SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Chair comes to Krishna’s rescue
Minister reads from a prepared statement in RS
New Delhi, July 31
Yesterday, BJP leader Yashwant Sinha likened External Affairs Minister SM Krishna to former Home Minister Shivraj Patil. Today, the 77-year-old US-educated minister had an opportunity to put the record straight. But that did not happen.

Bill for setting up green tribunal
New Delhi, July 31
The government today introduced a Bill seeking to provide for setting up of a tribunal with powers of a civil court for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection, and conservation of forests and natural resources in the Lok Sabha.

RS members for more Parliamentary sittings

Flaws in NREGA, admits govt
New Delhi, July 31, 2009
Admitting there were some flaws in its flagship rural employment programme including irregularities in payment of wages, the government said Friday steps were being taken to remove them. “The government is aware of the shortcomings in implementing the National Rural Employment Generation Act (NREGA).



EARLIER STORIES

Central Industrial Scurity Force jawans patrol outside the Infosys headquarters in Bangalore on Friday. Infosys becomes the first corporate organisation in India to be provided security cover by the elite force.
ON GUARD: Central Industrial Scurity Force jawans patrol outside the Infosys headquarters in Bangalore on Friday. Infosys becomes the first corporate organisation in India to be provided security cover by the elite force. — PTI

Tribune journalists get excellence award
New Delhi, July 31
Speaker Meira Kumar today gave Merit awards to two senior journalists of The Tribune, Prabhjot Singh and Shahira Naim, at a function held in New Delhi to mark the second Karpur Chandra Kulish International award.

Test for women porters raises hackles
Allahabad/New Delhi, July 31
The Railways has allowed women to work as porters, but the move has sparked a controversy with Woman and Child Welfare Ministry today objecting to aspirants, including pregnant women, being made to run with heavy loads on their head to qualify for the licence.

SC directive on places of worship
New Delhi, July 31
The Supreme Court today directed the central government to provide by September 29 details of the steps taken to prevent the misuse of public land for the construction of places of worship, be it temple, church, mosque, gurdwara or other similar structures.

Country’s first chopper unit
Hyderabad, July 31
Hyderabad is all set to have the country’s first helicopter manufacturing unit. The Tata Group, in collaboration with US-based Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, is setting up the Rs 1,000-crore plant at the aerospace special economic zone (SEZ) near the international airport here.

Judge’s allegation against minister
MPs want PM to issue statement
New Delhi, July 31
A group of Opposition Members of Parliament (MPs), including those from the Left parties and the BJP, today met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and demanded a statement from him on the issue of a Union Minister allegedly trying to influence a Madras High Court Judge in a CBI case.

Yechury: It’s political conspiracy in Bengal
New Delhi, July 31
The Left-TMC standoff continued today, with the CPM leaders accusing both the Congress and its Bengal ally of fomenting trouble in the state to advance assembly poll, otherwise scheduled for 2011.

BJP dissatisfied with judges’ assets Bill
New Delhi, July 31
The BJP is likely to oppose or at least seek to amend the Judges’ (Declaration of Assets and Liabilities) Bill - 2009 slated to be introduced by the Centre in the Rajya Sabha next week.

No progress in talks till Pak acts, says Krishna
New Delhi, July 31
As an aggressive Opposition continued to find faults with the India-Pakistan joint statement, New Delhi asserted that there could be no progress in dialogue with Pakistan in an atmosphere of violence and until the neighbouring country took credible steps to check the export of terror from its soil.

‘Parties not covered under RTI Act’
New Delhi, July 31
The Central Information Commission has ruled that political parties are not covered under the Right to Information Act. Dismissing a petition of an RTI applicant, the CIC said political parties could not be covered under the Act just because they are provided government subsidies like premises at prime locations and free airtime for media broadcast during elections among others.

Army guilty in ‘fake encounter’ case
Guwahati, July 31
The Guwahati High Court has held Army guilty in connection with the death of four suspected National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) cadres in an alleged fake encounter and directed the Government of India to pay Rs 3.5 lakh as compensation against each of the victims to their respective families.

