Saturday, February 16, 2013

India moves to scrap chopper deal, to send CBI team to Italy

Last Updated: Friday, February 15, 2013, 20:41

New Delhi: As it braces for an opposition onslaught in Parliament next week, government on Friday cracked the whip by moving to scrap the 12 helicopter deal with AgustaWestland and decided to send a CBI team to Italy to probe the charges that kickbacks to the tune of Rs 362 crore were paid to bag it.

The Defence Ministry also threatened to take other actions as per terms of the contract, an apparent reference to invoking a clause in the contract for recovery of money already paid in the Rs 3,600 crore deal. India has paid more than 30 per cent of the sum.

"The Defence Ministry issued a formal show cause notice to AgustaWestland seeking cancellation of the contract and taking other actions as per terms of the contract," Ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar said.

The company was asked to explain the bribery allegations within seven days and reply why the contract of 2010 should not be cancelled.

The action came after the ministry received "some report" from Italy, sources said.

The External Affairs Ministry has also written to the Italian government, seeking information on the issue.

A CBI team is also being sent to Italy where the CEOs of AgustaWestland and its parent company Finmeccanica have been arrested on charges of bribery.

The Defence Ministry's notice comes a day after the ministry warned of legal action, including invoking integrity pact which provides for cancellation of the contract if bribes are paid and recovery of the money already paid.

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First Published: Friday, February 15, 2013, 17:47

Italian helicopter manufacturer pays Rs.360 crores as graft to win contract from India.

An amount, around 50 million euros (Rs 362 crore approximately), a 10 per cent of commission as graft has been allegedly given by an Italian helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland, to win the  contract of India who had to buy12 VVIP helicopters that can ferry President and Prime Minister of India. The Chief Executive Giuseppe Orsi of Finmeccanica sPA,   the Italian parent company of the helicopter group, is under arrest. Strange enough

Chopper deal: India issues show cause notice to AgustaWestland

Last Updated: Friday, February 15, 2013, 17:59
zeenews bureau
New Delhi: India on Friday issued a show cause notice to Italian firm, AgustaWestland, and asked it to file a reply within seven days.

Defence Ministry also issued a fresh request to Italy for information on alleged kickbacks in supply of AgustaWestland's VVIP helicopters, PTI reported.

The agency added that the Defence Ministry has initiated process to scrap the deal for 12 VVIP helicopters.

On Tuesday, the Italian government arrested Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi for allegedly paying bribes to fix the chopper deal.

AgustaWestland is a subsidiary company of Finmeccanica.

Italian investigators have named three relatives of former Indian Air Force chief SP Tyagi as beneficiaries of the slush money.

Tyagi has denied any wrongdoing.

One of his cousins accused in the bribery termed the allegations as "baseless".

The three Tyagi brothers -- Julie, Docsa and Sanjeev -- are alleged to have received kickbacks of around Rs 72 lakh from middlemen.

Julie Tyagi claimed he and his two brothers are involved in the power sector as consultants and have never ventured into the defence sector in any way.

The Italian probe report suggests that the former IAF chief had met the middlemen more than six to seven times and allegedly briefed them about the developments in the contract.

With Agency inputs

First Published: Friday, February 15, 2013, 17:47

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This is a trial

An amputated Olympic track runner Oscar Pistorius Kills girlfriend on Valentine’s Day.


Horror shrouds in Pretoria, South Africa as an amputated South African Olympic track record champion Oscar Pistorious shot dead his girl friend Reeva Steenkamp at his residence at Pretoria.A tragic affair has been in Valentine’s day and scores of messages of condolence pouring in on Steenkamps Tweeter account

Blade Runner Oscar Pistorius charged with girlfriend's murder, breaks down in court

Reuters | Feb 15, 2013, 03.21 PM IST
JOHANNESBURG: South African " Blade Runner" Oscar Pistorius openly wept as he appeared in court on Friday, charged with the murder of his girlfriend as South Africans closely watched developments in a killing that has stunned the country.

Reeva Steenkamp, a model and budding reality TV show participant, was shot and killed at Pistorius' upmarket home in an eastern suburb of the South African capital in the predawn hours of Thursday, sending the country reeling.

South African media reported on Friday that Paralympic and Olympic track star Pistorius shot his girlfriend four times through a bathroom door at his Pretoria home.

Pistorius solemnly entered court in a gray suit and blue tie. He later broke down in tears.

Chief Magistrate Desmond Nasir was presiding over the hearing which likely will include Pistorius' request for bail. Police oppose the granting of bail.

