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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Sacked NCW member threatens to move SC
Bangalore, March 2
Sacked NCW member Nirmala Venkatesh today lashed out at her detractors and threatened to take legal action against her removal. Addressing a press conference here today, Venkatesh described her removal and rejection of her report on the Mangalore pub attack as a “deep political conspiracy”.

Punjab Termination of Agreement Act
SC to take up Prez reference after polls
New Delhi, March 2
The Supreme Court (SC) today accepted Punjab’s plea for setting up the Constitution Bench after the Lok Sabha polls for going into the validity of the Punjab Termination of Agreement (PTA) Act, 2004, by deferring the matter till the first week of August.

Seat Sharing
Cong-NCP talks hit roadblock
Mumbai, March 2
Seat sharing between the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections may be decided by the central leadership of both parties, according to sources here.



EARLIER STORIES



Pranab, Mamata ‘sure of’ ousting CPM
Kolkata, March 2
The CPM is unhappy at the Election Commission’s (EC) decision of holding elections in three phases in West Bengal since the party demanded one-day poll. But both the Congress and the Trinamool Congress have welcomed the decision, as it will help the EC for ensuring free, fair and peaceful polls.

CPM walks out of third front in Assam
Guwahati, March 2
The CPM has walked out of the efforts to form a non-Congress, non-BJP third front in Assam for the Lok Sabha elections because of differences over seat-sharing with the Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF), a conglomeration of minority political parties.


B’lore: 2 days, 3 murders
Bangalore, March 2
A BPO employee was killed and his newly wed wife assaulted by criminals before they decamped with valuables from the couple's house today, police here said. In a similar incident yesterday, which occurred in another locality under the same police limits, a four-member gang shot dead Javed Farvez, who owns a travel agency, and his wife Azia Banu.
Women hold placards during a protest against the recent attacks on women in Bangalore on Monday. — PTI
Women hold placards during a protest against the recent attacks on women in Bangalore

Godhra Riots
Probe team submits report
New Delhi, March 2
A Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT), probing the post-Godhra riots cases in Gujarat, submitted its report to a three-judge Bench headed by Justice Arijit Pasayat. The SIT is understood to have recommended vacation of stay on the trial of 14 such cases.

HC seeks govt stand on Indians in Pak jails
New Delhi, March 2
The alleged apathy of the government towards its citizens languishing in Pakistani jails on charges of spying was raised in the Delhi High Court, which sought the Centre’s response on the steps taken for the release of 13 such persons, including Sarabjeet Singh.

False caste certificate: HC sets aside election of BJP MLA
Lucknow, March 2
For furnishing a false caste certificate the Allahabad High Court today declared null and void the election of BJP MLA Shambhu Chaudhry from the reserved Scheduled Caste (SC) seat of Naurangia in Kushinagar.

Acid Attacks
Centre fails to spell out stand in court
New Delhi, March 2
The Centre today failed to come up with a clear stand in the Supreme Court on the issue of framing a new law or making amendments in the existing ones to deal with acid attacks, which are on the rise, as a special offence.

Majithia to head wage board for scribes
New Delhi, March 2
The Centre has appointed Justice Gurbax Rai Majithia as the new chairman of the National Wage Boards for Working Journalists and Other Newspaper Employees.

Fernandes quits as Labour Minister
New Delhi, March 2
Union Minister of State for Labour and Employment Oscar Fernandes is understood to have resigned from the Council of Ministers to work in the interest of the Congress in the coming Lok Sabha polls, informed sources said today.





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Sacked NCW member threatens to move SC
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, March 2
Sacked NCW member Nirmala Venkatesh today lashed out at her detractors and threatened to take legal action against her removal.

Addressing a press conference here today, Venkatesh described her removal and rejection of her report on the Mangalore pub attack as a “deep political conspiracy”. She said she would challenge this in the Supreme Court.

Venkatesh, a former member of the Karnataka Legislative Council, also said that she had quit the Congress on February 28 as she was “deeply hurt”.

“This is a deep political conspiracy against me to tarnish my image. I am being made a political victim. I am deeply hurt and shocked”, Venkatesh said on the rejection of her report and her removal from the commission.

“I am shocked that certain people, who have personal dislike for my honest work and clean image, are out to settle personal scores against me in this manner”, she said.

Venkatesh defended her report on the Mangalore pub attack. The report blamed lack of security at the pub in Mangalore for the January 24 incident when around 40 members of the Sri Rama Sene, a right-wing Hindu group, assaulted a group of young women for sitting in the pub.

