Mallya Case: Judge Seeks Mumbai Jail Video

No natural light in Mumbai jail, said Vijay Mallya. UK judge wants video Read here:

— NDTV (@ndtv) July 31, 2018 She asked the Indian authorities to submit a “step by step video” of Barrack 12 for “the avoidance of doubt” over the availability of natural light in the cell where the 62-year-old businessman is expected to be detained pre-trial, during trial and in the event he is convicted by the Indian courts. “I would like a video of Barrack 12, to see where the windows are shot maybe at mid-day with no artificial lighting,” the judge said, setting a three-week time-frame for the film to be provided to all parties in the case. Mallya, who has been on bail on an extradition warrant since his arrest in April last year, is fighting extradition to India on charges of fraud and money laundering amounting to around Rs 9,000 crores. As he arrived in court this morning for the hearing, he reiterated his offer to settle dues with the Indian courts. “I have made a comprehensive offer to the Karnataka High Court to settle dues… the question of stealing money, money laundering are all blatantly false charges. Now that the assets are before the court, I am in the hands of the court; I hope this will all end,” he said. “I have not included any clemency plea or plea bargain in my unconditional offer to the Karnataka High Court,” he added. “At the end of the day, the courts will decide,” said Mallya, whose bail was extended until September 12, which has been set as the date for the next hearing when the judge is expected to hear closing submissions in the case before she can set a timeline for her verdict. The CPS today presented its arguments in favour of the government of India to address the judge’s concerns arising out of a National Human Rights Commission of India (NHRC) prisons report from earlier this year. CPS barrister Mark Summers took the judge through a “further letter of assurance” from the Indian government, highlighting that any concerns of “overcrowding” associated with Arthur Road Jail do not relate to Barrack 12 which houses only six inmates and was “clean and hygienic”. The availability of “private” and adequate washing and toilet facilities that are regularly cleaned and have western-style functioning flow of water and clean mattress and bedding were among the other assurances provided. Arthur Road Jail’s structural integrity and a commitment that Mallya’s trial would proceed “expeditiously” in India were among some of the other issues addressed by the CPS. Mallya’s defence team, led by Clare Montgomery, focused its objections on the lack of natural light available in Barrack 12 as it claimed that the “government of India assurance cannot be relied upon”. “The photos show natural light flooding into the cell. But our (expert’s) assessment is that it is very difficult to work out where the light was coming from. Whatever the light is, is not natural light,” said Montgomery. While Mallya’s defence team was insisting on an inspection of the jail cell, the CPS stressed that the Indian government had provided “adequate material” which rendered the need for an inspection unnecessary. The judge’s decision to ask for a video was welcomed by the CBI team present in court today, who said India was keen to be “transparent” and have provided all the assurances asked for by the UK court. The CPS presented documents to the judge related to the May 8 High Court ruling on the worldwide freezing order against Mallya and the UK Court of Appeal having refused him permission to appeal the judgment last month. The extradition trial, which opened at the London court on December 4, is aimed at laying out a prima facie case of fraud against Mallya, who has been based in the UK since he left India in March 2016. It also seeks to prove there are no “bars to extradition” and that Mallya is assured a fair trial in India over his now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines’ alleged default of over Rs 9,000 crores. Mallya’s defence team has deposed a series of expert witnesses to claim he had no “fraudulent” intentions and that he is unlikely to get a fair trial in India. He has lost his appeal in the UK’s Court of Appeal against a High Court order in favour of 13 Indian banks to recover funds amounting to nearly 1.145 billion pounds. It was followed by a related enforcement order last month granting permission to the UK High Court Enforcement Officer to enter Mallya’s properties in Hertfordshire, near London. In the ongoing extradition proceedings, if the judge rules in favour of the Indian government, the UK home secretary will have two months to sign Mallya’s extradition order. However, both sides will have the chance to appeal in higher courts in the UK against the Magistrates’ Court verdict. UK-based Sanjeev Kumar Chawla, wanted in India as a key accused in the cricket match-fixing scandal involving former South African captain Hanse Cronje in 2000, had been discharged by a UK court in October on human rights grounds over severe conditions in Delhi’s Tihar Jail, where the accused was to be held on being extradited. (PTI)]]>

