Posts Tagged ‘Prashant Bhushan’

Will TV news channels show Kejriwal ‘live’ again?

10 January 2013

ambani_keriwal_0111

SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, and India’s most powerful business house, Reliance Industries, are believed to have served a legal notice on several TV news channels for airing anti-corruption activist Arvind Kejriwal‘s allegations against them in October and November last year.

However, it is not known if Kejriwal, a former IRS officer, and his advocate-partner, Prashant Bhushan, have heard from RIL’s lawyers on the charges made by them at the  press conferences which were covered “live” by the TV channels with accompanying commentary.

It is also unclear if  newspapers which reported Kejriwal’s allegations of Ambani’s Swiss bank accounts and hanky-panky in the Krishna-Godavari basin by RIL have attracted similar legal attention from the less-litigious of the two Ambani brothers.

In the seven-page legal notice shot off in the middle of December 2012, Mukesh Ambani and RIL have demanded “a retraction and an unconditional apology in the form approved and acceptable to our clients” within three days from the receipt of the notice.

The notices have been served by the Bombay legal firm, A.S. Dayal & Associates.

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Besides accusing the channels of “deliberately and recklessly” airing “false and defamatory statements” with an intent to “defame our clients and bring them into disrepute”, the legal notice makes the following points:

# “Your TV Channel provided a platform and instrumentality for wide dissemination of the false and defamatory statements and allegations made at the said press conference.”

# “Live telecast of these press conferences amounts to permanent publication of defamatory material relating to our client by you.”

# “Each of the two press conferences were telecast live without making any attempt to verify the truth or veracity of the statements and allegations being made during the press conference.”

# “Apart from having telecast the press conferences live, Your TV Channel  in the course of several television programmes and televised debates that followed after the said press conferences, continued to telecast, transmit and retransmit the defamatory footage of the press conferences.”

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More ominously, the Ambani-RIL notice reminds the channels:

# “Our clients have instructed us to state that Your TV Channel is bound by the Guidelines for Uplinking and Downlinking from India dated 5th December 2011, issued by the ministry of information & broadcasting, government of India.

# “Our clients have instructed us to state that since Your TV Channel is a news and current affairs TV Channel, the provisions of the Uplinking and Downlinking Guidelines apply to Your TV Channel, which inter alia provide that a Company, like Your TV Channel, which runs a news and current affairs TV channel, is obliged to comply with the Programme Code as laid down in the Cable Television Network (Regulations) Act, 1995, and the Rules framed thereunder.

# “Our clients have instructed us to state that in telecasting the aforesaid press conferences and repeating the false and defamatory material relating to our clients in the manner aforesaid Your TV Channel is in complete violation of the said Uplinking Guidelines, and the said Downlinking Guidelines as also in complete and material breach of the Programme Code prescribed under the Cable Television Network Rules.”

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The RIL legal notice brings to question the wisdom of broadcasting “live” Kejriwal’s near-weekly press conferences towards the end of last year, sans any filters or fetters.

On the other hand, the authoritarian tone of the legal notice—reminding the recipients of uplinking and downlinking norms—throws light on the egg-shells on which private TV stations are walking in the “free” Republic.

The legal notice also swings the spotlight on big business ownership of and shadow over the media, especially when it is alleged to have both the main political parties, the Congress and BJP, in its pocket.

For the record, RIL is in the media business too. Both CNN-IBN and IBN7 are part of the Reliance stable following a controversial and circuitous takeover at the turn of 2012 that now has earned the OK of the competition commission of India (CCI).

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Photograph: courtesy IBN Live

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Also read: ‘RIL has no direct stake in media companies’

Mint says SEBI looking into RIL-Network18/TV18-ETV deal

Rajya Sabha TV tears into RIL-Network18-ETV deal

Will RIL-TV18-ETV deal win SEBI, CCI approval?

The sudden rise of Mukesh Ambani, media mogul

The Indian Express, Reliance & Shekhar Gupta

Niira Radia, Mukesh Ambani, Prannoy Roy & NDTV

Why the Indian media doesn’t take on the Ambanis

CHURUMURI POLL: Does Mukesh Ambani run India?

31 October 2012

Long years ago, when Doordarshan was the only TV option for the mango people, the weekly serial was the sole form of entertainment in the back of beyond. Each evening, thirsty masses waited with bated breath for what Hum Log and  Khandaan, Ados Pados and Jaane bhi do yaaro would throw up that week.

That done, the waiting would begin again.

In the age of 24×7 news television, editors and journalists appear to have outsourced one hour of each week to Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan to allow them to air their libel-laden soap opera.

One week, they show the wheeling-dealing of Sonia Gandhi‘s son-in-law Robert Vadra; another week it is Atal Bihari Vajpayee‘s son in-in-law Ranjan Bhattacharya. One week, it is Salman Khurshid, another week it is Nitin Gadkari. One week, it is DLF, another week it is Reliance Industries.

And so it is, this Wednesday evening, when the producer-director duo behind India Against Corruption have merrily stated that it is RIL’s Mukesh Ambani, not Manmohan Singh, who is running the country. Using the cabinet reshuffle, in which the oil and petroleum minister S. Jaipal Reddy was shunted out to the lesser science and technology ministry, as the peg, the two have alleged:

# Reliance’s arm-twisting ways have caused a massive loss to the nation. Reliance has promised to deliver cheap gas for 17 years, but it has never delivered…

# Reliance has the contract to extract oil from KG Basin. Under an agreement of 2009 with the government, they are supposed to sell gas at $ 4.2 per mmBTU upto 31 March 2014. Midway now, RIL is demanding that the price be increased to $ 14.2 per mmBTU. Jaipal Reddy resisted that and he was thrown out…

# The then petroleum minister Mani Shankar Aiyar was replaced and Murli Deora was brought in to benefit RIL. Pranab Mukherjee gave undue benefit of Rs 8000 crore to RIL in 2007. Now, Jaipal Reddy has been ousted for objecting to raising RIL’s demand to raise gas prices.”

