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Today's Hot Stories - July 30, 2009

10 Headlines for Today

(1) Court rejects plea for curbs on media in sting operations
(2) We trust Pakistan but verify its action on 26/11, says Manmohan
(3) Most Taliban funds come from overseas: US envoy
(4) Daimler posts $1.51 billion loss in second quarter
(5) Sun Pharma Q1 profit drops 67% to Rs 164 crore
(6) ArcelorMittal posts $792,000 loss in the second quarter
(7) Michael Schumacher will come out of retirement to replace Felipe Massa at European GP
(8) Indian cricketers have expressed anger about signing World Anti Doping Agency's code, which has been adopted by the ICC
(9) Sushil Kumar, Vijender Singh and woman boxer M. C. Mary Kom to get Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award
(10) 19 IIIT-A students fined Rs 50K each for ragging

5 Stories for Today

(1) R.K. Anand guilty of contempt in BMW case, rules Supreme Court
(2) Nigerian Islamist fighters 'flee'
(3) HPCL Q1 net profit at Rs 649.12 crore
(4) $515 million solar project approved in the US
(5) FDI slips by over 43 per cent to around 2.2 billion in May

(1) R.K. Anand guilty of contempt in BMW case, rules Supreme Court

The Supreme Court upheld the Delhi High Court judgment convicting senior advocate R.K. Anand of contempt for attempting to influence the trial in the BMW hit-and-run case.

A Bench consisting of Justices B.N. Agrawal, G.S. Singhvi and Aftab Alam, however, acquitted the then special public prosecutor, I.U. Khan.

Incidence occurred when Sanjeev Nanda, grandson of the former naval chief, S.M. Nanda, crushed six persons to death while driving the car inebriated in the early hours of January 10, 1999 at Lodhi Colony in South Delhi.

The High Court barred both lawyers from appearing in the court for four months and it held that they had forfeited their right to be designated as senior advocates. The High Court recorded the conviction based on a programme (a sting operation) telecast by NDTV, in which Sunil Kulkarni was shown meeting Mr. Khan and Mr. Anand, then senior defence counsel, and negotiating his sellout in favour of defence for a very high price. The appeals by the lawyers were directed against this August 21, 2008 verdict.

Writing the judgment, Justice Alam said: “On a careful consideration of the materials on record, we don’t have the slightest doubt that the authenticity and integrity of the sting recordings were never disputed or doubted by R.K. Anand. He kept changing his stand in regard to the sting recordings. In the facts and circumstances of the case, therefore, there was no requirement of any formal proof of the sting recordings.”

The Bench said: There was no violation of the principles of natural justice in as much as he was given copies of all the sting recordings along with their transcripts. He was fully made aware of the charge against him. He was given the fullest opportunity to defend himself and to explain his conduct as appearing from the sting recordings. The recordings were rightly made the basis of conviction and the irresistible conclusion is that the conviction of R.K. Anand for contempt of court is proper, legal and valid calling for no interference.”

Mr. Anand’s action in trying to suborn the court witness in a criminal trial was reprehensible enough and his conduct before the High Court “aggravates the matter manifold.” The judges said “he does not show any remorse for his gross misdemeanour and instead tries to take on the High Court by defying its authority. We are in agreement with Mr. Harish Salve, and Mr. Gopal Subramaniam that the punishment given to him by the High Court was wholly inadequate [to] and incommensurate with the seriousness of his actions and conduct.”

The Bench, while dismissing Mr. Anand’s appeal, issued notice, asking him to show cause in eight weeks why the punishment should not be enhanced as provided under Section 12 of the Contempt of Courts Act and also to explain why he should not be debarred from appearing in courts for a longer period.

Regarding Mr. Khan, the Bench said: “The appellant was clearly denied a proper opportunity to defend himself. The proceeding before the High Court was under the Contempt of Courts Act and the High Court was not following any well-known and well-established format. In our considered view, on the basis of the materials on record, the charge of criminal contempt cannot be held to be satisfactorily established against I.U. Khan. In our opinion he is entitled to the benefit of the doubt.”

(2) Nigerian Islamist fighters 'flee'

Members of a Nigerian Islamist radical sect have fled the northern city of Maiduguri after the military overran their enclave, report said.

