U.S Supreme Court Says Human Gene Cannot Be Patented in Myriad Case #Goodnews


Mixed Ruling on BRCA1 Mutation Linked to Breast Cancer

‘My DNA’: Lisa Schlager addresses protesters outside the Supreme Court. The court issued a mixed ruling in a case involving patenting of human genes.

‘My DNA’: Lisa Schlager addresses protesters outside the Supreme Court. The court issued a mixed ruling in a case involving patenting of human genes.

courtesy of lisa schlager
‘My DNA: Lisa Schlager addresses protesters outside the Supreme Court. The court issued a mixed ruling in a case involving patenting of human genes.

By Reuters

Published June 13, 2013.

In a first of its kind ruling on human genes, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday decided that synthetically produced genetic material can be patented but naturally occurring DNA extracted from the human body cannot.

The nine justices handed a partial victory to Salt Lake City, Utah-based biotechnology company Myriad Genetics Inc , which holds the patents in question. But the rights group that challenged the patents also found reason to be pleased.

The biotechnology industry had warned that an expansive ruling against Myriad could threaten billions of dollars of investment.

The contentious, uniquely 21st century question before the court was whether any human genes can ever be patented – meaning the holders have exclusive rights to their intellectual property for a defined period.

The court, in an opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas, ruled that a synthetically produced genetic material made by scientists, known as cDNA, can be patented but that genes extracted from the human body, known as isolated DNA, do not merit the same legal protections.

The compromise outcome, which was urged by the Obama administration, will have less impact on Myriad. The Myriad patents in dispute will all expire by 2015.

Myriad’s shares jumped 10 percent to $37.47 after the ruling was issued.

The ruling means some of Myriad’s patents involving cDNA will likely survive, but the parties disagreed on that point.

The case arose when a group of medical researchers, associations and patients – represented by the American Civil Liberties Union – filed suit in 2009, saying human genes, including synthetically produced material, should not be patented.

They challenged seven patents owned by or licensed to Myriad on two genes – called BRCA1 and BRCA2 – linked to breast and ovarian cancer. A federal judge said the patents were invalid. An appeals court overruled that decision, and the case landed at the Supreme Court.

“Today, the court struck down a major barrier to patient care and medical innovation,” said Sandra Park of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “Myriad did not invent the BRCA genes and should not control them. Because of this ruling, patients will have greater access to genetic testing and scientists can engage in research on these genes without fear of being sued.”

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has granted patents on at least 4,000 human genes to companies, universities and others that have discovered and decoded them. Patents now cover some 40 percent of the human genome, according to one study.

ANGELINA JOLIE MASTECTOMY

The question was whether the genes Myriad patented concerned its successful isolation of the two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2.

Mutations detected in the genes can help determine heightened risk of breast cancer. Myriad’s work in the area, including a screening test, gained worldwide attention this year when actress Angelina Jolie announced she had a double mastectomy after undergoing a test and finding she had a risk of developing breast cancer.

In the court’s opinion, Thomas wrote that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit was wrong to find that isolated human DNA and cDNA were both patent eligible.

Under the federal Patent Act, an inventor can obtain a patent on various new processes and products but “laws of nature, natural phenomena and abstract ideas” are not patentable.

Thomas wrote that cDNA “does not present the same obstacles to patentability as naturally occurring isolated DNA segments.”

In examining the differences between the two, Thomas concluded that cDNA is not naturally occurring. A laboratory technician, he wrote, “unquestionably creates something new when cDNA is made.”

Thomas noted so-called method patents, which concern technical procedures for carrying out a certain process, are not affected by the ruling.

The decision will stop the practice of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granting patents to companies that isolate DNA but will allow patents for firms that build DNA from its basic chemicals, said Ed Reines, of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP.

“The patent office was granting patents on isolated biological composition, such as DNA (for years). That will not be happening in the future,” Reines said.

“Given recent Supreme Court skepticism in the patent area, it is not surprising,” he added. “There shouldn’t be much in this decision that surprises industry or the financial markets.”

