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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

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N A T I O N

Echoes of Gujarat dissidence at BJP national meet
Bhopal, September 21
Dissidence within the Gujarat BJP had its echoes at the party’s national executive meeting, which got underway here today, with two prominent leaders who are opposed to the style of functioning of Chief Minister Narendra Modi staying away.

Size of State Ministry
SC orders deletion of CM’s name from PIL
New Delhi, September 21
The Supreme Court today ordered the deletion of Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh’s name from a petition raising a question on the size of his ministry on the ground that he had not filled all 12 posts required under the amended law.

Akalis unleashing a reign of terror: Cong
New Delhi, September 21
Accusing the Akali Dal-led government in Punjab of unleashing ‘a reign of terror’ against its workers and supporters, the Congress today said it was keeping its options open on seeking a CBI probe and central intervention if action was not taken quickly to punish the guilty.



EARLIER STORIES




Muslim girls read the Quran in their classroom during the month of Ramazan at MescoGrades Minority School in Hyderabad on Friday.
LESSONS IN FAITH: Muslim girls read the Quran in their classroom during the month of Ramazan at MescoGrades Minority School in Hyderabad on Friday. — AFP

PM invites Suni to meet him
New Delhi, September 21
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today spoke over the telephone to Indian-American astronaut Sunita Williams and congratulated her on her unique achievement and contribution to the human quest for a better understanding of the universe.

N-deal: Cong brings out booklet
New Delhi, September 21
With no signs yet of its stand off with the Left parties on the Indo-US nuclear deal getting resolved, the Congress has started apprising its leaders and workers of the "facts" of the agreement so that they can effectively put the party's case before the people in the event of an early Lok Sabha poll.

Cong distances itself from Karunanidhi’s remarks
New Delhi, September 21
The Congress today distanced itself from DMK chief M. Karunanidhi’s controversial remarks on the existence of Lord Ram saying the party’s views on the issue were at variance with those of the southern ally. Answering queries, party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said the party’s stand could be at variance with other parties in the UPA.

Boeing offers Chinook choppers
New Delhi, September 21
The race for contract for 12 medium to heavy lift helicopters for the Indian Air Force (IAF) seems to have begun with the US aerospace major Boeing today offering its CH-47F Chinook choppers, which are known for its capabilities.

Divorce in 15 min via video-conferencing
Chennai, September 21
A divorce was given within 15 minutes by a Family Court here through video-conferencing based on an e-mailed divorce order to a consenting couple, husband living in the USA and wife living in Australia.

Hyderabad blasts
Gazi remanded in judicial custody
Hyderabad, September 21
An illegal Bangladeshi immigrant, Ridwan Gazi, wanted in connection with the recent blasts in this city, was today produced before a local court which remanded him to two-week judicial custody.

HC stays arrest of 3 IPS officers
Allahabad, September 21
The Allahabad High Court today stayed the arrest of three senior IPS officers suspended recently in connection with the alleged irregularities in recruitment of police constables in Uttar Pradesh.

Judge invokes God to stay transfer of lands
Hyderabad, September 21
A judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court has invoked the “Almighty” to grant stay on the allotment of lands to private companies on the city outskirts and ruled that the lands were Wakf properties.

UK visa application centres closed from Sept 28
New Delhi, September 21
The UK visa application centres operated by VFS Global across India will remain closed from 28 September to October 3.

Police confirms Hrithik’s underworld links
Mumbai, September 21
A senior Mumbai police official today confirmed actor Hrithik Roshan's underworld links, though he added that the star would not be immediately called for questioning.

Lawyers go on strike
Patna, September 21
Lawyers across the state went on a mass strike today in protest against the murder of an undertrial and injury to four others, including three lawyers, in a daring broad daylight attack by unidentified assailants at the Patna civil court yesterday.

Good rain forecast over Punjab, Haryana
New Delhi, September 21
There is some good news for rain-starved regions in plains of north India. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has forecast that plains and mountainous regions of the northwest can expect some active rainfall spells on September 24, 25 and 26, which should be able to make up to a good extent for rainfall deficiency the region has been facing this season.

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Echoes of Gujarat dissidence at BJP national meet
S. Satyanarayanan
Tribune News Service

Bhopal, September 21
Dissidence within the Gujarat BJP had its echoes at the party’s national executive meeting, which got underway here today, with two prominent leaders who are opposed to the style of functioning of Chief Minister Narendra Modi staying away.

Former Gujarat Chief Ministers Keshubhai Patel and Suresh Mehta, skipped the conclave in protest much to the embarrassment of the BJP, which is keen on winning the Assembly elections for the third consecutive time.

Recently, Keshubhai had dubbed Modi as ‘Duryodhana’ and criticised Advani for playing ‘Dhritrashtra’ by ignoring the ‘misdeeds’ of the Gujarat Chief Minister.