“The government is succumbing to the illegitimate demands of RIL. Even the PM was very sympathetic to RIL. And as a result, Reliance has gained more than Rs 1 lakh crore, that the country lost.”

Question: Are Kejriwal-Bhushan right? Do Mukesh Ambani and Reliance run the country?

Also read: Rajya Sabha TV tears into RIL-Network18-ETV deal

The sudden rise of Mukesh Ambani, media mogul

The Indian Express, Reliance & Shekhar Gupta

Niira Radia, Mukesh Ambani, Prannoy Roy & NDTV

Why the Indian media doesn’t take on the Ambanis

CHURUMURI POLL: Is this Congress’s Bofors-II?

8 October 2012

The grenade lobbed by the Arvind Kejriwal-Prashant Bhushan gang on Friday, accusing Robert Vadra, the son-in-law of Sonia Gandhi, of dubious deals with the construction company DLF, has sent the Congress camp into a tizzy. Over half-a-dozen Union ministers trooped into TV studios to defend FDI*—the First Damaad of India—even as Vadra maintained a studied silence, before breaking it on Facebook (he has since deleted his FB account).

To be sure, there was little of surprise: the same details had been carried by The Economic Times a year and six months ago, quoting Registrar of Companies (ROC) documents. At the time, the Congress had not seen it fit to respond. But the timing of the latest “expose”, after the Jan Lok Pal movement was tarred and tarnished, after the announcement of a new party sans Anna Hazare, and in the run-up to the Gujarat and general elections, gives the issue a whole new angle.

Questions: Will the charges against Vadra become a millstone around the Congress’—and by extension, Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi‘s necks—forever, like Bofors has? Or will they peter out because there is no foreign hand like Ottavio Quattrochchi‘s and no clear quid pro quo? Do the charges prove crony conspiracy at its worst? Or, has the Kejriwal-Bhushan duo bitten off more than they can chew by hitting below the belt?

*courtesy Rama Lakshmi/ WaPo

Will ‘Team Anna’ succeed as a political party?

3 August 2012

Revealing confusion and impatience in equal measure, Anna Hazare and his band of self-styled do-gooders have dropped large, king-sized hints of turning their nascent social movement into a political one, as early as the end of the day, today, after the end of their farcical “fast-unto-death”. After the media blitzkrieg last time, the attention was beginning to wane and the group realised that it was approaching the outer limits of santimony, especially after the Congress-led UPA government refused to play ball this time round.

The lawyer Prashant Bhushan has announced a “referendum” among “Team Anna” fans on whether the group should make the dive into politics, and all it requires for such a momentous decision to be made is a simple “Yes” or “No” on the India Against Corruption website. And this, just hours after their fasting compatriot Arvind Kejriwal had announced from a horizontal position to TV reporters that there was no, repeat no question of the movement turning political.

In getting off their high horses and dipping their feet in the political waters, Team Anna has shown an admirable ability to get their hands dirty in the hurly-burly of politics. But, at the same time, it shows a touching naivette about politics and realpolitik in a landscape littered with social activists who have met their comeuppance at the hustings.

Corruption is certainly a big issue facing the nation, but is it the only one in a vast pluralistic nation facing even bigger issues of poverty, malnutrition and worse? Can a party resonate across the nation only on the issue of corruption? Is Team Anna the only repository of integrity, especially when they are dealing with the likes of Vilas Rao Deshmukh and Baba Ramdev, and when its team members themselves face charges and insinuations?

Above all, will Team Anna—an urban, largely middle-class pheonmenon—be able to turn the SMSes into actual votes at the EVMs? Or in joining politics, will the USP of Team Anna disappear?

CHURUMURI POLL: Will Manmohan Singh survive?

2 February 2012

In its second term in office, the UPA government of Manmohan Singh has been dealt several body blows that could have completely ennervated and incapacitated a lesser man. Scam after scam, scandal after scandal has hit the Congress-led UPA regime, but like in a C-grade Bollywood film, the protagonists have found the energy to wake up from every thundering blow administered by the courts and the constitutional bodies like the CAG, dust off the rubble and prepare to fight another day.

But could 2 February 2012 be slightly different?

In responding to pleas by Subramanian Swamy and Prashant Bhushan—cancelling 122 licences issued by the now disgraced telecom minister A. Raja; allowing the CVC to look at the functioning of the CBI and in giving a free hand to a lower trial court to adjudicate if home minister P. Chidambaram too should be made a party to the crime—the Supreme Court of India has virtually validated the Rs 173,000 crore 2G scam that had been described as a “zero-loss” scam by a fatcat lawyer in minister’s clothing.

And it indirectly validates the Anna Hazare campaign that has been floundering and looking for oxygen.

With the Uttar Pradesh elections around the corner, the SC verdict pulls the rug from under the feet of the Congress which has been going to town over Mayawati‘s corruption, even raiding her closest supporters. It also puts a big question mark over the future of the Manmohan Singh government, pending a judgment in the Chidambaram matter. With the budget session of Parliament looming and presidential elections around the corner, it also throws up interesting improbables.

Questions: Will the Manmohan Singh government survive? Or is it all over bar the counting? Or should the prime minister resign to protect what little credibility there is left to his once-clean image?

Also read: Will Manmohan Singh survive?

CHURUMURI POLL: Manmohan Singh, still ‘Mr Clean’—II?

Has the middle-class deserted Manmohan Singh?

CHURUMURI POLL: Manmohan Singh, still ‘Mr Clean’—I?

Can the paragon of virtue hear his conscience?

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Anna Hazare campaign dead?

2 January 2012

The dawn of 2012 looks very much like the dawn of 2011. A year ago, it seemed as if corruption was here to stay, as if “We, the People” didn’t care about the scams and scandals, as if there was nobody to take the lead, as if the political and bureaucratic class was united in its efforts to stall any form of institutional mechanism to bring the corrupt to book, etc.

If someone has just woken up from a year-long coma, it would seem as if nothing has moved or changed.

Except that “We, the People” did care; except that somebody did stand up; except that the nation went through an anti-corruption movement thrice if not four times; except that the government and the opposition successfully stymied every effort to put in place a “strong and effective” Lok Pal; except that the house of the people was used to mock the wish of the people.

