#India- Government withdraws RTI Act amendments #goodnews


New Delhi,Politics,Immigration/Law/Rights, Thu, 01 Nov 2012IANS
New Delhi, Nov 1 (IANS) Under pressure from UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, the Manmohan Singh government Thursday withdrew the controversial amendments aimed at diluting the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
“The cabinet decided to withdraw the amendments to the RTI Act,” a government source told IANS after a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The campaign against the amendments was led by activist Aruna Roy, a member of the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council.
The withdrawal of amendments would mean it would be possible for the citizens to ask for information related to file notings, except on issues about national security, privacy and protection of commercial interest. The amendments had sought to restrict disclosure of file notings only to social and developmental issues.
“It is an important decision. The amendments would have killed the RTI Act and there would have been no transparency in governance,” Nikhil Dey, who works closely with Aruna Roy on the RTI Act, told IANS.
Roy even met Gandhi on the government’s plans to dilute the act. Chief Information Commissioner Satyanand Mishra was also not in favour of the amendments, said sources.
The RTI Act was introduced during the previous UPA government to bring more transparency in governance and fight corruption.

Indian and International Organisations Condemn The Unjust Arrest of Activist Dayamani Barla


We, the undersigned organisations, strongly condemn the unjust incarceration of journalist and human rights activist Dayamani Barla, and demand that the false cases against her be dropped and that she be released immediately. Barla was granted bail by a local court in Ranchi on October 18th, in a case related to a protest held on 25th April, 2006, demanding job cards for rural laborers under the Rural Employment Guarantee Act. However, on the day that she was supposed to be released, jail authorities announced that she had been re-arrested on a second warrant, for “obstructing government work” [1]. We learnt that on October 29th, Barla was denied bail and remains imprisoned.

We believe the reason for this incarceration is to intimidate Dayamani Barla, who is one of the leaders of the peaceful and resolute struggle of villagers against the acquisition of fertile land at Nagri, a village situated at few kilometers from the state capital, where the government wants to build IIM, IIT and National Law School campuses. As per some estimates, at least 500 tribal families will be displaced and their livelihoods will be destroyed if the land is acquired for said institutions [2], In January, the state bulldozed farms just when the winter crops, mostly potatoes and pulses, were to be harvested. Following that, the police filed FIRs against 12 villagers [3]. We find the Government of Jharkhand‘s indifferent and unjust response to this peaceful struggle appalling- some of the protesters have even expressed support for the institutions to be built, just not at the cost of the main source of villagers’ livelihood [4].

Dayamani Barla is one of the leading anti-displacement activists fighting illegal land-grab by by corporations and the government alike in various parts of Jharkhand and other parts of India.  Known as the “Iron Lady of Jharkhand,” she is one of the national conveners of the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), along with Medha Patkar and others and an Executive Committee Member of the India Social Action Forum (INSAF). She is also one of the leading voices of the Adivasi community.

[1]www.thehindu.com/news/states/other-states/activists-step-up-demand-for-dayamani-barlas-release/article4038183.ece
[2] www.countercurrents.org/alam191012.htm
[3] www.tehelka.com/story_main52.asp?filename=Ne020612Nargi.asp
[4] http://intercontinentalcry.org/nagri-peoples-fight-for-identity-and-existence/

Sincerely,

Association for India’s Development
Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha (Mazdoor Karyakarta Committee)

Fabricated.in
India Friends Association
Indian Social Action Forum
International Alliance for the Defense of Human Rights in India
Manthan Samayiki
Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan

Mining Zone People Solidarity Group

Moving Republic, Bangalore
Our Developing World
People’s Solidarity Concerns, Bangalore
PUCL, Chhattisgarh
ViBGYOR Film Collective, Thrissur

 

 

#India- Sibal’s Law: ‘Grossly offensive’ and of ‘menacing character’ #censorship #foe #fos


courtsey jasrajbhatti at jasrajbhatti.com
November 01, 2012 10:41 IST, Rediff.com
Kapil Sibal has passed a law that anyone posting anything “offensive” on Twitter can be jailed for three years. That’s section 66A of the IT Act amended by United Progressive Alliance [ Images ] II in 2008.’

‘It’s a cognisable offence so you have to be arrested and apply for bail. As though you had committed murder!’ notes Shivam Vij.

So an aam aadmi tweeted that the Union finance minister’s son Karti P Chidambaram [ Images ] has amassed more wealth than Robert Vadra, and voila, he gets arrested! Chidu Jr tweets: ‘Free speech is subject to reasonable restrictions. I have a right to seek constitutional/legal remedies over defamatory/scurrilous tweets.’

Except that, as far as is known, the businessman whose Web site describes him as ‘The Young Politician’, has not charged the writer of the ‘defamatory’ tweet with defamation. Why not?

Because he’d have to prove defamation in court. Because the person won’t be arrested right away. Because Chidu Sr’s esteemed colleague Shri Kapil Sibal [ Images ] has passed a law that anyone posting anything ‘offensive’ on Twitter can be jailed for three years. That’s section 66A of the IT Act amended by United Progressive Alliance II in 2008.

It’s a cognisable offence so you have to be arrested and apply for bail. As though you had committed murder!

