The Catolic Secular Forum

Bishops hope new government will uphold secularism

The top body of Catholic bishops in India has congratulated National Democratic Alliance, led by BJP, on its thumping win in the general elections, hoping that the new government will uphold eternal values and secularism in making India a great nation.

“Let the new government led by BJP enable the India of Mahatma Gandhi stand tall among the world nations ensuring protection, security, welfare and sustained development of the people of all sections,” Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), said in a statement.

He hoped that the new government will continue to uphold the eternal values, secularism and principles of democracy to lead the nation on the path of development.

Reaffirming the Catholic Church’s support to the government’s activities in the process of nation building, he said that the new Government has the responsibility to ensure the security of the minorities and to show special consideration towards the weaker sections of the country.

The Catholic body advised Congress party to learn from experience and perform as a creative force in the opposition knowing the pulse of the public.

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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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Over 200 temples in Kashmir have suffered damage

Jammu and Kashmir government today said over 200 temples in the Valley have suffered damage over the years but there were no encroachments on any of the temple lands.

In a written reply to MLA Chaman Lal Gupta’s question in the state Assembly, the government said 208 of the 438 temples in the Valley had been damaged over the years. The government said the highest number of 57 temples have been damaged in Srinagar, the summer capital of the state, followed by south Kashmir’s Anantnag district where 56 temples have suffered damage.

However, the government, in its reply, did not elaborate as to how the temples were damaged. The rest of the eight districts in the Valley account for the other damaged temples with Bandipora having only one such instance. The government said while a total of 63 hectares of land were under the 436 temples in the Valley, there was no case of encroachment on these lands so far.

Various Kashmiri Pandit organisations have been demanding passing of the bill for protection of Hindu Temples and Shrines in Kashmir. Giving details of the damage to the private properties of migrants in the Valley, the government said nearly 75 per cent of the 1,234 structures in Srinagar district have been gutted while in south Kashmir Kulgam district nearly 85 per cent of the 754 structures have been damaged.

“In Srinagar district…most of the migrants have sold their property. However, the unsold properties have been protected in light of provisions of the J&K Migrant Immovable Property Preservation, Protection and Restrain on Distress Sale Act 1997,” the government said.

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