MCOCA dropped against sadhvi Pragya
Mumbai, July 31
In a reprieve to sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Lt Col SP Purohit and nine other accused in the 2008 Malegaon bomb blast case, a special court today dropped provisions of the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) invoked against them saying none are part of an organised crime syndicate.

Hashmi alleges religious bias by housing society
Mumbai, July 31
Mumbai’s communally polarised housing scenario has another victim - actor Emraan Hashmi. The actor was allegedly prevented from buying a flat in a housing society in Mumbai’s posh Bandra suburb. Hashmi, nephew of filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, in a complaint to the Maharashtra Minorities Commission has alleged that office-bearers of the Nibbana Cooperative Housing Society at Pali Hill, Bandra, were not allowing him to buy a flat there despite the seller agreeing to the deal.

IAS officer kills 4 of family, self
Bargarh (Orissa), July 31
A senior IAS officer shot dead his wife, father and two sisters before turning the gun on himself at his residence in a nearby village late last night.






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Chair comes to Krishna’s rescue
Minister reads from a prepared statement in RS
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 31
Yesterday, BJP leader Yashwant Sinha likened External Affairs Minister SM Krishna to former Home Minister Shivraj Patil. Today, the 77-year-old US-educated minister had an opportunity to put the record straight. But that did not happen.

Members in the Rajya Sabha, participating in the marathon debate on the working of the External Affairs Ministry, posed pointed questions to the minister pertaining to the India-Pakistan joint statement as well as to other controversial issues like the end-user monitoring arrangement for defence procurements with the US, G-8 joint statement on banning the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) technologies to those countries that have not signed the NPT and climate change.

It was now Krishna’s turn to reply to the discussion and he resorted to reading out from a prepared statement, much to the discomfiture of his own colleagues on the treasury benches. However, the minister’s action evoked derisive laughter from those on the BJP benches, including Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley. Even Left leaders like Sitaram Yechuri and Brinda Karat appeared wondering why the minister was not replying to pointed queries of the members and preferring to read out from the voluminous document in his hands.

Suddenly, BJP member Balbir Punj was on his feet, observing that the minister was reading out from the publicity literature of the External Affairs Ministry, skirting the issues raised by members. He was joined by his party member Rudra Narain Pani.

However, Deputy Chairman K Rehman Khan overruled their objections, saying the minister was explaining to the House the overall functioning of his ministry. If the members wanted clarifications, they could seek them later, the Chair said.

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Bill for setting up green tribunal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 31
The government today introduced a Bill seeking to provide for setting up of a tribunal with powers of a civil court for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection, and conservation of forests and natural resources in the Lok Sabha.

The National Green Tribunal Bill - 2009, introduced by Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh, aims at establishing a national green tribunal that will also ensure enforcement of any legal right relating to environment. The Bill will also provide for relief and compensation to persons for environmental damage. The tribunal will comprise a chairperson, judicial members as well as a number of experts. 

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RS members for more Parliamentary sittings
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 31
Parliamentarians are nowadays debating and demanding that they be given more working days each year to transact business. They also want a minimum number of days fixed each year to conduct sessions of Parliament and state legislatures. Taking a step further in this direction, the members of the Rajya Sabha today supported a move to amend the Constitution allowing more sittings of Parliament.

The Bill, seeking amendments to Articles 85 and 174, was moved by Mahendra Mohan (SP) on July 3. Participating in the discussion on the Bill, Najma Heptulla (BJP) said the number of sittings was woefully low as compared to other democracies in the world.

She said the House should have more sittings so that members are able to fulfill their responsibilities towards their people and constituencies. She said Parliament should be able to take up issues relating to various state governments. She, however, made it clear that the issues should not relate to a state government’s internal matter but those linked to Central policies.

Heptullah also stressed on the need for a ‘Ratification Law’ under which international treaties and agreements that the government signed with other countries could be ratified. 

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Flaws in NREGA, admits govt
Bhagyashree Pande
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 31, 2009
Admitting there were some flaws in its flagship rural employment programme including irregularities in payment of wages, the government said Friday steps were being taken to remove them. “The government is aware of the shortcomings in implementing the National Rural Employment Generation Act (NREGA).

