SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Hyderabad blasts main suspect held
Hunt on for missing RDX

Hyderabad, September 2
In a major breakthrough in the August 25 twin blasts here, which claimed 45 lives, the police arrested one of the main accused in the case in Bangladesh today.
In video (56k)

No caste-based quota for disabled: SC
New Delhi, September 2
The Supreme Court has ruled that there cannot be caste-based reservations in special benefits provided to physically challenged persons.

Tagore’s Nobel Prize Theft
Speaker pulls up CBI for dropping probe
Kolkata, September 2
Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee today lashed out at the CBI for its failure to detect the culprits of Tagore's Nobel Prize theft and abandoning its probe.

Indo-Vietnam friendship fest kickstarts
Kolkata, September 2
Sharing the same platform with Marxist supremo Jyoti Basu, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, party secretary Biman Bose and politburo leader Sitaram Yechuri, external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee, today formally inaugurated the Indo-Vietnam Friendship festival in the city, lashing out at the US attack on the Vietnamese.
Foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee talks with West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee during the Indo-Vietnam Friendship Festival 2007 in Kolkata on Sunday. Foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee talks with West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee during the Indo-Vietnam Friendship Festival 2007 in Kolkata on Sunday. — AFP photo

The tallest Ganesh idol in Mumbai is taken to its destination for the forthcoming Ganesh Festival at Lalbaug in Central Mumbai on Sunday.
The tallest Ganesh idol in Mumbai is taken to its destination for the forthcoming Ganesh Festival at Lalbaug in Central Mumbai on Sunday. — PTI

EARLIER STORIES


Advani predicts poll early next year
Kochi, September 2
Accusing the Manmohan Singh government of “compromising India’s national security” through the “flawed 123 Agreement” on civilian nuclear cooperation with the USA, veteran BJP leader L.K. Advani today claimed that the ruling UPA government would not last its full term and the general election was likely early next year.

Suman Mahato (centre), the UPA candidate from Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, is hugged by supporters soon after her victory by over 60,000 votes in the Jamshedpur Parliamentary byelection on Sunday.
Suman Mahato (centre), the UPA candidate from Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, is hugged by supporters soon after her victory by over 60,000 votes in the Jamshedpur Parliamentary byelection on Sunday. — PTI

LCA Weaponisation
Agency moves a step forward
Bangalore, September 2
In a major move forward on the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) project, the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) has conducted successfully low-speed taxi runs with drop tanks and is expected to fly an aircraft prototype fitted with the new tanks next week.

China objects to Sikkim bunkers
New Delhi, September 2
While China may not have taken an official position on what stand it would take before the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) as and when the Indo-US nuclear deal comes up for discussion, it is continuing its pressure tactics with India to make its displeasure known.

Hindu manages Sufi shrine
Patna, September 2
At a time when the Bhagalpur riots of 1989 in Bihar have again become a focal point of attention in the corridors of power here to score a political point, it is a story of silent love and devotion of a Hindu man for a Sufi shrine.

Bihar needs help for economic revival
Patna, September 2
In what appeared to be a boost to the long standing demand by Nitish Kumar led NDA government, favouring special package for Bihar’s development, union finance minister P. Chidambaram today acknowledged that the state merited “special help” for its economic revival.

CAT Ruling
No penalty for mere error of judgement or negligence
New Delhi, September 2
An error of judgement or mere negligence would not constitute "misconduct" for imposing penalty on an employee as disciplinary action, the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) has held.

Over 2,000 cases pending with CBI
New Delhi, September 2
The number of pending cases being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has reached an all- time high.

PM meets Azad, Sayeed
New Delhi, September 2
Amid continuous simmering tension between alliance partners, the Congress and the PDP, in Jammu and Kashmir, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today hosted a dinner for state Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and his predecessor Mufti Mohammed Sayeed.

Sen may be called before privileges committee
New Delhi, September 2
Indian envoy to the US Ronen Sen, who made the controversial “headless chickens” remarks that MPs took offence at, may be called before the Lok Sabha privileges committee to which the issue has been referred to by Speaker Somnath Chatterjee.

