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India, Pak to hold flag meeting tomorrow

JAMMU: In a bid to de-escalate tension along the Line of Control, India and Pakistan will hold a Brigade Commander-level flag meeting in Poonch sector on Monday during which the recent intrusions and the brutal killing of two jawans by Pakistani soldiers will figure. 

“Brigade Commanders’ flag meeting is being held on Monday at Chakan-Da-Bagh LoC point in Poonch sector of Jammu and Kashmir at noon,” Public Relation Officer, Defence, Col. R.K. Palta told PTI. 

Pakistan agreed to hold the flag meeting in a communication through a hotline in the sector, he said, adding, “We had sought the flag meeting of the brigade commanders of the two sides.” 

The Indian Army had sent a hotline message to the Pakistan Army on January 11, 2013 and asked for a flag meeting to discuss the issues of brutal killing of two jawans by Pakistani troops, reportedly belonging to 29 Baloch Regiment, and increasing incidents of firing and ceasefire violations in the Poonch sector. 

Confidence Building Measures of cross-LoC trade and travel are also expected to come up for discussion during the flag meeting. 

Pakistan has suspended cross-LoC trade and travel at Chakan-Da-Bagh crossing point in Poonch sector since Thursday and Friday respectively. 

The jawans were on January 8 killed by Pakistani troops after intruding deep into Indian territory along the LoC in Poonch district, prompting an outraged India to summon the Pakistan High Commissioner in Delhi to protest the “highly provocative” attack. The head of one of the two jawans was chopped off and taken away by the Pakistani troops. 

This is the second Brigade Commander-level flag meeting to be held in Poonch sector in the last six months. 

A Brigade Commanders’ meeting was held at Chakan-Da-Bagh LoC point on June 23 following the killing of two Indian soldiers and injuries to four other jawans in ceasefire violations by Pakistani troops, besides closure of the cross-LoC trade and travel via Chakan-Da-Bagh. 

The two jawans were killed and the four others were injured in the firing by Pakistan troops between June 11 to June 16 in the Poonch sector. 

Army sources said a commander-level flag meeting is held to sort out the differences between the two sides. — PTIBack






Fresh exchange of fire at LoC, Army reports infiltration

JAMMU: Indian and Pakistan troops on late Saturday night traded heavy gunfire along the Line of Control in Poonch sector after the movement of a group of suspected infiltrators was detected, in fresh escalation of tension.

"There was a movement of six to seven persons close to LoC opposite Krishagati sub-sector in Poonch sector at around 2145 hours tonight," defence spokesman Col RK Palta said.

There was no immediate report of casualty or injury on the Indian side.

Indian troops opened fire on the suspected infiltrators, the spokesman said, adding that thereafter exchange of heavy fire took place.

After about half-an-hour of exchange of fire, the suspected infiltrators disappeared from the scene, Col Palta said, adding that the intensity of firing from both sides has reduced but is going on.

It is suspected that either a groups of militants or Border Action Team (BAT) could have been undertaking movement close to LoC opposite Krishnagati sub-sector in Poonch on Saturday night.

The eruption of exchange of fire broke a lull of 48 hours.

Pakistani troops had violated the ceasefire by firing mortars shells and from small arms on Indian posts along LoC in Krishnagati sector of Poonch district on Thursday, the defence spokesman said.

Thursday's was the third ceasefire violation by Pakistan troops along Poonch sector after the barbaric killing of two Indian jawans. — PTI





Gang-rape incident a wake-up call: Sheila Dikshit

NEW DELHI: Admitting that the protests after the gang-rape incident were a “wake-up” call, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has taken on the Delhi Police for lack of faith the people have in it due to its “insensitive” approach. 

She also suggested that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s address to the nation on the December 16 incident could have come a little earlier instead of a week after the “horrendous” crime. 

Dikshit acknowledged that people “shy away” from helping others who are in distress because they feel that they will be “harassed” by the police, and asked the force to change its attitude and style of functioning. She felt that the force personnel should behave as “gentleman” police at the need of hour. 

“It worries me. Yes. It worries me that police force is not as sensitive or responsive as it ought to be or well behaved as it ought to be... The systems need to be changed and judicial system needs to be changed and bureaucratic system needs to be changed but it has to be thought out. But please remember it is not going to happen tomorrow,” she told Karan Thapar on Devil’s Advocate programme on CNN—IBN. 

“Fault lies with the police. I don’t know. I have not minced my words (in saying) where the failure of this has come (from). In fact, I have not overtly but covertly criticised this. It is not my job to appoint a Police Commissioner or take him away. It is the job of the Home Ministry and I am sure they will do something,” she said in reply to a question on who was at fault for the incident. 

