Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Uphaar case

The judgment of the Supreme Court in Uphaar case on 19/8/2015 has left many people shattered and also raised questions about judges making their own laws or amending laws according to their whims and fancies. Instead of sending guilty persons to jail as per law for causing death by negligence of 59 persons, the judges ordered payment of 60 crore rupees to Delhi government when there is no provision for payment of money to anyone, that too a third party.
Neelam Krishnamoorthy (Krishnamurthy?) who lost her daughter Unnati and son Ujjwal has been the face of fight for justice for Uphaar theatre victims. She said “18 years ago I lost faith in God and today I lost faith in the judiciary. I am disappointed and disgusted. Money power augurs so well with the institutions that the death of 59 persons becomes a mere statistic.” On India Today channel to Rajdeep Sardesai she said “I should have taken a gun and shot dead the Ansals. I could have pleaded insanity. I would have come out after 14 years.” She blamed the judges for allowing Ram Jethmalani, lawyer of Ansals, to go on speaking, and for not giving time to Harish Salve, CBI lawyer, and KTS Tulsi, Association of the Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) lawyer, to speak.
On 13/6/1997 a transformer burst in Uphaar theatre resulting in 59 deaths and injuries to over 100 people. There were irregularities in theatre construction and maintenance and owners and municipal officials were responsible for deaths and injuries. CBI took over the case on 24/7/1997 and filed chargesheet on 15/11/2015 against theatre owners Gopal Ansal and Sushil Ansal and 14 others. Prosecution began in March 1999. In February 2001 sessions court framed charges under IPC sections 304 for culpable homicide not amounting to murder, 304A for causing death due to negligence, and violation of Cinematograph Act. On 20/11/2007 sessions court Mamta Sehgal sentenced Ansals to two years imprisonment though she said it was not sufficient punishment in this case. On 4/1/2008 Delhi High Court granted bail to Ansals. On 11/9/2008 Supreme Court cancelled bail. Ansals went to jail. In December 2008 Delhi High Court reduced the sentence to one year. Ansals were out on bail. CBI and Avut appealed to Supreme Court for enhancement of sentence. On 5/3/2014 came split verdict of Supreme Court. Justice T. S. Thakur said the punishment should be one year each. Justice Gyan Sudha Mishra said it should be two years each but instead of second year of jail Ansals should pay 100 crore rupees. Sushil Ansal need not complete one year due to his advanced age. The matter went to three-judge bench.
The bench consisted of Anil Dave, Kurian Joseph and Adarsh K. Goel. Anil Dave and Kurian Joseph hand formed a two-judge bench in Yakub Memon case and had disagreed on almost everything and the case had gone to a three-judge bench. It is strange that they were in agreement in Uphaar case. Anil Dave had said a judge fails in rajdharma if he gives less punishment for a crime.
Ansals dragged on the case by getting repeated adjournments and then pleaded leniency due to prolonged trial. That is like the young man who shot dead his parents and asked the judge to show him mercy because he was an orphan.
Many people have lost faith in the judiciary over the years. Some said so when Jayalalitha was acquitted in a disproportionate assets case by a Karnataka High Court judge.
The law needs to be changed regarding punishment to be awarded. There should be no discretion to judges. The quantum should be same and proportionate to the number of people affected. It should not be up to two years but two years so judges do not give less punishment. In case of death of 59 people the punishment should be 118 years. In case of death of 15,000 people as in Bhopal gas leak case the punishment should be 30,000 years.
On 20/8/2015 Harish Salve pleaded for more time from the Supreme Court. He said “The CBI was not given enough time. There were certain aspects that we could not argue. Give us some more time. 30 minutes or even 15 minutes. I have been doing this case pro-bono since 2000. Please grant us 15 minutes between 3.45 and 4 p.m. today. If the court is not convinced, then throw us out.” The judges did not agree and suggested he file review petition.
Neelam Krishnamoorthy and some others met Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and asked him not to accept 60 crore rupees from Ansals. She said “If the Delhi government has any respect for a human life it should refuse to accept the Rs 60 crore that Ansals need to pay as fine. They should send it back to the judiciary and let them decide what they want to do with it.”