If the same allegation was made on wall graffiti or by Arvind Kejriwal at a press conference, nobody would go to jail. But say it on Twitter and the long arm of the law gets a little longer.

Why is it that Subramanian Swamy can make strong corruption allegations against Karti P Chidambaram, as he did back in April, but Chidu Jr won’t put Subramanian Swamy in jail?

An aam aadmi, however, is not dangerous to politicians. The Tamil Nadu police even wanted to keep the man in jail ‘on remand’ for 15 days, but a magistrate granted him bail.

This proves what a lot of us have been arguing: That the real and only intent of Kapil Sibal’s draconian Internet laws is to crush dissent, is to tell people that talking about the Congress party‘s corruption is not allowed.

Welcome to 1975, or was it 1984?

While various aspects of growing Internet censorship in India [ Images ] have been commented on, it appears that the most dangerous one of them has not received sufficient attention. That’s because it’s a draconian aspect of the Information Technology Act which many thought wouldn’t be misused. After all we aren’t China.

But alas, our blanket faith in the inherent goodness of the Indian democratic system allows our rulers to trample upon our rights. That is how Communications Minister Kapil Sibal can grin and claim, every now and then, that he is not for censorship and control over the Internet. He can lie through his teeth and we allow him to get away with it.

Section 66A of the Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008, came into force in 2010. The section makes punishable with three years in jail posting online ‘any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character.’

There’s more to it. A non-bailable arrest warrant for you if you upload information that you knew was false, but you posted it only to cause ‘annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, or ill will.’

Yes, annoyance and inconvenience.

There have already been at least three cases of misuse of this section, before even Kapil Sibal’s colleague’s son put it to use.

In April 2011, the West Bengal [ Images ] police arrested Jadavpur University Professor Ambikesh Mohapatra for merely forwarding on e-mail a cartoon making fun of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee [ Images ], using a reference to a Satyajit Ray [ Images ] detective story. It reached Mamta Banerjee and she was offended.

Sibal’s Law was used and the cartoonist was in jail.

Other charges — such as defamation and insulting women under the Indian Penal Code — were not cognisable, so it was only Sibal’s Law that treated him like, well, a gross offender.

Similarly, Congress and Dalit activists in Maharashtra [ Images ] targeted cartoonist Aseem Trivedi for his anti-corruption cartoons that he displayed at the MMRDA grounds in Mumbai [ Images ] in December 2011. Their real intent, it seems, was to show the Anna Hazare movement as being anti-national. They charged him with the cognisable offence of sedition, but also with Sibal’s Law — because the cartoons were also available online.

His Web site cartoonsagainstcorruption was shut down in less than 24 hours, using another bit of Sibal’s Law, the intermediary liability rules. Aseem found himself in jail for a few days in September.

More recently, a Chandigarh resident Heena Bakshi was angry with the local police for not doing much to recover her stolen car. She posted an angry message on the Facebook page of the Chandigarh police. It said:

You people kill us with your ‘nakaas’ n check points. Harassing us if we are just driving around at night. But you have no f*****g clue when somebody steals that car from under your eyes. The police started questioning me. If I was making this whole **** up or if someone actually stole it.

Does she deserve jail for this? Well, Sibal’s Law came to the aid of the Chandigarh police. I don’t know if Ms Bakshi has found her car yet.

In all these cases it is clear that the powers-that-be — politicians and government – are using Sibal’s Law to muzzle our voices, to silence dissent, to discourage we the people from expressing out anger against the government.

If this is not the Emergency mindset, what is it?

I find Kapil Sibal’s eyebrows offensive. I can’t put him in jail for that but he can put me in jail for saying as much online. If his law did not apply only to the Internet, but to everything, then that would be fair. In such a fair world I would be able to apply Section 66A against the gross offence his eyebrows cause me.

Sibal announces every other week censorship is not his intent. He says it as if we are supposed to be grateful to him for that. As if we should burst into screams of joy, ‘All hail Indian democracy!’ But the above examples show that Internet censorship is very much his intent.

In other words, he spreads a lie every time he claims censorship is not his government’s intent. If he was to say this on the Internet I would be able to apply his own law on him and have him arrested!

As I said, section 66A includes this as punishable, cognisable offence: ‘Any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, or ill-will, persistently makes by making use of such computer resource or a communication device.’

The government has appropriated to itself the task of deciding what is reasonable speech and what is unreasonable speech. That task should belong to the courts and the Indian Penal Code is enough for that.

If the tweet is defamatory, Chidu Jr should file a defamation case. There is no need for any special law for the Internet. The need for special Internet laws is felt by the powerful who realise that criticism and dissent are no longer the monopoly of a pliable, corporate media.

Those troubled by the aam aadmi‘s uncontrollable criticism include the corporate media. Senior television journalists like Barkha Dutt and Sagarika Ghose constantly complain about online trolling and ‘hate speech’. They have thus helped build an environment in favour of Sibal’s Law — ‘causing annoyance’, ‘menacing character’, ‘grossly offensive’ are all good descriptors of how the powerful see online dissent.

These journalists have thus favoured draconian laws while paying lip service to free speech by arguing that while corporate media is covered by legal restrictions online media seems to be a free-for-all.

But I am also only demanding equality. Mamta Banerjee walked out of a Sagarika Ghose show in Kolkata [ Images ]. She was offended by the questions posed to her. She was also offended by the cartoon a professor forwarded on e-mail.