Dikshit said such mass protests were a challenge to politicians, bureaucracy, judiciary, police and to everybody, while “fully sympathising” with the anger and anguish of the people. 

Calling the gang-rape of the paramedical student as “horrendous”, she said the Supreme Court’s observation that women in Delhi are not safe was “telling” and says it all. 

The Chief Minister rejected suggestions that the government did not act swiftly to control the situation, saying it had moved fast in setting up fast-track courts and appointing the Justice J. S. Verma Committee. 

In this context, Dikshit said the Prime Minister addressed the nation, while Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi met the protesters. 

She also noted that Singh and Gandhi received the body of the girl, who died in a Singapore hospital on December 29, at Delhi airport. 

To a question on whether Singh’s address came late, she said, “Maybe it was one week too late. He should have perhaps done it earlier.” 

”...It (the government) moved...to get some other things like we got this 181 line or whatever it may be a small effort, that rang the bell for everyone to wake up,” she said. 

Dikshit also asked why only politicians were being targeted and why not any other organisations, in an apparent reference to the Delhi Police. 

“Why are you putting it all on the politicians? Why not on many other things... The society, the way we are bringing up children, the way we are teaching children and the way our schools are running. Why is it only the politicians?” she asked. 

Pitching for a change in the system, she said the police needs to have more faith in the people and if they have faith as a police force in the people, people will have faith in it. 

Asked whether she addressed the issues with Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar, she said she had met them and explained the issues and had even written letters to them. 

Asked whether the Home Minister and the police understand the issues, she said: “Yes, Yes. I hope they do. My understanding is amongst all these people, whether it is the Home Minister or the Police Commissioner or Lt Governor or Secretary, Home. 

“They are not the people who are in touch daily with the people I am because I happen to be the Chief Minister.” 

Dikshit also said during her meeting with the Prime Minister, she told him that there should be an immediate change in the mode of police training if one wants to bring the confidence back into the policing system. 

The Chief Minister also felt a lot of the VVIP security has to be removed, saying, “I can tell you about myself, I don’t need that kind of security. Why?” 

Asked whether she broached the topic with Shinde, she replied in the affirmative and quoted him as saying that there will be a review of VVIP security so that it can go to the people. 

On the apex court’s observation about safety of women in Delhi, she said, “Now you see the judiciary and no less than the Supreme Court had to come out with this comment. This comment is telling, I mean it says it all. 

“Something I may not be able to say or somebody else may be saying and the Supreme Court is saying. This is about the third or fourth time that they have said something like this.” 

The Chief Minister said no one has any “magic wand” to bring back safety and that it will take time. She also said the family values where the boy is treated as a “king and the girl as a curse” needs to be changed first. 

Dikshit also said her government would launch an awareness campaign called ‘Aawaz uthao, chintan karo’ (Raise your voice and introspect). — PTI






HC quashes Army officer’s promotions,
Lt Gen becomes Brigadier

NEW DELHI: In an unusual order, the Delhi High Court has quashed two promotions of a sitting Lieutenant General of the Army, terming them as “illegal,” and has relegated him to a lower rank of Brigadier. 

A Bench of Justices Gita Mittal and J.R.Midha quashed the promotions given to Lt Gen S.S.Thakral, a 1974-batch officer, in 2009 and 2011, saying the Staff Selection Board exercised its powers in “bad faith” and without following established procedures. 

“The established and undisputed facts which preceded the orders appointing respondent No. 5 (Thakral), first as Major General and then as Lieutenant General, manifest the bad faith in the exercise of the power to effect the said appointments of respondent No. 5. 

“The respondents have ignored several relevant factors, which failure has offended against procedural propriety, making their decision in proceeding with the selections perverse and irrational, a facet of unreasonableness...They have therefore failed to comply with prescribed procedure, acted arbitrarily and abused discretionary powers,” the Bench said. 

The court quashed the proceedings and results of the selection boards held on August 12, 2009, and August 18, 2011, promoting Thakral to the ranks of Maj Gen and Lt Gen, respectively, in the Remount Veterinary Corps (RVC) of the Army. 

The decision came on the plea of Maj Gen Shrikant Sharma, a 1976-batch officer, alleging the selection boards had shown “undue haste” and “bias” in promoting Thakral. 

Thakral is currently the Director General, Remount Veterinary Services (DG-RVS) of the Army, a position he had taken over after his promotion to rank of Lt Gen. 

Sharma had alleged his promotions got affected due to “illegal” decisions of the selection boards to promote Thakral as a “stand alone” candidate. 

