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Team Anna member Prashant Bhushan gets breach of privilege notice

TNN | Sep 3, 2011, 10.22AM IST

NEW DELHI: Lawyer Prashant Bhushan on Saturday said he has received a breach of privilege notice for his remarks against parliamentarians, the second Team Anna member to get such a notice, Times Now reported. Bhushan said he has been accused of using derogatory words against MPs and has been asked to file a reply. Terming the notice as "totally unjustified", he told that "speaking the truth in public interest does not amount to breach of privilege".

"If speaking truth in public interest amounts to breach of privilege, then time has come for the country to review the whole notion of parliamentary privileges," he said.

Former IPS officer Kiran Bedi has also received breach of privilege notice for her remarks against parliamentarians.

"Received Breach of Privilege. Shall respond appropriately recording the distrust 'we the people' were suffering," Bedi had tweeted.

Bedi had said that she will not "apologise" for her remarks against politicians, but intends to show a "bigger mirror" to the House on the conduct of lawmakers.

"If I get a notice, I would say I am sorry I will not be able to say sorry. If I get an opportunity I will go before the committee and will show a bigger mirror to Parliament," she had said.

She said whatever she had said was in reference to a situation, where it was needed to be said. "The truth has to be said. I didn't have any other option as we didn't know whether we would have a resolution," she said.

The privilege notice against Kiran Bedi came as she accused politicians of wearing "several masks" at the same time, drawing the ire of MPs from both Houses.

Greater Noida land rates hiked by Authority

Vandana Keelor, TNN | Sep 3, 2011, 03.16AM IST

GREATER NOIDA: After paying increased compensation amounts to farmers, Noida Authority has now found a way to tide over its cash crunch. At its board meeting on Friday, Authority CEO Rama Raman announced a substantial hike in the price of all categories of land. Also, officials confirmed that the Authority is likely to impose some extra burden on builders as well as individual allottees as they will soon "announce a hike in the price of land that has already been allotted."

Raman said residential plots in Greater Noida will be dearer by almost Rs 4,000 per sqm while for commercial and institutional plots an extra Rs 8,750 and Rs 2,025 per sqm, respectively, will be charged. Incidentally, three months back, the Greater Noida Authority had hiked land rates by 12.5 per cent.

"The hike in rates was essential considering our current funds shortage. The land row has imposed an extra burden on the Authority in the form of enhanced compensation and rehabilitation packages for the farmers who agreed upon a compromise. Besides, many development projects had to be stalled temporarily," Raman said.

In Patwari alone, the Authority and builders have already incurred expenditure of Rs 300 crore in order to reach a compromise with the farmers. Now more funds will be required to pay off farmers in other villages if they accept the Patwari pact.

Already in debt of Rs 4,000 crore and several development projects in limbo in the Noida Extension-Greater Noida area, the Authority is now mulling with giving out plotted land to framers instead of a hiked compensation. If any farmer is unwilling to accept the same, he would be given hiked compensation only when the Authority has the required funds. "Going by the Patwari pact, we will have to pay a compensation amount totalling almost Rs 3,000 crore," said Raman.

Meanwhile, developers tried to put up a brave face. Most claimed that they will have no choice but to pay the hiked amount, but added they will "try to ensure that buyers who have already made bookings are not affected." Anil Sharma, CMD Amrapali Group and vice president of CREDAI-NCR, said if builders shared the burden of increased compensation "future booking would cost more. We will ensure that existing buyers are not hit." Other builders said if the rate of land allotments carried out already was hiked, even existing buyers would have to pay more.

"The hike seems quite steep. It will discourage development as well as the developers who come to Greater Noida," said Getamber Anand, VP CREDAI. "It will also be difficult to sell property at these prices. Also, if the Authority increases prices for existing allotments, the builders will land in a very difficult situation," Anand said.

BCCI's inclusion in RTI ambit a futile debate

Abantika Ghosh, TNN | Sep 3, 2011, 03.47AM IST

NEW DELHI: Sports minister Ajay Maken may be engaged in a confrontation with the BCCI brass over transparency, but the debate about whether his now-aborted Sports Development Bill should have sought to extend the Right to Information Act to the cricket body is futile since it can only be applied to entities that are mentioned in the law itself.