But there is also one key difference. Thanks to a cynical year-long smear campaign aided by pro-establishment sections of the media—and the foolhardy partisanship of India Against Corruption which turned the campaign into India Against Congress Corruption—the crusaders  now stand as discredited as the crooked and the corrupt they sought to bring in line. And the long and tiring attempt to draft the legislation now seems to have taken the wind out of the anti-corruption sails and public interest in it, as can be evidenced by the meek reception in Bombay.

With last week’s televised theatrics by the “people’s representatives” in the Lok Sabha and the “states’ representatives” in the Rajya Sabha, a big question mark hangs over the battle against corruption. Will Anna Hazare‘s campaign ever regain the same amount of attention? Will corruption as an issue ever gain the same kind of traction? Will Lok Pal ever see the light of day? Or, is corruption as an issue dead and buried unless something truly mammoth and dramatic happens?

Also readCHURUMURI POLL: Has UPA fooled the people on Lok Pal?

CHURUMURI POLL: Citizens above Parliament?

How The Times of India pumped up Team Anna

UPA’s Hazare cock-up in 179 simple words

CHURUMURI POLL: Should PM be under Lok Pal?

Is the Indian Express now a pro-establishment paper?

Let a thousand Anna Hazares bloom across India

POLL: Has UPA ‘fooled’ the people on Lok Pal?

10 December 2011

The four-decade-old quest for an independent and effective Lok Pal has entered a crucial phase once again with the tabling of the parliamentary standing committee’s report and its immediate rejection of it by the Anna Hazare-led section of civil society as a “dupe” played on the nation by the Congress-led UPA government.

17 of the 30 members of the parliament panel have reportedly given dissent notes to the version presented by Abhishek Manu Singhvi, whose late jurist-father L.M. Singhvi is believed to have coined the word “Lokpal”. And of the 24 issues concerning the bill, the members agreed on just 13 of them.

Barring the creation of a Lok Pal, a cursory glance at the table above shows how little ground the standing committee  found with the demands of Anna Hazare, who has twice sat on a fast-unto-death. Little wonder, the man from Ralegan Siddhi says the government has “fooled the people of India” even as he prepares to sit on a fresh fast.

Questions: has the government fooled the people? Or is “Team Anna” stretching itself? Will a fresh agitation catch the people’s fancy again, or has the government discredited Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi, Prashant Bhushan and Shanti Bhushan enough to take the wind out of their sails?

Will the parliament panel’s recommendations find favour with parliamentarians? Or is the Lok Pal bill likely to run into serious trouble with the Opposition?

Infograph: courtesy Mail Today

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Citizens above Parliament?

How The Times of India pumped up Team Anna

UPA’s Hazare cock-up in 179 simple words

CHURUMURI POLL: Should PM be under Lok Pal?

Is the Indian Express now a pro-establishment paper?

Let a thousand Anna Hazares bloom across India

CHURUMURI POLL: Should Chidambaram quit?

7 September 2011

It is an indication of the extent of internalisation of terrorism as a way of life that each new terror attack results in a markedly subdued response. While the United States takes pride in not having had a single terror attack since 9/11, and that was ten years ago, there have been over half a dozen since the 26/11 siege of Bombay in 2008.

Over two dozen people died in Bombay jus two months ago, and Delhi high court was the sight of a similar attack as today’s in May this year. However, the response of the political class, and indeed of the media and public, is substantially different depending on the city, the location and on the class of victims.

While each terror attack under the watch of the sartorially splendid Shivraj Patil would prompt demands for his resignation, the media-savvy Palaniappan Chidambaram goes about each terror attack like a second-division clerk, reading bureaucratic cliches with mind-numbing monotony that should leave terror-mongers stone cold.

Worse, there is scarcely any remorse with scarcely a mention of the “Q” word, and this while the home ministry uses up all the IQ of its Harvard-educated minister to dig up dirt on the Bhushans, Hazares and Kejirwals of the world. So, here’s the question neither Parliament nor the opposition, nor the media would want to ask: should Chidambaram resign, or at least make the offer, just at least to show where the buck stops?

Also read: Is Chidambaram a saboteur in UPA?

Montek Singh Ahluwalia gets a Padma for what?

29 January 2011

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: Unlike the Padma awards last year which had the media doing cartwheels over the inclusion of the controversial New York hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal for the Padma Bhushan, the 2011 roll of honour has barely created any bubbles in the champagne glasses.

The silence of even a committed partypooper like P. Sainath might make it seem as if the scam and scandal-tainted Manmohan Singh government has finally got something right. But has it?

Au contraire, we present item No.7 on the list of the 13 awardees chosen for the nation’s second highest civilian honour, the Padma Vibhushan.

No. 7: Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

Discipline: public affairs.

Stranger things have happened in India id est Bharat, of course, but it’s strange that the inclusion of a serving bureaucrat who is the serving deputy chairman of the planning commission should go uncommented upon in the business press that is currently lying in the lap of neo-liberal luxury in Davos.

Question #1: Is it a good idea for a serving babu to be elevated to the exalted status of a Padma Vibhushan?

A diligent user of Wikipedia will be able to see if pen-pushers have been similarly provided a “service lift” before sadda Montek, but that is not our beef with the career-bureaucrat”s selection. It is more primal. It’s like WTF is his contribution to humankind to deserve the Padma Vibhushan?

WTF, as in What’s The Funda, yaar.

Generally but not always, the preferred method of picking up a Padma Vibhushan is to carefully pick up a Padma Sri first and then even more carefully pick up a Padma Bhushan.

Take Azim Premji. The Wipro boss, who has provided employment to a few thousand people, got a Padma Bhushan in 2005 and had to wait till 2011 for get his Padma Vibhushan. Or take the actor Akkineni Nageshwara Rao (ANR), who has provided pleasure to a few million people, who went through the long route.

But our brilliant babu gets fast-tracked to Padma Vibhushan just like that—sans a Padma Sri, sans a Padma Bhushan—in fact his name preceding Premji’s, who’s ninth on the list? WTF.