The army has stormed the base of Boko Haram's leader and militants were fleeing the city, according to journalists and the army. It came after the military drafted in 1000 extra soldiers.

Earlier reports said the army had lost ground to militants who were using civilians as human shields. At one point the local authorities said sect members had taken over six districts of the city.

Boko Haram says it is fighting against Western education. It believes Nigeria's government is being corrupted by Western ideas and wants to see Taliban-style rule imposed across Nigeria.

More than 200 people have been killed in four days of clashes since an estimated 1,000 well-armed militants began attacking police stations and government buildings in Maiduguri.

President Umaru Yar'Adua earlier ordered Nigeria's national security agencies to take all necessary action to contain and repel attacks by the extremists.

Reporter Caroline Duffield from Lagos said that the sect appears to be larger than the authorities previously thought and the government has been taken aback by events.

The officer commanding the operation, Col Ben Ahanotu, said on Wednesday night: "We have taken over their enclave, they are on the run and we are going after them," reports news agency.

The military told the news correspondents that personal items found on the bodies of young men indicated that many had come from neighbouring Chad and Niger.

Security forces flooded into Maiduguri and began shelling sect leader Mohammed Yusuf's compound on Tuesday.

Fierce fighting continued through the night and into Wednesday with the militants returning heavy gunfire.

Also on Wednesday police freed about 100 women and children who were being held by the sect in a building in Maiduguri. The captives told the news channel that they had been held six days, living on dates and water.

Many of the women said their husbands were Boko Haram followers, and that they had been forced to travel to Maiduguri from other parts of Nigeria.

Four states in northern Nigeria have been affected by Boko Haram unrest - Borno, Bauchi, Kano and Yobe.

A total of 103 deaths were officially reported in Maiduguri and reports say more than 50 people died in Bauchi and Yobe, but the true number of casualties may be much greater. There were also reports of Christian churches being torched.

Sharia law is in place across northern Nigeria, but there is no history of Al-Qaeda-linked violence in the country. The country's 150 million people are split almost equally between Muslims in the north and Christians in the south.

(3) HPCL Q1 net profit at Rs 649.12 crore

Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd reported a net profit of Rs 649.12 crore for the first quarter ended June 30, 2009. The company had a net loss of Rs 888.12 crore in the corresponding period a year-ago.

However, total income of the company fell to Rs 24637.91 crore during the April-June quarter from Rs 34866.49 crore in the same quarter last fiscal, HPCL said in a filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange.

Average Gross Refining Margins during the quarter were $5.71 per bbl against $16.49 per bbl during the same quarter last fiscal. Shares of HPCL were trading at Rs 332, up 0.85 per cent in the late afternoon trade on BSE.

(4) $515 million solar project approved in US

New Jersey has approved a huge $515 million solar energy project. PSE&G, New Jersey's largest utility, was given state approval of plans to equip more than 200,000 utility poles with solar panels. The retrofitted poles and other devices are expected to generate 80 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 64,000 homes.

Consumers initially will pay $1.28 a year to fund the project. Their cost will increase to $4.08 by 2028. The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities also approved proposals from three other utilities Wednesday for projects capable of generating more than 60 megawatts of renewable energy. They will be funded by greenhouse gas credits.

(5) FDI slips by over 43 per cent to around 2.2 billion in May

India's foreign direct investment (FDI) declined by over 43 per cent to around USD 2.2 billion in May, 2009, compared to USD 3.9 billion in the same period last year on account of global recession.

"FDI was around USD 2.2 billion in May," Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion Secretary Ajay Shankar told reporters on the sidelines of a seminar organised by CII-Institute of Logistics. And "we think that liquidity is improving and confidence in the economy is rising. These numbers (FDI) should pick up," Shankar said.

The government had scaled down the FDI target by USD 5 billion from USD 35 billion last fiscal. Cumulative FDI from April 2000 to March 2009 stands close to about USD 90 billion. Thanks to robust trends in the first six months of the last fiscal, FDI in 2008-09 was USD 27.3 billion against USD 24.5 billion in 2007-08.

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