To check irregularities in disbursal of wages measures like payment through banks and post offices are being taken up”, Rural Development Minister CP Joshi told the Lok Sabha during question hour.

However, while making it clear state governments were expected to implement the scheme, he remarked “the Chattisgarh government doesn’t have the guts to pay Rs 75 under the NREGA programme”.

To this the leader of the opposition, LK Advani, defended the BJP ruled state, saying: “I would expect the minister to be respectful towards states. We have a federal structure in which the central government should respect the states and the states should respect it”.

The BJP demanded Joshi should retract his remarks that had led to an uproar in the House. To this Joshi said his “intentions were very clear - not to offend the sentiments of any member” and amended his statement. "I wanted to say they (Chattisgarh government) didn’t have the capacity to pay... and if this has hurt sentiments I withdraw it."

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Tribune journalists get excellence award
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 31
Speaker Meira Kumar today gave Merit awards to two senior journalists of The Tribune, Prabhjot Singh and Shahira Naim, at a function held in New Delhi to mark the second Karpur Chandra Kulish International award.

The Merit award instituted by Rajasthan Patrika specifically for print journalism went to The Tribune Bureau chief in Chandigrah, Prabhjot Singh, for his writings on terrorism and to the Lucknow correspondent Shahira Naim.

The function was presided over by Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. The theme of this year’s Karpur Chandra Kulish International award was ‘Society and Terrorism.’

The prime award worth 11000 US dollars went 
to noted journalist Harinder Baweja. 

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Test for women porters raises hackles

Allahabad/New Delhi, July 31
The Railways has allowed women to work as porters, but the move has sparked a controversy with Woman and Child Welfare Ministry today objecting to aspirants, including pregnant women, being made to run with heavy loads on their head to qualify for the licence.

In the first lot, 19 women appeared for the physical endurance test conducted by Allahabad division of North Central Rail for the posts of porter yesterday, Chief Public Relations Officer (CPRO) of North Central Railway Rajesh Dutt Bajpai said.

The physical endurance test required women to carry a load of 25 kg and complete the distance of 200 m in not more than four minutes. “The load and the distance is the same for both men and women though the time-limit for the latter has been relaxed by one minute,” the official said.

Disapproving of the method, Union Woman and Child Welfare Minister Krishna Tirath said she had sought a report from the zonal railway authorities on the test. “I am seeking details from the zonal railway authorities about the procedure of appointment of porters involving pregnant women,” the Woman and Child Welfare Minister said. — PTI

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SC directive on places of worship
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, July 31
The Supreme Court today directed the central government to provide by September 29 details of the steps taken to prevent the misuse of public land for the construction of places of worship, be it temple, church, mosque, gurdwara or other similar structures.

Acknowledging the difficulties involved in dealing with such places that already existed for some time, a Bench of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and MK Sharma said there should not be any problem in checking such developments at least in future.

The Bench made the observation while hearing the views of the Centre in a case relating to Gujarat, where the High Court had, in 2006, directed the Ahmedabad administration to ensure that the city was free from places of worship constructed unauthorisedly on government land.

The Centre has already secured a stay against the HC verdict. Appearing for the government, Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium informed the Bench that the Centre was in touch with the states in a bid to arrive at a consensus on the issue.

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Country’s first chopper unit
Suresh Dharur
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, July 31
Hyderabad is all set to have the country’s first helicopter manufacturing unit. The Tata Group, in collaboration with US-based Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, is setting up the Rs 1,000-crore plant at the aerospace special economic zone (SEZ) near the international airport here.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy today unveiled a plaque, marking commencement of works on the prestigious project. The first 20-seater transport helicopter is expected to be ready by June next year.

Tata Advanced System Limited (TAS), a unit of the Tata Group, is establishing the facility in collaboration with Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp. The unit is coming up on a 50-acre site at Adibhatla on the city outskirts.

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Judge’s allegation against minister
MPs want PM to issue statement
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 31
A group of Opposition Members of Parliament (MPs), including those from the Left parties and the BJP, today met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and demanded a statement from him on the issue of a Union Minister allegedly trying to influence a Madras High Court Judge in a CBI case.