WTF, as in Who’s The Fu Manchu, yaar.

Question #2: Are Montek Singh Ahluwalia’s qualifications so immense, his achievements so mammoth, and his contributions to his countrymen and women so extraordinary that he deserves nothing but the second best award the nation can give straightaway?

Even a cursory glance at Montek’s Wikipedia page tells you that there is nothing particularly out-of-this-world in the man.

Words and letters like DPS, Bishop Cotton’s, St. Stephen’s, Oxford, BA, MA, MPhil are littered all over. He apparently picked up one half of his strange accent as the youngest “division chief” in the much-abhorred World Bank; and the other half as a director in the even more abhorred international monetary fund (IMF).

But that’s typically the trajectory of most high-achieving climbers—creepers as some call them—and for that we decorate him with a Padma Vibhushan?

WTF, as in Wisconsin Tourism Federation, yaar.

Question #3: Is Montek Singh Ahluwalia the only officer among the 5,159 IAS officers in the country doing yeoman service in the year of the lord 2011?

However, it is the timing of Montek Singh Ahluwalia’s choice, given his record past and present, that is most baffling.

Montek’s role in the Enron scandal in fixing sky-high anti-consumer electricity charges that ultimately turned the Dabhol Power Company belly-up is much documented to be retold again.

As the advocate Prashant Bhushan wrote in 2004:

Jyoti Basu called him a “World Bank man”…. As revenue secretary and then finance secretary through most of the 1990s, Ahluwalia spearheaded the neo-liberal economic policies in India, exactly according to the prescriptions of the WB/IMF. But his enthusiasm for privatisation went beyond the most basic financial prudence that even the World Bank observed.”

In suddenly awarding the Padma Vibhushan at this juncture it is as if Manmohan Singh—the father of LPG: liberalisation, privatisation, globalisation—is fobbing off his blue-eyed boy with a piece of chikki having failed in accommodating him in the reshuffled ministry a couple of weeks ago.

(Montek recently figured in the Niira Radia tapes, courtesy his kinsman N.K. Singh, as eyeing a ministerial portfolio.)

And then there is the ultimate irony of it all.

When food inflation and fuel inflation are screwing the aam admi, when Maoist violence is shining a light on planning in the tribal areas, when farmer suicides are going on unabated, when bureaucratic redtape has made India the worst business destination in Asia, the nation decides to decorate the deputy chairman of the planning commission with a Padma Vibhushan!

For what, pursuing growth at all costs?

Question #4: By rewarding a fellow-traveller, has Manmohan Singh sent the clearest signal yet that he may not be around as prime minister this time next year to do the needful?

History might not give a rat’s posterior to the Padma Vibhushan, but it will surely remember neo-liberal Montek’s neo-conservative George W. Bush moment last week.

Just like the US former president blamed the global food crisis in 2007 on hungry Indians eating more, Montek observed that “the high inflation number points towards people eating healthier food, better lifestyles“.

As the food expert, Devinder Sharma writes:

“Montek Singh Ahluwalia has been at the helm of India’s planning process for quite some time now. It is during his tenure as the deputy chairman of the planning commission that India has been pushed deeper and deeper into the quagmire of poverty. With the largest population of hungry in the world, the Global Hunger Index 2010 has placed India in the pit.

“I wasn’t therefore shocked when I read Ahluwalia blame the hungry for the rise in food inflation. From someone who literally lives in the ivory tower of the Yojana Bhawan, anything can be expected. But what, of course, surprised me was the audacity with which he blamed the poor and hungry in the rural countryside for the rising inflation.”

And for this Marie Antoinette-esque moment, we decorate the deputy chairman of the planning commission with a Padma Vibhushan? WTF.

WTF, as in Who The Fuck is Alice, yaar.

Question #5: By goofing up with Sant Singh Chatwal one year and Montek Singh Ahluwalia the next, surely something is rotten in the Singh Parivar?

Of course, similar questions can be asked about some of the other business choices on the 2011 list: like, is there some rule that everybody on the Infosys board should get a Padma honour (as evidenced by the choice of “Kris Gopalakrishnan, for what?) Or, what really is ICICI bank chief Chanda Kochhar‘s stellar contribution?

It’s just that Montek Singh Ahluwalia gets our goat nicely, thank you.

Also read: A Padma Bhushan for K.V. Kamath?

A Padma Bhushan for the BGS swamiji?

Why Rajdeep Sardesai, Barkha Dutt must decline Padma Sri

CHURUMURI POLL: Should NHRC chairman resign?

4 January 2011

Justice K.G. Balakrishnan enjoyed a controversial tenure as the chief justice of India, engulfed as he was by the blazing row over the elevation of Justice P.D. Dinakaran of the Karnataka high court, and an assortment of tongues that wagged loosely at corruption in the higher judiciary.

Now, in his tenure as chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), justice Balakrishnan has landed himself in the middle of two major scandals.

First, he slipped into an unseemly row over Justice Regupathy of the Madras High Court writing to him of a blandishment from the disgraced former telecom minister, A. Raja. Now, the Kerala government has ordered an inquiry into his son-in-law P.V. Sreenijan‘s spurt in assets from Rs25,000 to Rs 7 crore in four years.

The former Supreme Court judge, Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, has demanded Justice Balakrishnan’s resignation to enable a fair probe into the allegations, a move seconded by the former attorney-general of India, Soli Sorabjee. Justice Iyer has now revealed that a former judge asked him not to write to the PM on the scandal.

The Supreme Court advocate, Prashant Bhushan, whose father Shanti Bhushan named corrupt judges in a sealed envelope a few months ago, has joined the chorus for Justice Balakrishnan’s removal/resignation. And this even as the Union law minister, Veerappa Moily, was giving the retired judge a clean chit.

Questions: Should Justice Balakrishnan resign or continue? If he sticks on, should he removed or retained?

Full coverage: The strange case of Justice P.D. Dinakaran

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Dalit Dinakaran above the law?

If he is unfit for Supreme Court, how is he fit for Karnataka HC?

If he is unfit for Supreme Court, how is he fit for Karnataka HC—II?