Sources in the government said that the extension of the RTI Act to the BCCI or any other body that is not mentioned in the law will require an amendment of the Act that is a concern of the Department of Personnel and Training (DopT) rather than the sports ministry.

"Nobody can include any organization under the RTI, unlike in case of exclusion where a notification by the department suffices. The RTI Act, 2005, mentions in Section (2) who all are covered and the matter stands settled, unless there is an amendment. That has to be moved by the department, and not by any other ministry," said a senior DoPT official.

He cited the case of CBI's exemption from the RTI to explain how that's shorter and easier process than the exclusion of new bodies within the purview of the information law.

The relevant section defines public authority as "any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted by or under the Constitution, by any other law made by Parliament, by any other law made by state legislature, by notification issued or order made by the appropriate government, and includes any body owned, controlled or substantially financed or non-government organization substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate government."

The DoPT source added, "Apparently the provisions do not include a body like BCCI so even if the Sports Development Bill had been enacted, it would have been vulnerable to a challenge from the BCCI in court and there was a possibility that it may even have been struck down."

Maken's office cites the same sections to justify the minister's stand that BCCI should be under the RTI's ambit. "How does one define 'substantially financed'? The tax exemptions given to the board, the land for the stadia, everything amounts to indirect financing. Some estimates suggest that tax exemption to BCCI in the last three years amounted to Rs 150 crore."

However, a recent reply in the Lok Sabha, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee had said that income tax exemption to BCCI had been withdrawn in December, 2009, with effect from June, 2006. Of the total assessed tax for 2007-08 and 2008-09, BCCI has paid Rs 249 crore so far.

BCCI sources point out that it pays for a lot of the services that the sports ministry has cited - from payment of big amounts to state governments for the use of stadia to market rates for the lease of grounds. In any case, to say that the BCCI is "substantially financed" is to stretch the logic to ridiculous length, considering that the body is unanimously acknowledged to be financially independent.

Whether BCCI is a public authority has been an ongoing legal debate. In 2005, in the Zee Telefilms judgment, the Supreme Court had said: "In the above view of the matter, the second respondent-Board cannot be held to be a State for the purpose of Article 12. Consequently, this writ petition filed under Article 32 of the Constitution is not maintainable and the same is dismissed."

But it maintained that BCCI does discharge some public duties, and hence remains liable under Article 226, which deals with the powers of the HCs to issue certain writs. In 2004, Delhi HC too had said Article 226 cannot be an escape hatch for BCCI for all practical purposes.

Information commissioner M L Sharma has recently said whether BCCI comes under RTI's ambit could be examined by a bigger bench of the CIC.

Internet can destroy Communist control over China, party supporters fear

BEIJING: China's Communist thinkers are warning the government to nail down the runaway growth of Internet as it could destroy the party's control over the giant nation. This reveals rising fears about the possible impact of people's rebellion seen in some Arab countries, where Twitter and Facebook played key roles.

"Internet opinion is spontaneous, but increasingly shows signs of becoming organized," a group of Communist writers said in an article by a group of writers in the Communist Party of China's theoretical journal, "Qiushi," which means "Seeking Truth."

It is clear the article was vetted by high officials in the CPC before it was published.

The writers warned the party and government that a lot of what is being written and distributed over the Internet is not voluntary. It is driven by vested interests.

"Among the many controversies stirred up on the Internet, many are organized, with goals and meticulous planning and direction, and some clearly have commercial interests or political intentions in the background," it said.

The writers advised the government to be keep close vigil because "hostile forces, terrorist organizations and others could manipulate public sentiment by manufacturing bogus opinion on the Internet" Such forces can damage "social stability and national security," they said.

The article, which has been published in the international edition of the CPC organ, the People's Daily, suggested the growing unease in the party about the ineffectiveness of the government's media control efforts China does not allow foreign sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to be accessed in the country.

But the article makes no mention about the growth of "weibo" sites-the Chinese version of Twitter-- with their 195 million users.

"In Internet battles, usually negative views crush positive ones," said the People's Daily, adding that extreme online opinion abounded with "unvarying suspicion of government policies, official statements, mainstream viewpoints, the social elite and the well-off," the article said.