While the professor had to go to jail and seek bail and will be doing the rounds of the courts to defend himself, Sagarika Ghose has not been charged with the cognisable offence of ‘causing annoyance’ or being ‘grossly offensive’ to Mamata Banerjee.

If Sibal’s Law applies to a professor, why should it not apply to an editor? Is CNN-IBN Deputy Editor Sagarika Ghose more equal before the eyes of the law than a professor who imparts education?

I have a point Sagarika, don’t you think so? If my question annoys you, please don’t use Sibal’s Law against me.

Shivam Vij

 

#India- #Rajasthan panchayat bars girls from using mobile phones #censorship #WTFnews


Nov 1, 2012, PTI

Jaipur: A community panchayat in Rajasthan has unanimously favoured prohibiting girls from using personal mobile phones in order to ensure that they do not get involved with boys.

Alarmed by the case of a girl who eloped with her boyfriend a few days back, elders of Bhandarez town in Dausa district decided to impose the ban in an all-caste meeting held yesterday.

“It is a matter of serious concern that the use of mobile phones is causing unwarranted problems particularly when it comes to youngsters. Girls using mobile phones are easily connected and approachable and this freedom may create unnecessary problems for her family”, Durga Lal, Sarpanch of Bhandarez, who was present in the meeting, said today.

Reuters

“Considering this fact, it was the common opinion in the meeting that the girls should be prohibited from using personal mobile phones and also scarves, which helps in hiding identity”, he said.

Saini said that a well-educated adult girl eloped with a class 10 drop out boy of some other caste on October 26 and is untraceable since then.

“It was a common opinion, passed unanimously, not a binding decision. If anybody wants to allow girls in his family for using and carrying personal mobile phones, he can do so but I hope that everybody would follow the common opinion because ultimately it is for good”, he added.

He also added that the panchayat also requested the local police to expedite efforts in tracing the girl as soon as possible.

A local villager Santosh also said that the villagers were in agreement with the panchayat’s directive.

SP Dausa S N Khinchi said that nobody has approached the police against the decisions or opinion of the meeting.

“So far, there is no complaint against any panchayat’s decision. We will look into it if there is any complaint”, he said.

PTI

 

Muslim man’s power to divorce not unrestricted: J&K High Court #goodnews


Published: Thursday, Nov 1, 2012, 15:20 IST
Place: Srinagar | Agency: PTI

The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has held that a Muslim man’s power to divorce his wife is not “unrestricted or unqualified”. Justice Hasnain Masoodi in his 23-page judgment extensively went into details of the Shariah law and Quranic injunctions to hold that a “husband cannot have unrestricted or unqualified power to pronounce the Talaaq.”

The court delved into the fundamental sources of Shariah law to understand the concept of marriage in Islam, the rights of the parties to the marriage contract and the mode and manner the contract is dissolved.

“Though Islam visualises a situation where a marriage may run into rough weather for reasons beyond control of the parties to the marriage contract, and provides for a mechanism to end or dissolve the relationship in such case, yet the device of divorce is to be used as the last option when the marital relations have irretrievably broken down,” the court said.

It maintained that in Islam divorce or talaaq by the husband may take three forms including Talaaq-e-Ahsan which is single pronouncement of divorce made during a tuhr (period between menstruations) followed by abstinence from physical relationship for the period of iddat (waiting period).

The second form is Talaaq-e-Hasan which is three pronouncements of divorce made during successive tuhrs, without any physical relationship during any of the three tuhrs.

The third is Talaaq-e-Bidhi which is three pronouncements of divorce made during a single tuhr either in one sentence or in three sentences or in any other form like in writing, indicating intention of the husband to irrevocably dissolve the marriage.

 

#India #BreakingNews- #Mumbai Police Blocks FOX and Discovery channels on #digitalcable #Censorship #WTFnews


Nov1, 2012, 3.00pm

I love ‘ Fox Crime : Channel and Alfred Hitchock presents my favourite, so as I switched my  television today to watch my favourite show, this is what i saw

Cursing my remote I again  started surfing channels, then auto scanning channels , I switch my TV off and then on again

and here is what I got

I have a digital cable TV connnection, so while all hue and cry was going on for last few days, I was least bothered. Now after checking all technical glitches with my digital connection myself, Ii called my cable operator, and there came a robotic voice, ‘ Madam, fox channel na, haan woh police ne band karwa diya hai  ( Madam, the police has blocked  fox channel )?” I was like WHAT ???, Yes , madam discovery science bhi band karwar diya hai. ( They also blocked the discovery science channel )  I asked her if the Police gave them anything in writing. ‘ Kya, madam, police kya likh ke dega,  ( What Madam, What police will give in writing ? ( laughingly ) ,they have blocked the channels’.   WTF,  was my only reaction.  I treid the police phoen numbers but could never get through as usual.

How can police block channels, do they think that robbers  watch criminal minds and plan their robbery and  murderers  will watch Alfred Hitchcock presents to hatch their perfect murders, what crap.  So, if they are going on banning spree, why not Crime patrol  on Sony TV, Saavdhan India on Life OK channel. Although, censorship of any kind is problematic, but here uts the typical stereotype that western channels  are polluting the innocent desi minds argh.

