L A T E S T      N E W S

Coal scam report shared with Law Minister: CBI director

NEW DELHI: Setting off a political bombshell, CBI director Ranjit Sinha on Friday submitted before the Supreme Court that the agency’s status report on the coal allocation scam was “shared” with Law Minister Ashwani Kumar “as desired by him” and that senior officials of PMO and Coal ministry had also seen it.

Sinha’s two-page affidavit filed on the direction of the apex court contradicts the claim made by CBI counsel on the last date of hearing that the coal scam report was not shared with any member of the government.

“I submit that the draft (status report) of the same was shared with Law Minister as desired by him prior to its submission before the Supreme Court....it was also shared with one joint secretary level officer each of Prime Minister’s Office and Ministry of Coal as desired by them,” the affidavit said.

The affidavit triggered a political storm with the Opposition saying the Law Minister’s continuance in office has become untenable and demanded his resignation.

The CBI director said whatever he has to say, it was before the apex court.

In his affidavit, Sinha assured the apex court that the agency will not share further status reports in this case with any member of the political executive.

He also said that the latest status report being filed today has not been shared with any political executive in “any manner whatsoever."

“I confirm that the present status report being filed in this court has not been shared with any political executive in any manner whatsoever.

“In respect of further status reports of the investigation and inquiry required to be filed in this matter before this court, I undertake and assure this court that the same shall not be shared with any political executive,” the affidavit said.

On his part, Kumar said, “Truth will prevail". — PTIBack







Govt rules out Ashwani Kumar’s resignation

NEW DELHI: Under Opposition attack over the CBI affidavit on the coal scam issue, Law Minister Ashwani Kumar on Friday said he had done “no wrong” and got support from the government which ruled out his resignation.

“I have done no wrong. Truth will prevail,” he said after a meeting of UPA chaired by Sonia Gandhi and attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Kumar, whose sacking is being demanded by the Opposition parties, also met the Prime Minister to give his version on the issue. He also met Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath separately.

“There is no question of his resignation. He is not going to resign,” Nath told reporters here after the meeting when asked whether Kumar had offered to resign.

With regard to the CBI affidavit, he said, “It is for the court to decide.”

Suggesting that there was no wrongdoing by Kumar, he said CBI has stated that only the draft report was shown to the minister and not the final report.

To a question why the officials of PMO and the Coal Ministry were also present during the CBI meeting with the Law Minister, he said the contents of the report were to be provided by the Coal Ministry and the Prime Minister had held the coal portfolio for some time.

“The legal aspect is looked into by the Law Minister,” he said.

He spoke to media after Gandhi and the Prime Minister held consultations with UPA leaders in the wake of CBI affidavit filed in the Supreme Court earlier in the day. — PTIBack







Govt seeks to end Parliament logjam, BJP
opposes 2G report's adoption

NEW DELHI: The government on Friday sought to end the current impasse in Parliament by reaching out to BJP for its support to get the Finance Bill and Rail Budget passed but the main Opposition was adamant that the controversial JPC report on 2G scam should not be adopted.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath met NDA working chairperson L.K. Advani, BJP Deputy Leader in Lok Sabha Gopinath Munde and other MPs to find a way out of the impasse in both Houses to get crucial finance bills passed.

Nath sought BJP's support to run the House to pass the Rail Budget and the Finance Bill. With only nine working days left in this session, the government wants to get them passed at the earliest.

Sources said BJP is likely to cooperate on these two matters but will not allow any other legislative business.

Advani is understood to have told Nath that the matter should be discussed on Monday as Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj is in Karnataka for the election campaign. But he emphasised that BJP will not allow the controversial JPC draft report on 2G spectrum scam to be adopted.

BJP is miffed by the allegation in the JPC report that the telecom policy followed by the erstwhile NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee had led to the loss of Rs 42,000 crore to the exchequer.

More than half of the JPC members yesterday met Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar to demand that P.C. Chacko be removed from the post of chairperson of the panel and another member be appointed in his place.