 

Complaint to NHRC on arrest of Maitree women activists in Kolkata #Vaw


To
The Chairman
National Human Rights Commission
Faridkot House
Copernicus Marg
New Delhi – 1

Respected Sir

I want to inform you that this morning members of a Kolkata based network of women’s group; Maitree, assembled peacefully outside the residence of Chief Minister; Ms. Mamata Bannerjee to submit memoranda on recent incidents of gang rapes on two students at Barasat and Krishnaganj; Nadia. The activists were assembled with few placards on their hands and clarified their intention to the police personnel; guarding the residence of the Chief Minister. The activist also tried to hand over the same on 10th of June at Writers Buildings, when the Chief Minister refused to met the delegation. This time the activists wanted to draw personal attention of the Chief Minister but instead of making the arrangements for the same and receiving the memoranda, the posted police authority arrested 13 women activists having ample social reputation. The arrestees were Ms. Anuradha Kapoor, Ms. Swapna, Ms. Kakoli Bhattacharya, Ms. Anchita GHatak, Ms. Shyamali Das, Ms. Ratnaboli Roy, Ms. Sharmistha Dutta Gupta, Ms. Shreya Sanghari, Ms. Madhura Chakroborty, Ms. Shreya Chakroborty, Ms. Sudeshna Basu and Ms. Aditi Basu. All the arrestees were whisked to Lalbazar Central Lock Up.

The act of the police having clear instances from the state government is not only infringement of article 19 (a) and (b) of Indian Constitution which clearly sated that – All citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression; and to assemble peaceably and without arms; but again during the arrest the police violated the mandatory 11 point guidelines on arrest as directed by the honourable Supreme Court in the case of DK Basu versus State of West Bengal; while arresting not furnished the arrest memos at the time of arrest. Later, the arrestees and other civil society organisations came to know that the police arrested the persons for violating section 151 of Criminal Procedure Code. Again, section 151 of CR. P.C (Arrest to prevent the commission of cognizable offences) clearly stated that ‘A police officer knowing of a design to commit any cognizable offence may arrest….’ the question is whether these persons were assembled there to commit any cognizable offence? The answer is no. Further, the Supreme Court in his judgement defined that in case of bailable offences, making an arrest is illegal. The said assemble of women activists was peaceful and they wish to met the Chief Minister and handed over her a memoranda, which was not an offence itself and otherwise well inside the domain of rights of the people.

While MASUM contacted the Lalbazar Central Lock Up at around 11.30 am and asked for the information of arrestees, the attending police officer only said that ‘yes there are few women activists inside the lock up but other relevant information is with Kalighat police station, we contacted the Kalighat police station just after, the attendant, one ASI, who was the duty officer at that time said the Officer in Charge only can put light on the arrest and subsequent detention and he has gone to Arambagh and will be back after an hour. The intention of police was evident that they don’t want to disseminate any information. When the last information came the bonds for release of the arrestees were getting ready at the Central Lock Up.

UN Declaration on HRD (2nd December 1998) states –
“Article 1
Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels.
Article 2
1. Each State has a prime responsibility and duty to protect, promote and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms, inter alia by adopting such steps as may be necessary to create all conditions necessary in the social, economic, political as well as other fields and the legal guarantees required to ensure that all persons under its jurisdiction, individually and in association with others, are able to enjoy all these rights and freedoms in practice.”
In this regard I want to recall you about your primary responsibility of promotion and expansion of human rights for the people and demand for:-

1. The Commission must take cognizance against the police and start a case on their own
2. Commission must inquire and investigate the incident on their own
3. The errant police must be booked under the law and be prosecuted
4. The arrestees must be compensated for their loss
Sincerely Yours

(Kirity Roy)
Secretary, MASUM
National Convenor, PACTI

 

Memorandum to Chief Justice of Bombay High Court – Complaint of rape against Dr Rustom Soonawalla #Rape #Vaw


6th June 2013

To

The Chief Justice,

High Court,

Bombay

Reference: Concerns of women’s groups regarding the manner in which the complaint against Dr. Rustom Sonawala is dealt with. (Anticipatory Bail Application No. 578 of 2013)

Sir,

We, the members of women’s groups, organisations and individuals are concerned about developments in the complaint of rape filed against Dr. Rustom Sonawala at Khar Police Station on 17.05.2013.

We have been fighting for the rights of victims in cases of sexual assault in Mumbai and various parts of the country for many decades. In view of the increasing number of cases of sexual assault and brutal rapes, laws regarding rape and sexual assault have been recently amended to bring in stringent punishments. After the Justice Verma Committee report and the recent happenings in the country, we felt that the Courts too were taking the issue of violence against women more seriously and sensitively.

 

Background: A 26 year old woman, who was taking treatment from Dr. Rustom Sonawala since August 2012, filed a complaint of rape against him on the evening of 17th May, 2013. The filing of the first information report as well as the medical examination of the complainant was concluded by 7 am of the 18th of May.

After the complainant and her husband returned home on the same day, 18th May, the police called them to Dadar to identify the doctor, as they had located his whereabouts in Parsi colony.  On locating and identifying the accused doctor, the two police personnel accompanied him in his car, asking the complainant to take a taxi. While the complainant as well as the police personnel reached the Khar police station, the accused Doctor managed to abscond while he was being accompanied by the police.