Venkatesh’s report on the incident annoyed Union Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Chowdhury as well as NCW chairperson Girija Vyas. Vyas dismissed the report as the member’s personal view and not of the commission. Chowdhury, describing Venkatesh as a flaw in the system, sacked her from the NCW on February 27.

Venkatesh today asserted that she had the power to investigate on her own. “So many cases were investigated by one-member committee. I can take suo motu action. I have the quasi-judicial power and can take suo motu action as per the NCW Act,” she said.

Venkatesh denied she was planning to join the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is in power in Karnataka.

She, however, took part in an anti-terrorism rally organised by the BJP in Bangalore on Saturday. Venkatesh was on the dais along with other BJP leaders.

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Punjab Termination of Agreement Act
SC to take up Prez reference after polls
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, March 2
The Supreme Court (SC) today accepted Punjab’s plea for setting up the Constitution Bench after the Lok Sabha polls for going into the validity of the Punjab Termination of Agreement (PTA) Act, 2004, by deferring the matter till the first week of August.

A Bench comprising Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan and Justice P Sathasivam passed the order despite stiff resistance from Haryana which wanted the matter to be taken up on an urgent basis as normally Presidential References were decided in two months.

Appearing for Punjab, RS Suri said since the matter was “very, very sensitive,” it should be taken up only after the Parliamentary polls. The arguments took place in the court, just few hours before the Election Commission announced the schedule for a five-phase polling to elect the 15th Lok Sabha from April 16 to May 13.

According to Haryana counsel Ejaz Maqbool, Punjab had completed less than 50 per cent of the work on the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal despite two SC judgments going in favour of his state. The canal intended to provide water to Delhi as well, he said.

The Punjab government, headed by Capt Amarinder Singh had, following the SC order, got the Act passed in the Assembly, terminating all agreements the state had signed with its neighbours for sharing of river waters. The President referred it to the apex court after the matter had gone up to Rashtrapati Bhavan.

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Seat Sharing
Cong-NCP talks hit roadblock
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, March 2
Seat sharing between the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections may be decided by the central leadership of both parties, according to sources here.

Leaders of both the parties in Maharashtra have begun the third round of seat sharing talks here amidst indications that negotiations have hit a road block. Both the NCP and the Congress have laid claims to several seats across the state. Of these, negotiations for seats in Western Maharashtra, Konkan and Vidarbha have turned contentious with both parties staking claim to several seats.

According to sources here, Sharad Pawar’s outfit is adamant on contesting 24 of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra while the Congress is not prepared to concede more than 21 to its ally. Both parties would then allot seats from their share to smaller parties like the Peasants and Workers Party and various factions of the Republican Party of India.

Negotiators of both the Congress and the NCP have so far managed to carve up a large number of seats across the state in the previous two meetings. “If we cannot decide on the remaining few seats our central leaders will meet and take a call,” a Congress party leader told this newspaper.

On Sunday, Pawar upped the ante by demanding that the Congress should consider sharing the post of Chief Minister in Maharashtra with his outfit. The demand sent a flutter in the Congress camp which was confident that Pawar would not carry out his earlier threat of tying up with the Shiv Sena.

The Maratha strongman had also indicated that the NCP was in talks with some of the regional parties that have cobbled together a third front.

Leaders of both parties, however, sounded conciliatory today and were hopeful that the tie-up would continue in future as well.

Congress party general secretary Sanjay Nirupam said preserving the relationship with the NCP was important though not at the cost of sacrificing the interests of the Congress party.

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Pranab, Mamata ‘sure of’ ousting CPM
Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, March 2
The CPM is unhappy at the Election Commission’s (EC) decision of holding elections in three phases in West Bengal since the party demanded one-day poll.

But both the Congress and the Trinamool Congress have welcomed the decision, as it will help the EC for ensuring free, fair and peaceful polls. The Left Front partners like the RSP, Forward and the CPI also welcomed the EC’s decision.

Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said today he was not surprised at the Congress’s decision to join hands with the Trinamool Congress and fight against them in the Lok Sabha polls.

But he did not feel their decision would have any impact on the election results. He was confident that the CPM this time would win in larger number of seats because of their good works done during the past few years.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee after his meeting with Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee last night declared that they had agreed to fight jointly against the Left parties in the Lok Sabha polls. Mamata said she was confident they would defeat the CPM in the Lok Sabha and the subsequent Assembly elections and oust them from power.

