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#* Court to pronounce quantum of punishment in 2006 Mumbai train blasts case
A special court on Monday will decide on the quantum of sentence against the 12 people convicted for their role in the 2006 Mumbai local train bombings which killed 188 people and injured over 800.
Special Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act court judge Yatin D Shinde had convicted the 12 men of murder, conspiracy and waging war against the country but acquitted one suspect, Abdul Wahid Shaikh, accused of allowing Pakistani nationals to live in his house. The convicts face either execution or life in prison.
"I think this is justice for all the people who died and those who were injured," said KP Raghuvanshi, former anti-terrorism squad (ATS) chief, who was part of the blasts probe.
The convicts' lawyer, however, has said he would appeal against the decision in a higher court.
Seven blasts tore through the first-class compartments of crowded local trains in a span of just 11 minutes on July 11, 2006, during evening rush hour when millions of office-goers were heading home. The blast occurred between Khar Road-Santacruz, Bandra-Khar Road, Jogeshwari-Mahim Junction, Mira Road- Bhayander, Matunga- Mahim Junction and Borivali.
Investigators said around 20kg of RDX were packed into pressure cookers, placed in bags and hidden under newspapers and umbrellas.
The ATS said the suspects were linked to the banned Students Islamic Movement of India and were helped by Pakistan-based terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) to hatch the conspiracy that prompted New Delhi to freeze peace talks with Islamabad.
Police said the suspects targeted local trains as they were crowded and the security was not as tight as the other sites they surveyed. They divided themselves into seven teams, each consisting of a Pakistani national and an Indian national, and the bombs were taken to Churchgate station on July 11 by taxis.
A chargesheet filed by the ATS in November 2006 named 30 people but four Indian suspects and all 13 Pakistani accused, including key conspirator and LeT commander Azam Cheema, are on the run.
Former Mumbai police commissioner AN Roy, who played a crucial role in the investigation, said he was happy that the court endorsed the chargesheet.
"Investigations were done thoroughly by the Mumbai Police and the ATS. To start with, it was a blind case. We had no clue. But I am satisfied with the verdict," said Roy.
The case courted controversy after arrested Indian Mujahideen co-founder Mohamed Sadiq Israr Shaikh told investigators he and fellow IM operatives carried out the blasts but later retracted the confession in court.
IM founder Yasin Bhatkal said in August 2013 the blasts were carried out in retaliation for the 2002 Gujarat riots, leading to allegations that the wrong people had been arrested.
"The case had got a lot of adverse publicity and there were allegations the wrong people were arrested. I hope the judgement will stop these talks," said special public prosecutor Raja Thakare.
The defence lawyers examined 51 witnesses and one person was called as a court witness. The deposition made by witnesses runs into around 5,500 pages.
The MCOCA judge had concluded the trial on August 19 last year. The examination of witnesses resumed after two years since the Supreme Court had stayed the trial in 2008. Before the stay, the prosecution had already examined a police officer. The Supreme Court vacated the stay on April 23, 2010.
#* Novak Djokovic Defeats Roger Federer, New York
The number by his name is No. 1 for a reason.
Noisy New York didn’t want Novak Djokovic to do it Sunday night. It really didn’t. It sounded hostile, but it wasn’t hostile. It was just that on the other side of the net was Roger Federer, beloved Rog-ah! in a U.S. Open final for the first time in six years, at 34. The most popular player in tennis had a real chance to add another Grand Slam to a magical career, and who knew if he’d get back to this place again.
So noisy New York openly rooted against Djokovic. It cheered his misery. It talked in his backswing. It roared at his service faults.
OK: maybe it was a little hostile.
It was definitely tacky by the standards of tennis, but wasn’t personal, Novak, it really wasn’t. New York just didn’t need you to be on your best. Not on this night.Except Djokovic isn’t built for standing down. Djokovic occasionally finds himself pitted as the antagonist, even now, as an engaging and habitual champion, but he is nobody’s foil. Throughout his career, the 28-year-old Serbian has shown an astonishing talent to elevate in an environment where the crowd isn’t going his way, to turn that friction into something ferociously sublime.