Modi detractors have been accusing him of adopting abrasive style, ignoring elected representatives and curbing their democratic powers, heaping insult on them by making bureaucrats more powerful.

Modi, however, chose to be silent when mediapersons sought to seek his comments on the absence of top Gujarat leaders.

Putting a brave face, BJP president Raj Nath Singh hoped that all leaders and workers would together ensure that the BJP emerges victorious in the elections.

Meanwhile, party spokesperson Prakash Javadekar downplayed the issue saying Kehubhai Patel could not make it to the conclave because of his wife’s death anniversary, while others, who could not attend the meeting have separately written a letter to BJP president explaining the reason for skipping the crucial meet.

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Size of State Ministry
SC orders deletion of CM’s name from PIL
S.S. Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, September 21
The Supreme Court today ordered the deletion of Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh’s name from a petition raising a question on the size of his ministry on the ground that he had not filled all 12 posts required under the amended law.

Disapproving the move of the petitioner to name Virbhadra Singh as a respondent personally in the case when the state government was already named therein, the Bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Mr Justices R.V. Raveendran and D.K. Jain ordered the deletion of his name immediately.

A PIL by Virendra Kumar, a retired school principal, alleged the CM had not fulfilled his constitutional obligation of filling all 12 posts in the council of ministers that was at present functioning with a strength of 11, including himself.

Though state’s additional advocate general J.S. Attri had submitted a reply on behalf of the state government, the hearing was adjourned for four weeks as the Centre needed more time to submit its reply.

The state government has taken the stand that it was the prerogative of the CM to appoint ministers and that he had not violated the law by having a strength of ministers less than the prescribed maximum limit.

Placing before the court the sequence of events since the Congress Government came to power in 2003, Attri in his reply said after the amended provisions came into force, three ministers resigned to bring the strength within the permissible limit of 12 ministers, including the CM, on July 6, 2004.

But it came down to 11 after resignation by Asha Kumari on February 9, 2005, and continued to be the same till date although another minister G.S. Bali had resigned on July 29 last and Sujan Singh Pathania was inducted into the Cabinet in his place on August 1.

The state government’s stand was that it could be described as a technical defect, but not a legal infirmity as the law put a cap on appointing ministers more than the permitted limit and not less than that.

As per the amended provision, the strength of ministers in a state has been fixed at 15 per cent of the strength of the Assembly concerned, but for small states the maximum number, including the CM, has been fixed at 12. The petitioner had claimed that the amended provision also provided for not having ministers less than the fixed number.

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Akalis unleashing a reign of terror: Cong
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 21
Accusing the Akali Dal-led government in Punjab of unleashing ‘a reign of terror’ against its workers and supporters, the Congress today said it was keeping its options open on seeking a CBI probe and central intervention if action was not taken quickly to punish the guilty.

“It appears, coming to power is for the Akalis a licence to run goonda raj. The Akali Dal has unleashed a reign of lawlessness, terror and apathy,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi alleged.

Singhvi, who was accompanied by Punjab CLP leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, gave a list of five party workers, three of whom had been murdered and two had committed suicide.

“Their only fault is that they were supporters of the Congress. They are all dead due to constant harassment,” he said, adding that four of those dead were Dalits and one belonged to the backward community.

Bhattal had come to the AICC along with some state Congress leaders and families of victims to highlight the atrocities against the party workers. The families of victims met Congress president Sonia Gandhi in the afternoon.

Singhvi said the Punjab Congress has been shouting from the rooftops about the victimisation of its workers, but not one arrest has been made in the cases filed.

Referring to the case of Malkeet Singh, who was sarpanch of Lehra Dhurkot village in Bhatinda district, Singhvi said he had left a suicide note citing harassment by a relative of a Akali minister as the reason for taking the extreme step.

Citing another instance, he said Kewal Singh, a resident of Moga district, who was found dead after a ‘false case’ was slapped on him, had torture marks on his body.

Accusing the Akali Dal of trying to buy peace with money, Singhvi said the families of victims had rejected the offer of money given by the ruling party in the state.

Asked if the party would seek a CBI inquiry or central intervention, Singhvi said it was first for the authorities to do their job as it was a basic issue related to human rights. “We reserve our options, including seeking a CBI probe,” he said.

The CLP leader said the party, which has already moved the NHRC, would meet the Prime Minister and Home Minister with its list of complaints.

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PM invites Suni to meet him
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 21
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today spoke over the telephone to Indian-American astronaut Sunita Williams and congratulated her on her unique achievement and contribution to the human quest for a better understanding of the universe.

Inviting Williams to visit the national Capital and meet him, Dr Manmohan Singh said she was a source of inspiration for Indian women. "India feels proud of her achievement even though she is a citizen of the United States of America."