During protests that were being held against the doctor opposite his clinic, one of the neighbours informed some of the protestors, that the same doctor had also molested their daughter in the past.

This has raises several questions:

1.       Why did the police go to arrest the doctor in a taxi for which the complainant was made to pay and not in a police van?

2.       Why has no action been taken against the concerned police personnel and why have they not been suspended?

3.       Given the complicity of the entire machinery with the accused, how do we ensure a fair trial?

4.       How do we ensure that even the forensic and medical reports are not tampered with?

Further, the accused who had not been arrested and was absconding even after 10 days of the crime, on 29th May, 2013, moved the High Court seeking anticipatory bail, even as his application for anticipatory bail was pending before the Sessions Court at Greater Bombay, Mumbai. In the anticipatory bail application, the accused said through his lawyer that his blood and semen sample may be collected and he be given protection from arrest till the anticipatory bail application is finally decided in the Sessions Court. The victim’s advocate argued that the accused was absconding and in his absence no reliefs should be granted to him.
On 29th May, 2013 the Hon’ble Court passed an order directing the accused to deposit his passport and appear before the Khar Police Station. The Assistant Public Prosecutor was asked whether the court should pass an order of not arresting the accused or she would give an undertaking. The Assistant Public Prosecutor said that she would give an undertaking of not arresting the accused till his anticipatory bail was decided by the Hon’ble Sessions Court. The court asked by when they would do the medical examination and the Assistant Public Prosecutor said that there is no provision in law by which this medical examination can be done prior to arrest.  After her refusal to agree to do the medical test the court said it will hear the matter after vacation, that is, on 11th June, 2013 and till then the accused is protected, as the Assistant Public Prosecutor has given an undertaking regarding the same.

Sec. 54  of the Code of Criminal Procedure allows medical examination of the accused at the instance of the accused, if the examination of his body will afford evidence which will disprove commission by him of any offence or which will establish the commission by any other person of any offence against his body.

But the section is very clear that it is after arrest and that the accused will have to make an application to the Magistrate.

We fear that the Order of the Hon’ble High Court sets a wrong and dangerous precedent in terms of rape matters for many reasons.

The Accused was not present before the court and yet he was granted relief, which is never done, especially in rape matters. The medical evidence of semen, blood, injuries cannot be the sole basis of deciding whether rape was committed.  At present the law defines rape by penetration, [that is, penetration is enough to prove rape,]; nowhere does it say that it has to be coupled with the presence of DNA.

The FIR states that there was penetration; the presence of DNA and other factors is corroborative evidence.

If this order becomes final it not only  means that the rape accused can approach the courts to seek this kind of protection, but it will also mean that cases will be closed on the basis of DNA reports. And given the circumstances related above, one cannot be sure that these reports cannot not doctored or tampered with. DNA test can be evaluated during trial.

This also takes us to the conclusion that if traces of semen are not found, there is no rape. This goes counter to the recent Criminal Amendment Act, 2013.

The current situation also gives the accused the freedom to tamper with the evidence and witnesses considering the fact he was able to connive with police and abscond right in their presence.

The Hon’ble Court before giving relief to the Doctor ought to have considered the fact that the Doctor is a fugitive from Justice.

In fact he has obstructed the legal system by conniving with police personnel. It is obvious that in some way he was able to exercise undue influence on the police and thereby he could go absconding right in presence of the policemen.

The Hon’ble Court instead of granting him relief should have instructed him to first submit himself before the investigating team and also should have directed that a complaint be registered against the Doctor as well as the police for subverting the process by using undue influence.

It is indeed a question before all us citizens and women specifically, whether Justice is the prerogative of rich people only.

It is a worrying thought that this sort of judgment will act as a precedent in future cases. This goes counter to the present ethos after the 16th December 2012 rape case and its aftermath.
We hope you will relook at the judgment and do the needful.

Yours sincerely

Forum Against Oppression of Women, Mumbai

Aawaaz-E-Niswan

Akshara

SAKHYA (women’s guidance cell)

Women Research and Action Group (WRAG)

SNEHA

VACHA

CORO (for literacy)

YUVA

Samajwadi Mahila Sabha

Stree Mukti Sanghatana

Anagha Sarpotdar

Kamayani Bali Mahabal

Address: 29, Bhatia Bhuvan, Babrekar Marg, Off Gokhale Road, Dadar (West), Bombay – 400 028

Email: faowindia@yahoo.co.in

cc- Home Minister R R Patil

 

Mumbai – Errant #Aadhaar contractors paid Rs 5.5cr fine: RTI #UID


200 px

Thursday, May 2, 2013, 8:00 IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

The state has charged penalties of more than Rs5.5 crore from various contractors authorised for Aadhaar card enrollment.

