First death penalty in a drug crime case


 

Press Trust Of India
Chandigarh, January 28, 2012

In the first ever case of capital punishment in a drug crime, a special Narcotics court in Chandigarh has awarded death penalty to a person while sentencing an African national to 15-years of Rigorous Imprisonment (RI).

The court of Special Judge (Narcotic Drugs and Physchotropic  Substances Act) Shalini Singh Nagpal awarded death sentence to one Paramjeet Singh for trafficking 10 kilograms of Heroin and supplying it to an African national Sestus Benson in 2007.

Till now the maximum punishment in drug crime has been RI and a heavy fine.

“Paramjeet was arrested by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) on November 30, 2007 in Chandigarh’s sector-39 as he was illegally delivering 10kg Heroin to Benson. What made his crime grave was that Paramjeet was out on parole granted by a Delhi Court in another drug trafficking case,” NCB Special Public Prosecutor Kailash Chander said.

This is a first-ever case of capital punishment being awarded in a drugs trafficking case. Benson has been awarded an RI of 15 years and a fine of Rs 1.5 lakh by the court, Chander said.

NCB Zonal Director Rohit Katiyar confirmed the development to PTI and said the judgement in the case was historic and would act as a “deterrent in illegal drugs and crime cases”.

“This is a historic judgement. The judgememnt will go a long way in curbing the menace of narcotics abuse in the country, especially amongst the youth,” Katiyar said.

Paramjeet was earlier arrested by the agency in Delhi in 2005 and was granted parole by a Delhi Court and the Chandigarh court not only relied on this fact but also the NCB probe to deliver today’s judgement under the Prevention of Illicit Traffick in Narcotic Drugs and Physchotropic Substances Act (PIT NDPS), Chander said.

Lo fir basant aaya-Happy Basant Panchami


A short documentary film about Basant, the spring festival of the Sufis in north India. The video covers a day in the life of qawwals and Sufis at the shrine of Nizamuddin Aulia in New Delhi, India. The Sufi festival of Basant is related to a legend of Amir Khusrau and Nizamuddin Aulia, is celebrated each year on the eve of Basant Panchami.

New gender detection technique: gift or curse for girls in India?



By Reuters Staff January 27, 2012

By Ariana Wardak

Researchers in South Korea have developed a blood test that can determine the sex of a foetus as early as five weeks but not everyone may be gung-ho about the discovery, fearing it might be misused for sex selection in South Asian countries such as India where boys are prized over girls.

While the ability to determine the gender of a baby through a simple and cheap blood test may be seen as a blessing in the scientific community, the technique might prove lethal to baby girls in India where there is already a great difference in gender ratio with 933 females for every thousand males.

Until three decades ago, female infanticide — the killing a newborn baby girl — was widespread in India but due to advancement in technology, it is now possible to determine the gender in the womb itself, leading to a higher number of abortions.

The ultrasound test is currently the most commonly used procedure for finding the gender of the baby but it cannot be done before five months of pregnancy whereas an invasive test that carries a one to two percent risk of miscarriage must be done after 11 weeks.

“(The new test could) reduce the need for invasive procedures in pregnant women carrying an X-linked chromosomal abnormality and clarify inconclusive readings by ultrasound,” lead researcher Hyun Mee Ryu said.

The scientists said the method “might promote the potential for sex selection” and warned “there should be careful consideration about the use of this analytical tool in clinical situations”.

Thanks to female foeticide, high rates of violence and economic discrimination against women, a recent poll done by Reuters Foundation ranked India among one of the worst countries for women.

(Interact with Ariana at @arianawardak )

Obama lawyers argue rest of health law can survive


Arguments before the Supreme Court set for late March

* Administration: only two provisions would fall with individual mandate

* Justice Dept. says rest of law independent and can survive

By James Vicini

WASHINGTON, Jan 27 (Reuters) – The Obama administration told the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday that nearly all of President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul can survive if the court declares unconstitutional the law’s centerpiece provision requiring health coverage.

Administration attorneys argued in a written brief that all but two provisions can be separated from the requirement that Americans buy health insurance or pay a penalty by 2014, the law’s cornerstone known as the individual mandate.

They said the 26 states and the independent business group challenging the law have failed to show that Congress would have wanted the entire law to fall in the event the individual mandate was struck down.

“Many provisions of the act, focused on controlling costs, improving public health and other objectives, have no connection to insurance coverage at all,” Solicitor General Donald Verrilli wrote in the brief.

“And Congress directed that much of the act take effect several years before the minimum coverage provision’s effective date, further demonstrating that Congress intended those provisions to operate independently,” he added.

The Supreme Court has scheduled three days of oral arguments on the healthcare law for March 26-28, with an election-year ruling expected by the end of June.

The question of whether the rest of the law survives is one of four the court will consider, including the issue at the heart of the legal battle – whether Congress exceeded its powers in adopting the mandate.