Mukherjee believed the Congress’s seats would be increased at least to 12 by their electoral adjustment with the TMC. Mamata also expressed confidence of winning in 12 to 14 seats.

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CPM walks out of third front in Assam
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, March 2
The CPM has walked out of the efforts to form a non-Congress, non-BJP third front in Assam for the Lok Sabha elections because of differences over seat-sharing with the Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF), a conglomeration of minority political parties.

The CPM along with the Communist Party of India (CPI), the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the AUDF led by perfume mogul Badaruddin Ajmal launched an effort to forge a third front in the state before the ensuing Lok Sabha elections.

The efforts took root once the regional Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) which was an ally of the CPI and the CPM, started warming up to the idea of having a poll understanding with the BJP in the state.

However, the CPM and the AUDF leadership failed to arrive at an agreement over sharing of seats that force the Left party to jettison the effort midway though it had no differences with the CPI and the NCP.

AUDF secretary-general H R A Choudhury confirmed that the party failed to resolve differences with the CPM over seat sharing. “We have already made public announcement about our candidate in Tezpur seat and made commitment in respect of Silchar and Barpeta and we can’t backtrack on it.” he said.

Now the AUDF will contest from seven seats, the CPI from two seats and the NCP from four seats including Guwahati as constituents of the non-Congress, non-BJP third front.

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B’lore: 2 days, 3 murders

Bangalore, March 2
A BPO employee was killed and his newly wed wife assaulted by criminals before they decamped with valuables from the couple's house today, police here said.

In a similar incident yesterday, which occurred in another locality under the same police limits, a four-member gang shot dead Javed Farvez, who owns a travel agency, and his wife Azia Banu.

According to information, a gang of four Kannada-speaking assailants struck at the house of Umesh Krishnan in the Ramaswamy Palya area under the Banaswadi police limits in the wee hours, they said.

Krishnan, employed with Infosys BPO, had opened the door hearing the calling bell and the criminals forced their way into the house. In order to silence Krishnan, they stuck a plaster on his mouth, which accidentally also covered his nose, leading to his death due to suffocation, police said.

The miscreants then assaulted Krishnan's newly-wed wife Honey Mary, snatched away her "mangal sutra" and other valuables, the cost of which was being assessed, they added. The couple had moved into their rented house barely 30 days back after getting married four months ago. — PTI

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Godhra Riots
Probe team submits report
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, March 2
A Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT), probing the post-Godhra riots cases in Gujarat, submitted its report to a three-judge Bench headed by Justice Arijit Pasayat. The SIT is understood to have recommended vacation of stay on the trial of 14 such cases.

The SIT, headed by former CBI Director RK Raghavan, also submitted a confidential report relating to the case dairy to the Bench, which also included Justices P Sathasivam and Aftab Alam. The report was in a sealed cover. The court set up the SIT following demands by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and Citizens for Justice and Peace led by Teesta Setalvad for a CBI probe.

The Bench said copies of the main report would be given to the Gujarat government and senior counsel Harish Salve, who is assisting the Court as an amicus curiae, and asked them to file their response and views within four weeks. The confidential report would not be given to anyone as it contained details of case dairies.

The court said the SIT, comprising former CBI chief, former DG of the UP police CD Satpathy and three IPS officers from Gujarat — Geeta Johri, Shivanand Jha and Ashish Bhatia — would continue to function and investigate any other case, if necessary.

The Bench posted the matter for April 13 for further hearing. Fresh evidence could be adduced from the witnesses that were dropped and by cross-examining those who had turned hostile.

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HC seeks govt stand on Indians in Pak jails

New Delhi, March 2
The alleged apathy of the government towards its citizens languishing in Pakistani jails on charges of spying was raised in the Delhi High Court, which sought the Centre’s response on the steps taken for the release of 13 such persons, including Sarabjeet Singh.

The petition filed by a Human Rights activist claimed these persons convicted on charges of espionage have been in jail for a long time and some of them have even spent 25 years but the government has “neglected” them and not taken steps for their release.

“It is a serious state of affairs on the part of the government that they are not taking keen interest to care about the life and liberty of those prisoners, who are in Pakistani jails,” advocate Kishore Paul alleged while appearing for Gujarat-based activist Madangopal Khushiram.