Sachar committee follow-up ‘deceptive’
New Delhi, September 2
A Muslim organisation today termed the follow-up report of the government on the Sachar committee recommendations as “inadequate” and “deceptive”.

Peace restored in UP districts
Allahabad/Agra, September 2 Peace was restored and situation returned back to normal in the districts of Allahabad and Agra following the relaxation of the curfew for a few hours today. The curfew was imposed following incidents of violence on August 29.

19 killed in accident
Dehra Dun, September 2
At least 19 people were killed and 20 others injured when a bus fell into a ditch near Ghansali town in Tehri district today.



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Hyderabad blasts main suspect held
Hunt on for missing RDX

Hyderabad, September 2
In a major breakthrough in the August 25 twin blasts here, which claimed 45 lives, the police arrested one of the main accused in the case in Bangladesh today.

According to intelligence sources here, Abu Hamza, one of the suspected in the blasts, was arrested by the Bangladesh police.

Hamza was also suspected to have involved in the May 18 Mecca Masjid blasts and the task force bomb blast.

The police suspects that Hamza along with the alleged mastermind behind the twin blasts Shahed, alias Bilal, had sent a 10 kg RDX to the city in February 2007 to trigger the blasts.

However, special investigation team, probing into the twin blasts, were in touch with the central intelligence agencies to confirm the involvement of Hamza in the blasts.

No official was ready to divulge the details of the arrest. The police has registered cases against 15 persons, including Hamza, under Section 123 of the IPC.

Meanwhile, a massive search operation has been launched to find the missing RDX allegedly smuggled into the city even as 15 persons, including key terror suspect Mohd Shahed alias Bilal, have been booked for conspiring to carry out bomb attacks.

Police sources said a small portion of the RDX was used in Mecca Masjid blast here on May 18. Sameer alias Abdul Nayeem, one of the four arrested in connection with that blast, reportedly disclosed the information about the RDX being smuggled in during a narco test, sources said.

“We have found a conspiracy to bring RDX to India and arrested some persons in that connection,” city police commissioner Balvinder Singh said. — PTI, UNI

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No caste-based quota for disabled: SC

New Delhi, September 2
The Supreme Court has ruled that there cannot be caste-based reservations in special benefits provided to physically challenged persons.

“A disabled is a disabled. The question of making any further reservation on the basis of caste, creed or religion ordinarily may not arise. They constitute a special class,” a bench of Justices S. B. Sinha and H. S. Bedi observed.

Interpreting Article 16 (4) of the Constitution, which provides for special reservation to SCs, STs and BCs, and its ruling in the Indra Sawhney case wherein it held that reservation should not exceed 50 per cent, the apex court said “reservation for women or handicapped persons would not come within the purview of that ruling”.

Even if reservations for SCs, STs and BCs touched the 50 per cent ceiling, it would not preclude the government from providing reservation to the handicapped and women over this limit.

The Supreme Court passed the ruling while ordering the reinstatement of three assistant school teachers who were recruited under the physically challenged quota by the Madhya Pradesh government, but subsequently terminated on the ground that no reservation was given to SCs, STs or BCs in the recruitment. — PTI

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Tagore’s Nobel Prize Theft
Speaker pulls up CBI for dropping probe
Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, September 2
Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee today lashed out at the CBI for its failure to detect the culprits of Tagore's Nobel Prize theft and abandoning its probe.

Chatterjee, who is also an MP of Bolpur (Santiniketan), regretted that the CBI, which had been considered to be the country's highest inquiring body, had failed to unearth the mystery of Tagore's Nobel Prize theft and now abandoning its inquiry.

He demanded that the inquiry should be continued and more sincere attempts be made for the recovery of the stolen prize and arresting the culprits.

Tagore's prize was stolen on March 25, 2004, from the Bichitra museun at Santiniketan's Uttarayan and the CID was pressed into the inquiry by the state government. Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee also requested the Centre to engage the CBI into the inquiry in view of the seriousness and the importance of the Nobel theft incident.