The police had blocked channels in 2008,imposing section 19 of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 1995, that governed the  cable operators,  as accoridng to the police the transmission of  of various clippings,  coverage of the actions take  by the police against the terrorists in South Mumbai were  causing impediment in the police action and  operational difficulties. Section 19 of the Cable TV Act empowers the authorised officers to prohibit transmission of certain programmes that are not in conformity of the programme code and is likely to disturb the public tranquility.

Have #India’s poor become human guinea pigs? #clinicaltrials


By Sue Lloyd-RobertsBBC Newsnight

Narayan Survaiya and family
Narayan Survaiya’s mother Tizuja Bai died several weeks after being given new drugs

Drug companies are facing mounting pressure to investigate reports that new medicines are being tested on some of the poorest people in India without their knowledge.

“We were surprised,” Nitu Sodey recalls about taking her mother-in-law Chandrakala Bai to Maharaja Yeshwantrao Hospital in Indore in May 2009.

“We are low caste people and normally when we go to the hospital we are given a five rupee voucher, but the doctor said he would give us a foreign drug costing 125,000 rupees (£1,400).”

The pair had gone to the hospital, located in the biggest city in Madhya Pradesh, an impoverished province in central India, because Bai was experiencing chest pains.

Their status as Dalits – the bottom of the Hindu caste system, once known as Untouchables – meant that they were both accustomed to going to the back of the queue when they arrived and waiting many hours before seeing a doctor.


Nitu Sodey

This was really expensive treatment for the likes of us”

Nitu Sodey

But this time it was different and they were seen immediately.

“The doctor took the five rupee voucher given to BLPs [Below the Poverty Line] like us and said the rest would be paid for by a special government fund for poor people,” Sodey explains. “This was really expensive treatment for the likes of us.”

What Sodey says she did not know was that her mother-in-law was being enrolled in a drugs trial for the drug Tonapofylline, which was being tested by Biogen Idec. Neither could read and Sodey says she does not remember signing a consent form.

Bai suffered heart abnormalities after being given the trial drug. She was taken off it and discharged after a few days. Less than a month later, she suffered a cardiac arrest and died at the age of 45.

The trial, which was registered in the UK by Biogen Idec, was later halted due, say the company, to the number of seizures recorded. The company also says Bai’s death was not reported to them.

Her case is not an isolated incident.

In a different trial with a different company, Narayan Survaiya says neither he nor his late mother Tizuja Bai were asked if she wanted to participate, or even told that she was taking part in one, when she sought treatment for problems with her legs. And, like Sodey, he claims the family were told that a charity was footing the bill for the care.

A few weeks after taking the drug, Survaiya says his mother’s health deteriorated and she was left unable to walk.

“I told the doctor, but he said don’t stop the doses. It is a temporary paralysis and the drug will make it better.”


Please don’t do these trials on poor people – rich people can overcome these problems but if I can’t work the whole family suffers”

Ramadhar Shrivastav

His mother died a few weeks later.

In all, 53 people were test subjects in that trial, which was sponsored by British and German drug companies, and eight died. There is no hard evidence that the drug was the cause of death, but nor were there any autopsies to enable a full investigation.

Over the past seven years, some 73 clinical trials on 3,300 patients – 1,833 of whom were children – have taken place at Indore’s Maharaja Yeshwantrao Hospital. Dozens of patients have died during the trials, however no compensation has been paid to the families left behind.

Internal hospital documents seen by Newsnight reveal that since 2005, 80 cases of severe adverse events in trials have been recorded in Indore. One patient listed on the severe adverse events document is Naresh Jatev, who is now four.

His father, Ashish Jatav, says that his son was a healthy three-day-old baby when doctors said he needed a polio vaccine.

Naresh Jatev and familyNaresh Jatev – in the white shirt – with his family

The family says that they had no idea that the drug Naresh was given was a trial one, and that the hospital forms which they signed had been written in English “so we couldn’t understand anything”.

According to an investigation by the hospital, the healthy baby boy had a seizure shortly after receiving the drug and suffered an attack of bronchitis.

Drug trials in India

  • Almost 2,000 trials in past seven years
  • Tests include drugs made by well-known companies such as Biogen Idec, Astra Zeneca and Glaxo Smith Kline
  • 288 deaths in 2008
  • 637 deaths in 2009
  • 668 deaths in 2010
  • 438 deaths in 2011

He now has breathing and eating problems, although the family have been assured that this is nothing to do with the trial vaccine. They say they no longer know what to believe.

Time after time in Indore, I heard a depressingly familiar tale of poor, often uneducated people saying how flattered and privileged they were made to feel as they were suddenly offered the chance to receive medicines usually out of their reach. All of them claim that, contrary to Indian laws governing drugs trials, there was no informed consent.

I also repeatedly heard patients’ relatives say that the treatment they received at Maharaja Yeshwantrao Hospital was overseen by Dr Anil Bharani.

Bharani has since been charged by the state government for receiving illegal payments and foreign trips from drug companies, and for carrying out drugs trials without patients’ consent.

He refused to speak to Newsnight, even when I approached him in person in his office at the hospital. He called security and I was marched out of the hospital by an armed guard. But two days later, Bharani was himself transferred from the hospital after more than 30 years service.

