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Kejriwal threatens to 'go to any extent' over Jan Lokpal Bill 

NEW DELHI: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal today threatened to "go to any extent" over his pet anti-graft legislation, the Jan Lokpal Bill, which is opposed both by the Congress, whose continued support is essential for the survival of his government, and the BJP.

"Corruption is extremely important issue and I will go to any extent," he said during an interaction with PTI editors at the agency's head office here.

Asked if could resign, the Aam Aadmi Party leader responded by affirming that he could go to any extent over the "huge" issue of corruption." That (resignation) you interpret," he added.

Asserting that both the Congress and BJP will never allow passage of the Bill, Kejriwal said since the government has decided to probe the alleged corruption in Commonwealth Games projects, Congress' "pitch" has become more "shrill" in this regard and also there are allegations against the BJP, which is in power in MCD for past seven years.

Last week, the Delhi Cabinet cleared the draft of the much talked-about Jan Lokpal Bill which provides for covering all public servants — from the Chief Minister to Group D employees — and seeks life term as maximum punishment for those found guilty of corruption.

Bringing the Jan Lokpal Bill to contain corruption was a key election promise made to the voters by the Aam Aadmi Party.

"They (Congress) realise that if there is a strong Lokpal, then many of these people will get into trouble. For seven years BJP is in power in MCD and they may also get into trouble. If the Bill is passed, then all these CWG cases will go to Lokpal," the 45-year-old Chief Minister said.

Kejriwal also said, "We have written to the Home Minister to withdraw the (2002) order which directs the Delhi government to take approval of the ministry before passage of any Bill in the Assembly" and asserted that the city government cannot follow these "unconstitutional rules." 

"That was only an order and which is completely against the Constitution. How can an order by the Home Ministry curtail law-making powers of the Delhi Assembly. It is a very very serious issue... I have taken oath of the Constitution and not Home Ministry's order. I will uphold the Constitution." 

He added: "When I saw the order after becoming Chief Minister, I was completely flabbergasted. How can they do that. Then I told my officials to show me the history. I have a list of 13 legislations in which they did not take any approval.

The legislations are held back in the Home Ministry for six-seven years. If this is the case, then how can the Assembly make law. Sheila Dikshit used to pass law before taking Centre's approval." — PTIBack













Rahul slams Modi, says he represents RSS ideology

BARDOLIi (Gujarat): Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi today took on BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in his home state of Gujarat, saying he represents RSS ideology which has killed Mahatma Gandhi.

He also attacked Modi for construction of a massive statue of Sardar Patel, saying the 'Iron Man' had described the RSS ideology as "poisonous" and had represented Congress thought which Modi wants to erase from the country.

In an attempt at damage control over the 'chai wala' barb by his party colleague Mani Shankar Aiyar against Modi, the Congress vice-president said people from all professions, including tea vendors, should be respected except those who make fool of others.

Addressing a public meeting here, the Congress leader targeted Modi's governance and sought to highlight the problems being faced by various sections, including farmers, in the state.

Attacking Modi's ideology, he said, "You have been in RSS all your life... Who killed Mahatma? It was RSS ideology which killed him. After his death Sardar Patel had proposed to ban RSS".

"What Patel and Mahatma said neither do you have any understanding nor have read them. But you want to construct a statue. Sardar had said RSS was a poisonous ideology which will destroy the country's soul." Gandhi said people from all professions should be respected.

"People are involved in various professions. Some make tea, others drive taxi, some are engaged in farming. We have to respect all of them. We have to respect the tea vendor, the labourer and the farmer. But those who make fool (ullu) of others, should not be respected," he said.

The comment assumes significance as it comes two days after he told Congress spokespersons to desist from making personal attacks on any political leader. — PTIBack










Taniam's death a national shame: Modi

IMPHAL: BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi on Saturday said the death of Arunachal Pradesh student Nido Tania in Delhi is a matter of national shame and asked the Centre and the Delhi government to shun their blame game on the issue and ensure justice for him.

He said such incidents further alienate the people of the north-eastern states, which due to the “unfortunate policies” of the Congress have been neglected and have not developed in the last 60 years.