 

The state has charged penalties of more than Rs5.5 crore from various contractors authorised for Aadhaar card enrollment.  The details were made available through a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by Anand Pargaonkar.

Around 13 agencies are given the contract to enroll people for Aadhar cards. Details provided by the state’s IT department to Pargaonkar up to 2013, 11 of 13 agencies were fined Rs5,61,90,790.

Tera Software Ltd was levied the maximum penalty of Rs1.85 crore for delay in uploading the packet (data) as per UIDAI guidelines. Others were fined for similar reasons.

The second highest, Rs87.68 lakh, was levied on Strategic Outsourcing Services, followed by GSS America Infotech Ltd – Rs 65.67 lakh – and Mahaonline Ltd – Rs64.11 lakh.

“Suspension or cancellation of licences depends on various aspects. It could be lack of better crowd control or supervisors to check how the enrollment is being done, or too many people being given slips at the same time, or the quality of bio-metric data collected,” state IT secretary Rajesh Aggarwal said. “When we cancel contracts, we inform the UIDAI to stop receiving packets from those agencies. Contracts are suspended as a preventive measure, sometimes till the time corrective measures are taken.”

Pargaonkar said the state needs to spruce up services. “Despite fines and suspension of contracts at centres. people continue to have a bad time. They have to stand in queues for long hours or are sent back home without a proper response.

 

 

#India – Centre’s report indicates Nuclear plant not safe for Jaitapur


Sunday, Apr 28, 2013, | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

A section of the Jaitapur nuclear plant site selection committee’s report that was withheld by the government and was recently retrieved by a local Premanand Tiwarkar through the Right to Information Act (RTI) contradicts Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited‘s (NPCIL) claim that the site is fit for a nuclear plant.

A section of the Jaitapur nuclear plant site selection committee’s report that was withheld by the government and was recently retrieved by a local Premanand Tiwarkar through the Right to Information Act (RTI) contradicts Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited’s (NPCIL) claim that the site is fit for a nuclear plant.

In the past there have been other studies on the region that have stated that the area is prone to earthquakes and tsunamis. However, some pages of the September 2002 ‘Report no 3 Assessment of sites for locating nuclear plants’, which was kept confidential by Centre’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), is the first report made public by the government that states the site is unsafe for a nuclear plant.

The NPCIL had earlier assured locals that the 90-ft high plateau would be adequate to protect the plant in event of a tsunami but the DAE report contradicts NPCIL’s claim. The DAE states that the plateau is made of laterites which is derived from basaltic rock that make the site dangerous.

The report also states, “The seacoast at the Jaitapur site is prone to erosion by breaker (waves) as evidenced by the large number of boulders strewn below the cliff.”

Activists opposed to the nuclear site also say that DAE had initially stated that the construction of the plant would not require excavation. However, they have recently informed the locals that 20 to 30 metres of the lateritic cover and the underlying weathered zone would have to be excavated. This would make the plant susceptible to tsunamis. A 1972 study by the Site Selection Committee of the DAE also stated, “Tectonic features in the region can be regarded as potential sources of earthquakes as some of them may get reactivated at any point….”

 

Story behind the ‘Lost Case”- despite social legal support #Vaw #Justice


Mumbai, Majlis Team , March 31,, 2013

As  fourteen year old Priya  had not been getting her periods for some months, her mother took her to Shatabdi, a  public Hospital in the nearby area, for a check up.  During examination it came to light that the child was five months pregnant! A case was not filed, but Priya and her mother were referred to the hospital’s counselling centre where two very young social work students were placed. The students knew about Majlis’ Socio Legal Support for Survivors of Sexual Assault programme.

So, it was by sheer luck that Priya and her mother Anju reached our office. I was one of the first people to speak to Priya after she discovered she was pregnant. With large fluid eyes and a scared look on her face, she revealed that she and her friends would often go to a Pramuk’s  (leader) house to help his wife with house work. About six months ago, when his wife was not at home, this 50 year old man raped her.  He threatened her that if she ever spoke to anyone about it, he would kill her. She had no idea about the consequences which might befall on her, and hence kept silent, and did not even confide in her mother.  It was poignant to watch the child, who had just realised that she was pregnant, trying to cover her stomach with her dupatta.