#* 20 seats for Manjhi? BJP may have cliched seat sharing deal ahead of Bihar polls
New Delhi: In a late night development BJP and former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi were learnt to have clinched a seat sharing agreement for the Bihar assembly polls with a HAM(S) leader claiming the saffron party has agreed to allot about 20 seats to it.
Though there was no official confirmation about this from BJP, a party leader said, "All is well and a positive outcome is expected."
Meanwhile, Manjhi was quoted by CNN-IBN as saying, "There is no confusion, everything is sorted. We may make an announcement today."
Jitan Ram Manjhi. PTIJitan Ram Manjhi. PTI
A seat sharing agreement was said to have been reached at a meeting with BJP's in-charge for Bihar assembly elections and Union minister Ananth Kumar and party general secretary in-charge of the state Bhupendra Yadav had with Hindustani Avam Morcha (secular) leader Manjhi at Bihar Niwas.
After the late night confabulation, a HAM(S) leader claimed under the arrangement worked out at the meeting the party would get to field about 20 candidates, while five others would contest on BJP's symbol.
Meanwhile, BJP's Central Election Committee is likely to meet on Tuesday to decide on its candidates for the elections.
However, Times Now reports that a the two parties had allegedly failed to reach a consensus over seat sharing after Manjhi demanded more seats for his party.
Manjhi and his aides held a series of meetings with BJP leaders including Kumar, Yadav and Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan through Sunday.
Manjhi’s associates had on Saturday threatened to reconsider continuing in the alliance if a "respectable" offer was not made after BJP agreed to spare 13-15 seats for them.
BJP sources said a Central Election Committee meeting was likely to be held on September 15 as BJP is keen on announcing the names of its nominees at least for seats which go to polls in the first few phases. The five-phase polling for the 243-member assembly begins from October 12 and concludes on 5 November.
A final announcement on the seat sharing arrangement between BJP and its three allies — Ram Vilas Paswan' LJP, Upendra Kushwaha-led RLSP and Manjhi's HAM(S) — has been held up after Manjhi played hardball.
Though BJP has a strong Dalit ally in Paswan, it wants Manjhi on its side in the high-stakes state elections to bring in the Mahadalit votes.
BJP president Amit Shah, party sources said, cancelled his Mysore visit today to oversee the negotiations.
Manjhi was said to be unhappy after he was offered 13-15 seats by the BJP and sought to draw a parity with Paswan's LJP, which was tipped to get around 40 seats. Those privy to the talks said BJP wanted to contest around 160 of the state's 243 seats, leaving 25 for RLSP.
LJP and RLSP have agreed to the seat-sharing formula brought forth by BJP but a final announcement has been delayed due Manjhi’s disagreement with it, sources said.
Manjhi had on Saturday met Shah at the latter's residence twice.
Meanwhile, taking potshots at the NDA over the wrangling on seat-sharing, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said when there is alliance "minus any principle and for opportunism, such things happen."
"This is the beginning of the contradiction. Let us see what is in store next. Such alliances based on personal ambition and lust for power do not survive.
"When you go for such alliances, these contradictions come out, which are the beginning of an end. People will give a befitting reply to them," Singhvi said.
#* Left, Right, Left
Ousting the All India Students’ Association (AISA) after two years, the All India Students’ Federation (AISF) clinched the presidential position here on Sunday in the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) elections.
Breaking the Left bastion at the prestigious institute, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the Bharatiya Janata Party student wing, made a comeback at the central panel after 14 years by securing the post of joint secretary.
