culture in Kashmir Valley.

"We are organizing the book fair at Exhibition Ground, Kashmir Haat, from August 23 to 31. The motive is not to earn money but to promote book reading habits amongst masses and revive the intellectual culture in the Valley, so that it is known for its intellect and not just tourism," Director, NBT, M A Sikandar told reporters here.

Sikandar said apart from exhibition-cum-sale of books by publishers and booksellers from various parts of the country, the fair would showcase a range of literary events for promotion of reading habit which includes panel discussions, storytelling sessions for children, a 'Meet the Author' programme and a book discussion.

He said a large number of books in English, Hindi, Urdu as well as in Kashmiri would be available in the fair and 10 per cent discount would be given to all buyers.

Various literary and children's activities would also be organized during the fair, he said.

The Fair is being organised in collaboration with Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages, Federation of Publishers and Booksellers Associations in India and National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (NCPUL). –PTIBack



















ISIS offered to swap Pak woman scientist for slain US journalist

WASHINGTON: In an email to the family members of slain American journalist James Foley, his captors from the Islamic State terror group demanded release of several prisoners, including a Pakistani woman scientist who has been convicted of terrorism charges in the US.

In their email dated August 12, to family members of Foley, the Islamic State or ISIS, claimed that the US has refused several offers for release of the journalist, which included not only money but also the exchange of prisoners.

"You were given many chances to negotiate the release of your people via cash transactions as other governments have accepted. We have also offered prisoner exchanges to free the Muslims currently in your detention like our sister Dr Afia Siddiqqi, however you proved very quickly to us that this is NOT what you are interested in," said the email, which was released by The Global Post on Thursday.

"You have no motivation to deal with the Muslims except with the language of force, a language you were given in 'Arabic translation' when you attempted to occupy the land of Iraq!" the email said, adding Foley would be "executed".

The Islamic State this week released a video showing one of its members beheading Foley, who was abducted in Syria in November 2012.

Dr Siddiqui, an MIT-trained neuroscientist, was arrested in Afghanistan in 2008 and found to have documents on chemical weapons, dirty bombs and viruses indicating she was planning attacks against American enemies, reports said.

Later, she was jailed by a US court for 86 years.

"Now you return to bomb the Muslims of Iraq once again, this time resorting to Aerial attacks and 'proxy armies', all the while cowardly shying away from a face-to-face confrontation! Today our swords are unsheathed towards you, government and citizens alike! and we will not stop until we quench our thirst for your blood," the email said.

US President Barack Obama has vowed to bring to justice those responsible for killing Foley.

According to Global Post, the email was published after the Foley family agreed to release it.

"Global Post has chosen to publish it in full in the interest of transparency and to fully tell Jim's story. We believe the text offers insight into the motivations and tactics of the Islamic State," the news website said.
The Global Post said in addition to the extreme views it espouses, the email contains factual inaccuracies.

For example, the Foley family was not "given many chances to negotiate" for his release. — PTIBack
















AI flight forced to land in Jaipur after engine trouble

JAIPUR/NEW DELHI: An Air India flight from Delhi to Ahmedabad carrying 104 passengers made an emergency landing in Jaipur after a problem in one of its engines.

The Airbus 321, which left Delhi at 6 am, landed safely at 7:25 am here, Sanganer Airport Director S N Borkar said.

He said the pilot informed the Jaipur ATC about some technical problem in the aircraft following which it was diverted and allowed to land here.
Station Manager of Air India Anil said, "There was some problem in one of the engines of the plane".

The passengers have been taken to Ahmedabad by another aircraft. -PTI Back













Robin Williams to be honoured at Emmys

LOS ANGELES: Actor-filmmaker Billy Crystal will pay a tribute to late actor Robin Williams at the forthcoming Emmy Awards event.

The 66-year-old comedian will lead tributes to Williams, who was found dead at his home in California Aug 11 after committing suicide, during a special segment at the ceremony here Aug 25, reports femalefirst.co.uk.

Don Mischer, executive producer of the ceremony, confirmed the news saying: "We felt we needed to do something powerful and memorable. Billy seemed like the perfect choice." "Brave" hitmaker Sara Bareilles will also perform during the tribute.- Agencies



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