L A T E S T      N E W S

Kejriwal writes to LG on Jan Lokpal Bill

NEW DELHI: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday asked Lt Governor Najeeb Jung not to protect the interest of any party or the Home Ministry, which were keen on stalling his government’s Jan Lokpal Bill.

“Now, it is for you to decide whether you will be able to stand up to the pressure or not. You are a genuine person. But I humbly want to suggest to you that you had taken an oath to protect the Constitution and not the interest of any party or the Home Ministry,” he said in a strongly-worded letter to Jung.

The letter of Kejriwal, who shares a good equation with Jung, was sharp in tone and came a day after reports emanated that the Lt Governor had sought Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran’s opinion on the Bill.

The law officer had conveyed to him that it will be illegal if prior consent was not taken from the Centre. It also came on a day when his party colleague Ashutosh called the Lt Governor a “Congress agent“.

Kejriwal raised questions on how the Lt Governor had sought comments from Parasaran on the Bill that was sent to him only last evening and shortly later news leaked out about the law officer objecting to it.

“I was surprised when I heard on television last night about SG’s opinion. On which Bill you had sought SG’s opinion, as we had sent the draft to you only in the evening and on which Bill he had given you opinion,” he said.

Earlier, Kejriwal's Cabinet colleague Manish Sisodia said the government will have a “look” at the issue but maintained that the Assembly and the elected government have the right to take decisions.

“The Solicitor General might have given some arguments and cited some clauses. We will have a look at it, but I want to say that there is nothing supreme than the elected government and the elected Vidhan Sabha,” Sisodia said.

AAP leader and senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan said there may be some rules that the government needs to get prior clearance for the Bill but the mere fact that the permission was not taken does not make it illegal as the Bill has to get the approval of the President.

Parasaran, whose opinion was sought by Jung on the constitutionality of the Delhi government’s proposal to enact the Jan Lokpal Bill without seeking Centre’s clearance, had conveyed to him that it will be illegal if enacted without the consent.

“I am not bothered about politics. We have only given our opinion based on the constitutional position. Therefore, it is for the government to consider it and possibly act,” the Solicitor General said.

The Delhi Cabinet had cleared the draft Bill on February 3, 2014. It provides for covering all public servants — from Chief Minister to Group D employees — and seeks life term as maximum punishment for those found guilty of corruption.

The AAP government has already declared that it will go ahead with enacting the law. It plans to introduce the Bill in the Delhi Assembly on February 13, and discuss it for two days before shifting the proceedings to a sports stadium for passage of the Bill. 

Meanwhile, the Aam Aadmi Party on Friday demanded a probe into the alleged “leak” of a communication on the Jan Lokpal Bill from the Solicitor General to the Lt Governor, whom it accused of acting like a “Congress agent”.

“Anything that has gone to Lt Governor, it has become public through the media. Lt Governor Najeeb Jung is acting an agent of the Congress and he is trying to malign the image of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government,” party spokesperson Ashutosh said.

He said that this was not the first time that the information was leaked from the LG’s office and also demanded that the matter be investigated.

“This is not the first time that a confidential communication with delhi Lg Jung is leaked !! Is his office involved in leak !!!

“How and why confidential letter between LG Jung and solicitor General was leaked ?? Who has leaked ?? It should be investigated ???,” the journalist-turned-politician tweeted.

Interestingly, from the day the AAP was invited to form the government, it has shared cordial relations with the Lt Governor.

Even when there was a face-off between the Union Home Ministry, Delhi Police and the Delhi government last month, Kejriwal had publicly praised Jung calling him a “nice person”. Jung had played a major role in convincing Kejriwal to reach on a compromise.

Friday, Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran, whose opinion was sought by Jung on the constitutionality of the Delhi Government’s proposal to enact the Jan Lokpal Bill without seeking Centre’s clearance, had conveyed to him that it will be illegal if enacted without the consent.

“Whatever the Solicitor General has said is a legal advice and views over legal issues may differ. As per the legal advice we have sought, this (the process to pass the Janlokpal Bill) is purely legal and we will bring this Bill in the Assembly,” Ashutosh said.

AAP leader and senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan said there is a provision in the act that even if something that requires prior approval, the mere fact that it was not sent for prior approval will not make it unconstitutional because eventually the President will give his assent

“He is talking about the procedure… that is some requirement in transaction of business rules,” he said. — PTI Back








SC refuses to stay tabling of Telangana Bill in Parliament

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday refused to stay tabling of the Telangana Bill in Parliament, saying it did not want to interfere at this stage.