The AISA managed to retain two of four seats in the central panel. AISF’s Kanhaiya Kumar was declared president, defeating AISA’s Vijay Kumar by a slim margin of 67 votes. Shehla Rashid Shora and Rama Naga of AISA won the second and third spots of the vice-president and general secretary respectively, defeating their ABVP opponents. Defeating the AISA by just 27 votes, the ABVP’s Saurabh Kumar Sharma won the post of joint secretary.
The ABVP, which has gradually been making its presence felt in the JNU campus, won a seat after more than a decade, although its representatives secure posts as councillors every year. The party last secured a berth at the JNU central panel in 2001, when Sambit Patra, the current BJP national spokesperson, was elected president.
While Delhi University has seen a tussle for power between the ABVP and the National Students Union of India (NSUI), the Congress student wing, the ABVP’s emerging presence at JNU is considerably important since JNUSU polls have always been keenly contested by several Left-backed parties.
Last year, the ABVP ranked second in the posts of vice-president and general secretary, losing to the AISF.
Congratulating the JNU and DU students’ unions, BJP national secretary Amit Shah issued a release later in the day stating that both institutes were representative of India.
“DU and JNU are like mini India and students come here from all parts of the country to fulfil their dreams. Therefore, this victory represents the thinking of the youth of India and it reflects how the youth of the country have lapped the ongoing projects and given their support to these projects, run by Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” he said in the release.
Acknowledging the ABVP’s rising presence, AISA national president and former JNU president Sucheta De said her party was not deterred by the ABVP.
“Although I do not anticipate a bigger rise of the ABVP, there has been an influx of ABVP supporters in the campus after the BJP came to power at the Centre. Their presence is certainly increasing,” Ms. De said, adding that the AISF is yet to look into why its popularity had dimmed.
Attributing the ABVP’s increasing popularity to the Narendra Modi government, AISF’s Ruby Singh said a lot of students had pledged their support to the Right-wing outfit for personal benefits.
“The politics at JNU has always been Left-oriented. There has been a considerable increase in the popularity of ABVP since last year. The lack of unity among Left parties is to blame for their rise. Students were losing confidence in the AISF as they are yet to fulfil their promises, including increasing hostel accommodation,” she said.
Congratulating the AISF for its ‘resounding’ success, the Delhi State Council of its parent body — the Communist Party of India — issued a release later in the day stating that “along with the AISF and all others in JNU, the JNU community not only fights for the rights of the students and fulfilled its demand’s but also fight the danger of communalism in the country and in the institutions of education”.
Thirty-one councillors from several schools of JNU were elected at the elections held on Friday. A total of 22 candidates contested for the central panel. Counting of votes concluded on Sunday morning. This year, polling percentage stood at 53 per cent, slightly lower than last year’s 55 per cent.
#* Google To Provide Free WiFi Across 400 Indian Railway Stations
Good news for the Indian Railways commuter!
Google and Indian Railways have partnered to launch a new project under the code name Project Nilgiri, that will deliver free Wi-fi access to around 400 railway stations across India. Google will be using the Google Fiber project, that’ll provide high speed internet connection for the travellers.
Commuters will be able to access Wi-fi only after mobile number verification through a one-time password sent over SMS. Initially, a user will get high speed internet connectivity for the first 30 minutes and thereafter, the speed will drop and become slow. The connection of the users will however still be “active”.Google and Indian Railways will be setting up Wi-fi hotspots across 400 railway stations through out the nation over a span of 4 months from now in the first phase. In its phase 2 expansion, Google plans to provide Wi-fi on board moving trains Pan India using cutting edge technology.
The development was first reported by TelecomTalk, which also reported that the Google is working in closely with Railtel, a PSU having a Pan India Optic fiber network running along railway tracks in rural and urban regions covering 70% of India’s population.
Currently, Indian Railways provides Wi-fi connectivity in moving trains for select routes like Rajdhani express using satellite communication technology.
#* Abbott Healthcare tangles with Indian regulators over cough syrup complaint
New Delhi: Drugmaker Abbott Healthcare is challenging West Bengal’s accusation that a sample of the company’s cough syrup contained excessive levels of codeine, the second multinational to question India’s regulatory testing regime in recent months.
