The Catolic Secular Forum

SC stays Veerappan aides’ hanging for 6 Weeks

Hanging of four aides of sandalwood smuggler Veerappan has been further delayed with the Supreme Court on Wednesday extending its interim order staying the execution of death sentence imposed on them for killing 22 police personnel in a landmine blast in Karnataka in 1993.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir said it was keeping the matter pending since another bench, which has heard an identical plea, has reserved its judgement.

“In our view, the proper course of action is to adjourn the matter until another bench renders its judgement on similar matters. Therefore, accordingly we adjourn the hearing of this matter for six months to enable another bench to deliver the judgement in another pending matter.

“As a consequence, the interim order staying the execution of petitioners (Veerappan aides) passed on February 18 shall continue” until further orders, the bench also comprising justices A R Dave and Vikramajit Sen said.

The bench noted that the subject matter of the petition was relating to the right of the death row convicts to get their sentence commuted to life imprisonment on account of delay of execution of their death sentence.
“This is the main question involved when this matter was taken by us. It was brought to our notice that other writ petitions involving the same issue were heard by a bench of two judges in which senior advocates Ram Jethmalani and T R Andhyarujina were requested as amicus curiae,” the bench said.

Veerappan’s elder brother Gnanaprakash and his aides Simon, Meesekar Madaiah and Bilavendran were awarded death sentence in 2004 in connection with a landmine blast at Palar in Karnataka in 1993 in which 22 police personnel were killed.

Their mercy petition was rejected by President Pranab Mukherjee on February 13 and they are presently lodged in a jail in Belgaum in Karnataka.

A TADA court in Mysore had in 2001 sentenced them to life term which was enhanced to death sentence by the apex court.

Gang leader Veerappan was killed in an encounter with the Tamil Nadu Police in October 2004.

The apex court also noted that the judgement in the writ petition heard by another bench on the issue was reserved on April 19, 2012.

The bench said it has been informed by Additional Solicitor General Haren Raval that while considering the two writ petitions, of Devender Pal Singh Bhullar and M N Das, the other bench had the occasion to consider similar matters in which the mercy petitions were pending before the President.

The CJI said that since another bench has already heard and reserved its judgement on the issue, there is a possibility that the pleas of Veerappan aides can be heard by the same bench also.

The court is hearing two petitions, out of which one was filed by the four convicts and the other by advocate Samik Narain, on their behalf.

Urging the apex court to intervene, the four death convicts pleaded that a decision on their mercy petition has been delayed by nine years and as per its earlier order they are entitled to seek remedy for undue long delay in the execution of the sentence of death.

“Nine years delay in disposal of the petitioners’ mercy petitions has given them a right to approach this Court or the High Court to seek a commutation of the sentence of death,” the petition said.

On the last date of hearing, the court gave Narain the liberty to amend and rectify the petition after objections were raised on its maintainability by Attorney General G E Vahanvati who was asked to assist the court.

Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the four convicts, had said their execution should be stayed as another apex court bench had reserved its order on a plea for commuting death sentence to life imprisonment on the ground of delay in deciding mercy plea.

Gonsalves had referred to the petitions filed by the two condemned prisoners, Bhullar and Das, on whose plea for commutation of capital punishment to life term on the ground of delay, the apex court reserved its verdict in April last year.

The bench earlier had said that hearing this matter may also have a bearing on the petitions filed by the death row convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case against the rejection of their mercy petition.

The apex court had on May 1 last year had decided to adjudicate itself the pleas of Rajiv Gandhi killers — Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan alias Arivu — against their death penalty due to the delay of over 11 years in deciding their mercy petitions by the President.

The Madras High Court had earlier stayed their hanging and had issued notices to the Centre and the Tamil Nadu government.

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Hate speech: Uma Bharti defends Togadia

BJP leader Uma Bharti Friday defended Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Praveen Togadia, who has been booked in a hate speech case.

Bharti urged the Maharashtra government to first consider Togadia’s comments and compare these with MIM legislator Akbaruddin Owaisi’s only if the manner in which both spoke was similar. Owaisi has also booked for hate speech in Andhra Pradesh.

A case was registered against Togadia after he allegedly made a hate speech at a public meeting in Nanded district Jan 22. The VHP leader allegedly took potshots at Owaisi.

“I would like to tell the Maharashtra government that just because there was an investigation against Owaisi, an investigation should be conducted on Togadia-ji as well is not right (approach). We should first see as what Togadia-ji said,” Uma Bharti said.