Accordingly, the CBI was entrusted in probing the case on March 25, 2004. During its prolonged inquiry for over three years, the CBI failed to unearth the mystery of the theft and arrest the culprits.

On August 30 last, the CBI finally dropped the inquiry and conveyed its decision to the Visva Bharati authorities.

Talking to the media in the city today, the speaker said it was an unfortunate decision of the CBI to abandon the probe.

The Chief Minister also regretted the CBI's failure and its decision to abandon the probe. The state chief secretary, A.K.Deb, was sent to Visva Bharati to talk to the vice-chancellor and university officials if the state CID should be again engaged in the inquiry.

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Indo-Vietnam friendship fest kickstarts
Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, September 2
Sharing the same platform with Marxist supremo Jyoti Basu, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, party secretary Biman Bose and politburo leader Sitaram Yechuri, external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee, today formally inaugurated the Indo-Vietnam Friendship festival in the city, lashing out at the US attack on the Vietnamese. The three-day festival, which Basu presided, was also attended, among others, by former Vietnam Vice-President and freedom fighter Nguyen Thi, several other Vietnamese freedom fighters and dignitaries. Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee was also present on the occasion.

Earlier, welcoming Thi and other freedom fighters, Basu acknowledged the great struggle and sacrifice of the Vietnamese people against the prolonged imperialists attack of the US government.

He remembered his personal experiences about the freedom fighters’ strong determination during his visit to Vietnam in 1990 when he led a delegation there on behalf of the union government.

He said, “we, the Left parties, are still fighting against war and the US imperialism and will continue to do so for the larger interest of the country,” obviously, he was hinting at the signing of the nuclear pact with the US.

Justifying his presence during the festival, which was organised by the CPI (M) and its students organisation, the SFI, the external affairs minister, who is also the WBPCC (l) president, said he had agreed to inaugurate the festival not as a Congress (l) leader but as the country’s external affairs minister. He said he, as the foreign minister, had already signed an agreement with his counterpart in Vietnam for organising a year-long Indo-Vietnam friendship festival this year in India.

Accordingly, he decided to accept the invitation and there could be no politics in it.

He said, “we had been, all through, standing by the Vietnamese people and their freedom fighters and our policy to Vietnam has not changed yet. We condemn the US attack on Vietnam and we are also against the US imperialism and there has no change in the policy against war and imperialism”, Mukherjee stressed.

He claimed it was Pandit Nehru who first signed an agreement with Ho Chi Minn in support of their struggle against the US and other imperialist forces. The UPA government has been still pursing the same policy on the Vietnam vis-à-vis the US, he added.

The external affairs minister said the centre would also organise similar Indo-Vietnam friendship festivals in New Delhi and several other parts to commemorate the occasion.

The former Vietnamese Vice-President made a brief speech and thanked the people of Bengal and the Left Front government for organising the festival in support of their freedom struggle.

Earlier in the day, politburo member Yechuri met Jyoti Basu at his Salt Lake residence and exchanged views on the nuclear deal.

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Advani predicts poll early next year

Kochi, September 2
Accusing the Manmohan Singh government of “compromising India’s national security” through the “flawed 123 Agreement” on civilian nuclear cooperation with the USA, veteran BJP leader L.K. Advani today claimed that the ruling UPA government would not last its full term and the general election was likely early next year.

Addressing a press conference here, the Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha said his party was getting into the election mode in view of the “bizarre tug-of-war between the Congress and the Communists” over the Indo-US nuclear deal.

Stating that certain events during the last two to three weeks had made it certain that the present ruling alliance would not last its full term till 2009, Advani said elections were likely to take place anytime before that, perhaps in the earlier part of 2008.

Asserting that early elections would lead people to conclude that neither the Congress nor the Communists could be trusted to provide a stable and strong government, Advani said the NDA expected to “bounce back to power” in the next elections.

Talking of the ‘123 Agreement’, he said the BJP and the NDA were opposed to the agreement in its present form as it placed curbs on India’s strategic capabilities.

“In case of any further nuclear tests by India, the 123 Agreement provides for a return of any nuclear fuel, equipment or reactors supplied by the United States. This poses curbs on our strategic capabilities and for this reason the agreement is not acceptable to us.”