Williams, who is currently visiting her father's home state of Gujarat, had set a world record this year by being the only woman astronaut to stay in space for 195 days.

During her week-long sojourn to the country, she will participate in the International Astronautical Summit in Hyderabad.

Williams landed in Ahmedabad on Thursday. She went round the Gandhi Ashram at Sabarmati and interacted with over 1,000 schoolchildren. On September 24, she will travel to Hyderabad to attend the 58th International Astronautical Congress and interact with Indian scientsts and share her experience of living in space and performing space walks.

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N-deal: Cong brings out booklet
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 21
With no signs yet of its stand off with the Left parties on the Indo-US nuclear deal getting resolved, the Congress has started apprising its leaders and workers of the "facts" of the agreement so that they can effectively put the party's case before the people in the event of an early Lok Sabha poll.

The party has come out with a booklet which not only talks about the progress in the nuclear field under successive Congress PMs but also of the various benefits the country would derive if the nuclear deal is operationalised.

The booklet, complete with salient features of the 123 agreement and FAQs, is being sent to PCCs, party MPs and office-bearers.

The 21-page booklet, released by the AICC, rejects the argument that the nuclear deal would affect India's ability to conduct an independent foreign policy and strategic programme and its right to conduct nuclear tests.

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Cong distances itself from Karunanidhi’s remarks
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 21
The Congress today distanced itself from DMK chief M. Karunanidhi’s controversial remarks on the existence of Lord Ram saying the party’s views on the issue were at variance with those of the southern ally. Answering queries, party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said the party’s stand could be at variance with other parties in the UPA.

Asked about the Congress stand, he said the party felt the issue of religion was a matter of personal faith. He said the Congress stand was clearly articulated and it was for other parties to decide if they shared its view.

Meanwhile, former union ministers Vidya Charan Shukla, Arvind Netam and Gondwana Ganatantra Party leader Dileep Singh Bhuria today re-joined the Congress. These leaders had left the Congress at different points of time. They had met Congress president Sonia Gandhi and expressed their desire to join the party. “The Congress president has accordingly approved their admission in the party with immediate effect.” Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said in a release.

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Boeing offers Chinook choppers

New Delhi, September 21
The race for contract for 12 medium to heavy lift helicopters for the Indian Air Force (IAF) seems to have begun with the US aerospace major Boeing today offering its CH-47F Chinook choppers, which are known for its capabilities.

The IAF is expected to release a request for proposal for this by the first quarter of 2008. The choppers had also been brought specially for display, both static and air, at the Aero India, which was held in Bangalore in February.

It is capable of transporting 55 troops or two combat-equipped vehicles and can be used for medical evacuation, humanitarian efforts and fire fighting. — TNS

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Divorce in 15 min via video-conferencing

Chennai, September 21
A divorce was given within 15 minutes by a Family Court here through video-conferencing based on an e-mailed divorce order to a consenting couple, husband living in the USA and wife living in Australia.

Advocates and the court officials said that until now during similar proceedings before the Family Courts, at least one party in the litigation had to be physically present before the court.

The couple, both software professionals and in their twenties, preferred divorce petitions owing to incompatibility and differences of opinion. However, during the mandatory six-month legal separation period, the husband shifted to the USA and the wife got a job in Australia.

Both could not be present in court yesterday, when the case was scheduled to be taken up for orders. They had informed the court in advance.

Principal Judge for Family Courts R Devadoss presided over proceedings, spread across three continents, connected only by the worldwide web.

The sources said in order to ascertain the identity of persons taking part in the proceedings, blood relatives of the couple were asked to be present in the court.

The parties made a sworn statement ahead of their depositions and the relatives confirmed their identities.

The whole proceedings were recorded in both audio and video format, and the presiding officer signed at the end of the deposition, affirming “recorded before me,”the sources added.

It was then counter-signed by the relatives and the counsel.

The total cost for the whole proceedings was just Rs 300, the sources said adding that the orthodox method would have cost not less than two lakh for the parties, besides the man-hours spent on the travel.

Though all mandatory legal requirements were followed by, the entire process was over within 15 minutes. — UNI

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Hyderabad blasts
Gazi remanded in judicial custody

Hyderabad, September 21
An illegal Bangladeshi immigrant, Ridwan Gazi, wanted in connection with the recent blasts in this city, was today produced before a local court which remanded him to two-week judicial custody.

Gazi (23), who bears striking resemblance with the sketch of suspected bomb planter at Lumbini Park on August 25, was staying in the city illegally for six years with fake documents. He had been absconding since the twin bombings, while police nabbed his sister Shareefa Rafsanjani.

Gazi was believed to have been picked up by the police several days ago. He was produced before a metropolitan magistrate here today, who remanded him in judicial custody till October 5.