“His comments should be considered. His comment should be compared with Akbaruddin Owaisi only if the two of them have spoken in the same manner.”

“It should not be… that an action has been initiated against Owaisi, so action should be taken against Togadia too,” she said.

She said she was sure the government would take appropriate action since everybody was equal in the eyes of law.

Togadia has been charged under Section 295A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings or any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs), Section 505 (statements conducing public mischief) and Section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence and language).

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India: Day of thanks for Benedict XVI and his Pontificate

Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai, has launched a special day on 22 February, Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, to honour of the pope. In these eight years, the Holy Father has repeatedly identified the challenges facing India and Asia: a dialogue between cultures and religions, secularization, globalization and implementation of the Social Doctrine of the Church.

Mumbai, February 14, 2013: February 22 next, Christians from all over India will spend the day with Benedict XVI and his pontificate. The initiative is being launched by Card. Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai and president of the Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), who chose the feast of the Chair of St. Peter to express the deep gratitude of the Church in India to the Holy Father. That day, at 18:30, every Christian institution, convent and monastery will dedicate an hour of adoration to the pope.

In these eight years of his pontificate, Benedict XVI addressed on several occassions and in different ways issues dear to India and Asia. For example in the encyclicals Deus Caritas Est, Spe Salvi and Caritas in Veritate, which identify some of the most significant challenges of the continent. “In addition to the dialogue between cultures, with the poor and with other religions – said the cardinal, who is secretary general of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) – Benedict XVI stressed the need to implement the Church’s social doctrine to the realities of today : the economy, globalization, the gap between rich and poor, ecology, fundamentalism. ” Thus, he stressed, “development is at the heart of human actions, and globalization and progress can serve humanity.”

The pope’s attention to the Asian world was manifested not only through his documents. “Asia – noted Card. Gracias – is home to the largest Muslim population in the world, and the repeated attempts of Benedict XVI to communicate with Muslims was a really important challenge. With intellectual clarity and academic brilliance he has created the basis to understand their differences and call for a united front against secularization. ”

The archbishop of Mumbai, says “the last two days of world peace” were fundamental.  In 2011, “Religious freedom, the path of peace,” the pope said that “religious freedom is an authentic weapon for peace that can change the world and make it better.” In his message for 2012, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” Benedict XVI said that “peace is not merely the absence of war,” but more importantly, reiterates Indian cardinal, “it is the universal experience of justice and love, which contrasts with the personal and structural evils of greed, inequality and violence. ”

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Mumbai: Our Lady of Valankanni Statue Vandalised.

The CSF and community groups have condemned the vandalisation of a statue of Our Our Lady of Valankanni at Nikamwadi in Dadar West, Mumbai. It seems to be an attempt to disturb the communal peace in the area and Catholics have therefore urged to maintain restraint. It is indeed surprising that the police have assumed that it was a case of attempt to rob and as a result, the statute fell down, as mentioned in the police report. One can expect more provocation of such kind in the run-up to the elections due next year. There seems to be a pattern to the madness, which could be to polarize the voters on majority-minority lines, making Christians the soft target.

According to the groups (MCYF, AOCC, CPF, etc.), if the police do not bring to book the culprits, who desecrated the statue, it will be a signal to fundamentalist forces that they could target the community with impunity. Joseph Dias said that the CSF would approach the home minister to increase police protection and surveillance around religious places.

According to Joseph Dias, “ what is even more shocking is that the vandalization occurred near the Anusaya co-operative housing society, which reportedly has only two Catholic families residing there. The police have filed a case under sections 379, 511, 295 and 427 of the IPC for offenses relating to hurting religious sentiments. The CSF also put out a hotline for community members to alert the NGO for preventing and dealing with such communal emergencies. The statue was handed over to the Our Lady of Salvation (Portuguese) Church authorities and we would keep you informed of developments in the case.

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Catholic groups succeed in getting Shiv Sena banner off

That unity is strength was demonstrated yet again, when community groups took umbrage to reportedly a hoarding that was put up outside Holy Cross Church in Lower Parel, Mumbai warning of “Shiv Sena Style” tactics, if the pre-primary school admission policy was not changed. The hoarding condemned  the school for admitting students in accordance with the Right to Education (RTE) Act and the Shiv Sena urged preference to locals, in disregard to reservations, which the school was following. The hoarding continued to remain outside the church compound despite much media attention.