Stating that successive governments in the past had refused to sign the non-proliferation treaty (NPT) for this reason, Advani said the Manmohan Singh government had tacitly agreed to NPT through the ‘123 Agreement’ with the US.

Criticising the UPA Government for refusing to set up a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) in view of the opposition to the ‘123 Agreement’, he said this was a sign of government’s arrogance and its lack of faith in the principle of national consensus on vital foreign and defence policy issues.

Terming as “unacceptable” the proposed Congress-Left joint committee to resolve their differences on the agreement’, the BJP leader said this was an issue concerning not only the Congress and the Communists but the entire nation.

“They cannot treat it like a private matter. This is a matter in which the entire Parliament is concerned,” he added. — UNI

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Lalu thinks otherwise

Patna, September 2
Union railways minister and RJD supremo Lalu Prasad today ruled out the possibility of mid-term elections in the wake of differences between the UPA and the Left parties on the nuclear deal issue.

Talking to mediapersons here today, Lalu said even if the stand-off culminated in the withdrawal of support to the UPA by the Left parties, which he viewed as a remote possibility, any snap poll would see the ruling alliance at the centre emerge victorious. Lalu also accused the Nitish government of its failure to provide the promised good governance to the people of the state. “Atrocities on Dalits and minorities are increasing. Patna was flooded during the recent monsoon. There is no sign of good governance anywhere”, he said.

Lalu sought to compare his commitment to Bihar vis-a-vis the Nitish government by referring to various rail projects he announced for the state in past two years as rail minister which were expected to generate employment too.

He also made a dig at the JD(U) in the wake of the suspended rebel leader Upendra Kushwaha recently floating a parallel state unit of the party here. — TNS

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LCA Weaponisation
Agency moves a step forward
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, September 2
In a major move forward on the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) project, the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) has conducted successfully low-speed taxi runs with drop tanks and is expected to fly an aircraft prototype fitted with the new tanks next week.

The drop tanks are external tanks, which help in carrying more fuel to extend its range and are expendable. A prototype fitted with the tanks is scheduled for a test flight on Monday. Following the test flight, the agency is expected to start the weaponisation programme of the aircraft under which it will be fitted with the R-73 air-to-air missiles. The present prototype is fitted with dummy missiles.

The ongoing progress in the LCA programme has enabled the agency to announce that it would be able to complete the weapon integration process on the aircraft by the first quarter of the next year.

Disclosing this on the sidelines of a lecture series held by the Aeronautical Society of India, ADA project director P. S. Subramanyam said the LCA was just around the corner as far as achieving the flight enveloped was concerned. He said the prototype had crossed 5 g and was touching 6 g. “We have six prototypes flying right now and will be intensifying test flights with sensors and weapons in the coming months”, he added.

Efforts are being made to speed up the programme. Earlier, in a separate interview with The Tribune, DRDO chief controller research and development D. Banerjee said four limited series aircraft would have the IOC certification and would be finished by December, 2010. The radar programme had got delayed and now it had been decided to go with the one offered by Israel. “They have adapted their system with the volume available in the LCA. Trials will be held in March next year following which the new system will be fitted on all aircraft.” He said the radar system would be retro-fitted in prototypes manufactured in the first three phases of the programme.

Other systems which are in line for integration include the helmet mounted display system and laser-guided bombs, Banerjee added.

The avionics and weapon system being developed for the LCA uses an open system whereby stores can be used both from Russia as well as Western nations. To avoid any system being rendered obsolete during the period of development of the aircraft, a system has been created to allow for seamless graduation using commercially available items.

Banerjee also disclosed that the naval version of the programme was slightly behind schedule due to issues concerning landing gear and capacity constraints of HAL. Subramanyam said the first naval version of the LCA would be ready by the middle of next year.

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China objects to Sikkim bunkers
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 2
While China may not have taken an official position on what stand it would take before the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) as and when the Indo-US nuclear deal comes up for discussion, it is continuing its pressure tactics with India to make its displeasure known.