The group also included MPs from the main Tamil Nadu opposition party, the AIADMK. A total of 180 MPs from both Houses of Parliament have made the representation to the Prime Minister.

The other parties whose MPs were present were the CPI, CPM and the BJP.

In the memorandum submitted to the Prime Minister, the MPs - 85 from the Lok Sabha and 95 from the Rajya Sabha - said he should investigate the matter and make a statement in both Houses of Parliament.

The move from the MPs came after Justice R Raghupathy of Madras High Court had made a statement in the open court that a Union Minister had telephoned him in a matter concerning a mark sheet forgery scam, which was investigated by the CBI.

The minister had allegedly asked the Madras High Court Judge to be lenient in the case and recommended that the accused be granted bail. The allegations say that the minister who represents the ruling political party from Tamil Nadu in the UPA government had made the call.

Union Telecom Minister A Raja, whose name is being alleged to be involved in the controversy, has meanwhile distanced himself from the 'Judge Threat' case.

Raja said just because some leaders met the Prime Minister does not make him answerable. Raja said he is a popular person but that that did not mean that he knew the people mentioned in the controversy.

Emerging from the meeting, BJP Rajya Sabha member Chandan Mitra said the Prime Minister had given an assurance to the MPs that he would get back to them after examining the memorandum.

According to Mitra, the Prime Minister told the delegation that after the Chief Justice of India had given a clarification that the Union Minister had not spoken to the judge, how could the government interfere in issues relating to the judiciary.

Mitra pointed out that intelligence agencies were capable of finding out the phone number which a lawyer had reportedly dialled from the chamber of the judge which can help in the investigations.

The memorandum said, "According to reports, the judge has subsequently clarified that the minister had not spoken to him directly but that the lawyer appearing in the case on behalf of the accused had come to his chamber and informed him that the Union Minister would like to speak to him and even dialled the number to facilitate the conversation."

The single-page memorandum further said that assuming the clarification of the judge to be correct, it was still an attempt to interfere in the judicial process by the said minister.

"In the interests of upholding the principle of independence of the judiciary enshrined in the Constitution, as well as the highest standards of probity in public life, the people of the country do expect you to act in the matter. We request you to give a statement in both Houses on the issue and to take appropriate action in the matter," the memorandum said. 

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Yechury: It’s political conspiracy in Bengal
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 31
The Left-TMC standoff continued today, with the CPM leaders accusing both the Congress and its Bengal ally of fomenting trouble in the state to advance assembly poll, otherwise scheduled for 2011.

Moments after leaders of the CPM in the two houses of Parliament - Sitaram Yechury in the Rajya Sabha and Basudeb Acharia in the Lok Sabha - charged the alliance of mounting a political conspiracy in West Bengal with the objective of ensuring early poll under central rule, TMC MPs met Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, demanding the imposition of President’s rule in the state. They asked the minister to impose Article 355 immediately.

Rattled by the impending troubles, an already-shattered CPM reacted sharply, with Yechury objecting to the visit of cabinet ministers (read Chidambaram) to Lalgarh, at a time when a joint operation to clear out Naxals was on, as per the cabinet decision.

The Left was particularly miffed with Chidambaram’s yesterday’s remark that Bengal housed “killing fields”. “The Left dared the Home Minister to explain reasons behind the existence of such fields. Had we been the culprits, the Congress-TMC combine would have nailed us by now. That clearly shows who is responsible and why is the ruling alliance so silent,” said Yechury, adding he already knew what was coming (central rule in Bengal and early poll).

The Left further accused the Congress-TMC alliance of disregarding Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s assertions that Naxalism was the gravest internal security danger, by fanning Maoist activity in West Bengal. 

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BJP dissatisfied with judges’ assets Bill
Faraz Ahmad
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 31
The BJP is likely to oppose or at least seek to amend the Judges’ (Declaration of Assets and Liabilities) Bill - 2009 slated to be introduced by the Centre in the Rajya Sabha next week.

Leader of Opposition in the Upper House Arun Jaitley, while commending the idea of making it obligatory for the high court and Supreme Court judges to declare their assets, felt that there were several weaknesses and inadequacies in the Bill.