Anju is an illiterate single mother trying desperately to manage her family by earning a meagre amount as a domestic maid. She is extremely naïve and had never stepped out of her local area. She, and her mother before her, have lived in the same slum their entire lifetime. When faced with the news,  Anju’s only concern was how to quietly get an abortion and end the story. She was extremely afraid that if her son found out all hell would break loose. The pramukh was influential and she did not want any hassles with the police. We tried our best to assure her that if she wanted to complain we would support her in her pursuit of justice… but these words did not make any sense to her.

We asked her to think about what she wanted to do and promised to meet her the next day at the hospital (she did not want us to come home). But the next day Anju did not turn up. Our team were rid with fear at what she would have done with her daughter in order to cover up the incident. Priya’s pregnancy was well past the statutory limit permitting an abortion and we were scared about the danger to her life. There was no way of contacting Anju as she had not given us a number or an address.

Then three days later Anju contacted us. All hell had broken loose as her son found out. The police was informed and an FIR was lodged. The accused was taken into custody, required medical tests were done and statements were recorded. Priya was produced before the Child Welfare Committee and was taken to a shelter home.

Our first challenge was to ensure Priya’s health and well being were being taken care of in the shelter home. We would accompany Anju every week to visit Priya in the shelter home. We counselled Priya to cope with her situation. Priya was not comfortable at the government shelter home,  so we requested the CWC to move her to a home for unwed mothers run by Christian Missionary Sisters in the Western suburbs. The request was granted.

We also counselled Anju and her son to help them cope with the situation. When Priya delivered her baby we were there. Anju could not reach the hospital as she could not travel alone late in the night. Anju still  feels bad that she would not be with her daughter during her delivery. Given Priya’s tender age and Anju’s financial condition, there was no question of keeping  the baby. We had to repeatedly remind the police to collect the blood samples of  the baby, so that the child could be put up for adoption.

Priya returned home and Anju was keen to care for her daughter. But she soon realised that due to sniggering and humiliation from neighbours it was impossible to keep her daughter with her. Everything had changed. Priyas was forced to live in the village where poverty was worse and she was not even given basic nutrition. Anju was desperately trying to collect money to move to another slum. Multiple vulnerabilities were  at play here. Since we do not have a financial assistance project and the State Victim Compensation Scheme was not in place, we could not offer any financial support to the family.

But on the other hand, the case was progressing smoothly. We followed up with the police to ensure that the investigation was on track and the charge sheet filed in a timely manner. Within two and half months of the incident the charge sheet was filed and the matter was committed to the Sessions Court. This was an open and shut case, we were confident of a conviction. This was one of the few cases we have come across where the statements were  recorded by the police without any loopholes, DNA proof was there…. So imagine our shock and utter dismay when the DNA report came negative.

The blood samples of the accused did not match that of the child. The police called Anju to the Police Station and shouted and abused her for two-three hours. We rushed to the Police Station and impressed upon the officer that his duty was only to submit the DNA report to the court and not pass any value judgment.

We met Priya and tried to probe if there was any other person. But Priya, all of fourteen and having gone through the ordeal, with utmost conviction reassured us, that he alone was the  culprit. We believed her.

The Public Prosecutor (PP) accused Priya of having a boyfriend. You cannot trust these teenaged girls, I think this case is ‘fishy’, she said. Her entire approach towards the case changed dramatically after the DNA report. But if Priya had a boyfriend, the news would have spread as this is a thickly populated slum with huts adjacent to each other. Nothing misses the keenly watchful eyes of the  neighbours.

We were extremely worried how the PP, whose job is to defend Priya would conduct the trial. We watched the PP like hawks on every date to ensure she was doing her job.

Priya was brilliant in her examination and cross. We were there by her side to support her. The PP ofcourse did not even bother to meet her before the trial and prepare her.

The defence lawyer used all kinds of underhand tactics during Anju’s cross. He accused her of being a woman of loose character and being greedy and wanting to extract money from the accused. But before he could ask any more embarrassing questions, the presiding officer, a sensitive lady judge, stopped him. This judge is known to follow Sakshi Guidelines, not allow unnecessary questions and most of all, she makes the witness comfortable in court. All this helps bring the best evidence before the Court.

The final arguments were a disaster. The PP argued with absolute lack of interest (She may not have even argued if we were not there). She submitted the case laws and the written arguments that we had prepared, because we insisted. The Defence Counsel argued at length about how the DNA Report was negative and therefore it was clear that the accused had been framed to take revenge because the victim’s mother was not allocated a tenement under the slum rehabilitation scheme.

Judgment: “Not guilty, the prosecution has failed to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt”. The judge also commented that the plea of the defence about revenge appears to be probable!