The states and the business group have challenged the law as an unprecedented move that exceeds its constitutional powers and argued in written briefs filed last month the entire law must fall if the court strikes down the mandate.

Administration attorneys on Friday repeated their position that only two provisions could not be separated and would have to fall if the court invalidates the mandate.

Those provisions bar insurers from refusing to issue coverage to a person because of a pre-existing medical condition and from charging higher premiums based on a person’s medical history.

But the government’s attorneys said those challenging the law failed to show one instance when the Supreme Court in modern times has struck down a comprehensive law like the healthcare overhaul based on a finding that one provision exceeded Congress’s authority.

Karen Harned of the National Federation of Independent Business said in response to the administration’s filing that the group still believed the entire law must fall if the mandate is struck down.

“To argue otherwise would be like arguing a house can stand after its foundation has crumbled,” she said.

The administration last month filed a separate brief with the high court defending the mandate as a constitutional attempt by Congress to address a crisis in the national health care market.

The Supreme Court cases are National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, No. 11-393; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services v. Florida, No. 11-398; and Florida v. Department of Health and Human Services, No. 11-400.

Uphold the Indian Constitution! Defend Human Rights Defenders in India!


 

 

 AID -Petition to Release Human Rights Defenders

26th January, 2012

To

Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh,

Chief Minister of Chhattisgargh Raman Singh,

President of India Pratibha Patil.

Every year on the 26th of January, we celebrate the Constitution of India [1]. Every 30th of January, we remember the martyrdom of Mahatma Gandhi, who led India to freedom. However, for the vast majority of the people of India, even the most basic of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution – the right to life and personal liberty and due legal process if these rights are to be abridged – remain unrealized promises. And the ideals of the independence struggle, as articulated by Gandhi, stand indelibly tarnished.

One of the most shocking recent instances of this trampling upon the Indian constitution is the torture and sexual abuse of prisoner Soni Sori [2,3]. An adivasi school teacher from the Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh, Sori had exposed evidence of police misconduct in the framing of several cases against her [4]. Police intimidation forced her to flee, and she reached Delhi seeking legal assistance, but was arrested before she could file a petition in the Supreme Court. Fearing for her life in Chhattisgarh, she asked to be held in custody in Delhi, despite which she was handed over to the Chhattisgarh police [5]. In custody, Soni Sori was brutally tortured by the Chhattisgarh police, because of her refusal to corroborate their false statements. A subsequent independent medical examination found sizable stones lodged in her vagina and her rectum and severe damage to her spinal cord [6].

Another instance is the case of Lingaram Kodopi. In 2009, Kodopi was locked up by the police in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh for 40 days, tortured and pressured to join a vigilante force [7]. After the High Court ordered his release, Lingaram went on to complete a course in journalism, and later documented villagers’ accounts of arson, murder and rape during a three-day police operation in March 2011. In September 2011, Lingaram was arrested on charges of collecting ‘protection’ money for the Maoists from Essar, a large business conglomerate. Sori, his aunt, came under pressure from the police to persuade Lingaram to accept the charges. She refused, saying the charges were false and ended up being an accused herself. Amnesty International has pronounced both Sori and Kodopi, Prisoners of Conscience [8].

Sori’s and Kodopi’s are not isolated cases. Authorities in various parts of India have a record of imprisoning innocent people, including human rights workers, on false charges, the most notable case being that of Dr. Binayak Sen. Dr. Sen was convicted of ‘sedition’, and sentenced to life imprisonment, but released by the Supreme Court on bail, pending appeal [9]. Many other innocent people, mostly from marginalized sections of the society, continue to languish in India’s jails; Adivasi activist Kartam Joga [10] and labor leaders, Bhagwati Sahu [11] and Abhay Sahoo [12], are just some of them. Others like Kopa Kunjam [13] and documentarian Ajay TG [14] were released on bail and are awaiting trial. Arun Ferreira, a social and human rights activist, was acquitted in 11 different cases for lack of evidence, but re-arrested each time on a fresh set of charges, until he was finally released on bail on the 4th January [15].

In custody, Soni Sori was pressured by the police to implicate many prominent human rights activists as Maoists [16]. Though Sori resisted the pressure, other news reports indicate a concerted attempt on the part of the state to stigmatize human rights defenders [17]. This was a serious concern placed on record by Margaret Sekaggya, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, after the completion of a mission to India a year ago [18].

The gross misconduct of the police is enabled by several draconian laws of questionable Constitutional validity, such as the law against sedition in the Indian Penal Code [19], the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act [20], the Armed Forces Special Powers Act [21] and state-specific laws such as the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA) [22]. These laws are intended to help the police to bring charges against anyone on no or the flimsiest of evidence or to arrest and detain people for extended periods without charges or evidence. This process of filing false charges and detention based on them, is being used as a punitive tool in itself.