White Day for Democracy

3 August 2015 was a white day for democracy and black day for mobocracy and anarchy in India. Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan suspended 25 Congress MPs under rule 374(A) for five days for disrupting the House.
For too long disruptions have gone on. Over the years suspensions had been rare. When majority of both ruling party/coalition and opposition parties agreed disrupting MPs were suspended.
BJP has disrupted proceedings in the past. Speakers of the time should have suspended disrupting MPs.
Disruptions had to stop at some time. Congress can retaliate in Karnataka, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and other states where it is in power when BJP MLAs disrupt proceedings. In Delhi, AAP government used marshals to throw out disrupting BJP MLAs. Speaker can suspend them.
TMC, CPI(M), JD(U), NCP, AAP boycotted Lok Sabha in solidarity with Congress. SP, RJD and some other MPs came to Lok Sabha and walked out. Why did AAP support Congress? Congress is critical of AAP in Delhi. In Punjab, AAP and Congress are rivals. ADMK, BJD, TDP, TRS, YSRCP did not join the boycott.
How much suspended MPs lose? Apart from daily allowance of Rs.2,000/- for attending Parliament they should lose part of salary and allowances. The total loss for suspended MP should not be less than 12,000 rupees per day. Boycotting MPs will lose their daily allowance unless they sign the attendance register. Many MPs will be privately grumbling about the loss of money. Boycotting MPs will blame party leaders for the foolish decision.
Congress wanted resignations of Sushma Swaraj, Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Vasundhara Raje Scindia. Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Vasundhara Raje Scindia are chief ministers. Prime Minister has no authority to seek their resignations. Demand for Sushma Swaraj’s resignation was justified. However Congress said “No discussion without resignations.” When the government did not yield, the right way would have been to move a no confidence motion against the government. Disrupting is not the answer.
On the first day of suspension itself there were rumours that suspension would be revoked. Not clear who in BJP wanted suspension revoked. Shatrughan Sinha tweeted against suspension but in recent days he has opposed many things his party and government have done. Other BJP MPs have not publicly opposed suspension. Pinaki Mishra of BJD said it is too little, too late.
Purno Albert Sangma once said he never adjourned the house when he was Speaker. MPs will shout for some time and become quiet. If they adjourn the House they go to the canteen and eat and should again when the House resumes.
People of India are disgusted with disruptions. They want no work no pay rule to apply to MPs. That will make MPs behave properly. They don’t want to lose money. Most of them oppose abolition of Parliament canteen subsidy. Once again they want to increase their salary and allowances. Narendra Modi should appeal to MPs to give up Parliament canteen subsidy. The video of appeal should appear on TV channels till the subsidy is abolished.
MPs are bound by laws they pass. There is law against smoking in public places. Parliament House is a public place. Speaker should not have provided a room for smokers in Parliament House. Too bad one of the smokers who wanted room for smoking was Kiran Rijuju, Minister of State for Home.

LPG subsidy

There is a campaign asking LPG customers to give up subsidy and by doing so they are gifting LPG to a deprived household. TV ad appears regularly. There was a newspaper ad. CNN-IBN has made the campaign its own. It is said one million customers have given up subsidy.
Subsidy is for 12 cylinders per year. Above that customers pay full cost and there is no reimbursement. How many customers get subsidy for 12 or less cylinders?
How much money is spent on ads?
There are three types of lies; lies, damned lies, statistics. Have one million customers given up subsidy? During 2014 Lok Sabha elections CNN-IBN tag line was A Billion Votes. John Oliver pointed out that India’s voters were 800 million and the difference of 200 million was the size of Brazil. CNN-IBN persisted in its folly. Has no one given up subsidy since campaign began? If some persons have given up subsidy their number should be added to the million unless the actual number is less than a million.
There is no need of LPG subsidy if rupee is strong against dollar. Successive governments have weakened rupee against dollar to please exporters. It is 64 rupees per dollar now. When India became independent it was 3.36 rupees per dollar. On 4/10/1949 it became 4.76 rupees per dollar. On 6/6/1966 it became 7.50 rupees per dollar. That was the official rate for around 14 years. Then gradual devaluation began. In the middle of June 1991 it was 16 rupees per dollar. Then in one day it became 21 rupees per dollar. After that it had been a downward spiral for rupee. When rupee becomes strong notes are printed and dollars are bought. When dollar becomes strong no effort is made to protect rupee at the prevalent level. The government should make rupee strong. There will be no need for subsidy.
The government should abolish subsidies and privileges of MPs. Parliament canteen subsidy can easily go. Air travels should be only from constituency to Delhi to attend Parliament sessions. When Parliament is disrupted salaries and allowances of MPs should be cut. There are 795 MPs. Daily allowance is 2,000 rupees. Salary, constituency allowance, secretarial allowance, and other allowances and benefits are more than 3,00,000 rupees per month. When Parliament is disrupted for a day every MP should lose 12,000 rupees. Total is 95,40,000 rupees per day. If Saturdays, Sundays and other holidays come in between they should also be counted. If MPs don’t want to lose money marshals should be used to throw out disrupting MPs. Money saved and deducted can provide LPG to deprived households.
MNREGA, MPLADS, SPG security to former Prime Ministers and Gandhi family, subsidies to colleges, IITs, IIMs, kendriya vidyalayas, universities, FTTI etc. should be scrapped. Money saved can provide LPG to deprived households.
Kerosene subsidy should be abolished. It will stop diesel adulteration.
Pension to MPs should be abolished.
Who are deprived households? Many people in villages use LPG.
If the government wants to abolish LPG subsidy it can do at once. It has gone for soft option. Some billionaires gave up their LPG subsidy first. Then some executives in their companies gave up subsidies. Then employees were told to give up subsidies. When more than half the customers give up subsidy, government will abolish subsidy. It is easy for billionaires and high income people to give up subsidy. Life is difficult for people with low income. They do not wish to give up subsidy. When they see MPs enjoying subsidies and privileges and Parliament not functioning there is no motivation to give up subsidy.

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