The CBI affidavit in the Supreme Court has said the agency's status report on coal allocation scam was "shared" with the law minister "as desired by him" and that senior officials of PMO and coal ministry had also seen it. BJP has demanded that Kumar should step down. — PTIBack







Fishermen killing case: SC orders daily hearings, NIA probe 

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday allowed the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to probe the case against two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen and asked the special court to conduct the trial on a day-to-day basis after the charge sheet is filed.

A Bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir clarified that the special court, set up by the Centre for this case, will not take up any other matter and complete the trial as soon as possible.

The Bench also comprising Justices A.R. Dave and Vikramajit Sen said the two marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, will remain in the custody of the apex court till the completion of the trial.

The Italian government had raised objection over the case being handed by the NIA, saying that the agency has no jurisdiction and pleaded that the case be probed by CBI.

The Italian government had approached the apex court, saying that the charges which have been slapped on the marines are not covered by the NIA Act.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Italian government, had submitted that NIA can probe the case only if charges under Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act, 2002, are also slapped against the marines and the same cannot be done in view of apex court verdict to prosecute them only under IPC, CrPC, Maritime Zones Act and United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The two marines were on board Italian vessel ‘Enrica Lexie’ when they had allegedly shot dead two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast on February 15, last year. — PTIBack







Negotiations on to solve Chinese incursion issue: Antony

NEW DELHI: Defence minister A K Antony on Friday said negotiations and consultations are on at various levels to find a peaceful solution to the Chinese incursion issue in Ladakh.

His comments came a day after external affairs minister Salman Khurshid asserted in Almaty in Kazhakistan that India was "not a pushover" and that the issue of Chinese incursion in Ladakh would be resolved before he visits Beijing on May 9.

"Negotiations and consultations are going on at various levels to find out a peaceful solution to Chinese incursion issue," Antony told reporters outside Parliament House.

The Defence Minister was yesterday briefed by Army chief Gen Bikram Singh, who reviewed the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and the Ladakh area with military commanders in the Northern Command.

The Army has given its inputs to the Government and the National Security Advisor-headed China Study Group, which is handling the present situation in Ladakh.

The Army has also given various options to the government on the issue including the aggressive use of military to handle the present situation.

All the options suggested to the China Study Group are being looked at carefully and other stakeholders in the situation have also given their inputs.

The Army had rushed its troops from the 5 Ladakh Scouts battalion to the DBO area and they are camping there. The force is also considering the option of dispatching additional troops if the need arises.

On April 15, a platoon-strength contingent of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) had come 10 km inside the Indian territory in Burthe in the DBO sector and established a tented post there. — PTIBack







Monsoon to be normal this year: Govt

NEW DELHI: India expects total monsoon rainfall to be average in 2013, Union Minister Jaipal Reddy said on Friday, strengthening prospects for one of the world's biggest grains producers to avoid widespread drought for a fourth straight year.

India's first official forecast confirms a call by global experts last week, and points to bumper grain supplies that would swell huge current stockpiles and hold down world food prices.

"Most likely this year's monsoon is expected to be within the normal range," Earth Sciences Minister S. Jaipal Reddy told a news conference in New Delhi.

Monsoon rains are vital for the 55 per cent of the country's farmland that lacks irrigation facilities, and can make the difference between India being an exporter or importer of staples such as rice and sugar.

Rainfall is expected to be 98 per cent of the long-term average during the June to September season, Reddy said. Rains between 96 per cent and 104 per cent of a 50-year average of 89 cm for the entire season are considered normal, or average.

The last time there was a drought with rainfall below this range was in 2009 and prior to that, in 2004.

Agriculture accounts for 15 percent of gross domestic product in Asia's third-largest economy, where more than 800 million people live in rural areas. Ample harvests also help keep a lid on inflation, now running near 9 per cent.

Rain last year fell only about 7 percent below average in the season, but drought ravaged an area in India's southern and western states that is roughly the size of southern Europe, and which is still suffering.