Immediately after passing the judgement, in an informal tone, the Judge asked our lawyer whether we take up all cases or only ‘genuine’ cases. Before we could recover from the absurdity of this question, the PP replied “Oh, they take up any case that comes to them”.

We would have liked to answer that “not proving a case beyond reasonable doubt does not amount to a ‘false’ case.”  We would also liked to have responded to the  PP, “it is not your job to be judge… just do your best to prove your case, like you would if you were defending the accused in a murder trial, as a private lawyer.” But we kept silent as we have many other rape cases which are pending trial in this court.

We had the difficult task of informing Anju about the judgement. She was calm and took it in her stride. She told us that she was not interested in filing an appeal. She had changed her residence,  Priya was back at school and they were making every attempt to get over this trauma. We felt that despite the set back in court, we had empowered them to cope with the system and move on without leaving deep scars of revictimisation upon their psyche. This, in itself, was a victory! After all, conviction or acquittal is not in our hands. We are here to ensure that fair trial process has been followed.

Ideally, this narrative must end here, but it has a postscript. A few days later, a visibly shattered Anju came to our office. There was a story in the newspaper accusing Anju of filing a false case to frame the accused to get a tenement in the SRA scheme. It is this incident that broke Anju.  She wanted to file a case against the lawyer and the newspaper.  But since no names were mentioned there was nothing we could do. Anju told us that Priya had threatened to commit suicide after seeing the newspaper article. The society finally had its revenge.

The questions that haunt us at the end of this case are – yes, the case could not be proved ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.  But it is also beyond doubt that a 14 year old vulnerable child had been violated and had to undergo the ordeal of childbirth and of giving up the child in adoption. Does the responsibility of the state end with the acquittal, or is there a responsibility beyond, to ensure the well being of this child.  Can state institutions entrusted with the responsibility of protecting children, brand her as ‘a liar’ and wash their hands off her, leaving her to deal with her fate, within the confines of her own vulnerabilities? We find no answers to these disturbing questions within the criminal legal system.

State of Maharashtra  v. Ramesh Dawle  Session Case  No. 349 of 2012

The matter was concluded within a year.

Majlis Legal Centre

A 4/2 Golden Valley, Kalina Kurla Road, Santacruz E, Mumbai 98

Tel: 022 26661252 / 26662394

Website: www.majlislaw.com

Facebook: majlislaw

 

Maharashtra- From Drought to dhandha #Vaw


Published:  Sunday, Mar 31, 2013, 0:27 IST
By Yogesh Pawar | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

Purnima Ahire speaks haltingly in English with a pronounced Marathi accent, an attempt that draws a round of laughter from the women huddled in a lane near Ashok Talkies outside Thane station.

“Kai English madam dhandha karayla aali ka kai (An English madam has come for sex work)?” says one of them, setting off the others again.

The 21-year-old from Umerga, Osmanabad, clams up. Her mentor Renuka Varahade, 34, puts an arm around her and tells her to ignore them. “Many who come for dhandha can’t even write or speak decent Marathi. Purnima has studied till Class 11, so they are envious,” she says.

Purinima’s sister’s wedding two years ago put her father in debt. Unable to withstand pressure from the local money lender after his crop failed, he drank a bottle of pesticide in January. Besides her mother, Purnima now has to support her sister and brother, so she decided to find work.

“Renukatai knew my mother. She told her I’d find work as a domestic help in Aurangabad. Once I found out the nature of the work, I called home to tell mother. She cried, but said I must cope to help the family,” says a blank-faced Purnima, whose family thinks she works as a maid. “If I keep crying, will that feed my family? Here Tai protects me and I get to send money home,” says Purnima.

Brothel-keeper Pushpa Malepu admits that new arrivals from drought-hit parts of Maharashtra have increased: “Earlier they came from poor families, but now even educated girls from families who have lost everything to crop failure in the last 2-3 years are taking to the sex trade.”

The profile of Mumbai’s sex workers is changing. At one time, 75% of sex workers in the city were from Nepal. Traffickers then shifted focus to Bangladesh where regular floods and poverty ensured new recruits. There came a point when one in every three sex workers in Mumbai was Bangladeshi.

Activists in Mumbai, Pune and Nashik admit that more educated Marathi-speaking girls are being pushed into the sex trade. This is like the situation following the drought of 1972, when 70% girls in the trade were from Maharashtra (Marathwada), Karnataka (Raichur-Gulbarga), and Andhra Pradesh (Rayalseema) — areas worst hit by drought.

“Now, there are more Marathi-speaking girls being pushed into the trade,” says Pravin Patkar, founder-chairman of Prerana, an organisation working with sex workers since 1986.

