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Today's Hot Stories - July 25, 2009

10 Headlines for Today

(1) ISI spreading terrorism in India, says US
(2) Africa, Bangladesh better than India in immunization: Bill Gates
(3) IMF Board approves $2.6 billion loan for Sri Lanka
(4) Jet Airways suffers Rs 225 crore loss in Q1
(5) Indiabulls Fin raises Rs 959.9 crore via QIP
(6) Subroto Bagchi elected Vice-chairman of MindTree
(7) David Beckham is fined $1000 by MLS for confronting fan during LA Galaxy game
(8) Sourav Ganguly to lead KKR in IPL 3
(9) Kumar Sangakkara hit an unbeaten century to steer Sri Lanka to a draw in the final Test against Pakistan and win his first series as captain
(10) 6.2 magnitude earthquake strikes off Papua New Guinea's island of Bougainville

5 Stories for Today

(1) Cabinet clears proposal to set up National Green Tribunal
(2) Iranian airliner skids off runway killing 17
(3) Ranbaxy profit soars in second quarter
(4) RIL net profit dips 11.5 %
(5) India's forex reserves increases to $ 266.187 billion

(1) Cabinet clears proposal to set up National Green Tribunal

The Cabinet has approved the proposal of the ministry of environment and forests to bring a legislation to set up a National Green Tribunal. The proposed tribunal will ensure a “fine balance” between judicial activism and executive duties. With PILs on environmental issues flooding the courts, the proposed legislation aims to take off the pressure by handling all the civil cases related to forestry and environment.

Once approved by Parliament, the tribunals will be the sole forum where civil cases relating to the entire gamut of central environment-related laws, including public interest litigations, would be entertained. The tribunal will also address all substantial questions relating to environment.

Appeals against the environment courts would go to the Supreme Court. It will also necessitate repealing of the National Environment Tribunal Act of 1995 and the National Environmental Appellate Authority Act of 1997.

The tribunal will have a full-time judicial member as its chairperson along with three full-time technical members, one an expert in physical, life sciences or engineering, one an expert in law and another with administrative experience in environmental policy.

All members will have a fixed five-year tenure. Failure to comply with the orders of the green tribunal would result in fine of Rs 10 crore and imprisonment of three years.

Given that environment is an evolving subject in jurisprudence, the tribunal will not be bound to follow the procedure laid down in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but would be guided by the principles of natural justice. However, it will have the regular powers that other judicial institutions carry. The special court shall also not be bound by the rules of evidence contained in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

This is not the first time that the idea of a green tribunal is being pushed. A similar effort was made by the last government, but it did not pass muster. However, unlike the earlier proposal, which had a “limited” role covering only hazardous substance, the new tribunal will cover all issues relating to environment and forestry.

The Law Commission had also backed the idea of a green tribunal. The increased incidence of environment-related cases has resulted in overburdening of the courts — consider this, a forestry committee of the Supreme Court has some 1000 cases.

The Supreme Court is empowered under the Environment Protection Act to create special bodies to look into environmental issues. Several such bodies created in the past while increasing the role of the judiciary in the issue has led to confrontations between the judiciary and the environment ministry.

There is also the issue of the manner in which some of these special court committees have been constituted. The Supreme Court has three committees on different environmental issues in Delhi with overarching powers while dozen-odd regional authorities with area-specific mandate are also in existence, some of them for more than a decade.

(2) Iranian airliner skids off runway killing 17

An Iranian passenger plane skidded off the runway during its landing in northeast Iran and crashed, shredding the cockpit into a tangled mass of wreckage and killing 17 people, the state news agency said.

Footage from Iran's Press TV showed the plane sitting at an angle, its tail awkwardly on the ground and the mangled front end pointing upward. The rest of the craft appeared largely intact.

The IRNA news agency reported that the tires failed on landing and it skidded into a wall, though no wall was visible in the footage.

The Russian-made Ilyushin-62 plane from the privately owned Aria Airlines was carrying 153 passengers and flew from the capital Tehran to the northeastern city of Mashhad, 600 miles (1000 kilometers) away.

Local official Ghahrman Rashid told the state news agency that another 20 people were injured in the crash and that all survivors had been evacuated from the scene. The manager of Aria Airlines was killed in the crash, the state news agency reported.

On July 15, an Iranian passenger plane crashed soon after take off, killing 168 people aboard. It was the latest in a string of deadly crashes in recent years that have highlighted Iran's difficulties in maintaining its aging fleet of planes.

