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Setback for Kerala as SC allows TN to increase Mullaperiyar water level

NEW DELHI: In a setback to the Kerala government, the Supreme Court today struck down a law promulgated by it declaring Mullaperiyar dam as endangered, and restrained it from obstructing the Tamil Nadu government to raise the water level.

A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice R. M. Lodha directed the Kerala government not to implement the Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation (Amendment) Act, 2006.

It also appointed a three-member committee comprising representatives of the Centre and the governments of Tamil Nadu and Kerala to supervise safety of the dam periodically.

It empowered the committee to issue directions for ensuring the safety of the dam.

The apex court had on August 21, last year, reserved its verdict on the legal battle between Tamil Nadu and Kerala governments over Mullaperiyar dam.

There had been differences between the two states over the safety of the dam. While Tamil Nadu contended the dam was safe and its water level had to be raised from 132 feet to 136 feet, Kerala maintained that the structure was weak and needed to be replaced.

As tension between the two states rose in December 2011, a two-member technical team of the apex court-appointed Empowered Committee had visited the site and concluded that recent tremors in that region did not have any impact on the dam and that it was safe. 

Meanwhile, while reacting to the order, the Congress-led UDF government said it would explore further legal options after studying the Supreme Court order quashing its legislation passed on the Mullaperiayar dam safety issue.

"Our prime concern all along has been the safety of the dam and its fallout on the people. After studying the Supreme Court order and in consultation with legal experts, we will decide on the next course," Chief Minister Oommen Chandy told reporters while reacting to the order.

He said Kerala was never opposed to giving water to Tamil Nadu.

The state's concern had always been the safety of the the people and it was in view of this it took legal and legislative measures. They were not meant circumvent law or the court orders, Chandy said defending the government decisions taken on the matter.

Setting aside political differenes, all parties including the opposition CPI(M)-led LDF voiced anxiety over the safety of the 119-yer-old dam on Kerala-Tamil Nadu border.

Water Resources Minister P.J. Joseph said the state would explore the possibility of filing a review petition.

"We will consult legal experts. The advise we have received is that there is scope for a review petition," he said.

CPI(M) stalwart and Opposition Leader V.S. Achuthanandan termed the order as "most unfortunate" and said it did not take into consideration the safety of over 3.5 million people in five districts — Idukki, Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, Alappuzha and Ernakulam.

Acchuthanandan also said Kerala failed to present its concerns convincingly before the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, the agitators at Chappath in the dam site area in Idukki district came out in protest against the development and said they would carry on with the agitation for a new dam in place of the existing structure.

Terming the verdict as a "severe setback" to the state's stand on the issue, former Water Resources Minister N.K. Premachandran said the apex court had rejected all the arguments advanced by the state while setting aside the legislative measures.

He alleged the report drawn up by the Central Water Commission did not proceed on the basis of scientific evidences regarding the safety of the dam or the threat it posed to the safety of people and their properties in the area.

Two years back, the state was witness to a prolonged agitation by the local resistance group and its supporters.

They wanted the 119-year-old dam built by the British engineers to be decommissioned and a new dam constructed.

They had also urged for scrapping of the pact on water sharing entered into between the then princely state of Travancore and erstwhile Madras presidency.— PTIBack












CBI gives Amit Shah clean chit in Ishrat Jahan case

AHMEDABAD: The CBI on Wednesday gave a clean chit to former Gujarat Home Minister Amit Shah, a close aide of BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case.

Submitting its report to a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Ahmedabad, the probe agency said there was no conclusive evidence of Shah being involved or even ordering the encounter shooting of Ishrat Jahan in 2004, which eventually turned out to be a fake one.

Wednesday's verdict followed the CBI's earlier clean chit to Shah in February in connection with a supplementary chargesheet.

Reports quoted CBI sources as saying that the Intelligence Bureau (IB) officials, including Rajinder Kumar, would be chargesheeted under conspiracy in the encounter case.

Rajinder Kumar was involved in the planning from the beginning till the end, and he allegedly planned and executed the encounter with the help of the Gujarat Police.

The Ishrat Jahan encounter took place on June 15, 2004. Besides Ishrat Jahan Raza, a 19-year old girl from Mumbai, the case involved encounter killings of three men — Pranesh Pillai, alias Javed Gulam Sheikh, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar — by officers of the Ahmedabad Police Crime Branch. All four were allegedly linked to terrorists.

The encounter was carried out allegedly by a team led by Deputy Inspector General of Police D.G. Vanjara who was later jailed for his alleged involvement in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case.

The police then alleged that Ishrat and her associates were Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operatives involved in a plot to assassinate Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

Later, an investigation was launched into the allegations that Ishrat was killed in a fake encounter.

After a long investigation, an Ahmedabad metropolitan court in 2009 ruled that the encounter was staged.

The decision was challenged by the Gujarat state government and the case went to the high court.

On July 3, 2013, the CBI filed its first chargesheet in an Ahmedabad court saying that the shooting was a staged encounter carried out in cold blood.

In June 2013, IB chief Asif Ibrahim told the office of the Prime Minister and Union Home Minister that the IB had enough evidence to prove that Ishrat was part of an LeT module which planned to kill Modi and L.K. Advani. — ANIBack













India makes real time tracking of aircraft mandatory

NEW DELHI: The Indian civil aviation regulator has instructed airlines to track all aircraft in real time, a decision, the regulator said, was prompted by the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.