Law and Justice Minister Veerappa Moily has brought in this Bill after much public discussion to make it obligatory for the judges to declare their movable and immovable assets.

The statement of objects and reasons of the Bill says: “The enactment of the Bill will address the growing concern about the standards of probity in public life and also bring transparency and enhance credibility of the judiciary.”

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No progress in talks till Pak acts, says Krishna
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 31
As an aggressive Opposition continued to find faults with the India-Pakistan joint statement, New Delhi asserted that there could be no progress in dialogue with Pakistan in an atmosphere of violence and until the neighbouring country took credible steps to check the export of terror from its soil.

“The people of India and Pakistan should be allowed to prosper in an atmosphere of peace but we can’t be oblivious of the threat of terrorism,” External Affairs Minister SM Krishna said today while replying to the debate in the Rajya Sabha on the working of his ministry.

The minister, who was continuously interrupted by BJP members during his 45-minute speech, sought to defend the India-Pakistan joint statement of July 16, saying progress in dialogue was not possible in an atmosphere of violence or threat to use violence.

“The joint statement encapsulates this view and standpoint that any meaningful dialogue with Pakistan can only follow the concrete fulfillment of their commitments not to allow their territory to be used for terrorist activities against India,” he underlined.

Krishna said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had left the Pakistani leadership in doubt whatsoever that India wanted action against the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attacks and other heinous crimes and dismantling of the terror factories on the Pakistani territory.

The minister also spoke at length about India’s relations with its other neighbours as also with major world powers while emphasising New Delhi’s commitment to the policy of non-alignment.

On ties with China, Krishna said the two countries enjoyed a strategic and cooperative partnership and were determined to find a shared, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution to their lingering border dispute. He also attempted to dispel the members’ apprehensions over the G8 joint statement vowing not to extend the enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) technologies to non-NPT signatories and the controversial end-user monitoring arrangement with the US for defence procurements.

But it was Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley who dominated the proceedings during the debate. Describing the Sharm el-Sheikh India-Pakistan statement as a monumental lapse, he said the government was now trying to contain the damage by making contradictory statements.

Jaitley said former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was now sought to be used as a shield by the government to cover up its blunders. When Vajpayee went to Lahore, the Congress criticised him and he also earned the party’s ire when he invited Pervez Musharraf for the Agra Summit. The same Congress was now finding virtues in each of the steps taken by Vajpayee.

The BJP leader claimed that Vajpayee’s line on Pakistan was clear and unambiguous: India wants dialogue without terror. But the UPA government had delinked dialogue from the dialogue process.

He also had a dig at Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee for his statement yesterday that the reference to Balochistan in the joint statement was a unilateral action of Pakistan. The joint statements never contain unilateral actions but only agreed texts.

“When Pakistan was on its knees on the issue of terrorism, we went to Sharm el-Sheikh with a grievance and came back with albatross of Balochistan around our neck.”

Sitaram Yechuri (CPM) claimed that India was moving away from an independent foreign policy and becoming a subservient to the US. Referring to the perceived US pressure on India to sign the NPT, CTBT and FMCT, he said India should not allow any US reactors in the country until Washington clarified its position on this issue.

On Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon’s recent admission that the India-Pakistan joint statement could be a case of ‘bad drafting’, Yechuri said: “It is not a bad draft but it is a product of the muddle mind because of the US pressure.”

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‘Parties not covered under RTI Act’

New Delhi, July 31
The Central Information Commission has ruled that political parties are not covered under the Right to Information Act. Dismissing a petition of an RTI applicant, the CIC said political parties could not be covered under the Act just because they are provided government subsidies like premises at prime locations and free airtime for media broadcast during elections among others.

"Even under Section 2 (h) (of the RTI Act) simply concessions provided to any private agency by government cannot be construed as that agency being owned, controlled or substantially financed directly or indirectly by funds provided by government," Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said while rejecting a petition filed by RTI applicant Balwant Singh Khera.

Khera who hails from Hoshiarpur in Punjab has sought some information from 12 political parties, including the Congress, the BJP, the CPI, the CPM, but did not got any answer from them.