The latest diplomatic offensive to have come from Beijing pertains to Sikkim. The bone of contention is two Indian bunkers in the Dokala area of Sikkim which the Indian defence forces constructed years ago.

This correspondent has learnt that early last month, China lodged a protest with India and demanded immediate removal of these bunkers. The Chinese claim that the bunkers are located on their territory.

New Delhi is dismissive of the Chinese claim, though there is no formal word from the ministry of external affairs.

The two bunkers are at the Sino-Indian border close to the tri-junction of Sikkim, West Bengal and Bhutan. The confusion over whether Indian bunkers are on Chinese territory has arisen due to a 'difference in perception' about the Actual Line of Control'.

For years, the two countries have been holding flag meetings at various designated points on each other’s National Day where they exchange sweets. But on August 15, the Chinese sweets had a bitter accompaniment. China again raised the bunkers issue at the meeting between brigade commanders of India and China that was held at Nathu La in Sikkim on the India’s Independence Day.

The meeting also focused on protocol matters and the security of goods in transit as Nathu La has become an important border trade route between India and China. Other issues like patrolling policies, management of the border and no-man's land and exchange of mail also came up.

The new dispute in Sikkim comes in the wake of exchange of words between Beijing and New Delhi over the presence of Chinese troops in the Tawang area of Arunachal Pradesh.

What is strange about China upping its ante on the bunkers issue is the fact that the bunkers are not a new construction and have been there for quite some years now. It is extremely unlikely that India will remove the bunkers.

Does the new diplomatic situation being created by China amount to Beijing giving a veiled threat of revisiting its already declared policy that it treats Sikkim as part of Indian territory? It may be a hasty conclusion to draw. A more appropriate interpretation would be that China is letting no opportunity go by for making its displeasure known to New Delhi on the growing Indo-US strategic ties, and more importantly, the Indo-US nuclear deal.

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Hindu manages Sufi shrine
Ambarish Dutta
Tribune News Service

Patna, September 2
At a time when the Bhagalpur riots of 1989 in Bihar have again become a focal point of attention in the corridors of power here to score a political point, it is a story of silent love and devotion of a Hindu man for a Sufi shrine.

For eight long years, the 65-year-old Suresh Bhagat has been managing a Sufi shrine in Amapur village, 20 km away from Bhagalpur, with care and devotion after Muslims hit hard by the 1989 communal violence gave it up.

Bhagat, who has virtually deserted his family in the process, is said to be enjoying every minute he spends at the 300-year-old shrine of Bazid Dargah Pahalwan,a revered Muslim preacher.

Bhagat sleeps on an elevated platform supported by bamboo poles near the shrine, close to a cremation site on the banks of the Ganga, a river of great religious significance for Hindus.

He reportedly decided to take care of the historical shrine after Kamo Miyan,the last Muslim caretaker of the dargah, shifted to Bhagalpur town in 1999.

While Bhagat was ready to take up the task of maintaining the shrine,there was initial resistance from his wife and their three sons. But the man had his way.

Amapur village had 12 Muslim families, of which seven perished in the 1989 riots.

Even though initially Bhagat did not know how to follow Muslim rituals,he knew how to put the ceremonial "chadar" on the "mazaar".

He now offers the remains of burnt incense sticks to Hindu and Muslim devotees who throng the shrine from different parts of Bihar and even from Kolkata and Lucknow.

Every evening, Anil, the rickshawpuller son of Bhagat, comes to see his father at the shrine and hands over a lunch box to him.

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Bihar needs help for economic revival
Ambrish Dutta
Tribune News Service

Patna, September 2
In what appeared to be a boost to the long standing demand by Nitish Kumar led NDA government, favouring special package for Bihar’s development, union finance minister P. Chidambaram today acknowledged that the state merited “special help” for its economic revival.

Inaugurating the east central zonal office of the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) here today, Chidambaram said the economic resurgence of Bihar was crucial for achieving a national growth rate upward of nine per cent. “India can become prosperous only if Bihar prospers and for this, it requires special help,” he maintained.

