A T E S T N E W S
Evasive 'godman' produced before HC, sent to judicial custody
CHANDIGARH: A day after his arrest, evasive 'godman' Rampal was on Thursday produced before the Punjab and Haryana High Court in a contempt of court case and was sent to judicial custody.
The two-judge Bench posted the matter to November 28 with a direction to Haryana Police chief to file an affidavit giving details of the operation carried out to arrest Rampal from his ashram in Barwala in Haryana's Hisar district along with damages, injuries to people, regarding arms and ammunition in the Ashram and loss of property.
Rampal had been evading his appearance in a contempt of court case before the HC, which issued a direction to police to produce him by tomorrow.
Forced to keep the date, police last night arrested him from his ashram after days of standoff with his supporters, who posed stiff resistance and even resorted to violence on Tuesday.
The 63-year-old controversial godman had failed to appear on November 5 in the 2006 murder case after which a non-bailable warrant to be executed by November 10 was issued by the High Court in the contempt case.
Haryana Police failed to produce Rampal on November 10 and the next date on November 17 after which the High Court slammed the police and issued a third non-bailable warrant with direction to produce the self proclaimed Godman on November 21.
Rampal was produced before the Division Bench of Justices M Jeyapaul and Darshan Singh at 2 pm after the Haryana Police informed the court in the morning that the NBW has been executed with the arrest of the accused from his Ashram at Barwala in Hissar district.
Defence counsel S K Garg said that Rampal himself was in captivity in the Ashram.
Earlier, the contempt case was listed for tomorrow, but after the Haryana Police informed the court about the arrest of Rampal last night, the court directed his production at 2 pm today.
Police search Rampal's ashram, more followers flushed out
BARWALA: A day after his arrest, security personnel on Thursday carried out searches at the ashram of self styled 'godman' Rampal even as more followers were flushed out from the premises.
Security personnel made their way inside the Satlok Ashram, whose main gate was opened in the afternoon.
Police said that they would conduct a thorough search of the premises.
Early this morning, the authorities appealed to the followers still inside the Ashram to come out telling them that the police and civil administration was out there to help them.
Police said that they suspect some staunch supporters and members of his private commandos were still inside.
Police and para-military forces involved in the operation have been appealing to the followers who are still inside the ashram to come out without any fear, but some were still apprehensive.
Before launching full-scale operation to search Ashram for objectionable items, including arms and ammunition, police said they want to ensure that all innocent followers have come out so as to isolate any of the commandos or other accused who may be still hiding inside.
63-year-old Rampal, who had refused to appear before the High Court in a contempt case claiming he was unwell, was arrested last night from his Satlok Ashram after a two-week long stand off.
Many followers, who came out of the Ashram, told security personnel and the mediapersons that some private commandos of Rampal had been telling them for the past few days that if they venture out of the complex they will be harmed and arrested by the police.
"They created fear and used pressure tactics to hold us back. They kept telling us that as soon as we venture out we will be arrested and put to harm," Indu, a middle-aged woman follower from Madhya Pradesh, told reporters. Like her, many other followers, holed up inside the Ashram for several days, had harrowing tales to narrate.
"If you go out, police will shoot you, they think you are criminals," a young follower from Uttar Pradesh, said, giving detail how coercive tactics were used to force them to stay back.
Hundreds of followers who had been inside the Ashram came from poor economic and educational background and even from far off places like Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, a volunteer who had been providing food and water to those coming out, claimed.
Police had earlier registered cases against Rampal, including that of sedition against him and several of his followers, including key aides.
The sprawling Ashram is spread over 12 acres of land, police said, adding they suspect that there may be arms and other ammunition inside, some of which was used to target the security personnel on Tuesday.
During the siege, four women died under mysterious circumstances while a young woman who was taken to hospital at Hisar in a serious condition also died. An infant was also declared dead by the hospital after being taken there yesterday.
Many of the followers who came out early today said there were still many who were inside.
After coming out, the police took them straight to railway station and bus stands in the vehicles arranged by the government.
Haryana Police and para-military forces kept surrounding the premises and were keeping a vigil so that any accused person who may be hiding inside does not escape. –PTI
SC removes CBI chief Ranjit Sinha from 2G case
NEW DELHI: Twelve days before his retirement, CBI Director Ranjit Sinha today suffered a major blow when the Supreme Court removed him from the 2G scam case, saying the allegations against him of protecting some accused appears to be "prima facie credible".
The apex court, in an unprecedented order, handed over the case to the senior-most officer after Sinha in the 2G scam investigating team.
A Bench headed by Chief Justice HL Dattu, however, refused to pass an elaborate order on the issue saying that it would "tarnish" the "image and reputation" of the premier agency.
The fate of the top cop, who is due to retire on December 2, in the case became abundantly clear when the Bench, also comprising justices MB Lokur and AK Sikri, before rising for the lunch break, asked senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for Sinha, about various options.