The directives will apply to both passenger and cargo planes, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said in a statement on Wednesday.

Flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing disappeared almost two months ago. Authorities believe the flight ended in the ocean west of Australia but have not found any trace of the plane, including the black box flight recorders which could reveal reasons why the plane diverted so far off course.

"While commercial air transport aircraft spend a considerable amount of time operating over remote areas, there is currently no international requirement for real time tracking of the aircraft," DGCA said.

The regulator has ordered Indian carriers to track aircraft in real time using onboard Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) or Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B).

DGCA also said airlines should devise a procedure to track aircraft flying over areas not covered by ACARS or ADS-B. It ordered flight crews report aircraft coordinates, speed and altitude every 15 minutes while flying over such areas.

The regulator said airlines should monitor faults and warning messages of ACARS and that flight crews must immediately report any issue with ACARS or ADS-B to ground stations using a voice or data link.

DGCA said it would review implementation of the directives during surveillance inspections.— ReutersBack













SC lifts stay on nursery admissions in Delhi 

NEW DELHI: In a major relief to parents, the Supreme Court today cleared the decks for nursery admissions in the Capital and asked the government to accommodate 24 students under the inter-state transfer category whose parents approached it.

A Bench headed by Justice H L Dattu quashed the Delhi government notification issued on February 27 by which it had scrapped the inter-state transfer (IST) category, but made it clear that only 24 students who approached it will be getting admission under that bracket.

It upheld the government's earlier notification issued on December 18, last year by which it had allotted five points to the IST category.

The five-month-old legal impasse came to an end with today's verdict and schools in the city can now go ahead with the admission process.

The apex court passed the order on a petition filed by those parents who had come to Delhi from other places in the country and had sought admission under the IST category which was deleted during the admission process by the Delhi government owing to its abuse on a largescale. — PTI












Indian among 6 charged in $30 million bank fraud

NEW YORK: An Indian-origin man is among six persons charged with carrying out a $30 million bank fraud conspiracy and faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

Manjeet Bawa, 46, of New York and other co-defendants contracted to buy homes in Nassau and Suffolk Counties from innocent sellers at market prices.

The defendants then submitted fraudulent loan applications to the warehouse lenders that nearly doubled the true sales prices of the homes.

The defendants also inflated their personal assets and concealed significant liabilities to get loan approval.

The six defendants face up to 30 years' imprisonment and could be ordered to forfeit 19 residential properties traced to the bank fraud or up to 30 million dollars in a money judgment.

According to the indictment and other court filings, between 2003 and 2008, the main defendant Aaron Wider, 50, operated a New York State licenced mortgage bank HTFC, which issued residential mortgages to borrowers.

HTFC did not possess assets to fund these loans but relied on funding from other banks and financial institutions, commonly known as "warehouse lenders".

The warehouse lenders relied on Wider and HTFC to ensure that home buyers were able to pay the mortgages and that the market value of the homes fully collateralised the loans.

Instead, Wider and the co-defendants allegedly engineered a complex series of same-day sham transactions, or "flips", to artificially inflate the prices of homes.

They then lied to the warehouse lenders to obtain mortgage funding that was 80 per cent more than the actual value of the homes, according to court filings.

"The conduct charged in the indictment is a prime example of the type of corrupt mortgage-lending practices that preceded the bursting of the real estate bubble, the loss of faith in securitised mortgage obligations and the financial collapse of 2007 and 2008," US Attorney Loretta Lynch said.

"Instead of using their skills in banking, the law and investing to assist individuals pursuing the American Dream, the defendants cooked up a sophisticated scheme that defrauded lenders and then fed toxic debt to the investigating public at large in the secondary mortgage market," he said. — PTI
















It’s not caste, but the ideology that is low: Rahul tells Modi

AMETHI: Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday hit out at Narendra Modi for dubbing his sister Priyanka’s “neech rajniti” remark as an attack on his caste, saying people’s actions are low, not their caste. “Jaati nahi, karm neech hote hain (It is not caste, but ones action that are low), he said when asked about the controversy triggered by Priyanka Gandhi’s “neech rajniti” barb at Modi.

“Neech soch hoti hai, gusse ki soch hoti hai, Krodh ki soch hoti hai. (It is ideology which is low. There is an ideology of anger,” he said, adding his focus was that more and more people vote and women get empowered.) BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate had on Tuesday played the caste card to counter Priyanka’s attack and questioned whether belonging to a low caste was a crime.

“Is it a crime to be born in backward caste? Did I insult anyone despite being born in a backward caste? Such a dirty blame has been put on me,” Modi had said. Priyanka had on Monday hit out at Modi, saying he has insulted her “martyred” father Rajiv Gandhi during his speech in Amethi and accused BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate of indulging in “low-level” politics.

Meanwhile, AAP’s Kumar Vishwas, who is contesting from the seat, said Modi learnt “how to address the public after hearing his speeches” and expressed confidence that the broom will “clear” all the opposition against him in Amethi.

Talking to reporters, BJP candidate Smriti Irani said she was confident of her victory as people of Amethi had “understood that only BJP could ensure development”. — PTI




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