Justice S Ravindra Bhat, after hearing the contention, issued notice to the Ministry of External Affairs and posted the matter for further hearing on April 13.

The activist submitted a list of 16 prisoners, out of which three persons, including a convict, who was sentenced to death, has been released after languishing in jail for 35 years.

Kashmir Singh was released last March after his case was taken up by the then caretaker Federal Minister for Human Rights Ansar Burney.

Two other persons, Chanan Singh and Parvez Ahmed, were released after languishing in jail for 20 and 15 years, respectively.

Burney is fighting for the commutation of Sarabjeet Singh’s death sentence to life imprisonment. “All the government departments are taking things very lightly and they are not considering the seriousness of the matter or the hardships and agony of the family members,” the petition said. — PTI

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False caste certificate: HC sets aside election of BJP MLA
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, March 2
For furnishing a false caste certificate the Allahabad High Court today declared null and void the election of BJP MLA Shambhu Chaudhry from the reserved Scheduled Caste (SC) seat of Naurangia in Kushinagar.

The court set aside Chaudhry’s election as a BJP legislator on the ground that he had contested the election as a SC candidate claiming himself to be from ‘Kharwar’ caste, while actually he belonged to the ‘Kamkar’ caste listed as Other Backward Classes (OBC).

Justice Dilip Gupta delivered the judgment on an election petition filed by BSP candidate Chandra Deo Gautam and SP candidate Purnamasi Dehati who had both contested against Chaudhry and lost in the Vidhan Sabha election of 2007. The petition was filed in July 2007.

As soon as the judgment was delivered the counsel appearing for the BJP MLA, former state BJP president Kesari Nath Tripathi, moved an application asking for staying the compliance of the order for a month, as the respondent would appeal against the order in the Supreme Court.

However, Ajit Kumar Singh, the counsel for petitioner Chandra Deo Gautam, opposed the application on the ground that the order had established Chaudhry of being guilty of forging documents and hence he should not be given a stay.

Nevertheless, the court stayed the compliance of the order for a month.

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Acid Attacks
Centre fails to spell out stand in court

New Delhi, March 2
The Centre today failed to come up with a clear stand in the Supreme Court on the issue of framing a new law or making amendments in the existing ones to deal with acid attacks, which are on the rise, as a special offence.

When the matter came up for hearing before a Bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan, it was informed that the Centre has not filed the counter affidavit on the petition. The court was told that the report of the Law Commission on the issue was supplied to all concerned parties and the National Commission for Women had placed a draft legislation to make acid attack a serious offence.

The court was hearing a PIL filed in 2006 by a Delhi-based minor girl, Laxmi whose arms, face and other body parts were disfigured in an acid attack.

Laxmi, through her counsel Aparna Bhat, has sought framing of a new law or amendment in the existing criminal laws like the IPC, Indian Evidence Act and the CrPC for dealing with the offence and has also sought compensation which has not yet been provided.

The acid was thrown at the victim by three youths near Tughlaq Road as she had refused to marry one of them. The trial is going on for the offence of attempt to murder and two of the accused are out on bail. — PTI

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Majithia to head wage board for scribes

New Delhi, March 2
The Centre has appointed Justice Gurbax Rai Majithia as the new chairman of the National Wage Boards for Working Journalists and Other Newspaper Employees.

Justice Majithia has replaced Justice K Narayan Kurup, who resigned on July 30 last, after the wage boards recommended 30 pc interim relief for employees.

“The appointment would be effected immediately,” Minister for Labour and Employment Oscar Fernandes told leaders of Confederation of Newspaper and News Agency Employees’ Organisations, who met him here today.

A retired judge from Bombay High Court, Justice Majithia has wide experience and specialisation in civil, company, constitution and election matters. — PTI

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Fernandes quits as Labour Minister

New Delhi, March 2
Union Minister of State for Labour and Employment Oscar Fernandes is understood to have resigned from the Council of Ministers to work in the interest of the Congress in the coming Lok Sabha polls, informed sources said today.

Fernandes, concurrently holding the general secretary’s post, along with his ministerial responsibilities, has sent in his resignation letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh mentioning the reason for stepping down.

He is the second minister to quit the ministry opting to work for the party after Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh.

In his letter, Fernandes mentioned to the Prime Minister that it was an honour and privilege to serve in the UPA government under Dr Singh’s leadership since its formation.

“I thank you for reposing faith extended to me throughout my tenure as a minister,” Fernandes is believed to have written. — UNI

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