Iranian airlines, including state-run ones, are chronically strapped for cash, and maintenance has suffered, experts say.

U.S. sanctions prevent Iran from updating its 30-year-old American aircraft and make it difficult to get European spare parts or planes as well. The country has come to rely on Russian aircraft, many of them Soviet-era planes that are harder to get parts for since the Soviet Union's fall.

Iran's worst crash came in February 2003 and also involved a Russian-made Ilyushin that plowed into the mountains of southeastern Iran, killing 302 aboard -- mostly members of the elite Revolutionary Guard.

Some of the jets in Iran's fleet are U.S.-made craft bought before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, which led to a cut-off in ties between the nations. U.S. sanctions since prevent Iran from buying parts for those planes or new ones.

In December 2005, 115 people were killed when a pre-1979 U.S.-made C-130 plane, crashed into a 10-story building near Tehran's Mehrabad airport.

The sanctions also bar sales of European jets with a certain amount of U.S. parts, limiting Iran's ability to buy from Europe.

As a result, Iran has focused on Russian-built planes -- like the Tupolev and Ilyushins, the Soviet-era workhorses for Russian civil air fleets. After the Soviet collapse, government funding sharply declined for manufacturers of aircraft and spare parts, and other countries using the planes have had a harder time getting parts.

(3) Ranbaxy profit soars in second quarter

Riding strongly on an impressive foreign exchange gain of over Rs. 800 crore, international drug major Ranbaxy announced a 30-fold rise in consolidated net profit to Rs. 693.10 crore in the second quarter ended June 30, 2009, to put behind the losses in the previous three straight quarters.

It had posted a consolidated profit after tax of Rs. 22.90 crore for the second quarter in 2008.

Total income of the company, which was acquired by Japanese Daiichi Sankyo last year, however, declined by 1.87 per cent to Rs. 1,795.30 crore in the quarter under review from Rs. 1,829.60 crore in the year-ago period.

The company reported a foreign exchange gain of Rs. 806 crore in the quarter under review against a forex loss of Rs. 918 crore in January-March 2009, Ranbaxy Managing Director and CEO, Atul Sobti, told reporters here. During the quarter, emerging markets contributed 57 per cent of the company’s global sales. It stood at $368 million (about Rs. 1,795 crore), a decline of 7 per cent over the same period last year.

The company has entered into an agreement with Ochoa Laboratories for acquiring its brands in dermatology and pain management segment. It also announced the commencement of Phase-III clinical trails for its new anti-malaria combination drug, Arterolane Maleate + Piperaquine Phosphate, in India, Bangladesh and Thailand.

(4) RIL net profit dips 11.5 %

Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) reported an 11.5 per cent drop in its net profit at Rs. 3,636 crore for the quarter ended June 30, 2009, against Rs. 4,110 crore recorded in the same period of the previous fiscal.

The turnover decreased by 22.6 per cent to Rs. 33,309 crore from Rs. 43,050 crore. The profit before depreciation and interest charges increased by 4.3 per cent to Rs. 6,623 crore from Rs. 6347 crore. The profit before tax declined by 5.1 per cent to Rs. 4,650 crore from Rs. 4,902 crore.

The gross refining margin was at $7.5 per barrel for the said quarter ended June 30, 2009. The net debt to equity of the company is 0.24 as on June 30, 2009.

“Timely completion with safe and stable start up of the new SEZ refinery and the deep-water oil and gas KG D6 block are noteworthy accomplishments. These projects will not only play a significant role in shaping the future growth at RIL but more importantly will help change the energy landscape of India and the industry globally,” said RIL Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh D. Ambani while commenting on the results.

(5) India's forex reserves increases to $ 266.187 billion

India's forex reserves rose by $ 2.270 billion to $ 266.187 billion for the week ended July 17 compared to the week-ago period. The reserves stood at USD 263.917 billion in the week-ago period.

Reserves have shown a jump after falling for two consecutive weeks by USD 667 million.

Foreign currency assets, during the week, rose to USD 255.138 billion compared to USD 252.873-billion in the previous week, RBI weekly report said.

Foreign currency assets expressed in US dollar terms include the effect of appreciation or depreciation of non-US currencies (such as Euro, Sterling, and Yen) held in reserves, the central bank said.

Country's gold reserves and special drawing rights, during the period, stood unchanged at USD 9.8 billion and one million respectively, RBI said.

India's reserve position in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) rose to USD 1.248-billion during the week as compared to USD 1.243-billion, the apex bank said.

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