Whether the sample of Abbott’s popular “Phensedyl” was a genuine product or a fake has not been established, but the suspect batch of 80,000 bottles has not been recalled.
The state laboratory in West Bengal first raised the alarm last November.
The previously unreported case underlines the weakness of India’s unwieldy and poorly resourced drug and food regulatory system, the uncertainty it creates for foreign and domestic companies operating there and the potential risk to consumers.
Abbott Healthcare is a unit of US-based Abbott Laboratories. Abbott Laboratories also has a listed subsidiary in India, Abbott India Ltd.
Three months ago, Nestle was forced to withdraw its Maggi instant noodles from Indian shelves because the food safety authority banned the snack after its tests showed excess lead.
A court later overturned the ban in a partial victory for the Swiss food giant, but the allegations hurt the company’s reputation and that of the country’s regulators, who operate with few staff and poorly equipped facilities.
In the latest dispute, the laboratory found that a sample of Phensedyl contained more than twice the labelled amount of codeine, according to several state drug officials and correspondence between regulators and Abbott seen by Reuters.
Phensedyl sales are estimated to be more than 3% of Abbott’s $1 billion India revenue. The sales are dwarfed by Abbott’s global annual sales of over $20 billion, but, as the Nestle case shows, fallout from safety scandals is unpredictable.
The excessive codeine, an opium derivative, would violate Indian drugs law. It triggered a “show cause” notice against Abbott, which was sent in March by the drug regulator in Himachal Pradesh, where Phensedyl is manufactured.
In its response in late April, Abbott denied the allegations and urged regulators to not take any action. Abbott said it had found nothing unusual in its own and third party testing of a retained sample from the same batch of Phensedyl.
The company also asked regulators to give it more information about the source of the suspect sample and the manner in which it was collected, so that it could establish whether it was genuine and proper process was followed.
“We are awaiting response from the authorities,” the company said in answer to Reuters questions.
The original test was carried out by West Bengal after Phensedyl bottles were seized near the border with Bangladesh, said Samit Saha, a state drug inspector involved in the case.
Codeine-based cough syrups are banned in Bangladesh, and smuggling is rife as people profit from higher prices there compared to India.
According to a copy of the inspector’s report, the sample contained 21.37 mg of codeine per 5 ml dosage, instead of 10 mg specified on the label.
Saha said two other samples from different batches, however, showed normal codeine levels.
Excessive consumption of cough syrup with high levels of codeine can lead to health implications such as sedation, behavioural changes and drug dependence, said Amitabh Parti, a doctor at Fortis Memorial Research Institute.
In February, West Bengal listed the potentially tainted batch as “not of standard quality” in a monthly publication.
The bulletin, which is posted on the regulator’s website, is supposed to alert consumers and pharmacies in the state to suspect drugs. But the West Bengal drug controller, C. M. Ghosh, said he does not have the resources to follow it up.
States of confusion
Navneet Marwaha, the drug controller in Himachal Pradesh, said in an interview that Phensedyl, which accounts for about a third of the Indian cough syrup market, is often copied by counterfeiters. He said Abbott’s stocks of codeine were accounted for.
“They (Abbott) are saying ‘show us the sample so we can see whether it is genuine.’ They have not been provided with the sample,” Marwaha said.
He added that it was up to West Bengal to provide the information to Abbott.
West Bengal’s Ghosh said it was Himachal Pradesh’s prerogative and the company can only challenge the test’s findings at a central government drug lab with a court’s permission.
Safety breaches and scares are common in India. According to a 2012 parliamentary report, nearly one in 22 locally produced drug samples is of sub-standard quality in India.
India has just 1,500 drug inspectors responsible for more than 10,000 factories, supplying medicines for a population of 1.2 billion and exporting to nearly 200 countries.