Patkar says the first signs of distress were seen last during Diwali, when sex workers started migrating to Mumbai from the drought-hit belts of Vidarbha and Marathwada: “With the overall drop in purchasing power, work became scarce, forcing them here. This shows the levels of distress. Unless interventions are put in place, the number of new recruits from these regions could rise rapidly.”

Indu Bhalerao, 36, is one such sex worker. She left Latur for Mumbai last September because of the lack of clients. “Here I can at least have food. In Latur, I didn’t have enough to provide for my family in my village, and was going hungry myself.”

Bharti Lad is a 23-year-old from Jalna district of Maharashtra. “Our family owned a sugarcane field which was divided after a family dispute. My father lost his share as he ran up huge debts paying off lawyers two years ago. We started working as labourers. Now, since there’s no water, there’s no work. We even had to sell the cow to the butchers,” she says in chaste Marathi. Bharti lives in a flat in Malad. “Regular customers mean I have enough to send at least Rs5,000 back home every month.”

The women waiting outside closed shop-fronts near Ashok Talkies are hungry and settle for a quick meal of bhurji-pao. “After 11pm, the police come… To avoid lafda (trouble), many of us head home,” says Purnima, who cannot resist checking herself in a broken mirror on the bhurji pao cart.

Renukatai hails an auto to take them to their hovel at the base of Parsik Hill at Kalwa (East), where two more girls stay. It’s past 11.30pm and the autowallah tries to get fresh. “Same place?” he leers in the rear-view mirror, eliciting a quick retort from the feisty Renuka, who spits out gutka and asks him: “Where else? Do you want to take us home to meet your mother?”

p_yogesh@dnaindia.net

@powerofyogesh

#India – Padma Shri Laxman Mane is accused of rape #Vaw


Published: Tuesday, Mar 26, 2013,
By DNA Correspondent | Place: Satara (Maharashtra) | Agency: DNA

The Satara police have filed a case of rape against Padma Shri Laxman Mane (in pic) after three women alleged that they were sexually exploited by the former MLC between 2003 and 2010.

“The women work as cooks with the Sharadabai Pawar Ashram Shala in Jakatwadi, Satara district. They approached us on Sunday following which we lodged a formal complaint,” said inspector Shrirang Langhe of the Satara taluka police station. “Mane is working president of the residential school for nomads and de-notified class students. The victims are Dalit married women aged between 30 and 35.”

Langhe said the victims alleged that Mane exploited them after promising to make them permanent employees of the school. “They said he took them to various places, including Pune and Satara, and raped them.” Mane has not been arrested. “We went to his house and places frequented by him. But we have not been able to locate him,” Langhe said.

The writer’s wife Shashitai denied the allegations. “My husband has been implicated by the police. This is an attempt to malign his image. This case has been cooked up to target Mane who is doing good social work. The case has not only defamed us, but also all fans and followers of Laxman Mane,” she said.

Shashitai told DNA that her husband received threatening calls on several occasions. “Laxman Mane took pains to raise the institution and filed criminal cases against several erring staffers over the last six years. Filing this case is part of a conspiracy hatched by his opponents and the women who approached the police have been used by them. Stringent action must be taken against the women who have filed the false case.”

A resident of Karanja village in Satara district, Mane has authored 10 books and is the editor of periodical Band Darwaza. His autobiography Upara, which highlighted problems faced by denotified tribes, has been translated in Hindi, Gujarati, Tamil, Malayalam as well as English and French.

He won the Sahitya Academy Award in 1981 and the Padma Shri in 2009. Mane has been president of the Adivasi Sahitya Sammelan (1989), Asmitadarsh Sahitya Sammelan (1987), Ambedkarwadi Dalit Sahitya Sammelan (2001) and Samatawadi Sahitya Sammelan (2010). He has also been associated with a number of NGOs and was MLC from 1990 to 1996.

@DNA

 

Madhya pradesh HC – Only law dept nod needed to prosecute corrupt govt officers #Goodnews