‘Integrity + competence + judicial temperament’

Yella not OK, but Supreme Court silent yaake?

The brazen conduct of Justice Dinakaran

The strange case of Justice Dinakaran (continued)

Audi alteram partem? Hear the other side out?

CHURUMURI POLL: Will Justice Dinakaran be impeached?

Is CJI K.G. Balakrishnan right about P.D. Dinakaran?

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Dinakaran fit for Sikkim HC?

CHURUMURI POLL: P.D. Dinakaran vs D.V. Shylendra Kumar

‘Is Sikkim HC’s dignity less than Karnataka’s?

High Court verdict or Panchayat pronouncement?

1 October 2010

The reliance of the Allahabad high court on the “faith and belief of Hindus”—that Lord Rama was born in the “area covered under the central dome of the disputed structure”—in trifurcating the Ayodhya title suit, has come in for sharp criticism across the English media.

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The Hindu‘s deputy editor, Siddharth Varadarajan:

“The legal and political system in India stood silent witness to the crime of trespass, vandalism and expropriation [of the Babri masjid]. Eighteen years later, the country has compounded that sin by legitimising the “faith” and “belief” of those who took the law into their own hands.

“The “faith and belief” that the court speaks about today acquired salience only after the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bharatiya Janata Party launched a political campaign in the 1980s to “liberate” the “janmasthan.”

“Collectives in India have faith in all sorts of things but “faith” cannot become the arbiter of what is right and wrong in law. Nor can the righting of supposed historical wrongs become the basis for dispensing justice today.”

Former Delhi High Court judge Justice R.S. Sodhi in The Telegraph:

“I think this judgment is useless. It is a statuesque judgment. The court has gone into issues of belief, which it should not have. It has actually decided nothing.”

Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan in The Telegraph:

“It is an absurd judgment. No legal right can be declared on the basis of people’s faith. They (the three judges) have decided on all kinds of irrelevant and emotional issues. There is no legal basis to the ruling that the disputed land should be divided into three parts.”

Jamia Milia Professor, Mukul Kesavan, in The Telegraph:
“The court also seemed to endorse the argument from faith in a way that is certain to be controversial. Both decisions, as they stand, might set precedents that could have worrying consequences for pluralism and the freedom of religious belief and practice, especially for disputes between a religious minority and a religious majority.”

Historian Irfan Habib in The Times of India:

“The compromise judgment has come at the cost of history and facts. It is improper (for the court) to accept the Archaelogical Survey of India (ASI) report on the historical fact. Weight has been given to belief. One should be careful in historical facts.”

The columnist Amulya Ganguli in DNA:

“The claim was based purely on a myth. Lord Ram is not a historical figure. He is a deity in the eyes of only a section of Hindus. All Hindus do not regard him with reverence. In south India, for instance, Ravan, another mythical figure who is Ram’s adversary, is more popular. In Bengal, Michael Madhusudan Dutt‘s Meghnad Badh Kavya is a literary classic extolling one of Ravan’s sons at Ram’s expense.

“Whether a plot of land can be legally awarded to a community on the basis of mere religious belief. The answer will also have to include the fact that claims on behalf of Hindus are being advanced by fundamentalists, not liberals. In fact, the latter regard the movement, which was carried on with two others asserting similar rights on two mosques in Varanasi and Mathura, as a distortion of Hinduism.”

Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan in The Hindu:

“If this panchayati solution is to be endured, the degree of Muslim entitlement should have been left intact so that the site belonged to them. The destruction of the masjid was akin to the demolition of the Buddha statues at Bamiyan in Afghanistan, and people would say that India’s secular justice was majoritarian in nature without lending dignity to India’s minority.”

Constitutional expert and senior Supreme Court advocate P.P. Rao in The New Indian Express:

“It is more like a panchayat justice dividing the disputed property among the three contenders. And it is not clear how after dismissing the suit of the Sunni wakf board, one-third of the property is given to Muslims.”

Former Supreme Court chief justice A.H. Ahmadi in The Indian Express:

“There is no running away from the centrality of answering who has the title. I am not sure on what basis the Sunni waqf suit has been time-barred. But if the title is not theirs, how can one-third be a masjid now, and if the title is theirs, how can two-thirds be divided? There certainly can be a compromise but that should have happened after the verdict. The verdict should not appear like a decision of a panchayat foisted forcibly on all parties.”

Cartoon: courtesy R. Prasad/ Mail Today

‘Half of last 16 chief justices have been corrupt’

16 September 2010

Judicial corruption is a bull few in India are willing to attach their names to. There are whispers of this or that sitting judge making piles or cash; of sons, daughters and other near and dear ones acting as “brokers” for cases, deals, etc, but none of those allegations see the light of day.

Not because the media is a willing accomplice but because of the sword of “contempt of court” hanging over us.

For long, truth was not, repeat not, a defence in the case of contempt.  Although that is now no longer the case, judicial corruption still isn’t headline news like corruption in other spheres of Indian life. The case of Justice P.D. Dinakaran is one of the rare exceptions and that too only in sections of the media.

In September 2009, the Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan, in an interview to Shoma Chaudhury of Tehelka magazine, said “half of the last 16 chief justices were corrupt”. The comment invited the apex court’s contempt. Now, Bhushan’s father, the noted jurist Shanti Bhushan has joined issue.

In his application before the Supreme Court praying for his impleadment as respondent No.3 in the case of the Amicus Curiae vs Prashant Bhushan, Bhushan senior repeats his son’s charge that eight out of the last 16 CJs were corrupt, even going so far as to deliver the names of the corrupt in a sealed cover.

In the applicant’s opinion, eight [of the last 16 chief justices] were definitely corrupt, six were definitely honest and about the remaining two, a definite opinion cannot be expressed whether they were honest or corrupt.”

Below is the full text of Shanti Bhushan’s application, published in the public interest.

***

To

The Hon’ble Chief Justice of India &
His companion justices of the Supreme Court of India
The humble application of the Petitioners above named.