Pistorius' father, Henke, was in the court as was his brother Carl, sister Aimee and other supporters of the 26-year-old double-amputee athlete.

Police said an autopsy on the body of the victim was taking place. Lt. Col. Katlego Mogale said the results of the autopsy would not be published.

More than 100 people packed into Courtroom C at Pretoria Magistrate's Court, including dozens of photographers and videographers.

The Paralympian and Olympic athlete was earlier seen leaving a police station, his jacket completely covering his head as he got into a police vehicle.

He was holding what appeared to be a white handkerchief in one hand as he was led by officers to a police van outside the Boschkop Police Station in eastern Pretoria, where he had been questioned on Thursday and had spent the night in custody.

Police said the victim was shot four times at Pistorius' villa in a gated community. Officers found a 9 mm pistol inside the home and arrested Pistorius on a murder charge.

Pistorius made history at the London Olympics last year when he became the first double-amputee track athlete to compete at any games. He didn't win a medal but did make the semifinals of the 400 meters and the final of the 4X400 relay, propelling the world's best-known Paralympian to the level of an international track star.

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Why the Freedom of Expression is in imbalance

Unless the meaning of freedom of expression is fully understood in a democratic country like India, the development of the nation becomes a question mark. Where urbanization and industrial expansion, nuclear reactors are necessary the groups start protest and agitations where it cost life, nations wealth sabotaged in spending on forces of law and order et al. Where a nation is fully charged with practice of religiosity, different sensitive issues are to be address, and thus time,funds have been lost. While the judiciary is approached justice although is sure, in Indian system a swift remedy cannot be achieved.

Soli Sorabji in the following article analysis what exactly is freedom of expression in country like India.

Soli J. Sorabjee writes in The Hindu

The rising menace of intolerance

The Hindu
Thursday,February 14,2013.
Soli J. Sorabjee
Freedom of expression will continue to remain under siege unless all groups accept that people can have different opinions and beliefs in a free country

“Our tradition teaches tolerance; our philosophy preaches tolerance; our Constitution practises tolerance; let us not dilute it.” These stirring sentiments were expressed by Justice Chinnappa Reddy in a Supreme Court judgment pronounced in August 1986 which invalidated expulsion from school of students belonging to Jehova’s Witness faith. Regrettably, over the years, tolerance has been replaced by the rising menace of intolerance which strikes at various fields of human endeavour and creativity: writings, music, drama, paintings and movies.

Intolerance stems from an invincible assumption of the infallibility of one’s beliefs and a dogmatic conviction about their rightness. An intolerant society cannot tolerate expression of ideas and views which challenge its current doctrines and conventional wisdom. Consequently, unconventional and heterodox thoughts and views have to be suppressed. That is the prime motivation for censorship.

Extent of dissent

One criterion to determine whether a country is truly democratic is the extent of dissent permitted. A liberal democracy is one in which all groups in the country accept the fact that in a free country, people can have different opinions and beliefs and shall have equal rights in voicing them without fear of legal penalties or social sanctions. Right to dissent and tolerance of dissent are sine qua non of a liberal democratic society.

Today we have reached a stage where expression of a different point of view is viewed with resentment and hostility and there are vociferous demands for bans. The banning itch has become infectious. Sikhs are offended by certain words in the title of a movie; Christians want the movie, The Da Vinci Code, banned because they find some portions hurtful. The ban was struck down by the Andhra Pradesh High Court. No one dare write an authentic and critical biography of a revered religious or political leader. The American author James Laine who wrote a biography of Shivaji in which there were unpalatable remarks about Shivaji was sought to be prosecuted which was quashed by the Supreme Court. Worse, the prestigious Bhandarkar Institute at Pune where Laine had done some research was vandalised. That was mobocracy in action. The exhibition of M.F. Husain’s paintings was stopped by intimidation followed by vandalism of the premises. The exhibition The Naked and the Nude at the Art Gallery in Delhi is threatened with dire consequences because it is considered obscene by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad women’s wing. The musical performance by a teenage girl rock band in Kashmir was coerced into silence because the music was termed un-Islamic by a popular religious leader. There are media reports that Mani Ratnam’s latest movie Kadal has come under fire on account of Christian ire that it has ‘hurt’ the feelings of the community. One wonders whether we are hell bent on emulating the Taliban.