A Bench comprising justices H.L. Dattu and S.A. Bobde declined to pass any direction to the Centre on a batch of petitions challenging the carving of the new state of Telangana out of Andhra Pradesh.

The Bench referred to its earlier order of November 18, 2013, when it had said that it was premature at that time to entertain any petition relating to the opposition to the bifurcation of the state.

“We do not see any change in the stage between November 18, 2013, and today. So we decline to interfere at this stage,” the Bench said.

However, it clarified that the averment made in the writ petitions are open to be entertained at an appropriate stage.

Those who were opposing the proposed creation of Telangana sought stay of tabling of the Bill, saying that there was all likelihood that the Bill will be tabled in Parliament on February 10 and if it becomes a law, it will become an irreversible process.

They also submitted that since the Andhra Pradesh Assembly has unanimously rejected the draft Bill, it should not be allowed to be tabled in the same form.

The Bench passed the brief order after almost one-and-a-half hours of hearing during which all the petitioners were heard. — PTIBack











Telangana issue rocks Parliament

NEW DELHI: Row over Telangana statehood and the harassment of Tamil fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy rocked Parliament for the third day today, turning the first week of the extended Winter Session into a complete washout.

Three members in the Lok Sabha, including one from ruling Congress, gave notices of no-confidence motion against the government.

As soon as the Lok Sabha met for the day, members from Andhra Pradesh cutting across party lines began shouting slogans for and against creation of Telangana and entered the Well.

The notices for no-confidence motion, given by the three members, including G. V. Harsha Kumar of Congress, could not be taken up as Speaker Meira Kumar's repeated pleas to the agitated members went unheeded.

She said since the House was not in order, she could not ascertain whether the notices had the support of the requisite 50 MPs. Two other members who gave the notice were M. Venugopala Reddy (TDP) and M. Raja Mohan Reddy (YSR Congress).

As the din continued, Kumar adjourned the House for the day in the afternoon. It was adjourned till noon when it had assembled for the day.

In the Rajya Sabha, an exasperated Chairman Hamid Ansari remarked, "For several days now, we have been in a situation where we are being forced to witness deviations of decorum of House when members rush into the Well.

"I wish to inform the members that this will now be reflected precisely in the proceedings of the House." He said this after TDP members rushed into the Well carrying banners that read 'Save Andhra Pradesh' to oppose creation of Telangana. They were joined by DMK members with "Save Tamil Fishermen" banners.

The House was adjourned twice before lunch and then for the day a little after 2.30 pm amid similar scenes with TDP and AIADMK members in the Well, and BJP, AGP and others on their feet demanding discussions on the AgustaWestland scam and the death of a north-east student in Delhi.

The disruptions in Parliament took place on a day when a special meeting of the Union Cabinet has on its agenda the Bill on carving out Telangana — an issue on which the state is sharply divided on regional lines.

Lok Sabha also saw Akali Dal members on their feet with placards protesting 1984 anti-Sikh riots and SP MPs in the Well demanding quota for 17 castes. — PTIBack











SC directs NTPC not to cut power supply to BSES till March 26

NEW DELHI: In a breather to Reliance-controlled BSES Rajdhani Power Ltd. and BSES Yamuna Power Ltd. power distribution companies, the Supreme Court on Friday directed the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) to continue supplying power to these companies till March 26.

The apex court Bench of Justice Surinder Singh Nijjar and Justice A.K. Sikri directed the discoms to pay Rs 50 crore to NTPC as part payment of its outstanding dues within two weeks.

Hearing the petition by two Reliance discoms, the court on Friday issued notice to the Central and Delhi governments, Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission and NTPC, asking them to respond to the Reliance plea within two weeks and gave another one week to the discoms to file their rejoinders.

Appearing for the discoms, senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi told the court that the two companies have still not been paid dues worth Rs 15,000 crore as directed by the DERC. This, he said, has caused a huge burden on the companies as they could not pass it on to the consumers.

Pointing to the dichotomy of the situation, Rohatgi told the court that while the two discoms were not getting what is due to them, on the other hand, NTPC was asking to cough up their outstanding dues.

The two firms supply electricity to nearly 70 per cent of the city, which is nearly 3.5 million consumers.