While the CPI and the CPI (M) replied that they are not covered under the RTI Act, Janata Dal (United) simply returned his application with the fee. The remaining parties did not send any reply to his application.

Khera argued before the Commission that Section 2 (h) (ii) of the RTI Act mentions that 'non Government Organisation substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate government' are covered under the Act. — PTI 

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Army guilty in ‘fake encounter’ case
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, July 31
The Guwahati High Court has held Army guilty in connection with the death of four suspected National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) cadres in an alleged fake encounter and directed the Government of India to pay Rs 3.5 lakh as compensation against each of the victims to their respective families.

A Division Bench of the High Court, comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Arun Chandra Upadhyay, directed Kokrajhar district police to register a murder case against Army personnel involved in the alleged fake encounter that took place at Tukri Basti, near Manas National Park, on May 21, 2003.

In its verdict, the court said it found “sufficient material to entertain the view that the four persons were killed by the Army in cold blood”. The court delivered the verdict in response to a writ petition filed by Hasa Basumatary, the father of Mankesawr Basumatary, one of the victims of the alleged fake encounter. The rest three victims were Danchouran Basumatary, Philimon Kempramari and Kishore Narzary, all from Aidhubuni village under Basugaon police station in Kokrajhar district.

Petitioner’s counsel Bijon Mohajan said the court directed the officer in charge of Basugaon police station to register a murder case against the Army troops under Section 302 of the IPC and investigate the case.

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MCOCA dropped against sadhvi Pragya

Mumbai, July 31
In a reprieve to sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Lt Col SP Purohit and nine other accused in the 2008 Malegaon bomb blast case, a special court today dropped provisions of the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) invoked against them saying none are part of an organised crime syndicate.

Designated Judge YD Shinde, presiding over the special MCOCA court here, however, rejected the bail plea of Purohit.

The court dropped the charges in this case while hearing the bail plea of Purohit who had challenged invoking this stringent act. Shinde observed that none of the accused are part of the organised crime syndicate.

He also observed that none of the accused had more than one charge sheet filed against him or her - a prerequisite for invoking provisions of MCOCA.

The case would be heard by a sessions court in Nashik. The special court, however, stayed its order lifting MCOCA provisions for a period of four weeks to enable the state to file an appeal in the Bombay High Court.

Additional DGP KP Raghuvanshi said the government would file an appeal in the high court after getting certified copy of the order.

Seven people were killed in a bomb blast on September 29, 2008 at Malegaon, a textile town near Nashik. — PTI

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Hashmi alleges religious bias by housing society
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, July 31
Mumbai’s communally polarised housing scenario has another victim - actor Emraan Hashmi. The actor was allegedly prevented from buying a flat in a housing society in Mumbai’s posh Bandra suburb.

Hashmi, nephew of filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, in a complaint to the Maharashtra Minorities Commission has alleged that office-bearers of the Nibbana Cooperative Housing Society at Pali Hill, Bandra, were not allowing him to buy a flat there despite the seller agreeing to the deal.

In his complaint, Hashmi said he had paid a token money of Rs 1 lakh to G Suvarna, owner of flat, and approached the society’s managing committee for no-objection certificate before proceeding with the purchase.

The office-bearers of the society, however, refused him the NOC on the ground that Hashmi was a Muslim, the actor alleged. “They don’t want to say this openly, but they said yesterday that they don’t want me in the building,” Hashmi told reporters today. Accompanied by Bhatt, Hashmi alleged that he was not allowed to buy a flat in many buildings in the area due to his religion.

According to the actor, the reason ostensibly given for rejecting his application was that he was serial kisser in his films and his presence would have a bad effect on the children living in the building.

Meanwhile, Abraham Mathai, vice-chairman of the Minorities Commission said they had taken up the matter. As per procedure, Hashmi had been asked to get a character certificate from the Mumbai police and submit it to the housing society. Mathai said the society was liable to be sued if it discriminated against people on the basis of their religion.

Office-bearers of the society have asked the security personnel not allow mediapersons to enter the complex. However, some of them have been quoted by newspapers as saying that a decision on allowing Hashmi to buy the flat will be taken at a meeting on Sunday next. The office-bearers also alleged that the actor and his parents barged into the society office last week while a meeting was in progress.