Before being shifted to Cherlapally Jail, Gazi told waiting reporters at the court premises that he was innocent and that he had come to Hyderabad to pursue studies. — PTI

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HC stays arrest of 3 IPS officers

Allahabad, September 21
The Allahabad High Court today stayed the arrest of three senior IPS officers suspended recently in connection with the alleged irregularities in recruitment of police constables in Uttar Pradesh.

A Division Bench comprising Justice SR Alam and Justice BD Chaturvedi stayed the arrest of Akhilesh Mehrotra, BB Bakshi and RN Yadav, all of them holding DIG ranks prior to their suspension on September 11 by the Mayawati government.

The suspensions were made in connection with the large scale irregularities in the selection process that took place during the former chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav’s rule.

These officers had moved writ petitions seeking a stay on their arrests and quashing of FIR’s lodged against them in this connection. — PTI

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Judge invokes God to stay transfer of lands
Ramesh Kandula
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, September 21
A judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court has invoked the “Almighty” to grant stay on the allotment of lands to private companies on the city outskirts and ruled that the lands were Wakf properties.

“I am of the opinion that the lands belong to the Almighty. God is the owner of the lands and therefore no construction should be done on them,” Justice V. Easwaraiah observed while setting aside the government order allotting lands to infrastructure and real estate companies near Manikonda village in the neighbouring Ranga Reddy district.

The judge also directed the Lanco Group, Emaar Properties and five other firms not to take up any construction activity on the 1,600 acres alienated to them by the government.

The direction was given based on a miscellaneous petition filed by Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) MLC H.A. Rehman, who claimed that lands were Wakf properties belonging to the Dargah Hazrat Shah Hussain Wali.

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UK visa application centres closed from Sept 28
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 21
The UK visa application centres operated by VFS Global across India will remain closed from 28 September to October 3.

On September 28, the centres will be open from 8.00 am to 12.00 pm for passport collection only, the British High Commission here said today.

The visa departments at the British High Commission and Deputy High Commissions in Chennai, Kolkata and Mumbai will be closed from October 1 to October 3. The closures will allow technical upgrades and staff training. The visa application centres will re-open on October 4.

The High Commission advised customers needing to travel in the next two weeks to submit applications at the visa application centres no later than September 25 (in Jalandhar, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad, Pune, Bangalore, Cochin and Hyderabad) and September 27 (in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai). Every effort will be made to process applications before the temporary closures. 

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Police confirms Hrithik’s underworld links

Mumbai, September 21
A senior Mumbai police official today confirmed actor Hrithik Roshan's underworld links, though he added that the star would not be immediately called for questioning.

Mumbai's Joint Commissioner of Police Rakesh Maria today confirmed that Hrithik's name cropped up during investigations of Iqbal Attarwala, a member of the Dawood Ibrahim gang. Attarwala is said to have confessed to the police that Hrithik Roshan was negotiating with an event management company associated with his Show Blitz Enterprise.

"Hrithik was negotiating with one of the two intermediary event management companies, but did not perform as they had some differences over the price," Maria told reporters today.

Attarwala is said to have organised a cricket match between movie stars and veteran cricketers from Pakistan in Dubai. However Maria said film stars won't be questioned immediately. Instead, Maria said, the police is concentrating on Attarwala's links with the builders. Attarwala is accused of grabbing properties in Mumbai.

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Lawyers go on strike
Tribune News Service

Patna, September 21
Lawyers across the state went on a mass strike today in protest against the murder of an undertrial and injury to four others, including three lawyers, in a daring broad daylight attack by unidentified assailants at the Patna civil court yesterday.

Four gunmen had yesterday exploded bombs and fired at a group of undertrials brought from the high-security Beur jail for production the court.

Bihar State Bar Council chairman Rajendra Prasad Singh described yesterday`s attack as a grim pointer to the deteriorating law and order scenario in the state. A decision on resuming work would be considered by the council at its meeting on Sept 23. 

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Good rain forecast over Punjab, Haryana
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 21
There is some good news for rain-starved regions in plains of north India. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has forecast that plains and mountainous regions of the northwest can expect some active rainfall spells on September 24, 25 and 26, which should be able to make up to a good extent for rainfall deficiency the region has been facing this season.

IMD director S.C. Bhan told The Tribune yesterday that while northwest plains could expect a good wet spell during these three to four days, hilly areas were likely to get very heavy rainfall. Some upper reaches could also expect snowfall, he added.

The normal average date for the withdrawal of monsoon from the region is September 21, though this year it seems to be keen on spending a couple of more days here before ending its 2007 sojourn. Farmers, who will begin sowing of rabi crops like gram and mustard next month, will certainly welcome these rains.

At present the situation is far from good in most areas of the region. Barring J&K, which is in the green at two per cent excess rain from the normal, all other states are in the red. 

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