Saji Thomas l Bhopal, DNA, mARCH 26,2013

In a landmark verdict, the Madhya Pradesh High Court has said that a government servant accused of corruption can be prosecuted even without getting sanction from his/her parent department. The court held that the law department had the final authority to award sanction to prosecute a government servant.
At present, law department waits for recommendations of parent department/General Administration Department (GAD) while awarding prosecution sanction against a corrupt government servant. The verdict is set to put an end to this practice.
Delivering the judgment on March 18, the principal bench of high court said: “…opinion of parent department is not at all binding on the law department while considering the case for grant of sanction”. It further said: “Order granting sanction…has been passed after due application of mind on the basis of material collected and brought before the sanctioning authority”. The bench pointed out: “To seek opinion from the parent department is part of the procedure…and thus not binding”.
The order was passed by the division bench of justice Ajit Singh and justice Tarun Kumar Kaushal in a criminal revision petition filed by M P Chaturvedi, a Superintendent Engineer (SE), associated with Bansagar Canal Circle, Rewa.
The SE had moved the high court against order of special judge Shahdol, which had accepted the prosecution sanction given by law department, on the ground that his parent department had not given any recommendation to sanction his prosecution. According to the SE, under Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, it was the parent department that was authorised to grant prosecution sanction.
The SE had been booked under Prevention of Corruption Act 1988 and Indian Penal Code (IPC) for alleged irregularities in processing of tenders for a work by Economic Offence Wing (EOW).
“The order will go a long way in prosecuting the corrupt government servants who have been successfully escaping the trial on the plea of not having prosecution sanction from the government”, said advocate Punkaj Dubey, counsel for EOW.

“The court has also affirmed that the prosecution against a corrupt government servant cannot be dropped merely on the ground that there was no prosecution sanction”, he told DNA, quoting from the high court order: “…the trial has reached the state of defence evidence. At such a fag end stage of trial, in our opinion, there is hardly any scope for entertaining a technical objection in respect of sanction”.

#India- Nuclear radiation impact being ignored? #disability #healthcare


Date: 24 March 2013
Dilnaaz Boga, March 24, 2013 , DNA

On his recent visit to Mumbai, Nobel Laureate Dr John Byrne, Director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy, said that every society has to make a basic decision as far as use of nuclear power technology went.

“US has not ordered a nuclear plant in 35 years. There has been a record of incidents all over the world unanticipated by engineers and scientists and that is why so many countries have had to rethink the viability of nuclear technology.”

But some Indian scientists feel otherwise, despite the fact that the ‘Interim Report on Tarapur’ has found indicators which show radiation-related problem among employees of Tarapur Atomic Power Station (TAPS) and villages close to it. The World Nuclear Association expects India’s nuclear capacity to grow fourfold from its present capacity of 5,000 MW to 20,000 megawatts by 2020, making it the third-biggest market after China and Russia.

Health impact of radiation

Public health care centres’ doctors, locals, physicians in the vicinity and the medical supervisor were interviewed by scientist Dr V Pugazhenthi from Tamil Nadu, who is renowned for this credible studies on the health impact of radiation around the Kalpakkam nuclear site. He is also one of the members of people’s expert committee in the ongoing anti-nuclear movement in Koodankulam.

Cancer, goitre, infertility, mental retardation common

“I found 100 cases of cancer in 2010 among TAPS employees. Local physicians said that incidents of cancer have been on the rise in the area in the last few years, particularly hepatoma, ovarian cancer, bone cancer, breast cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. But there has been no intervention for the victims,” he added.

Cancer victims fear being ostracised so that they don’t tell anyone about it, he added.

“We are trying to decrease the exposure among workers at the plant,” said MoS Rajendra Gavit to DNA.

“Technologically, this system is out of sync, and it is economically less competitive if you switch to other energy sources,” Byrne explained.

Director Rajan Badwe of Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai, where patients from Tarapur and its surrounding villages are directed told DNA, “Cancer cases are not on the rise. If at all if there is any rise, it’s a small one and it is similar to any other area.”

Goitre cases have also been found in the surrounding villages, local physicians corroborated in the report. “A casual walk through the villages helped me identify 15-20 Goitre cases. TAPS doctors had carried a survey on thyroid problems by the medical superintendent denied it,” said Dr VPugazhenthi, who had conducted a survey in Chinchani village, 8km from the plant.

Back then, 40 cases of infertility were reported by a local doctor in the survey. “Spontaneous abortions, still births, hormonal imbalances in women in the form of excessive bleeding, decreased birth weight and birth defects on the rise,” elaborated Dr V Pugazhenthi.

RK Gupta, who worked for BARC for over 30 years in the fuel reprocessing division in the plutonium plant has been exposed to radiation, said, “Exposures are a regular affair. Workers have died of skin diseases and cancer. Despite this, international rules for workers are not fully implemented. There is a silence about this as people compromise because of their economic condition. Even contaminated tools that are stolen and scarp metal slow poison people. Just like people get poisoned from fish exposed to radiation very far from the site.”

Cases of mental retardation, including Down’s Syndrome, autoimmune arthritis, particularly rheumatoid arthritis, were found in villagers along with high instances of cataract and myopia at a young age.

No new health study has been commissioned in the area.