The move comes against the backdrop of the Delhi government's recommendation to the regulator for revocation of the licenses issued to the two firms if they failed to pay their dues to NTPC and/or resort to long power outages in city.

Reacting to this, the two firms said the recommendation was illegal and arbitrary, and that they expected an independent decision by the regulator while dealing with the subject.

"As legally advised, the proposed cancellation of licenses in this situation is arbitrary and illegal, and will only serve to de-motivate thousands of our employees who have timelessly worked to transform the power supply situation in Delhi," they said. — IANSBack











SC issues defamation notice to Kejriwal

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on a petition challenging a Delhi High Court order in a defamation case against him.

The Supreme Court also stayed the operation of the high court order that had permitted Kejriwal to approach the lower court for his discharge in the defamation suit filed by Amit Sibal, son of Law Minister Kapil Sibal.

The defamation suit is rooted in a May 15, 2013, press conference in which Kejriwal, while alleging conflict of interest, had said that Amit Sibal had appeared in the Supreme Court for Vodafone while his father was the communications minister.

The lower court had issued summons to Kejriwal and others. Kejriwal had moved the high court seeking exemption from appearance as he wanted to be discharged in the matter. The high court had allowed this. — IANSBack












Spectrum auction takes off from Rs 52,689 crore

NEW DELHI: The third round of spectrum auction commenced for the fifth day on Friday with Delhi witnessing an upward revision in prices for both the premium 900 Mhz and 1800 MHz band.

“Auction has started. There is excess demand in circles including Assam, J&K, MP, West Bengal, UP (E) and UP (W),” a Department of Telecom (DoT) official said.

At the end of fourth day, telecom companies have jointly made bids worth about Rs 52,689 crore. The government has got bids of around Rs 30,754 crore for 1800 Mhz band and Rs 21,935 crore for 900 Mhz band.

The price of 900 Mhz in Delhi shot up by about 78 per cent to Rs 639.24 crore per megahertz as compared to the base price of Rs 360 crore fixed by the government; whereas for the 1800 MHz band, the reserve price rose by 5 per cent to Rs 230 crore a MHz.

The auction for the fourth day ended with no excess demand for the first time for 900 Mhz in any of the three metros — Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata.

In Mumbai, the price of 900 Mhz band increased by 72 per cent to Rs 563.09 crore for a Mhz and in Kolkata by 54 per cent to Rs 192.71 crore.

The government has put on auction about 385 megahertz of spectrum in the 1800 Mhz band, which started on February 3, following a February 2013 Supreme Court order.

The government is auctioning airwaves in 900 Mhz band in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, which are held by Vodafone, Airtel and Loop Mobile through their licences which are expiring in November.

The 3G auction in 2010 lasted for 34 days, while the auction in November 2012 lasted for 2 days and March auction last year lasted only one day.

In November 2012, bids worth Rs 9,407 crore were received for spectrum worth Rs 28,000 on offer.

In March 2013, no GSM operators bid at the auction and only CDMA operator Sistema Shyam bought spectrum of about Rs 3,600 crore in eight of the 21 service areas. — PTIBack












Molestation case: Cong asks J&K Minister to resign 

JAMMU: The Congress today asked its minister in Jammu and Kashmir, Shabir Khan, to resign after he was booked on molestation charges by the police following a complaint by a lady doctor in Srinagar.

"The Congress has asked Minister of State for Health Shabir Khan to resign pending inquiry", JKPCC spokesman Ravinder Sharma told reporters here.

The minister, who is believed to have been told to resign by JKPCC chief Saif-uddin-Soz, is in Rajouri.

Asked about the Congress stand on the issue, Sharma said, "Law will take its own course."

Meanwhile, BJP today held a demonstration to demand sacking of Shabir Khan, facing molestation charges filed by a lady doctor in Sringar, even as several other parties also sought his resignation.

Led by BJP's youth wing Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) state president Ravinder Sharma, over 200 BJP and BJYM activists protested at the Jammu Press Club against the state Health Minister.

Raising anti-government and anti-Khan slogans, the protesters burnt the minister's effigy and demanded his sacking from the Council of Minister of the Omar Abdullah government.

"We demand Khan's sacking immediately. He should be arrested," BJYM state chief Ranider Sharma told reporters.

"The government should hold investigation and ensure punishment into the case. As for moral aspect is concerned, the minister should resign forthwith," chief spokesman of J&K BJP Jitender Singh said.