Ghosh said he has 140 drug inspectors to monitor more than 50,000 pharmacies in the state.
The central government wants to improve regulation of the key sector, and plans to spend $263 million in the next three years to strengthen the national and state regulatory system with additional equipment and staff and new laboratories. Reuters
#* 16 die as lorry overturns near Rajahmundry in A.P.
A lorry with 30 persons on board skids and goes out of control on slippery National Highway. All victims were daily labourers who went to West Godavari for work in farms.
In a major road accident 16 persons died on the spot and 10 others injured on National Highway-16 near Gandepalli, about 33 km from Rajahmundry when a lorry carrying ash went out of control and overturned.
Four others travelling in the same lorry were reportedly missing. All the injured were shifted to Rajahmundry Government Hospital and their condition is stated to be out of danger.
All the workers in the lorry were daily labourers, who went to Chintalapudi mandal in neighboring West Godavari District about 20 days ago from five to six villages of Thondangi, Prattipadu and Sankhavaram mandals, which are upland areas of East Godavari District.
According to East Godavari Superintendent of Police S. Ravi Prakash the lorry was coming from Dachepalli in Guntur District and proceeding to Visakhapatnam. The labourers stopped the lorry near Eluru by-pass road on the Highway and perched themselves on the top of ash filled body of the vehicle. At around 2.30 a.m. when the truck reached the outskirts of Gandepalli, it was drizzling and the vehicle was going at high speed.
The driver applied sudden break but the vehicle went out of control due to slippery road consitions and it fell on the left margin of the road. All the labourers who, were in deep sleep, fell under the lorry along with ash and some of them managed to come out of the dust.
However, the driver and cleaner of the lorry could manage to escape unhurt.
On the information from locals, the Gandepalli police and Jaggampeta Inspector G.V.V. Satyanarayana rushed to the spot and started rescue operations.
The State Finance Minister Yanamala Ramakrishnudu reached the spot at around 6 a.m. and announced Rs.2 lakh exgratia to the bereaved families.
Deputy Chief Minister N. Chinna Rajappa, Information and Public Relations Minister Palle Raghunatha Reddy rushed to Rajahmundry Government Hospital.
#* Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma wants meat ban during Navratri
Days after Union culture Minister Mahesh Sharma spoke about cleansing India of western influences, he has once again courted controversy.
In an interview to India Today TV, Sharma spoke about multiple issues and gave his candid views on them. About the ongoing raging controversy regarding meat ban in some states during the Jain festival of Paryushan, Sharma said he welcomed such restrictions.
He said that, "If the sacrifices of a few help maintain the religious sentiments of a section of society, there is no harm in doing this". Sharma also said that the Centre will decide on extending meat ban to nine days of Navratri festival. He said, "It will be a political decision. We would want that".
The minister said that he is working with the HRD Ministry to incorporate the Ramayana and Mahabharata in schools. But in a controversial statement, Sharma claimed that religious texts like the Bible and the Quran were not central to India's soul.
Making a strong pitch for learning Hindi and Sanskrit, Sharma said that Hindi should be made compulsory in all schools. According to him, putting parents in old age home and having narcotics were examples of western culture. The minister also made a fervent bid to remove the ill-effects of western culture from Indian society.
However, Sharma doesn't agree with the notion that BJP is trying to drive a saffron agenda in its governance. According to him, the party is merely trying to act in accordance with the massive mandate received from the people of India.
#* Facebook Invites Narendra Modi to Next Townhall Q&A With Zuckerberg
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit the Facebook headquarters in California on September 27 where he will hold a town hall interaction with its CEO Mark Zuckerberg, only the second for the young billionaire with a world leader after US President Barack Obama.
Making the announcement on his Facebook page, the Prime Minister invited questions for the Townhall session. Modi's announcement came after Zuckerberg wrote in his Facebook post: "I'm excited to announce that Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India will be visiting Facebook HQ later this month for a Townhall Q&A." Prime Minister Modi and I will discuss how communities can work together to address social and economic challenges." It is only for the second time that Zuckerberg will have a town hall with a world leader at Facebook headquarters.