Allowing the plea, the court said, “Respondent (Thakral) could not compete with his own 1974 batch mates and was not empanelled when he was first considered for appointment as a Major General. While being considered as a review case, he had to be considered along with the next available batch which was being accorded its fresh consideration. 

“Consideration and selection could be effected based on the comparative merit of the overall profile of the officers. 

Instead the respondents have conducted facades of selection processes wherein he was the sole candidate... The illegal purpose was to ensure that only he was considered, selected and promoted to senior ranks irrespective of his comparative or relative merit.” 

Sharma had protested against Thakral’s promotions, but no action was taken on his plea then. 

The Military Secretary’s office had issued a note on September 26, 2011, declaring that Thakral had been empanelled as a fresh case of 1975 batch for promotion to the acting rank of Lt Gen. 

The Armed Forces Tribunal dismissed Sharma’s plea and later, he moved the court, which, not only quashed Thakral’s promotions but warned the army saying such appointments would have “far-reaching and disastrous” consequences. 

Asking the Defence Ministry and others to pay Rs 25,000 cost to Sharma, the court asked them to take corrective steps within six weeks. 

The ministry was also told to “hold a Special Selection Board for effecting promotion to the rank of Lieutenant General (DG RVS) for eligible officers” relating back to eligibility as on August 18, 2011. — PTI






Fiscal situation may worsen: Assocham

NEW DELHI: Fiscal situation may worsen due to rising inflation, decline in economic growth and global slowdown, industry body Assocham said on Sunday. 

“With little room available for taking counter—cyclical fiscal measures, India’s faltering growth coupled with unresponsive inflation can push the country’s economy to a precarious situation which could be closer to the one prevailing at the time of 1991 economic crisis,” it said. 

It also said that continued turbulence in the global economic conditions and widening infrastructure deficiencies are the major challenges for India’s growth story. 

“If appropriate action is not taken in time, we are likely to be in situation worse than the one in 1991 for several reasons,” the Assocham study said. 

It added that with public finances remaining in great stress, fiscal deficit may even touch 6.1 per cent of GDP in the current financial year. 

The Current Account Deficit needs to be financed through external capital inflows, it said, adding that the Government’s funding of the deficit through domestic sources tends to cause inflation. 

“Deviation from the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act (FRBM) Act by the Government has resulted in deteriorated fiscal health of the public finances,” it added. 

The prevailing industry and business conditions suggests that there would be a likely shortfall in gross tax revenues by around Rs 60,000 crore in the current fiscal, it said. 

“The slower pace of GDP growth has affected the manufacturing and trade sectors thereby resulting in lower than estimated excise duty collections. Higher policy rates of RBI, in an effort to contain inflation, has led to an investment downturn,” it said. 

According to Controller General of Accounts data, the fiscal deficit (gap between expenditure and revenue collection) was Rs 4.13 lakh crore during the first eight months of the current fiscal. — PTI





Sri Lanka President sacks Chief Justice

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapakse on Sunday sacked the country's first woman Chief Justice by ratifying Parliament's vote to impeach her, his spokesman said.

The move came despite mounting calls on Rajapakse to halt the impeachment which has been seen by rights groups and Western nations as a blow to judicial independence in a country emerging from decades of ethnic war.

"The President this morning signed the letter removing Shirani Bandaranayake from the Office of Chief Justice," spokesman Mohan Samaranayake said.

"The letter was hand-delivered to her by a secretary accompanied by presidential security staff."

Samaranayake said the President acted in line with the Constitution to remove Bandaranayake, 54, following Friday's overwhelming parliamentary vote to remove her.

Legislators found her guilty of tampering with a case involving a company from which her sister had bought an apartment, of failing to declare dormant bank accounts, and of staying in office while her husband faced a bribery charge.

Bandaranayake stormed out of a parliamentary select committee hearing last month after accusing ruling party legislators of verbally abusing her and not giving her a fair trial. She has denied all allegations against her.

The government moved to impeach her in November after a spate of Supreme Court decisions went against the government.

Among others, she stalled a Bill which sought to grant greater political and financial power to the President's youngest brother Basil, who is the Economic Development Minister.

Privately-run newspapers in Sri Lanka on Sunday had urged Rajapakse to reconsider and avoid a constitutional crisis.

"In the coming week, what stands between possible constitutional anarchy and the rule of law is the intervention of the president," the Sunday Times said in an editorial headlined: "The buck stops now with Mr President."

The Sunday Island said the Chief Justice was not given a fair hearing and the impeachment has only "blackened" the country's image.

Work in courthouses has been at a standstill since Thursday as lawyers stayed away protesting the impeachment. They have also asked other judges not to recognise a replacement who is expected to be appointed by the President. — AFP




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