“It (the death of Nido Taniam in Delhi) is a shameful incident for the nation. I offer my prayers for the boy and his family...There is lack of governance there. There are cases of atrocities on women.

“I hope the Government of India and the Government of Delhi come out of the blame game and works towards ensuring justice for the young boy and his family,” Modi said.

Ninteen-year-old Taniam, an Arunachal Pradesh MLA’s son, was found dead last month after he was allegedly beaten up by a group of five-six men in Lajpat Nagar market in South Delhi following an altercation sparked by their taunts on his hairstyle.

Modi attacked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for failing to ensure the development of the north-east region despite representing it for the last 23 years in the Rajya Sabha.

“The Congress chief ministers invite the Prime Minister for laying foundation stone or cutting ribbons for projects but it ends there and nothing happens afterwards,” he said.

The BJP leader said the NDA Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had taken the initiative of creating a separate ministry for the north-eastern region and taken steps to develop it but the Congress governments in the state and the Centre “have been indulging in corruption only”.

The BJP leader listed the issues of insurgency and the drug-trafficking as the ones impacting the north-eastern region and accused the Congress government in the state of failing in its efforts to control the menace.

He said insurgency was also leading to “fake encounters” which is going to further spoil the situation.

Modi said the BJP will work towards developing the potential of herbal industry, horticulture and agro-processing industries when it comes to power. — PTIBack











ICC board approves structural reforms,
 Srinivasan to be next chief

SINGAPORE: The International Cricket Council board on Saturday approved wide-ranging structural and governance reforms despite complaints that they place too much power in the hands of the "Big Three" of India, England and Australia.

The proposals were passed after gaining the support of eight of the ICC's 10 full members, with Sri Lanka and Pakistan — who have both been vocally opposed — abstaining, a spokesman said.

The package resolution, passed at a meeting in Singapore, includes setting up a five-man executive council with seats reserved for India, England and Australia, the sport's leading financial powers.

And N. Srinivasan of India, which contributes the lion's share of cricket's global revenues, will chair the ICC board from the middle of this year.

"There were eight full members who were in a position to support the resolution today and the two who have abstained have pledged to further discuss the issues with an aim to reaching unanimous approval over the coming weeks," said ICC president Alan Isaac. — AFPBack












J&K: Docs take out protest rally, demand ex-minister's arrest

SRINAGAR: Work at SMHS Hospital here was affected for a few hours today as doctors went on a strike and took out a protest rally demanding stern action against former Jammu and Kashmir Minister of State for Health Shabir Ahmad Khan, accused in a sexual assault case.

The doctors working at the hospital demanded immediate arrest of Khan who resigned yesterday after a lady doctor alleged that he made an attempt to molest her in his office.

Work at the hospital was disrupted for some time but emergency services remained unaffected.

"We warn the government that if Khan is not arrested today, we will go on a strike and even shut down emergency services," Nissar-ul-Hassan, president of the Doctors’ Association Kashmir (DAK), told reporters.

He demanded a probe by a judicial commission into the "disgraceful act".

"The entire society is in a state of shock. The incident has tarnished the image of health institutions," he said.

The DAK president said resignation by the minister was a "mere eyewash", as earlier such incidents have shown that the government had given "plump postings to officials involved in sex scandals and rape".

He claimed the incident had caused fear among lady doctors who did not want to go for work as "they feel unsafe after this dastardly act". 

Meanwhile, a court here today issued an arrest warrant against former minister Shabir Ahmad Khan in connection with the sexual assault case.

Chief Judicial Magistrate, Srinagar, Rajiv Gupta issued the arrest warrant against Khan, an MLA from Rajouri, following an application moved by the police.

Yesterday, the police had registered a case against Khan after a lady doctor, wife of a separatist leader, alleged the minister had called her to his office in the Civil Secretariat last month and attempted to molest her.

Official sources said a police team had been constituted to arrest the former minister.

They said the team would soon leave for Jammu to arrest Khan who resigned yesterday.

The sources said the police had summoned Khan to present himself for investigations today and moved the court for an arrest warrant after he failed to appear.