India will issue its final monsoon forecast in June, after the southwest monsoon has typically covered half the country. — ReutersBack







India protests questioning of Azam Khan at Boston airport

Washington: Taking serious note of the questioning of the Uttar Pradesh minister Azam Khan at the Logan International Airport in Boston, the Indian Embassy has raised the issue with the State Department here.

“The issue has been taken up with the State Department,” the Indian Embassy spokesman, M Sridharan, told PTI in response to a question if the Embassy was aware of the incident at Boston airport on Wednesday.

Khan, a senior leader of the ruling Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh and also the Urban Development Minister of the State, was detained for about 10 minutes at the Boston airport for “further questioning” after he landed in a scheduled British Airways flight from India.

In protest, Khan, who is accompanying the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav to deliver a lecture in Harvard University on the recently held Mahakumbh Mela at Allahabad, has decided to come back after a short stay.

Meanwhile, External Affairs Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said India has asked its embassy in Washington to take up appropriately with the US authorities the matter of Khan’s detention.

“We have received reports from our Consulate General in New York on this incident. We have asked our embassy in Washington to take up the matter appropriately with the US authorities,” Akbaruddin told reporters in Kazakhstan capital Almaty.

Akbaruddin is accompanying External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid who is in the Kazakh capital for an international conference on Afghanistan. — PTIBack







Bhutto murder case: FIA gets Musharraf's custody

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani anti-terrorism court on Friday remanded Pervez Musharraf to the physical custody of the Federal Investigation Agency till April 30 in the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007.

During a brief hearing at the anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi, Judge Chaudhry Habib-ur-Rehman accepted the FIA's request to be given physical custody of the 69-year-old former military ruler.

The FIA's lawyers told the judge that they wanted physical custody of Musharraf, so that he could be questioned in connection with the probe into Bhutto's assassination.

The judge directed the FIA to produce Musharraf in court again on April 30.

Official sources said that Musharraf would continue to be held at his farmhouse on the outskirts of Islamabad, declared a "sub-jail" by authorities, while he is questioned by a joint investigation team of the FIA.

The judge rejected a request from Musharraf's lawyers for changing the joint investigation team, officials said.

Musharraf was driven in a motorcade from his residence to the anti-terrorism court shortly before 10 am. Scores of policemen and armed paramilitary troopers were deployed at the court complex to deter protests against the former dictator.

During Musharraf's last appearance at the same court earlier this week, several persons were injured when the former president's supporters clashed with lawyers.

The media was barred from the courtroom during today's proceedings. Footage on television showed Musharraf's motorcade leaving the court complex after the proceedings.

Musharraf was formally arrested by the FIA on Thursday after the anti-terrorism court directed investigators to include him in the probe into the 2007 assassination.

The FIA joint investigation team also recorded Musharraf's statement last night. The FIA officials asked Musharraf why Bhutto was not provided adequate security by his regime when she returned to Pakistan from self-exile in 2007, Geo News channel reported.

Musharraf reportedly said Bhutto was provided complete security and refused to accept allegations made against him.

Special prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali told PTI yesterday that the joint investigation team would question Musharraf on two issues ? making a threatening phone call to Bhutto and sending an email that warned her not to return to Pakistan, and failing to provide adequate security to Bhutto after she came back to the country.

Musharraf's failure to provide adequate security to Bhutto "indirectly facilitated and helped terrorists in executing their plan to murder" her, Ali said.

Musharraf will also be quizzed on why he did not respond to five letters from Bhutto seeking foolproof security ahead of her return to Pakistan.

The joint investigation team is expected to complete questioning Musharraf by May 3.

Bhutto was assassinated by a suicide bomber after addressing an election rally in Rawalpindi in December 2007.

Musharraf was arrested and detained at his villa last week after the Islamabad High Court revoked his bail in a case related to the detention of over 60 judges during the 2007 emergency.

He returned to Pakistan last month after nearly four years of self-exile, promising to "save" the country from economic ruin and militancy.

However, he was barred from running in the May 11 general election, which will mark the first democratic transition of power in Pakistan's history. — PTIBack




HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Letters | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | E-mail |