Where there are credible reports of torture or of other grave misconduct by the police, rarely have the police authorities been investigated, or the democratically elected representatives sanctioning systemic abuses held accountable [23].

Therefore, we demand that:

Torture and other prisoner abuses must stop

Intimidation of Human Rights Defenders must end

The practice of filing false charges, extended detentions without trial, and “arrest, detention and trial” as punishment must end

The law against sedition (Section 124A of Indian Penal Code) be abolished

Laws which give unconditional and unchecked power to the authorities, such as UAPA, AFSPA and CSPSA, be abolished

Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi be released immediately and unconditionally

Police and higher level government officials responsible for torturing and pressuring Soni Sori be prosecuted

 

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION AND SHARE WIDELY

The Swede Who Convinced Taliban To Allow Girls Schools


Anders Fange

Anders Fange first went to Afghanistan as a young radio journalist in the early 1980s after Afghans began fighting against the Soviet occupation.
He later moved to humanitarian relief work and helped keep 40,000 girls in education during the worst excesses of the Taliban years.

These days Anders Fange, 65, lectures on Afghanistan in his native Sweden. His main challenge is to convince skeptical audiences to shed preconceptions when they think about Afghanistan. He hones this point by drawing on nearly three decades of experience in that mountainous country.

Fange’s public speaking engagements and private conversations are deeply engaging owing to his detailed knowledge of Afghanistan. Anecdotes from his long years there are more than a match for the dry academic comparisons that frequently dominate such events in the West.

Fange first went to Afghanistan as a young radio journalist in the early 1980s after Afghans began fighting against the Soviet occupation. He later moved to humanitarian relief work and even worked for the United Nations political mission in the country.
Afghanistan always continues to surprise you.

“Afghanistan always continues to surprise you. You always get new explanations for things,” Fange says. “It’s a complicated country in many ways — that makes it difficult and it makes it exciting.”

In 1984, Fange spent three months walking with the mujahedin through valleys, passes, and forests. They often stayed in village mosques. He witnessed their attacks against Soviet convoys and government garrisons.

“From those years, I took with me the thing that I have been saying since then: that the future of Afghanistan is not decided in Kabul,” he says. “It is decided out in the valleys. It is decided in the rural areas.”

He was fascinated by the Afghan culture — in particular, the practice of hospitality. “It’s most impolite to leave a guest alone. From my upbringing in Sweden, I was used to [having] my own room. But there, you could never be alone,” he says of the days he spent in remote Afghan villages.

In the early 1990s, Fange joined the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA) and began living in Peshawar in western Pakistan.

In his role as an aid worker, he experienced Afghan suffering first-hand. But he was impressed by Afghan resilience.

“Their capacity for work, their capacity for being able to carrying through in very difficult circumstances — I doubt that there is any other people on earth who had this kind of capacity,” he says.

The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan became one of the largest aid groups at the height of Afghan civil war, when the Taliban militia swept through much of the country. Fange dealt with many Taliban officials.

“Most of the Taliban, even the ministers we dealt with in Kabul, had a pretty pragmatic view,” he says. “Somehow it was understood that they needed this humanitarian assistance of which we were one of the providers.”

One of the most sensitive issues he negotiated with the Taliban was rural schools where some 40,000 Afghan girls were educated. After long talks with Amir Khan Muttaqi, the regime’s minister of education, the Taliban agreed to sign a protocol allowing the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan to work in the country.

“When we finalized these negotiations, he told me, ‘We know you have these girls’ schools. We know it, but don’t tell us,’ he said,'” Fange says as he recalls the conversation. “In other words, it was a very Afghan view that if it’s not official, then a lot more is tolerated and allowed than what’s in official life.”

The schools, however, were not immune to Taliban interference. In the summer of 2001, Fange says, some local mullahs in remote rural districts attempted to close down a school. His answer to such a menace was to threaten the closure of all Swedish Committee for Afghanistan education, health care, and agriculture projects in the area.
‘Keep a low profile’

“Without exception, they came back the day after or even the same day and said, ‘OK, you can stick to the girls schools, but keep a low profile,'” he recalls of the often tricky negotiations with rural clerics. “During Taliban [rule] we never were actually forced really to close girls schools.”

After 9/11, Fange became a leading member or the UN political mission in Afghanistan. But he was soon disappointed at what he regarded as political blunders made by Afghan leaders and the international community in rebuilding the country, including disenfranchising certain segments of the population while reenergizing and empowering some of the most notorious warlords.

“The West is obsessed with its own political system as a perfect political system,” he says, adding that Western states have struggled for centuries to improve their democracies.
“Then we throw it on Afghanistan and say, ‘You have 10 years to fix this,'” he says. “Of course it doesn’t work.”

Source: RFE/RL | Gandhara  

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