Bharani is just one of a number of doctors at the hospital who have been already been fined for irregularities during drugs trials. None of the problems might have ever come to light if it had not been for another doctor, Dr Arnand Rai, who had an office on the same floor of the hospital.

Dr Arnand Rai with Sue Lloyd RobertsDr Rai says he was fired for raising concerns

Rai says he became concerned when he saw poor people being ushered in to the best consulting rooms. He says he was sacked from his job because of his questioning, but that he has been researching the hospital trials ever since.

“They choose only poor people,” he says, even though drug trial protocols demand that they should be carried out on all sections of society. “They chose poor, illiterate people who do not understand the meaning of clinical drug trials.”

Dr KD Bhargava, head of the ethics committee at Maharaja Yeshwantrao Hospital, admits that the hospital’s oversight of the trials has been flawed. “Suddenly lots of money got involved and there was too much going on. And, yes, maybe we may have lost control,” he says.

But the issue goes well beyond one hospital.

Since India relaxed its laws governing drugs trials in 2005, foreign drug companies have been keen to take advantage of the country’s pool of educated, English-speaking doctors and the huge population from which to choose trial subjects.

The Bhopal disaster

A rally in memory of the Bhopal victims
  • Considered the world’s worst industrial disaster
  • On night of 2 December 1984, Union Carbide’s pesticide plant leaked tonnes of lethal chemicals over Bhopal
  • At least 3,000 people died in first 24 hours
  • And thousands more from after-affects

In the past seven years, nearly 2,000 trials have taken place in the country and the number of deaths increased from 288 in 2008 to 637 in 2009 to 668 in 2010, before falling to 438 deaths in 2011, the latest figures available.

The provincial capital of Madhya Pradesh is Bhopal – a city whose name will for ever be linked with the world’s worst industrial accident. An explosion at the Union Carbide plant caused a gas leak that killed an estimated 25,000 people, campaigners say.

The only good thing to come out of the disaster was the Bhopal Memorial Hospital, built as part of a compensation agreement with Union Carbide to help care for some half a million locals affected by the disaster.

Little did they know that when they came for treatment, some would be used for clinical drug trials.

Ramadhar Shrivastav was one such person. As he makes his way uncertainly to the door of his house to greet me, he says he was lucky, having got off comparatively lightly in the 1984 disaster – only his sight was affected.

Five years ago, he suffered a heart attack and went to the Bhopal Memorial Hospital. He does not read English, and it was a journalist who last year noted that his discharge paper showed that he was part of a trial by the British company Astra Zeneca on a drug being tested for patients with ACS (acute coronary syndrome).

Shrivastav claims the drug has affected him badly and he now cannot work.

Ramadhar Shrivastav and family
Ramadhar Shrivastav had previously been caught up in the Bhopal leak

When he learned we were from Britain, he asked us to pass on a message to Astra Zeneca.

“Please don’t do these trials on poor people. Rich people can overcome these problems but if I can’t work the whole family suffers. Why did they choose us? They should have tested it on themselves.”

Professor NP Mishra

It’s not being tried out to harm them” Professor NP Mishra

Astra Zeneca admit there were problems with consent with a few patients on the trial identified through there routine monitoring during the trial and the issues were quickly rectified. They say that Shrivastav was not one of those affected.

From a medical point of view, doctors agree that the long-term effects of exposure to the Bhopal gas, methyl isocyanate, are still not known so why use the victims for drug trials? I put this question a doctor involved in setting up the Bhopal Memorial Hospital and who once served on the ethics committee there, Professor NP Mishra.

He says trials are carried out for the long-term benefit of patients. “It’s not being tried out to harm them.”

But haven’t these people suffered enough? Is it right to put them at further risk in a clinical drug trial? “The way you talk, medicines would never be developed.”

I ask again, why choose gas victims? “That I cannot comment on,” he says. “It was not my job to find out.”

Sue Lloyd-Roberts reports from the poverty-stricken state of Madhya Pradesh

The problem, I found while working on this subject, is finding anyone who is prepared to be held responsible.

I found Tarjun Prajapati supervising a construction site in a new suburb of Bhopal. He is joint owner of a building company. His father was a gas victim who, four years ago, suffered a heart attack. He was given drug called Fondaparinux at the Memorial Hospital. When he ran out of the medication, his son found it easier to nip out to the shops rather than cross town to pick up more from the hospital for his father.

“I went to the market to buy them but couldn’t,” he remembers. “I was told they were only available from the hospital and only then did I realise he was on a trial drug. I feel very bad that my Dad died because of those medicines.”

This claim is impossible to verify because, once again, there was no autopsy.

On the trial documents, it says that the British company Glaxo Smith Kline are the sponsors of the drug, are responsible for the trial and are the investigators of the drug.

But GSK says they bought the rights to the drug while the trial was being carried out by the French company Sanofi, which is named as a collaborator on the document. When we contacted Sanofi, they told us the trial was in fact “conducted through an Indian research organisation called Quintiles”.

Lawyer Satnam  Singh BainsSatnam Singh Bains, a British barrister in Indore, is looking into the complaints

There is no doubt that the drugs trial set-up can be complicated. A couple of drug companies might team up and then delegate the actual work of the trial to what in India are called Clinical Research Outsourcing Organisations. In the past, when there have charges of malpractice, drug companies have tended to blame these local companies.