Khan had yesterday moved an application for anticipatory bail in the Jammu wing of the state high court but it was rejected. — PTIBack 











Devyani seeks dismissal of visa fraud case in US court

NEW YORK: Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade has sought dismissal of the visa fraud case against her on the ground that the indictment was filed in a court in New York a day after the US accorded her full diplomatic immunity and the country did not have criminal jurisdiction over her.

Khobragade’s lawyer Daniel Arshack submitted her reply, in a federal court here, to Manhattan federal prosecutor Preet Bharara’s memorandum that had opposed her motion to dismiss the indictment.

Khobragade was present in the US at the time the indictment was returned and “the State Department’s recognition of her diplomatic position with the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations conferred diplomatic immunity upon her requiring that the entire ‘proceeding or action’ be dismissed,” Arshack said in his 17-page motion filed late on Friday.

“The instant indictment was returned and filed with the Court prior to Khobragade’s departure (from the US) when she was still recognised as a diplomat and still imbued with diplomatic immunity... the prosecution could not then and cannot now proceed further on that invalid instrument,” Arshack said.

He, however, acknowledged that the prosecution is not prevented from prosecuting Khobragade in future but insisted that the current case against her be dismissed since she had diplomatic immunity when the indictment was filed.

Arshack’s motion comes a week after Bharara submitted a US State Department declaration that Khobragade did not enjoy immunity from arrest or detention at the time of her arrest and she does not presently enjoy immunity from prosecution for the crimes charged in the indictment.

Arshack said the indictment must be dismissed because the immunity bestowed upon Khobragade “applied retroactively”.

The court could now order to hear arguments on the motions.

Khobragade, 39, was arrested on December 12 on visa fraud charges, strip-searched and held with criminals, triggering a row between the two countries with India retaliating by downgrading privileges of certain category of US diplomats among other steps.

Khobragade was indicted on visa fraud and making false statements by a US grand jury. She returned to India after she was asked to leave the US by the State Department.

Arshack said the “pertinent” facts in the case are that Khobragade was given full diplomatic status by the Department of State at 5:47 pm (local time) on January 8 when it approved her appointment as Counsellor to the Permanent Mission of India to the UN.

The grand jury returned the indictment on January 9 “after she was already cloaked with diplomatic immunity”.

“It is acknowledged that the prosecution is not forever precluded from prosecuting the defendant. Our application is only that this proceeding must be dismissed.

The prosecution is clearly legally able to seek a new indictment at this time or at some point in the future now that Khobragade no longer possesses such diplomatic status and immunity, but it may not proceed further with this case,” Arshack said.

He said in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, the case should have been dismissed on January 9, because Khobragade did not become a “former” diplomat until later that evening when she left the country.

“The proceeding must be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction because at the time the indictment was issued, the US did not have criminal jurisdiction over Khobragade,” he said.

Arshack rebutted Bharara’s allegation that Khobragade had employed her domestic worker in her personal capacity and not as India’s Deputy Consul General in New York, which made her not immune to criminal prosecution.

“The prosecution goes to great lengths in its opposition to make inapposite distinctions between the immunity conferred upon consular officials versus diplomats under the respective Vienna Conventions as the ostensible basis to deny the requested relief. Such distinctions are a clear effort to obfuscate, are irrelevant and do not assist the Court in resolving this matter,” Arshack argued.

“For all intents and purposes, she (Khobragade) was a diplomat present in the receiving country and entitled to full diplomatic privileges and immunities when these events transpired. As such, she could not have been arraigned by Your Honour on the indictment even if she had appeared in Court because she was still an active diplomat entitled to immunity from criminal prosecution,” the lawyer said.

Seeking to bolster his argument, Arshack has given a timeline of facts and sequence of events as the case unfolded to demonstrate that because “Khobragade was immune from prosecution at the time the indictment was returned”, this case should have been dismissed on January 9.

“Here, the sequence of events to be examined for resolution of the motion is critical. The question is not whether the prosecution may bring a case against Khobragade now that she is a ‘former’ diplomat: it can. But, it cannot do so based upon an indictment that was obtained while she was an active diplomat cloaked in immunity, as she was on January 9, 2014 when the grand jury voted a true bill,” he said.