The court said it did not want to pass an elaborate order, because it would be against the interest and image of the agency.
"Prima facie the allegations made in the application (by NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation) are credible and required to be accepted," the Bench observed.
However, his counsel insisted that the allegations levelled against Sinha of scuttling the 2G probe were "untrue".
The CBI chief's role was criticised by the apex court- appointed Special Public Prosecutor Anand Grover and counsel appearing for CBI, KK Venugopal, also raised questions on Sinha naming a senior IPS officer as mole in the team.
The apex court also recalled its earlier order by which it directed the NGO to disclose the name of whistleblower who had provided documents and visitors diary of Sinha's residence. — PTI
Himachal wants monkeys off its back
SHIMLA: With the exploding monkey population in Himachal Pradesh posing a major challenge to its human population, it is being now debated whether to allow their select culling or translocation and, if nothing works out, exporting them out of the state.
Even the state high court vented its anguish last week over the lack of action by the state government to contain the monkey menace over the last decade.
"Wake up our honourable courts that have granted stay on their culling and the state government which still continues to ban the export of monkeys, which are on high demand internationally for bio-medical research," Shimla Municipal Corporation Deputy Mayor Takinder Panwar said.
Every month, there are over 400 cases of monkey and langur bites in Shimla town alone, Panwar told IANS.
The latest victim is 86-year-old Rukhmani Kanwar, who was bitten by a black-faced langur in Shimla. Both her legs sustained multiple fractures.
But the demand to kill the animals has led to criticism from animal protection groups.
"We strongly reject and condemn the demands for either culling or their translocation or even allowing their export for medical research," Nature Watch India national convener and animal rights activist Rajeshwar Negi said.
"The problem of monkey menace has been exaggerated in terms of animal numbers and losses in the state. People have only tried to gain politically on the issue," Negi told IANS.
Negi, a former Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer, said the monkeys have lost their habitat because of humans.
He said the state wildlife wing has no authentic record of the monkey population. The only genuine monkey census done so far was in 1964 by Britons Dolhinow and Lindberg, who recorded their population in the state as being between 50,000 and 60,000, Negi said.
Wildlife officials said the monkey census of 2013 in the state showed their population at 236,000, This, according to them, represented a decline from 319,000 in 2004.
Likewise, the population of langurs was estimated at 18,000 in 2013 compared to 56,986 in 2004.
They attributed their decline in population to monkey sterilisation campaigns.
However, thousands of farmers in Shimla, Solan, Sirmaur, Bilaspur, Hamirpur, Una, Mandi and Kangra districts claim they have incurred losses mainly due to the marauding monkeys.
The wildlife wing estimates that more than 900,000 farmers are affected by monkeys.
Kuldeep Singh Tanwar of the Kheti Bachao Sangharsh Samiti, an NGO working for the cause of farmers, said lifting the ban on the export of monkeys for bio-medical research is the only alternative to check their rising numbers.
The central government had banned the export of wild animals in 1978.
Coming down heavily on the government, a division bench of Chief Justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir and Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan last week observed that verbal orders have been passed from time to time but neither the state nor the union government has taken the requisite steps.
A civil writ petition of 2003 is in the docket of the court for the last 11 years and other writ petitions are pending for the last more than four years, the bench said.
"The growth of monkeys is at its peak and the number of stray dogs is also increasing day by day... it is shocking to record that in the last week we have lost the precious life of a young woman," the judges observed Nov 12.
"Keeping in view the orders passed from time to time and the above circumstances, this court has to pass coercive orders to save human lives and property," said the judges, while listing the matter for next hearing Dec 9.
The high court had in January 2011 put on hold the state's decision to allow the farmers to shoot monkeys. -IANS
Rampal says allegations against him are false
PANCHKULA: Arrested controversial 'godman' Rampal on Thursday rejected charges that he had asked thousands of his followers to be kept "hostage" for past several days inside his ashram at Barwala to evade police action in a contempt of court case.
"Yeah jhuthee ilzaam hein (these are false allegations)," 63-year-old godman told reporters after his medical examination was conducted at General Hospital here.
Asked about claims of his followers that they had been kept hostage by his private armed commandos and other henchmen, Rampal in his first reaction after his arrest, said, "No, this is not true...."
As journalists fired a volley of questions at him, Rampal kept walking towards a waiting police vehicle, jostling his way through the battery of mediapersons who surrounded him.
He will be later today produced before Punjab and Haryana High Court in a contempt case.
Earlier, the medical examination of Rampal, who was arrested from his Satlok Ashram in Hisar's Barwala town, was conducted at the Government General hospital at Panchkula, with a doctor describing his major helth parameters as "stable". -PTI
Major fire at Kashmir power project
SRINAGAR: A major fire on Thursday damaged the Uri hydro power project in Jammu and Kashmir's Baramulla district.