Which leaves those who believe they have a just grievance against the drug companies somewhat bewildered.

Lawyers are now looking at whether there is a case to answer in the UK. Satnam Singh Bains, a British barrister in Indore, is looking into a couple of cases.

He shows me a recently published report by the Indian Parliamentary Committee on Health and Family Welfare that looks into what is happening around the country. The report is damning.

It confirms that the set-up for regulating trials in India is, in Singh Bains’ words, “not fit for purpose”. There are too few inspectors at the regulatory agency, coping with too many demands, including having to supply data on 700 parliamentary questions and 150 court cases in one year.

“Still worse,” the report says, “there is adequate documentary evidence to come to the conclusion that many opinions [during the drug trials] were actually written by the invisible hand of drug manufacturers and experts [the doctors] merely obliged by putting their signatures.”

Singh Bains says there are real concerns. “About, at the very least, collusion between experts and the drug manufacturers or, at worse, there is a suggestion that there is a fraud taking place – that these reports are being signed off without any independent, clinical scrutiny of their findings in the way that conclusions are expressed.”

He adds that this could have global implications about “whether the findings of these clinical trials can be safely relied upon”.

#Pakistan-Girls’ school on fire in Lahore over ‘blasphemous’ exam questions #Vaw


Press Trust of India | Updated: November 01, 2012 12:59 IST

LahoreA large number of people, including activists of religious parties, ransacked and set on fire a girls’ school in Lahore and clashed with police following reports that a question paper for a test had contained blasphemous references to the Prophet, police said on Thursday.
Activists of groups like the Jamaat-ud-Dawah and Islami Jamiat Talba, the students’ wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami, and parents of some students were among those who on Wednesday vandalised three buildings of the Farooqi Girls High School, located near the historic Data Darbar shrine.Residents of Karim Park near Data Darbar began gathering outside the school on Wednesday morning following reports that its owner, Asim Farooqi, and teacher Arifa had committed blasphemy.

According to witnesses, the mob surrounded the three school buildings and forced their entry into the complex even after a large police contingent was deployed at the spot.

A sizeable number of activists of the Islami Jamiat Talba and JuD were part of the crowd and they demanded that the police should hand over the blasphemers to them.

The protesters subsequently forced their entry into the buildings after police used teargas in an attempt to disperse them. They let terrified students vacate the buildings and searched for the “blasphemers”.

After failing to find them, they ransacked the buildings and torched furniture, property and the car of the school’s owner.

The charged protesters also stopped fire service personnel from entering the buildings to extinguish the fire.

The police tried to disperse them for a second time but were unsuccessful.

Legislators Mian Marghoob and Khawaja Imran Nazir of the PML-N that rules Punjab and senior police officers reached the spot and requested the protesters to go home so that police could investigate the matter.

“I assure you the government will thoroughly investigate the matter and will not spare those involved in blasphemy,” promised Mr Nazir, who is the political secretary to Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.

Later, police claimed they had arrested both Farooqi and Arifa and booked them under the harsh blasphemy law.

A police official told PTI that the private school’s administration had set a question paper for a test a few days ago that allegedly contained “indecent” remarks about the Prophet Mohammed.

Police also registered a case against unidentified protesters for ransacking the school buildings.

 

#India- Tweets against Chidambaram’s son land man in jail #censorship #law


PRISCILLA JEBARAJ  , The Hindu

A file photo of Karti Chidambaram. Photo: K. Ananthan

The HinduA file photo of Karti Chidambaram. Photo: K. Ananthan

Ravi Srinivasan faces up to three years in jail if found guilty

Does a tweet on reports of corruption, sent out to 16 followers, deserve a possible penalty of three years of imprisonment? The answer seems to be yes, at least according to Congress leader and Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram’s son Karti, who filed a complaint against small-time Puducherry businessman Ravi Srinivasan, and the Puducherry police which charged Mr. Srinivasan under Section 66-A of the Information Technology Act, 2008.

Section 66-A deals with messages sent via computer or communication devices which may be “grossly offensive,” have “menacing character,” or even cause “annoyance or inconvenience.” For offences under the section, a person can be fined and jailed up to three years.

Mr. Srinivasan, a 45-year-old supplier of plastic parts to telecom companies and a volunteer with India Against Corruption, had on October 20 tweeted from his Twitter account @ravi_the_indian : “got reports that karthick chidambaram has amassed more wealth than vadra.” Other such tweets reportedly made references to Mr. P. Chidambaram.

Mr. Srinivasan is however appalled by the reaction his tweet has provoked. “At 5 a.m. on Tuesday [October 30] morning, I was woken up and pulled out of my house by CBCID men and told I was under arrest because of my tweets,” he told The Hindu. “My wife and two daughters were in shock. What wrong have I done?”

The police told him he was being charged because of an e-mail complaint sent by Mr. Karti Chidambaram to the Inspector General of Police, in which he accused him of malicious intent to defame a good man. He was produced before a judicial magistrate and released on bail that evening.