PDP also held a protest here on the issue.

Khan was yesterday booked by the police on a complaint by a lady doctor, alleging that he made an attempt to molest her.

A case was registered under Section 354 RPC (assault or criminal force on a woman with the intention to outrage modesty of a woman) and Section 509 RPC (word, gesture or act intended to outrage the modesty of a woman).

The complaint was lodged a few days back at Shaheedgunj police station.

It said Khan, who belongs to Congress, allegedly tried to make advances towards the woman doctor and molest her when she visited his office in the state secretariat here on January 28. The woman claimed she was called by the minister's aide to the secretariat office.

On reaching the office, the woman claimed she was asked to see the minister. She said she was then asked to make kahwa (Kashmiri tea).

The woman claimed she felt uncomfortable and quickly left the room after the minister allegedly tried to molest her.

Reacting on the issue, PDP spokesperson Naeem Akhtar said, "people who stoop so low should be given harshest punishment.

"If the J&K government has any shame, it will take proper action and ensure stepping down of the minister," he added.

NC additional general secretary Mustafa Kamal said, "The case has been registered, so we should wait for the outcome of the case. Law will take its own course. He will be forced to resigned as he is a man of high moral."

Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP) MLA and former minister Yash Pal Kundal said, "Till the probe is held, the minister should resign." 

Shabir Ahmad Khan is the third Congress minister to find himself in such a situation ever since the NC-Congress coalition came to power in 2009.

In 2010, Public Works Department Minister G.M. Saroori, also a Congress leader, was forced to resign from the state Cabinet following reports that his daughter had passed a medical college entrance exam by arranging a proxy candidate to write the papers.

In 2012, the then Education Minister and former state Congress chief Peerzada Muhammad Sayeed had to resign after the J&K Police Crime Branch indicted him on charges of helping his son to qualify his Class-X exam in 2009 through unfair means and impersonation.

Earlier in 2008 too, Sayeed quit as Education Minister amid allegation that he had received Rs 40,000 as bribe from the sister of a sitting legislator Shoaib Lone. — PTIBack











Srinagar-Jammu highway closed due to fresh snowfall 

SRINAGAR: The Srinagar-Jammu national highway, connecting Kashmir with the rest of the country, was closed for traffic today following fresh heavy snowfall at many places along the route.

"The Srinagar-Jammu highway is closed for traffic due to heavy snowfall near Jawahar Tunnel and many other places along the route," a spokesman of the Traffic Department said.

Landslides occurred at a few places along the 294-km arterial highway, forcing the authorities to stop the traffic which was scheduled to ply from Srinagar to Jammu.

The highway was closed on February 5 also due to fresh snowfall and rain.

Meanwhile, the plains of the Valley, including Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, received moderate snowfall overnight, while heavy snowfall was recorded in the higher reaches.

Srinagar received 7 cm of snow and the mercury settled at a low of 0.2 degrees Celsius last night as compared to 0.6 degrees Celsius the previous night, a MeT Department official here said.

Mercury in Qazigund — the gateway town to the Kashmir Valley — settled at zero degrees Celsius as against 0.2 degrees Celsius the previous night and the town received 5 cm of snow.

The tourist resort of Pahalgam in south Kashmir recorded a snowfall of 3 cm and the mercury there appreciated by over one degree to settle at minus 5.2 degrees Celsius as compared to minus 6.7 degrees Celsius previous night.

The famous ski-resort of Gulmarg recorded a low of minus 5.2 degrees Celsius as against the previous night’s minus 8.0 degrees Celsius.

The resort recorded five feet of snow, the official said.

The mercury in Kokernag in south Kashmir settled at a low of minus 1.3 degrees Celsius last night, an increase of two degrees from the previous night’s minimum of minus 3.3 degrees Celsius.

The town received 13 cm of snow, the official said.

The mercury in Kupwara, which recorded a low of zero degree Celsius the previous night, settled at 0.2 degrees Celsius last night and recorded 25 cm of snowfall.

The mercury in Leh, in Ladakh region, increased by over seven degrees to settle at a low of minus 4.8 degrees Celsius as against minus 12.4 degrees Celsius.

Kargil was the coldest place in the state as the mercury settled at a low of minus 15.0 degrees Celsius as compared to the previous night’s 16.4 degrees Celsius.

The MeT Department has said there would be a decrease in precipitation from tomorrow. PTIBack




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