Referring to the promise made in his budget speech, Chidambaram said the UPA government has decided to launch “aam admi beema yojana” through the LIC on Gandhi Jayanti (October 2) this year to cover at least one crore poor families in the first year. “The aim is to cover all poor families across the country over the years,” he added.

The finance minister regretted that more than 80 crore people in the country did not have any insurance cover and stressed the need for extending health, accident and education insurance cover to the poor.

Rising above political differences, union railways minister and RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav and union steel and fertiliser minister and LJP chief Ramvilas Paswan, too shared the dais with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to advance the cause of Bihar’s development before Chidambaram.

This was the eighth zonal office of LIC in India which would cover Patna, Jharkhand and Orissa.

Nitish Kumar took this opportunity to remind the august gathering that the decision by the LIC to set-up its eighth zonal office in Patna itself was a pointer to the changing climate in the state.

Addressing the concerns of the three political stalwarts of Bihar, Nitish, Lalu and Ramvilas, Chidambaram said both he and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wanted to help the state in its march towards development, particularly in the fields of agriculture, health infrastructure building, industry and education.

He said Bihar, rich in agriculture and manpower, with Jharkhand and Orissa, which are endowed with rich mineral resources, have the potential to power the growth of the country. “These three states have the potential to lift India’s growth rate far beyond 9.5 per cent,” he asserted.

Later, Nitish Kumar made a presentation before Chidambaram to outline various steps undertaken by his government for the development of the state in past 21 months.

The presentation focussed on fiscal management, debt recovery and state-sponsored gramin rojgar yojana schemes.

There was special focus on the recent devastating floods in the state, which already claimed over 565 lives in 20 districts, besides damaging properties and crops worth crores. A detailed report on flood was handed over to the finance minister.

Chidambaram assured Nitish to send a high-level official team to assess the damage and decide the nature of special assistance, including agricultural loans, accordingly.

Chidambaram was also apprised of the poor credit-deposit (CD) ratio maintained by nationalised banks here affecting the growth of the state’s economy.

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CAT Ruling
No penalty for mere error of judgement or negligence

New Delhi, September 2
An error of judgement or mere negligence would not constitute "misconduct" for imposing penalty on an employee as disciplinary action, the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) has held.

"Misconduct arising from ill motive and acts of negligence, errors of judgement, or innocent mistake do not constitute such misconduct," a two-member CAT Bench headed by Justice Shanker Raju said in a recent order.

Citing various Supreme Court and high court decisions, the Bench noted that mere negligence would not, per se, constitute misconduct and only if a government servant conducts himself in a way "inconsistent with due and faithful discharge of his duty in service", the act would amount to misconduct.

"Every act of negligence is not misconduct unless it is culpable. Though misconduct is not to be defined precisely, it depends upon the facts and circumstances of each case," the Bench, also comprising member Chitra Chopra, mentioned from a 1979 apex court decision.

It also observed that to attract penalty for the misconduct under the relevant service rules or statute, the act should be wilful in character.

The Bench made the observation on an application by N. L Sikriwal, a dealing assistant with the Directorate- General of Foreign Trade, who was slapped with a penalty of stoppage of two increments in his salary for a period of two years for alleged misconduct in service.

The department had alleged that he was negligent and failed to maintain absolute integrity and devotion to duty and acted in a manner that was unbecoming of a government servant. — PTI

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Over 2,000 cases pending with CBI

New Delhi, September 2
The number of pending cases being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has reached an all- time high.

While 2,123 cases being probed by the CBI are pending trial for over 10 years, 648 of them are being probed for the last 20 years, Parliament has been told.

The figures were revealed after BJP- nominated member Hema Malini and Samajwadi party member from Uttar Pradesh Abu Asim Azmi raised questions regarding the cases in the Rajya Sabha this week.

At least another nine cases against ex-chief ministers, ex-union ministers and ex-union ministers of state are under CBI investigation, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in written replies in the Rajya Sabha.

Hema Malini asked whether the authorities were taking time-bound steps to clear the pending cases,to which Dr Manmohan Singh replied that the government had set up 39 courts of special judges in various states exclusively for the trial of CBI cases.

The Prime Minister said that the CBI tried through constant monitoring or supervision to ensure there was no delay in trial on its part.