Mr. Chidambaram was out of the country on Wednesday, and remained unavailable for comment. But he did post a short statement on his own Twitter account @KartiPC. “Free speech is subject to reasonable restrictions. I have a right to seek constitutional/legal remedies over defamatory/scurrilous tweets,” he said to his 3,655 followers. He did not respond to queries on Twitter.

Mr. Srinivasan — whose Twitter tagline reads: Jai- hind guy, want to see India as no 1 in every sphere, believer that india can do it — has only posted 110 tweets in his one and a half years on the microblogging site. He has a grand total of 16 followers, as of Wednesday evening.

“My tweet refers to reports I read about Karti Chidambaram and Robert Vadra in the newspapers. It is not even my own opinion. I don’t know what is defamatory about it,” he said. “When I read the kind of tweets other people have written on corruption, I do not know why I am being targeted.” He wondered if his involvement with the IAC, and participation in their activities in Puducherry, has brought this upon him. In his latest tweet, he asked the IAC for “moral support.”

Interestingly, on October 22, Mr. Chidambaram had tweeted about a story in The Hindu on the arrest of two people who had allegedly harassed singer Chinmayi Sripada on Twitter, and were charged under Section 66-A of the IT Act. Linking to The Hindu’s article, Mr. Chidambaram’s tweet added: “food for thought for you know who! :)”

Activists campaigning for online freedom of speech say this kind of charge under the IT Act was inevitable, given the ambiguous nature of Section 66-A. Pranesh Prakash, policy director of the Bangalore-based Centre for Internet and Society, says the clause is “overbroad,” “unconstitutional,” and does not satisfy Article 19 (2) of the Constitution which allows for restrictions on freedom of speech and expression.

He points out that there is no equivalent law for any offline communication, whether in verbal or printed format. “If you write a book that annoys or inconveniences me, even deliberately, I have no civil or criminal recourse. But if you send an e-mail message, or post a tweet, you could face three years in jail,” says Mr. Prakash. “That’s higher than the two-year imprisonment for causing death by negligence.”

#India #Deathpenalty-Gaps in Kasab case


 

V. VENKATESAN, Frontline, Volume 29 – Issue 22 :: Nov. 03-16, 2012

 

It took four long years to sentence Ajmal Kasab to death for his role in the 26/11 terrorist attack. But this delay is no evidence in itself that due process was followed at every stage of the case.

REUTERS 


Mohammed Ajmal Kasab.

 

ALTHOUGH Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab’s involvement in the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in November 2008 is an open-and-shut case, it took nearly four years to conclude because of India’s commitment to the rule of law and the requirement to follow the due process of law. However, this delay is no evidence in itself that due process was followed meticulously at every stage of his trial, conviction, sentencing and appeal.

S.G. Abbas Kazmi, Kasab’s court-appointed lawyer in the trial court, first applied for an inquiry into Kasab’s age on the grounds that he could be a juvenile. According to Section 7A of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2001, whenever a plea is made that an accused is a juvenile, the court has to conduct an inquiry and return a finding about the age of the accused. Special Judge M.L. Tahalyani of the trial court summarily rejected his application because he saw it as a time-wasting tactic. Ujjwal Nikam, Special Public Prosecutor in the 26/11 case, realised that this would give Kazmi grounds for appeal, and so a few days later, he made an application with an identical prayer—to conduct an inquiry into Kasab’s age. And this time the application was allowed.

During the inquiry, the prosecution relied on the expert evidence of doctors who opined, on the basis of X-rays (ossification test), that Kasab was about 21 years of age. Kazmi’s request for a copy of the X-ray report to seek the opinion of other experts was turned down. Kazmi was told that his witnesses could examine the report when they stepped into the box to give evidence and there was no need to furnish the report in advance. Getting other experts’ opinion may have helped Kazmi in contesting the technical evidence.

(It is well settled that medical evidence of age is unreliable, and if there is even a slim chance that a juvenile is being sent to the gallows, that should be eliminated.)

During the confirmation proceedings in the Bombay High Court, Kasab’s lawyers made an application seeking another medical test to confirm his age. This application was also rejected even though High Court confirmation proceedings are deemed to be a continuation of the trial court proceedings and a counsel is free to lead new evidence relevant to the issue of guilt or sentencing.

The charge sheet in this case runs to more than 20,000 pages. Kazmi sought sufficient time to study these papers and prepare for the trial. He was given eight days, of which three days were spent in court pleading for medically examining Kasab’s age. Yet the court concluded that Kazmi was allowed ample time for preparation and that he never complained about it.

Kazmi, however, told Frontline over phone from Mumbai that he did complain about the insufficient time given to him and this was part of the court’s record. During the trial, Kazmi sought the trial court’s permission to inspect the various places connected with the terrorist offences, especially the boat Kuber, which had allegedly been used by Kasab and other terrorists to reach Mumbai’s shores and had been recovered under Section 27 of the Evidence Act. It had Kasab’s fingerprints and DNA samples. A study of the spot was necessary if Kazmi had to cross-examine witnesses who deposed to these aspects of the case. But the court refused permission.

Kazmi’s dismissal

Kazmi also raised objections to the permission given to the prosecution to adduce evidence through affidavits rather than orally, which would have enabled him to cross-examine witnesses. But the trial court dismissed Kazmi himself, saying he was not cooperative. (Under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), a judge does not have the power to dismiss a lawyer. He can report the lawyer to the Bar Council if he wishes.) By this time Kazmi had examined about 250 witnesses and was well acquainted with the case. His replacement, K.P. Pawar, was the lawyer originally appointed by the court to assist Kazmi.