Most respectfully showeth:

  1. That the applicant is filing the present application for his impleadment as Respondent No. 3 in the aforementioned contempt petition as the applicant is making a categorical statement in the present application that eight of the last sixteen Chief Justices of India were definitely corrupt and also providing the names of those eight definitely corrupt Chief Justices in a sealed cover as an annexure along with the present application.
  2. The applicant is a practicing advocate who was enrolled on 8 July 1948. He has appeared in each and every High Court in the country. He is well acquainted with the manner in which the Indian judiciary has been functioning and how its character has been changing over the years.
  3. That the applicant has been a part of the campaign for judicial accountability since its inception in the year 1990.
  4. That there was a time when it was almost impossible even to think that a judge of a High court or the Supreme Court could be corrupt. Things have changed drastically during the last 2 or 3 decades during which corruption has been growing in the Indian judiciary. So much so that even a sitting Chief Justice of India had to openly admit that 20% of the judges could be corrupt. Very recently in March 2010 a sitting Chief Justice of a high court openly made a statement. The statement of the sitting chief justice was published by the Times of India in its issue of 6th march 2010 with the headlines, “In our judiciary, anybody can be bought, says Gujarat chief justice”. A copy of the news paper report is being annexed hereto as Annexure A.
  5. That the applicant believes that the reported statement may not be correctly reflecting the perception of the Gujarat Chief Justice, since he should be knowing as the applicant does that there are and have always been plenty of totally honest judges, but they are also becoming the victim of this public perception since no institution of governance in the country is taking any effective steps about dealing with corruption in the judiciary.
  6. That India became a republic in 1950, when the people became sovereign. They got the right to constitute their institutions, the executive, the legislature and the judiciary, to serve them, who would be accountable to them.
  7. That before 1950, corruption was almost non existent in the High Courts. The federal court had in 1949 got Justice Shiv Prasad Sinha removed from the Allahabad High Court, merely on the finding that he had passed 2 judicial orders on extra judicial considerations.
  8. That it however appears that thereafter the judiciary has adopted the policy of sweeping all allegations of judicial corruption under the carpet in the belief that such allegations might tarnish the image of the judiciary. It does not realize that this policy has played a big role in increasing judicial corruption.
  9. That the Constitution prescribed removal by impeachment as the only way of removing judges who commit misconduct since it was believed at the time of the framing of the Constitution that misconduct by judges of the higher judiciary would be very rare. However those expectations have been belied as is apparent from the surfacing of a series of judicial scandals in the recent past. The case of Justice V. Ramaswami and subsequent attempts to impeach other judges have shown that this is an impractical and difficult process to deal with corrupt judges. The practical effect of this has been to instill a feeling of impunity among judges who feel that they cannot be touched even if they misconduct.
  10. That corruption by judges is a cognizable offence. The Code of Criminal Procedure requires that whenever an FIR is filed with respect to a cognizable offence, it is the statutory duty of the police to investigate the offence. The police has to collect evidence against the accused and charge-sheet him in a competent court. He would then be tried and punished by being sent to jail. The Supreme Court has however by violating this statutory provision in the CrPC given a direction in its Constitution bench judgement in the Veeraswamy case of 1991 that no FIR would be registered against any judge without the permission of the Chief Justice of India. In not a single case has any such permission ever been granted for the registration of an FIR against any judge after that judgement.
  11. That the result of this direction has been that a total immunity has been given to corrupt judges against their prosecution. No wonder that judicial corruption has increased by leaps and bounds.
  12. That an honest judiciary enjoying public confidence is an imperative for the functioning of a democracy, and it is the duty of every right thinking person to strive to achieve this end.
  13. That unless the level of corruption in the judiciary is exposed and brought in the public domain, the institutions of governance cannot be activated to take effective measures to eliminate this evil.
  14. That it is the common perception that whenever such efforts are made by anyone, the judiciary tries to target him by the use of the power of contempt. It is the reputation of the judge which is his shield against any malicious and false allegations against him. He doesn’t need the power of contempt to protect his reputation and credibility.
  15. That the applicant strongly believes that a responsible citizen should be prepared to undergo any amount of suffering in the pursuit of the noble cause of fighting for a clean judiciary.
  16. That there are two statements of Respondent no. 1 (Prashant Bhushan) published in Tehelka by Respondent no. 2 which are alleged to constitute contempt of court. In the 1st statement, Respondent no. 1 has expressed that in his view, out of the last 16 or 17 chief justices of India, half have been corrupt.
  17. The applicant states that in his view too this statement is absolutely correct. At the time of the publication of this report in Tehelka, the last 16 Chief Justices of India were the following:                  1. Justice  Ranganath Mishra,
    2. Justice K.N. Singh,
    3. Justice M.H. Kania,
    4. Justice L.M. Sharma,
    5. Justice M.N. Venkatchalliah,
    6. Justice A.M. Ahmadi,
    7. Justice J.S. Verma,
    8. Justice M.M. Punchhi,
    9. Justice A.S. Anand,
    10. Justice S.P. Bharucha,
    11. Justice B.N. Kripal,
    12. Justice G.B. Patnaik,
    13. Justice Rajendra Babu,
    14. Justice R. C. Lahoti,
    15. Justice V.N. Khare,
    16. Justice Y.K SabharwalOut of these, in the applicant’s opinion, eight were definitely corrupt, six were definitely honest and about the remaining two, a definite opinion cannot be expressed whether they were honest or corrupt. The signed lists identifying these eight, six and two Chief Justices of India are being enclosed in a sealed cover which is being annexed here to as Annexure B.
  18. That in fact two former chief justices of India had personally told the applicant while they were in office that their immediate predecessor and immediate successor were corrupt judges. The names of these four Chief Justices of India are included in the list of the 8 corrupt Chief Justices of India.
  19. That since the applicant is publicly stating that out of the last sixteen Chief Justices of India, eight of them were definitely corrupt, the applicant also needs to be added as a respondent to this contempt petition so that he is also suitably punished for this contempt. The applicant would consider it a great honour to spend time in jail for making an effort to get for the people of India an honest and clean judiciary.
  20. That the applicant also submits that since the questions arising in this case affects the judiciary as a whole, the petition needs to be decided by the entire court and not merely by three judges handpicked by a Chief Justice.