Dr Singh said five of the nine cases were under investigation for less than a year, one case for more than a year and three cases for more than two years.

Citing voluminous documents, a large number of witnesses, extensive enquiries as the basic reasons for the delay, the Prime Minister said the CBI tried to ensure expeditious completion of investigation in all cases. — UNI

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PM meets Azad, Sayeed

New Delhi, September 2
Amid continuous simmering tension between alliance partners, the Congress and the PDP, in Jammu and Kashmir, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today hosted a dinner for state Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and his predecessor Mufti Mohammed Sayeed.

UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi was also at the dinner that was held at the residence of the Prime Minister, official sources said here.

They said Sayeed had sought an appointment with the Prime Minister to sort out some issues pertaining to Kashmir after which it was decided that the state Chief Minister should also be called in for the dinner.

Tension between the Congress and the PDP reached new heights in March over the issue of reduction of troops as the junior alliance partner wanted to lower the number of security forces engaged in counter-insurgency operations. — PTI

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Sen may be called before privileges committee

New Delhi, September 2
Indian envoy to the US Ronen Sen, who made the controversial “headless chickens” remarks that MPs took offence at, may be called before the Lok Sabha privileges committee to which the issue has been referred to by Speaker Somnath Chatterjee.

Sources said Somnath had referred the issue after receipt of a reply by the external affairs ministry to which Sen had expressed unqualified apology for the remarks. The ministry had pleaded that in view of the unqualified apology tendered by him, the matter be closed.

Sources said in view of the strong feelings of the MPs on the issue, the speaker had referred it to the privileges committee headed by Congress MP V. Kishorechandra Suryanarayn Deo.

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Sachar committee follow-up ‘deceptive’

New Delhi, September 2
A Muslim organisation today termed the follow-up report of the government on the Sachar committee recommendations as “inadequate” and “deceptive”.

The All-India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat said the follow-up statement in the Lok Sabha by the minister for minority affairs is nothing less than a cover-up for the refusal of the government to do anything concrete for the uplift of the Muslim community in a time-bound manner.

In a press statement, president of the organisation S. Shahabuddin said there had been no progress in real terms since the Sachar Report was submitted in November last year.

While the government knew the Muslims constitute a ‘backward class’, at par with the SC/ST, it lacked the political will to provide reservation to them, the statement 
said. — PTI

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Peace restored in UP districts

Allahabad/Agra, September 2
Peace was restored and situation returned back to normal in the districts of Allahabad and Agra following the relaxation of the curfew for a few hours today. The curfew was imposed following incidents of violence on August 29.

The curfew, which was clamped in Taj city following violence over the death of four youths, has been relaxed for 12 hours in Mantola and Nai ki Mandi.

Similarly, the curfew has been lifted for two hours from Atarsuia and Dhoomanganj area of Allahabad. At Agra, the curfew, imposed on six areas of the district, has been lifted from Rakabganj, Lohamandi, Tajganj and Sadarganj. — UNI

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19 killed in accident

Dehra Dun, September 2
At least 19 people were killed and 20 others injured when a bus fell into a ditch near Ghansali town in Tehri district today.

The mishap occurred when the bus carrying nearly 45 passengers fell into a ditch after a portion of the road suddenly caved in, following heavy landslides, the police said. Most of the victims died on the spot.

Chief Minister B.C Khanduri while expressing grief over the accident asked district authorities to take steps to prevent such mishaps.

Senior administrative and police officials rushed to the spot to supervise the rescue operation. The injured have been admitted to various hospitals here and in Tehri.

A magisterial inquiry has been ordered into the accident. Khanduri also announced a compensation of Rs 50,000 to the next of kin of the deceased, Rs 25,000 to those seriously injured and Rs 5,000 to those with minor injuries. — PTI

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Naval wargame

New Delhi, September 2
Notwithstanding protests by the Left parties, powerful warships from five nations today started nearing a rendezvous point in the Bay of Bengal for the start of the biggest naval wargame hosted by India.

The four-day wargame is set to begin early on Tuesday. — PTI

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