"A major fire has damaged the Uri 2nd hydel power project," a senior police official told IANS on phone from hydro power project situated in Uri border town.
"Staff of the power project has managed to safely escape. It is very difficult to enter the main power station because the passage to the underground power station leads through a tunnel and rescuers need gas masks to start the rescue and relief operation." A senior engineer posted at the power project said the fire was caused by a technical snag and the power house has been shut down.
Eye-witnesses said smoke billowed from the power station and fire tenders are unable to enter the area because of the tunnel which filled with smoke.
The 240 megawatts hydro power project built on Jhelum River and owned by NHPC was inaugurated July 4 this year by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. –IANS
Rampal's medical examination conducted at Panchkula
PANCHKULA: Soon after his arrest, self-styled 'godman' Rampal was taken for a mandatory medical examination here during which his health parameters were found "stable".
63-year-old Rampal, who had refused to appear in court in a contempt case claiming he was unwell, was arrested last night from his Satlok Ashram after a two-week long stand-off in Hisar's Barwala town. He was later brought to Panchkula Government hospital in Haryana in an ambulance from Barwala well past mid-night after traveling nearly 220 kms.
Immediately on arrival, doctors at the government health institution in Sector 6 here conducted tests on him.
Dr Rajesh of the Civil Hospital told reporters that the godman's overall health parameters appeared "stable".
After he was brought to the Panchkula hospital, Rampal, who had a shawl wrapped around his body and his head covered, walked out of the ambulance on his own to enter the health institution for the mandatory medical examination.
Earlier, the Haryana Police in assistance with the para military forces arrested Rampal, a former engineer who claims to be a devotee of mystic poet Kabir, last night, ending an over two-week tense standoff between his supporters and the police after close to 15,000 of his followers were evacuated from the sprawling 12 acre ashram premises.
Six persons, including an infant, lost their lives in the stand-off, while key aides of the godman and over 450 supporters, most of them from his private army of commandos, were nabbed by the police.
Commenting on Rampal's arrest, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said that priority of the government and the security personnel involved in the operation was to ensure that innocent lives are brought out safely without any harm.
"All throughout, we had to keep in mind that no innocent lives are lost," Khattar said.
He thanked the media, social groups for their cooperation and expressed gratitude to people of Haryana, especially local residents, for extending co-operation and showing patience despite the inconvenience.
Haryana Police DGP, S N Vashisht described the operation as "very tough" since the forces had to deal with a hostile army of the godman's commandos while at the same time keeping in mind safety and security of thousands of innocent men, women and children being used as "human shields".
The entire operation was carefully calibrated keeping in mind the safety of a large number of people stranded inside. -PTI
PM returns home after 3-nation tour
NEW DELHI: BJP leaders accorded a rousing reception to Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the airport here this morning after he returned from a nine-day, three-nation tour of Myanmar, Australia and Fiji.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was among those who received Modi at the Indira Gandhi International airport after the special Air India plane landed at 7:15 am
Delhi BJP incharge and Rajya Sabha MP Prabhat Jha led party leaders from the city. Hundreds of supporters reached the airport to greet the Prime Minister. However, only some senior leaders were allowed to go inside the airport due to security reasons.
Delhi BJP chief Satish Upadhyay, MPs Pravesh Sahib Singh Verma and Ramesh Bidhuri, Ashish Sood, Rekha Gupta and Vijay Goel were among those who greeted Modi.
When Prime Minister Modi came outside the airport, party workers, who were eagerly waiting for him, greeted him with beating of drums and cheers of "Modi, Modi". -PTI
Scribe killed, two hurt in road mishap
KAITHAL: A Zee News journalist was killed and his two colleagues were seriously injured in a road accident at Kultaran village in the wee hours on Thursday.
The deceased has been identified as Shivam Bhatt (24). The others two injured, Rohit Khanna and Jai veer, have been moved to PGI in Chandigarh after receiving first aid from civil hospital here.
The mishap took place when the television crew was following the police cavalcade that was behind controversial 'godman' Rampal's ambulance after his arrest late last night from Barwala in Hisar district and being brought to Panchkula.
Police say their vehicle allegedly overturned near Kultaran village after hitting an animal on the road on the Hisar-Chandiagrh National Highway.
scholar found murdered in South Delhi
NEW DELHI: A Manipuri pursuing his PhD was found dead, lying in a pool of blood with his throat slit at his residence here,
the police said on Thursday.
Zingran Kengoo, 33, a PhD scholar from Mumbai's Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), was found murdered Wednesday night at his Kotla residence in south Delhi.
According to police officials, Kengoo's body was found lying in a pool of blood with his throat slit, by his house owner's brother around 9.30 p.m. Wednesday. He alerted the police.
Officials said a knife was recovered from the victim's room, while his belongings were left untouched.
Kengoo, who hailed from Manipur, had started living in the national
Capital about a month back. –IANS