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IAS officer kills 4 of family, self

Bargarh (Orissa), July 31
A senior IAS officer shot dead his wife, father and two sisters before turning the gun on himself at his residence in a nearby village late last night.

A 1983-batch IAS officer, Jagadananda Panda also shot his 22-year-old son Swapneswar, who was critically injured and is battling for his life in a local hospital. All five were shot from close range and had bullet injuries in the head.

Panda was the Protector General of Emigrants (PGE) in the Overseas Indian Affairs Department in Delhi and was believed to be in a state of depression after CBI raided his house. The bodies of Surekha (46), father Manus (75) and two sisters Bijayalaxmi (57) and Kishori (44) were found lying in a pool of blood in his residence in Deogaon village near Sambalpur in western Orissa after his mother, who is said to have heard the gunshots, rushed from the first floor and called neighbours.

A suicide note, purportedly signed by the official, was found from his house in Deogaon, said Inspector General of Police Y B Khurania. It has been sent for examination by handwriting experts.

"There are indications that he killed his family members before shooting himself but further investigation is required," Khurania said. — PTI

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BRIEFLY

2 die in aircraft crash
HYDERABAD:
A training aircraft of the IAF crashed in Andhra Pradesh’s Medak district on Friday, killing two instructors. The mishap occurred around 9.45 am. The instructors killed in the mishap were Ritin Jain and Chaturvedi. The exact cause of the crash could not be ascertained immediately. — PTI

Cop held for setting woman on fire
RAIPUR:
A member of the Chhattisgarh Armed Forces has been arrested for setting a woman on fire after she refused to provide him liquor, the police said on Friday. The woman is battling for life. The incident took place late Thursday in Surguja district, some 350 km from here. – IANS

Two hurt in bomb blast
RAMESWARAM:
Two persons, including a woman, were injured when a country bomb, hurled at their house at Natarajapuram near Dhanushkodi exploded on Friday. The police said Maheswari and her relative Nandha suffered injuries in the bomb attack. Windows and doors of the house were damaged in the explosion. — PTI

Rly earnings up
New Delhi:
The total approximate earnings of the Railways went up by over four per cent in the period between July 11 to July 20 over the corresponding period last year. As per railway officials, the earnings during the said period stood at Rs 2,191.03 crore as compared to Rs 2,102.39 crore during the same period last year, registering an increase of 4.22 per cent. The total goods earnings went up from Rs 1,441.25 crore to Rs 1,459.89 crore, showing an increase of 1.29 per cent, while the total passenger revenue earnings stood at Rs 661.65 crore as compared to Rs 600.85 crore last yea. — TNS

Major fire at AVM Studios
CHENNAI:
A major fire swept through the famous AVM Studios here on Friday, gutting property. There were no casualties in the blaze which broke out in the wee hours, engulfing the sets erected for an under-production movie and a TV show, the police said. About eight fire tenders doused the flames after about two hours. – PTI

Krishna to visit Australia
New Delhi:
Against the backdrop of racial attacks on Indian students, External Affairs Minister SM Krishna will pay a five-day visit to Australia from August 6. He will have bilateral interaction with his Australian counterpart Stephen Smith and also call on PM Kevin Rudd. He will also visit Sydney and Melbourne to know about problems being faced by Indian students. — TNS

Goa on terror alert
Mumbai:
The Navy and the Coast Guard have been put on high alert off the coast of Goa, following reports of a mysterious vessel said to be heading towards the state. According to the Goa police, the warning was given to the authorities in Panjim by the administration in Maharashtra’s Sindhudurg district which neighbours Goa. Confirming the reports, Goa SP Bosco George said the officials there were warned of a threat and the police had been put on high alert. —TNS

Lata finally gets voter I-card
Mumbai:
Absence of details and photo of melody queen Lata Mangeshkar has not stopped the Election Commission from making a voter identity card for her. “We had approached Lataji for the card earlier but she had not submitted the details or the photograph, failing which the photo I-card was not made,” District Deputy Election Officer Sanjay Bhagwat said. — PTI

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