“So, the factual analysis for the Court to resolve is at what point Khobragade’s diplomatic status was revoked such that she was converted to “former” diplomat status,” Arshack said.

He has submitted seven supporting documents with his motion as proof that  Khobragade had immunity when she was appointed Deputy Consul General at the Indian Consulate in the city and following her transfer to India’s Permanent Mission to the UN.

Among the supporting documents is a screen shot of the UN Protocol and Liaison Service listing of Khobragade having been accredited as an advisor to the UN for the entire General Assembly meeting.

He has also submitted a declaration by UCLA Law School and Harvard Law School graduate professor Kal Raustiala, an expert on the application of privileges and immunities to diplomats, who said that Ms. Khobragade was immune from criminal jurisdiction of the US beginning the evening of January 8, when she was accorded full diplomatic status by the State Department until her departure from the US on the night of January 9.

Arshack reiterated that Khobragade’s arrest was “illegal and should never have occurred”, adding that the subsequent indictment was “likewise tainted and must, for this additional reason be dismissed”.

He said when a diplomat is cloaked with immunity at the commencement of an action, that action must be dismissed even if the diplomat is later terminated from the diplomatic post.

Further, he said, even if Khobragade enjoyed only immunity only for “officials acts”, that immunity too “precluded her arrest and indictment for the acts alleged by the prosecution”. — PTIBack











India, US should deal with differences in
constructive manner: NSA

WASHINGTON: The US, in an apparent reference to the Devyani Khobragde issue, today said such "challenges" should not be allowed to derail the future of its important relationship with India and the two countries needed to deal with differences in a constructive manner.

"Every meaningful partnership between powerful nations encounters setbacks. And, obviously, recent events have drawn more attention to our disagreements than to our cooperative efforts," National Security Advisor Susan Rice said in an apparent reference to the issue of the arrest of the Indian diplomat which created tension between the two countries.

"But, those difficulties should be minor compared to the breadth of our relationship and the magnitude of what we can accomplish together," she said in her address to the Aspen Institute US-India Dialogue being held in Washington.

"We must also deal with our differences in a constructive manner, commensurate with a relationship of this importance.

We cannot allow such challenges to derail the future we are working diligently to build a future of greater prosperity, greater security, and consistent adherence to our shared values," Rice said, reiterating the commitment of the Obama Administration to strengthen and deepen the bilateral relationship between the two largest democracies of the world.

Khobragade, 39, was arrested on December 12 on visa fraud charges, strip-searched and held with criminals, triggering a row between the two countries with India retaliating by downgrading privileges of certain category of US diplomats among other steps.

Khobragade was indicted on visa fraud and making false statements by a US grand jury. She returned to India after she was asked to leave the US by the State Department.

"The relationship between India and the United States can and should be, as President Obama has said many times, 'one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century'. And, as I've experienced firsthand, it can also be one of our most productive partnerships," she said.

Rice said she has built a productive relationship with her Indian counterpart Shivshankar Menon.

Given the hard work done by the governments of the two countries in the last two decades, Rice exuded confidence that the India-US relationship would continue to grow irrespective of the outcome of the upcoming elections.

"For almost two decades, in both India and the United States, Presidents and Prime Ministers and political parties have come together and worked to overcome old schisms. Piece by piece, we're establishing a lasting partnership that's equipped to tackle today's global challenges. 

"And, the US is confident that, whatever the outcome of India's upcoming national elections, the cooperation and strategic partnership between our nations will continue to grow," Rice said.

She said India and the US are deepening their cooperation in meaningful ways across the board and as India continues to grow and to take on greater responsibilities on the world stage, the two nations must work even harder to make sure this partnership lives up to its potential.

Emphasising the need to expand opportunities for trade and investment, Rice raised the concerns of the US in particular those related to intellectual property.

"These tough issues won't be resolved overnight. But, President Barack Obama and Prime Minister (Manmohan) Singh are committed to maximising our economic relationship," she acknowledged.