Fortunately, our Supreme Court has been a valiant defender of freedom of expression. The well known actor Khushboo faced several criminal prosecutions on account of her remarks on premarital sex and its prevalence in metropolitan cities which were considered to be against the dignity of Tamil women and ruined the culture and morality of the people of Tamil Nadu. The Supreme Court quashed the criminal proceedings on the ground that “under our constitutional scheme different views are allowed to be expressed by the proponents and opponents. … Morality and criminality are far from being coextensive. An expression of opinion in favour of non-dogmatic and non-conventional morality has to be tolerated and the same cannot be a ground to penalise the author.”

The movie, Bandit Queen, was banned on the ground of obscenity because of the very brief scene of frontal nudity of the bandit Phoolan Devi in the movie. The Supreme Court struck down the ban and ruled that nakedness is not per se obscene. The Court emphasised that the Censor Tribunal which is a multi-member body comprised of persons who gauge public reactions to films had approved exhibition of the movie. This aspect was also highlighted by the Supreme Court in its judgment in T. Kannan.

Exhibition of movies is included in the fundamental right of freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution. One of the reasons frequently assigned for imposing a ban is that it hurts the sentiments of a certain section of people in society. ‘Hurt feelings’ is a slippery slope for banning expression. Any book or movie or play which criticises certain practices and advocates reforms will ‘hurt’ the sentiments of the status-quoists. For example, the abolition of Sati or the abolition of certain superstitious practices in the name of religion. Criticism should not be equated with causing offence. In the context of hurt feelings, the Supreme Court has repeatedly laid down that the standard to be applied for judging the film should be that of an ordinary man of common sense and prudence and not that of “hypersensitive” persons who sense offence in every scene or perceive hurt in every statement. The right method is to vigorously refute the criticism by rebutting its reasoning and data on which its conclusions are based.

Another ground for imposing a ban is the bogey about apprehension of breach of law and order and outbreak of violence in view of threats by certain groups about the exhibition of the movie. As far back as November 2000, the Supreme Court in KM Shankarappa’s case categorically ruled that “once an expert body has considered the impact of the film on the public and has cleared the film, it is no excuse to say that there may be a law and order situation. … In such a case, the clear duty of the government is to ensure that law and order is maintained by taking appropriate actions against persons who choose to breach the law.”

The same bogey of breach of law and order and violence was raised by the State of Tamil Nadu regarding exhibition of the movie, Ore Oru Gramathile. The Supreme Court firmly rejected the State’s plea in its decision in Rangarajan in March 1989 in these words: “Freedom of expression cannot be suppressed on account of threat of demonstration and processions or threats of violence. That would tantamount to negation of the rule of law and a surrender to blackmail and intimidation.” The Court reiterated that “it is the duty of the State to protect freedom of expression. The State cannot plead its inability to handle the hostile audience problem. It is its obligatory duty to prevent it and protect the freedom of expression.” It is noteworthy that the Supreme Court endorsed the celebrated dictum of the European Court of Human Rights that freedom of expression guarantees “not only views that are generally received but also those that offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population. Such are the demands of that pluralism, tolerance and broadmindedness without which there is no democratic society.”

During the hearing of the writ petition regarding the movie Dam999, certain observations were made orally off the cuff by the Supreme Court about law and order problems that may arise because of the exhibition of a movie. The writ petition was in fact dismissed as infructuous because the period of the ban had expired. There is no mention or discussion of the decision in Rangarajan at all in the operative part of the Supreme Court order. The salutary principle laid down in the Rangarajan decision has been approved in three subsequent decisions of the Supreme Court. It firmly holds the field and has not been diluted at all.

In contravention of the law

Banning of the movie Vishwaroopam by the State of Tamil Nadu was clearly in contravention of the law laid down by our Supreme Court. The sad part is that Kamal Haasan, producer of the movie, agreed to carry out cuts in the movie as demanded by certain Muslim groups. It was not a settlement but surrender by Mr. Haasan albeit for pragmatic reasons. However it lays down a bad precedent because it concedes to certain intolerant groups demanding a ban, a veto or appellate power over the decision of an expert body like the Censor Board.

Our Constitution prescribes certain fundamental duties to be performed by citizens (Article 51-A). One duty of paramount importance which should be performed is the duty to practise tolerance. Otherwise democracy, a basic feature of our Constitution, will be under siege and the cherished right to freedom of expression will be held hostage by an intolerant mindless mob.

(Soli J. Sorabjee is a former Attorney General of India)

Keywords: Freedom of expressioncensorshipsdemocracyHuman RightsCinema Act


An advocate’s privilege Pathology of the hurt sentiment Centre forms Committee to review Cinema Act Centre may amend law so State governments don’t play censor ‘Will have to seek a secular State for my stay’ 'Vishwaroopam not certified by competent authority' Quash the ban, screen the film
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