PRAYERS

In view of the above, it is most respectfully prayed that this Hon’ble Court may be pleased to:

  1. allow the present application and implead the Applicant as a contemnor in the aforementioned contempt petition as Respondent no. 3; and
  2. pass any other or further order/s as this Hon’ble Court may deem fit and proper in the facts and circumstances of the case.

(Shanti Bhushan)
applicant-in-person
New Delhi

***

Photograph: courtesy Shailendra Pandey/ Tehelka

***

Full coverage: The strange case of Justice P.D. Dinakaran

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Dalit Dinakaran above the law?

If he is unfit for Supreme Court, how is he fit for Karnataka HC?

If he is unfit for Supreme Court, how is he fit for Karnataka HC—II?

‘Integrity + competence + judicial temperament’

Yella not OK, but Supreme Court silent yaake?

The brazen conduct of Justice Dinakaran

The strange case of Justice Dinakaran (continued)

Audi alteram partem? Hear the other side out?

CHURUMURI POLL: Will Justice Dinakaran be impeached?

Is CJI K.G. Balakrishnan right about P.D. Dinakaran?

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Dinakaran fit for Sikkim HC?

CHURUMURI POLL: P.D. Dinakaran vs D.V. Shylendra Kumar

Is Sikkim HC’s dignity less than that of Karnataka’s?

Yella not OK, but Supreme Court silent yaake?

21 October 2009

Senior advocate Anil Divan, a signatory to the original memorandum of charges against Justice P.D. Dinakaran of the Karnataka High Court, in The Hindu:

“The Justice Dinakaran controversy is ‘snowballing’ and is diminishing the image of the judiciary with every passing hour. National dailies have been reporting various news items.

“Some of the headlines run: “Dinakaran elevation put on hold” (The Hindu, 11.10.2009); “TN report may nail Dinakaran” (The Times of India, 11.10.2009); “Dinakaran row: Panel may ask Govt. to consider others” (The Indian Express, 11.10.2009); “Supreme Court studies secret report on Dinakaran” (The Times of India, 11.10.2009); “Dinakaran move to SC held up” (The Asian Age, 12.10.2009); “Government to take possession of Judge land” (The Asian Age, 12.10.2009); “Charges pile up against Dinakaran” (Hindustan Times, 13.10.2009); and “TN farmers now add to Dinakaran’s woes” (The Indian Express, 13.10.2009).

“The informed citizen is inquiring — what is happening? What are the decisions of the Collegium? Why the delay in appointing four other State Chief Justices to the Supreme Court — all senior to Justice Dinakaran? Why is Justice Dinakaran being permitted to sit and discharge judicial functions in spite of serious allegations being looked into? Even though over a month has expired there is no press release, official statement or information officially given or emanating from the Supreme Court.”

Read the full article: Judicial integrity: Lessons from the past

Full coverage: The strange case of Justice P.D. Dinakaran

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Dalit Dinakaran above the law?

If he is unfit for Supreme Court, how is he fit for Karnataka HC?

If he is unfit for Supreme Court, how is he fit for Karnataka HC—II?

‘Integrity + competence + judicial temperament’

‘Integrity + competence + judicial temperament’

14 October 2009

Prashant Bhushan, a public interest lawyer in the Supreme Court, in the latest issue of the Economic & Political Weekly (EPW):

“The Justice P.D. Dinakaran episode underlines the need to put in place a credible institution for the selection and appointment of judges to the Supreme Court. Earlier, when the power of appointment was with the government, judges were often being selected on partisan political considerations. After the judiciary took it over, by creatively reinterpreting the words, “appointed by the President in consultation with the Chief Justice of India”, to mean, “appointed by the collegium of judges in consultation with the President”, judges are being appointed sometimes on nepotistic considerations.

“One of the main reasons for the selections being arbitrary is the lack of any system. There is no criteria laid down for selecting judges. Though it is generally understood that we are looking for integrity and competence in a judge, it is not clear whether we are also looking for judicial temperament. And should we also not be looking for “an understanding and sensitivity to the problems of the common people in the country”?”

Read the full article: The Dinakaran imbroglio

Also read: The strange case of Justice P.D. Dinakaran

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Dalit Dinakaran above the law?

If he is unfit for Supreme Court, how is he fit for Karnataka HC?

If he is unfit for Supreme Court, how is he fit for Karnataka HC—II?

The strange case against Justice P.D. Dinakaran

16 September 2009

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Justice P.D. Dinakaran, the chief justice of the Karnataka High Court, is in the middle of a blazing legal row.

The lead story of The Hindu reports that Justice Dinakaran, who is one of five judges recommended for elevation to the Supreme Court, was summoned by the chief justice of India, K.G. Balakrishnan, in connection with allegations made against him by members of the Bar of the Madras High Court of “disproportionate assets”.

Justice P.D. Dinakaran, who was sworn in in August 2008, has reportedly denied the charges, according to CNN-IBN.

Below is the full unabridged text of the memorandum sent to the CJI under the auspices of the Madras-based Forum for Judicial Accountability, which details serious charges of land grabbing, corruption, abuse of office and lack of probity against Justice P.D. Dinakaran.

churumuri.com has not independently verified the charges nor does it attest to the veracity of the charges or the lack thereof. The memorandum is published here in the public interest given the seriousness of the allegations, and because we believe the memorandum is now a public document, having been brought to the notice of the CJI by such legal luminaries as Ram Jethmalani, Fali S. Nariman and Shanti Bhushan.

Our objective is not to cause disrepute to the image of the honourable judge or of the judiciary. To quote from the memorandum:

“We are doing so only in the larger interests of the institution of the judiciary which is sacred and since the increasing reports against the judge have assumed alarming proportions.”

Coming as it does in the middle of a national debate on the disclosure of assets of judges, l’affaire P.D. Dinakaran assumes importance, not just in the way the apex court deals with it, but the manner in which the judiciary deals with the media which publishes details of the case.