"Concluding a bilateral investment treaty would be a strong step forward, helping to attract more capital to India and benefiting Indians investing in industries across the United States. And, since our two nations make up almost a quarter of the world's population, it can only benefit the global economy," she said.

The two largest democracies of the world, she said have a responsibility to stand united to defend the values that the peoples share.

"Lets build on the important steps we've already taken, such as: working together in the UN Human Rights Council to advance reconciliation in Sri Lanka; supporting elections in third countries; and helping found the UN Democracy Fund," Rice said.

"Still, there's much more we can do, starting by ensuring that the rights of women, members of ethnic and religious minority groups, and those in the LGBT community are protected at home and abroad. Both our nations have struggled with these issues in our histories, and we must continue working to make our democracies safe for all our citizens and to lead the world by our example," she said. — PTIBack











One Jawan killed, three injured in Manipur ambush

IMPHAL: An Assam Rifles jawan was killed and three others were seriously injured when insurgents ambushed a paramilitary force party at Lambisa in Manipur’s Ukhrul district on Saturday.

Insurgents exploded a powerful bomb and opened fire at the road opening party of 44th Assam Rifles battalion, killing one jawan and injuring three others, officials said.

When the security forces returned fire, an encounter ensued lasting about an hour, they said.

The injured jawans were taken to hospital.

Insurgents ambushed the security patrol minutes before the arrival of BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi to address a rally in Imphal.

Charging that people of the state were being “suppressed” by Central forces in the name of dealing with insurgents, militant outfit United Revolutionary Front had given a call for boycotting Modi’s visit. — PTIBack












Srinagar-Jammu highway reopens

SRINAGAR: The Srinagar-Jammu national highway, connecting Kashmir with the rest of the country, was opened for vehicular traffic today, a day after heavy snowfall at many places along the route led to its closure.

"The Srinagar-Jammu highway is open for traffic and the vehicles are being allowed to ply from Jammu towards Srinagar," a spokesman of the Traffic Department said.

The 294-km arterial highway, the only all-weather road connecting Kashmir Valley with the rest of the country, was closed for traffic yesterday in the wake of landslides due to heavy snowfall at many places along the route.

Meanwhile, many parts of the Valley received light rainfall and the cold wave tightened its grip as the minimum temperature fell in most parts, even as the famous ski-resort of Gulmarg received light snowfall and was colder than Ladakh region's Leh town.

Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir recorded a low of 1.2 degrees Celsius last night, a degree up from 0.2 degrees Celsius the previous night, a MeT Department official here said.

Mercury in Qazigund — the gateway town to Kashmir Valley — settled at minus 1.1 degrees Celsius, down by over a degree from the previous night’s zero degrees Celsius. The town received 6.6 mm of rainfall.

The tourist resort of Pahalgam, in south Kashmir, recorded a low of minus 5.7 degrees Celsius as compared to minus 5.2 degrees Celsius previous night, the official said.

The mercury in the famous ski-resort of Gulmarg plummeted by over five degrees to settle at a low of minus 10.4 degrees Celsius as against the previous night’s minus 5.2 degrees Celsius.

The resort recorded 9 cm of fresh snowfall.

The mercury in Kokernag, in south Kashmir, decreased by over four degrees to settle at a low of minus 5.7 degrees Celsius last night, as against the previous night’s minimum of minus 1.3 degree Celsius.

The town received 3.2 mm of rainfall, the official said.

North Kashmir’s Kupwara, which recorded a low of 0.2 degrees Celsius the previous night, settled at minus 0.4 degree Celsius last night and the town recorded 3.2 mm of rains.

The minimum temperature in Leh, in Ladakh region, decreased by over four degrees to settle at a low of minus 9.0 degrees Celsius as against minus 4.8 degrees Celsius the previous night.

Kargil was the coldest place in the state as the mercury settled at a low of minus 15.4 degrees Celsius as compared to the previous night’s minus 15.0 degrees Celsius.

The MeT Department has said there would be further fall in the night temperature while the maximum temperatures would rise over the next few days. PTIBack




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