PDS Failure Behind ‘Hunger Deaths’ In Jharkhand

By Smriti Sikri The failure of the Public Distribution System (PDS) has engulfed Jharkhand severely, resulting in non-availability of rations, administrative apathy and cries of hunger. Since September 2017, 12 cases of alleged hunger related deaths have been reported in the state. On 24th July, the 13th case was reported where Rajendra Birhor, resident of Mandu district was suffering from jaundice and after starving for three days, he succumbed to death. A recent report by News18 revealed that the entire village of Chandurpara in tribal majority Pakur district does not have ration cards.  The villagers claimed that they were excluded from enumeration under Census 2011 and subsequently from receiving rations under the PDS. India is a nation of contradictions where starvation deaths and budgetary allocation for bullet trains are imagined in the same space and time. This is an unfortunate and disturbing reality across the country now. Starvation deaths are the last straw of hunger insecurity that plagues the whole country.  As per the Global Hunger Index, India’s rank has gone down from 55th in 2014 to 100th out of 119 countries in 2017.  Among the BRICS nations, India ranks last and neighbors Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh fare better in the ranking. According to the National Family Health Survey 2015-16, 35.4 % of women and 25% of men in rural areas have Body Mass Index (BMI) below normal in Jharkhand. In such a situation, the PDS which guarantees food grains to entitled families under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) is an important intervention to ensure that people do not stay hungry. With the introduction of biometric authentication through AADHAR, several difficulties have risen. The process, in the name of saving costs, is in fact excluding people who need it the most. The government’s agenda appears to project crores of savings as an Aadhaar revolution rather than saving lives. The first case of starvation death in Jharkhand came to light in September 2017, when Santoshi an 11 year old girl, died crying for rice in Simdega district. While the family maintained that she died of starvation, the officials insisted that it was due to an illness. This official view echoed with Santoshi’s neighbor who was noted saying, “Aaj ka jug mein koi bhookh se mare hao (Does anybody die of hunger in this day and age)?” which indeed is an eye-opening statement. The Jharkhand government officials have repeatedly denied the existence of hunger deaths. After the 12th case of death caught national media attention, the deputy commissioner of Giridih reportedly said, “If it was starvation, it should have struck all the members”. A statement like this, is clearly ill-founded and smirks of apathy, ignoring the stark structural realities of caste, class and gender dynamics at play within spaces of limited public resources.  This official apathy intensifies the vulnerability of already marginalized people where their issues remain unidentified and ignored in the dominant public policy framework. The leader of opposition in Jharkhand, Mr. Hemant Soren shared a comprehensive list of the 12 alleged deaths and the causes associated with them on his twitter handle. A detailed analysis of these case studies reveals that all of them were dalits or tribals and 9 of the 12 who died of starvation, were women. Most of them were old and frail who without any income means could not sustain without the entitled food (rice) under the PDS given that even their pensions were not disbursed. A paper on Gender and Food Security by the International Food Policy Research Institute discusses how the the problem of food insecurity is ‘multidimensional and interconnected’. In the context of India, gender intersects with caste, ethnicity, religion and also age, to shape vulnerabilities confronted by people and the opportunities available to them. Food insecurity then becomes a result of injustice based on social identity. During the Monsoon Session in Jharkhand, Mr. Jagarnath Mahtoa of the key opposition party Jharkhand Mukti Morcha raised questions related to the death of Savitri Devi from Dumri Block.  The minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Food & Supply Department, Mr. Saryu Rai, however out rightly denied hunger as the cause for death. The food minister also shirked any possibility of providing government compensation to the family. Several civil society organizations across the country including the Right to Food Campaign organized a protest meet on 13th July 2018 at Jharkhand Bhawan, New Delhi. They condemned these ‘hunger deaths’ and demanded ‘universalization of the Public Distribution System (PDS) and social security pensions’ and ‘withdrawal of Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) for food security in favour of the earlier prevalent system of PDS’. Noted economists Jean Dreze and Reetika Khera along with other activists have discussed the problems with biometric authentication whereby almost 10-15% of the most vulnerable population in Jharkhand has been excluded from the system. On similar lines, Ms. Ankita Aggarwal, volunteer with the Right to Food campaign told the writer that ‘despite media attention on the issue of starvation deaths, there are many cases that still remain unreported. She also felt that linking of Aadhar to PDS, despite being a major reason for what is happening in Jharkhand, is not the sole problem. She says that ‘the exclusions within the PDS have led to cancellation of almost 11 lakh ration cards and that is portrayed as savings of the government.’ Given the already dismal condition of PDS and a further setback with the introduction of compulsory biometric authentication, it remains to be seen how political will and empathetic decision making results in some ground level change, specifically with the forthcoming Assembly elections to be held in Jharkhand in  2019. (The writer is a postgraduate in Social Work with specialisation in Criminology and Justice from TISS, Mumbai and is working as an associate consultant with the Policy & Development Advisory Group, New Delhi.)]]>