The first was with Obama in April 2011, just before his re-election as President. In that town hall, the two had talked about jobs, youth and innovation in the US. Facebook then had roughly over 500 million users globally. Today, it has 1.49 billion users. On August 24, one billion people were on Facebook globally on a single day.
The Prime Minister will be on a visit to Ireland and the US from September 23 to 29 during which he will address the UN General Assembly and also visit Google headquarters in the silicon valley.
The Facebook CEO referred to his last meeting with Modi in India and said, "I had the chance to visit Prime Minister Modi in India last year and it's an honor to have the chance to host him here at Facebook."
Modi had received Zuckerberg in October last year. Zuckerberg invited questions that should be addressed to PM Modi. He said video would be posted live on is profile which will also be visible on Modi's official page on Facebook.
In his response, Modi wrote on his Facebook post: "I thank Mr. Mark Zuckerberg for the invite to visit the Facebook HQ. I look forward to the Townhall Q&A on Sunday 27th September at 10 PM IST (9:30 AM Pacific time). " He added that "the interaction will cover a wide range of issues and will surely be a memorable one". Inviting questions, Modi said, "This programme will be incomplete without your participation! Share your questions on Facebook. I urge you all to share your questions on the 'Narendra Modi Mobile App.' Your questions will make this a programme to be remembered."
India has the largest Facebook userbase outside the US. In June, the company had said 125 million users of its global base of 1.44 billion come from India.
#* ‘Only polarisation is Nitish or no Nitish’: JD(U) writes off Asaduddin Owaisi
Bihar polls, Asaduddin Owaisi, nitish kumar, Narendra Modi, Bihar election, Bihar polls 2015, Politics news, india news, nation news Asaduddin Owaisi
The JD(U) came out Sunday with its interpretation of the polarisation theory following Asaduddin Owaisi’s decision to contest 24 seats in the Seemanchal region, saying the political discourse has now changed to “for Nitish Kumar” and “against”.
“The debate in the Bihar election has been veering round only thing: whether Nitish Kumar should return to power or not. Whether it is a debate between the development models of PM Narendra Modi and Nitish, or now about any extraneous element (Owaisi) joining the poll fray, it is polarisation along the lines of ‘Nitish or no Nitish’ in Bihar,” JD(U) spokesperson K C Tyagi told The Indian Express. Tyagi said they were not perturbed about the new entrant.
The JD(U), the NCP, the RJD and the Congress have a Lok Sabha seat each in the region, having wrested three from the BJP. The BJP, however, has 12 assembly seats which in won in Nitish Kumar’s company in 2010. The JD(U) has seven seats, and the RJD and the Congress two each.
Owaisi’s entry does threaten to divide the Muslim vote in the region, where the sitting MPs include Mohammed Taslimuddin (RJD) and Tariq Anwar (NCP). With Owaisi picking firebrand former RJD MLA Akhtarul Iman as its face in Bihar, there is some restlessness among grand alliance cadres. “Owaisi has the potential to upset our equations in at least 10 Muslim-dominated seats of the Seemanchal region. Owaisi may not win many seats but can cause Lalu, Nitish and Congress to lose,” said a political analyst of Seemanchal region.
Both the JD(U) and the RJD say Owaisi is playing mind games with the grand alliance in what should have been its citadel. RJD national spokesperson Manoj Jha said, “One should wonder why Owaisi has decided to contest in Bihar.
It is only because it is going to be a keenly contested battle. But Owaisi may well be under pressure from his own people not to contest as Muslims have always taken Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar as their benefactors.”
Owaisi’s entry may ensure the BJP can hold on its tally in an area that proved its weak zone in the Lok Sabha elections. “Owaisi’s importance can be understood in a tight finish,” agreed a BJP leader.