Militants hold 30 Pakistani children hostage in Afghanistan

Agencies | Sep 3, 2011, 07.03AM IST

Islamabad: Thirty Pakistani children, who had gone for a picnic to celebrate Eid and had mistakenly crossed into Afghanistan's eastern Kunar province, have been taken hostage by militants, officials said.

The children were from Pakistan's Bajaur tribal region, TV channels quoted an official as saying. It was not clear which group has held them hostage but Pakistan army said that deputy chief of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Maulvi Faqir, who belonged to Bajaur, is now operating from Kunar.

A 'jirga' or council of tribal elders, have been sent to Afghanistan to seek their release, the official said.

Dawn TV reported that militants had arrived in five vehicles and took the children to unknown destinations. Tribal elders also asked the local administration to step up efforts for the early release of the children.

Regional Khyber TV reported that the children could be used for suicide bombings if the government and tribal elders failed to secure their release.

The parents of the children held hostage have asked the government and the tribal elders to ensure their safe return.

A jirga of the main Mamond tribe has been convened to explore ways to rescue the children.

Officials said members of Pakistani Taliban are also active across the border and are launching attacks on Pakistani posts from their bases in the Afghan border regions.

In a separate incident, also during Eid celebrations, 12 people were killed in a suicide car bombing and an ambush on a vehicle in troubled northwestern Pakistan on Thursday, police and officials said.

The explosion took place after officers signalled a suspect vehicle to stop at a checkpost in the Lakki Marwat district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, local police chief Gul Wali Khan said.

The driver ignored the instruction so police opened fire and the bomber detonated his device, he said. About 40 shops and 10 houses were damaged in the blast.

Lakki Marwat district borders South Waziristan, part of Pakistan's militant-infested semi-autonomous tribal belt near Afghanistan, which Washington calls the most dangerous place on Earth and a global headquarters of al-Qaida.

Pakistani man held in US for supporting LeT

PTI | Sep 3, 2011, 11.12AM IST

WASHINGTON: The Federal Bureau of Investigation has arrested a Pakistani national having permanent legal residency in the US, on charges of supporting the banned militant outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Jubair Ahmad, 24, according to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint unsealed yesterday, received "indoctrination and training from LeT while he lived in Pakistan" as a teenager.

If convicted, he faces a maximum potential sentence of 15 years in prison on the material support charge and eight years in prison on the charge of making false statements in a terrorism-related investigation.

Ahmad came to the US in 2007 along with other family members, and in 2009, the FBI launched an investigation after receiving information on his association with LeT, the US Department of Justice said.

The affidavit alleges that in September 2010, Ahmad produced and uploaded a propaganda video on YouTube on behalf of LeT, after communications with a person named 'Talha'.

In a subsequent conversation with another person, Ahmad identified Talha as Talha Saeed, the son of LeT leader Hafiz Mohammed Saeed.

The video contained images of "Hafiz Saeed, so-called jihadi martyrs and armored trucks exploding after having been hit by improvised explosive devices," it said.

In October 2010, Talha had allegedly contacted Ahmad and requested him to revise the LeT propaganda video, giving Ahmad specific instructions.

Ahmad then allegedly revised the video and posted it on Oct 16, 2010. In August 2011, FBI agents interrogated him, where he denied any involvement with the video.

US group seeks separate registration of Sikh marriages

WASHINGTON: A US-based Sikh community advocacy group has sought UN intervention to persuade India to pass a law for separate registration of Sikh marriages.

Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) Wednesday submitted a memorandum to UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief Heiner Bielefeldt seeking UN intervention to impress India "to amend article 25 of the Indian Constitution to restore the independent status of Sikhism".

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government has refused to pass an act for registration of Sikh marriages while Muslims, Parsis, Christians and Jews of India already have separate acts for registration of their marriages, SFJ said.

The Indian "government's refusal to pass law for separate registration of Sikh marriages is yet another instant of discrimination based on religion towards Sikhs", it said.

SFJ legal advisor Gurpatwant Singh Pannun alleged the demand and struggle of Sikhs to have Sikhism recognized as a separate religion has resulted in extreme repression by Indian government.

SFJ has also launched a "Proud to be Sikh" campaign to collect signatures, garner support and spread awareness among the world community about the alleged "discrimination meted to Sikhs by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government".


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