However, concerted insistence by community groups, which represented the case with the Additional and Deputy Commissioners of Police ensured the hoarding was taken off. This according to The CSF general secretary, Joseph Dias was necessary because the local police inspector took no action, despite repeated complaints. ‘ The hoarding was objectionable because it demanded that the school violate the provisions of the RTE Act and incited the public, if it did not do so. It also threatened the school of an agitation (andolan), if it failed to fall in line ‘, he said.

Judith Monteiro, an activist of the near-by parish, who assisted the school in the admission process said that since many complaints were given to the police, they ought to have acted promptly, but did not do so. Agnelo Fernandes of the Maharashtra Christian Youth Forum (MCYF) hit out against the Shiv Sena and said it was trying to target the school which was protected as minority institution and only doing its duty. Adv. Joe Sodderof the Catholics for the Preservation of the Faith (CPF) said that such threats and attacks on the community would not be taken lying down and the community needs to rise against it. Archie Sodder of the Association of Concerned Catholics (AOCC) urged the Shiv Sena to reserve a quota for the East Indian Christians and Kolis, who were sons of the soil in Mumbai and demonstrate the party’s concern.

The CSF aims to bring all Christian denominations together and deal with such emergencies, as more such provocations can be expected. Fr Constancio Noronha, manager of the school and Parish Priest of the Church which runs it thanked the community groups for their support. We will keep you informed of developments on this front and will seek your assistance, as the admission process continues. The groups have also urged the Archdiocesan Board of Education to consider collective action as a protest against such threats.

EARLIER REPORT: SHIV SENA THREATENS LOWER PAREL SCHOOL FOR FOLLOWING RTE RULES

Members of the Shiv Sena have put up a banner outside the Holy Cross School, Lower Parel, threatening to launch a ‘Sena-style’ protest.

Mumbai, February 14, 2013: The school, run by the local  has been following the Right to Education (RTE) rules that mandate a 25% quota for children from economically  weak families. Since the institution is run by a religious minority, the school is also entitled to reserve 50% of its seats for Catholics. However, the local Shiv Sena have objected to this, saying that first preference should be given to those students living in the neighbourhood, who have been unable to apply because of these quotas. The school, currently in the process of deciding admissions to its kindergarten section, has lodged a complaint with the NM Joshi police station.

Father Constancio Noronha, school manager, in a letter to the police, said, “This is to bring to your immediate and urgent notice that a banner with orange flags has been put up outside our church and school gate threatening us regarding our junior KG admission process. …The banner has caused fear among our children and people. There is also fear of damage to our school property. Could you kindly take necessary action and grant us the necessary protection so as to prevent loss to lives and property?”

The school has distributed 500 forms for 60 seats in the open category and 1,000 forms for 60 seats in the RTE category. It also has 120 seats reserved for minority students.

The Sena wants applications to be accepted uniformly. “Locals within a one-kilometer radius of the school should get first preference,” said Nana Ambole, a local Sena leader whose name appears on the banner.

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Evangelist arrested in Mandya, Karnataka

Evangelist Pradeep, 30, and his mother, Chowdamma, 60, are the latest victims of persecution of Christians in Karnataka by the fundamentalist Hindus.

They were attacked and then arrested and finally put behind bars for firmly sticking to their faith and fearlessly demonstrating their faith in Christ’s teachings.

Pradeep and Chowdamma belong to the Karnataka Evangelical Ministry of Mysore, and they live in Mandya District of Karnataka. On Friday, 8th February 2013, both of them visited the house of Ms Jyothi and Ms Lakshmi at Bellahalli village in Pandavpura in Mandya District, on a request from them for a prayer in their house. While Evangelist Pradeep and Mrs Chowdamma were praying in their house, a group of about 20 Hindu fundamentalists belonging to RSS, barged into the house and started intimidating and physically attacking both Pradeep and his mother Chowdamma, accusing them of forced conversion of Hindus to Christianity. Both of them were injured in the attack and Evangelist Pradeep sustained injuries on his lips as well as a number of bruises on his face.

The Hindu radicals then forcibly took both the mother and the son by bus to the Pandavpura Police Station and handed them over to the police falsely alleging that the two were fraudulently and forcibly converting Hindus to Christianity by offering them money.

The police who took them to the Pandavpura Government Hospital for treatment, subsequently also filed an FIR against them based on the false complaint and charge-sheeted them under section 295A of IPC and produced them before the local Magistrate who sent them to the Mandya Sub Jail. Please pray for their early release.

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