The eminent legal expert Fali S. Nariman, in an article in Mumbai Mirror, said that the dismissal of Kazmi rendered the trial unfair. “Mere non-cooperation is no grounds for removing the lawyer when the accused has his confidence in him, and this may perhaps vitiate the final verdict in the case,” he said, and added that Kazmi’s dismissal did not appeal to his sense of justice.

Strangely, the issue of Kazmi’s dismissal by the trial court did not figure in the Bombay High Court’s judgment dismissing Kasab’s appeal. The Supreme Court’s judgment, delivered on August 29 by a Bench comprising Justices Aftab Alam and Chandramauli Kumar Prasad, while dismissing Kasab’s appeal against the High Court judgment also omits any reference to Kazmi’s dismissal by the trial court and does not throw any light on whether it was fair. Kazmi himself did not challenge his dismissal, but filed a petition alleging that the trial judge committed contempt of court. The High Court dismissed this petition in June this year, but not before expunging certain disparaging remarks made by Judge Tahalyani, such as calling Kazmi a liar.

For the High Court proceedings, two senior criminal lawyers, Amin Solkar and Farhana Shah, were appointed to defend Kasab. They applied in writing to be allowed to meet Kasab without the police being present within hearing distance. The High Court Bench, which heard Kasab’s appeal, denied them permission on the grounds that Kasab was likely to harm the lawyers.

During the confirmation proceedings in the High Court, the lawyers made an application to have Kasab psychologically evaluated; this they wanted done not to plead insanity for Kasab but to bring on record mitigating circumstances as the defence is required under law to do during a sentencing hearing. This application too was dismissed.

Amicus Curiae’s stand

Raju Ramachandran, Senior Advocate in the Supreme Court, told Frontline that as the Supreme Court-appointed amicus curiae (friend of the court), he was a defence lawyer for Kasab. But he added that he did not feel the need to meet Kasab even once to take instructions from his client before arguing his case before the Supreme Court. The reason, according to him, was that the case records from the trial court and the High Court were fairly exhaustive and there was no occasion to meet Kasab. Here, the key question to ask is whether the failure to meet Kasab hindered Ramachandran’s ability to argue on his behalf.

Ramachandran responded to an e-mailed question from Frontline as follows: “Neither the High Court nor the Supreme Court takes evidence, either on the facts of the case or on the state of mind of the accused. The appellate court’s view or even the trial court’s view on the question of sentence (of which remorse is but one aspect) has to be based on the evidence on record. A counsel’s impression based on an interview is quite irrelevant. In fact, if such an impression is to be taken into account, a counsel would become a witness. The Supreme Court’s view on remorse or lack of it was based on the record to which its attention was drawn.”

But is Ramachandran also not duty-bound to help Kasab draft his mercy petition to the President, after the dismissal of his appeal by the Supreme Court? The fact that he did not help Kasab in this matter is curious. His response to Frontline was as follows: “Here again, the advice of the amicus could have been sought through queries through the registrar, but this was obviously not considered necessary. This option was obviously made known to him in jail itself, as I am sure it is to others on death row.”

Death sentence

One of the important arguments against imposing the death sentence in terrorism cases is that a terrorist commits the horrendous crime in order to achieve martyrdom and also to inspire future martyrs to his cause. Therefore, imposing the death sentence on the person accused and convicted for terrorism and waging war defeats the very objective of the death sentence, which is to deter such crimes.

But the Supreme Court’s judgment in Kasab’s case ducked the issue of deterrence altogether. It relied on Kasab’s statement that he aimed to become a martyr as proof that he had no remorse and, therefore, could not be reformed.

The court apparently found merit in the amicus curiae’s suggestion that the court ought not to consider the probable consequences, whether kidnapping or martyrdom, but follow the principles laid down in the Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab case while sentencing Kasab. The trial court justified imposing the death sentence on Kasab because keeping him alive under a life sentence would be an invitation for a Kandahar-type hijacking (when an Indian Airlines flight was hijacked by some militants and the drama ended only after India released three jailed militants). Ramachandran told the Supreme Court that this reasoning of the trial court was as erroneous as the one that suggested that the death penalty should not be imposed because it would give a fillip to martyrdom.

The Ministry of Home Affairs, on October 23, recommended to President Pranab Mukherjee that Kasab’s mercy petition be dismissed. The Ministry appears to have taken the decision soon after receiving a report from the Maharashtra government making a similar plea.

Sources in the Ministry indicated that it gave priority to recommending the dismissal of Kasab’s mercy petition even while mercy petitions filed by other convicts were pending with it as well as the President because the judicial verdicts had brought out overwhelming evidence against Kasab. Besides, the Ministry appears to have felt that there was no special circumstances making Kasab deserve clemency.

All these reasons would make one wonder whether the state considers itself an agent of retribution while exercising the noble power under Article 72 of the Constitution to commute a death sentence. As Usha Ramanathan, legal commentator and a campaigner against the death sentence, says, the state should use Article 72 to break the cycle of retribution rather than continue it.