At the same time, the timing raises disturbing questions. Why are the charges surfacing now against a Madras HC judge who is reputed to have disposed 72,795 cases? Is somebody out to get him? If Justice Dinakaran is unsuitable for the Supreme Court, is he suited to continue as the CJ of Karnataka High Court, or even as a Judge?

***

9th September, 2009

To

Hon’ble Mr.Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, The Chief Justice of India, Hon’ble Mr.Justice B.N. Agarwal, Hon’ble Mr. Justice S.H. Kapadia, Hon’ble Mr.Justice Tarun Chatterjee, Hon’ble Mr. Justice Altamas Kabir,  Supreme Court of India, New Delhi.

Sirs,

Sub: Representation against  Mr. Justice P.D.Dinakaran, Chief Justice, Karnataka High Court, amassing of huge assets, corruption and serious irregularities.

As per newspaper reports (The Hindu, dated 28th August 2009) Mr Justice P.D. Dinakaran, presently Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court, has been recommended by the collegium of the Supreme Court to be appointed as a Judge of the Supreme Court.

The said judge was a judge of the Madras High Court between 19.12.1996 to 06.08.2008. We, the members of the Bar of the Madras High Court are greatly perturbed by the news of his possible elevation to the Apex Court, in view of disturbing reports that are strong pointers to the abuse of office and lack of probity by Mr Justice P.D. Dinakaran.

We bring to your notice several aspects concerning the Judge including (1) huge rural land holdings, illegal appropriation of Government and public land amounting to land-grabbing, illegal constructions, ownership of urban properties, (2) certain inappropriate and startling judicial orders and (3) conduct raising issues of gross impropriety and lack of probity. We feel the materials given below call for a detailed investigation before taking up his case for appointment as a Judge of the highest Court.

***

The following are the issues of deep concern:

I.  Amassing Wealth and Appropriation of Public Property

RURAL PROPERTY

It is common knowledge in the Bar at Madras that the Judge has acquired vast extents of lands, near his hometown of Arakkonam, Vellore district, and in Thiruvallur district, Tamil Nadu. The acquisition started before his appointment as a judge of the Madras High Court and is reported to have increased manifold during his tenure as a judge.

All these land holdings in the villages are beyond the ceiling limit under the Tamil Nadu Land Reforms (Fixation of Ceiling on Land) Act, 1961, as per which a family of five persons can possess not more than 15 standard acres of land.

However, more shocking is the unbecoming conduct of the judge in encroaching upon Government lands and public property meant for the villagers, amounting to land-grabbing and depriving the poor of their resources and livelihood.

1. LANDS IN KAVERIRAJAPURAM VILLAGE (440 Acres)

(a)   In the villages of Kaverirajapuram, Tiruttani taluk, Tiruvallur district; Anaipakkam, Arakkonam taluk, Vellore district; and Mulvoy, Arakknonam taluk, Vellore district, the extent of lands possessed by the judge is approximately 500 acres. Most of the property is in Kaverirajapuram, a village whose population predominantly consists of Dalits, Irulas  (scheduled tribes) and most backward classes like Naidus, Boyars and others. The total extent of the village is about 1,700 acres.

Annexed to this petition are:  (i) A map showing the details of land held and owned by the judge and his family members; and public and Government lands occupied by him, and (ii) Extracts from village ‘A’ register which provides the classification of land of the relevant survey numbers in the judge’s occupation, from reliable sources. The current ‘A’ register reflecting transfer of patta is not accessible. (iii) Photographs showing the naming of the village road leading to his lands which is in Tamil and reads as “Emperor of Justice P.D. Dinakaran Road, Kaverirajapuram” (translation in English) and the fencing of  the land. (iv) Extracts of Revenue Standing Orders on Assignment of Land.

(b) In all, the judge is in possession of approximately 440 Acres in Kaverirajapuram village alone, almost one-fourth of the village.

Out of this 440 acres:

(i)  310.33 acres are ‘patta’ lands owned by the judge and his family (in his name, his wife Dr Vinodini’s name, his two daughters Amudha Porkodi and Amirthra Porkodi, one Cannan and another person; the latter two are reported to be his close relatives).

(ii) About 41.27 acres is public land classified as Government poramboke, eri (lake, stream) and other water bodies, pathway and tamarind grove.

(iii)  About 88.33 acres are classified as Government ‘Anadhinam’ lands (which can be allotted only to landless poor as per board standing orders of the Tamil Nadu Government).

2. STARTLING MODUS OPERANDI

i) Reports are that the patta lands originally belonged to backward and most backward classes. The purchase of lands seems to have started before his appointment as a judge and continued thereafter.

ii) Patta lands have been bought in the name of the judge, his wife Dr Vinodini, his unmarried daughters Amudha Porkodi and Amirtha Porkodi, one Cannan and another person, the latter two are reported to be close relatives. Daughter Amudha Porkodi got married recently on 15.12.2008.

iii)  Vast extents of Government ‘poromboke’ lands, Government anadhinam lands, waterbodies like lakes, canals, streams, common village pathways and an ancient mud fortress abutting his patta lands were progressively encroached upon.

iv) The villagers were then prevented access to these common property resources. Nearly 600 families of Dalits and landless poor in the village are reported to have sought distribution of Government poramboke and anandhinam lands to them as per G.O.(Ms) No.241 dated 12.09.2006 issued by the State Government. They are yet to receive the assignment.

v) Immediately thereafter, these common /government lands were fenced in by the judge.

There is every possibility that after this representation, the fence around the encroached areas may be removed. But as on today, the fence exists around the Government lands and village common resources, and we write this after some of us personally inspected the fence and the relevant records and maps. The fact remains that the common village lands near the  judge’s property are out of  bounds  for the villagers.

Enquiry reveals that the local police is used to prevent access to the area.

iv) The Government anadhinam lands are meant to be assigned only to landless poor for small holdings and personal cultivation as per standing orders of the board of revenue, Tamil Nadu Government.

v) The Government poramboke lands also are meant for common enjoyment of the villagers and cannot be occupied by any individual. Under a recent scheme of the State Government, they can be distributed to the landless poor.

vi) The water-bodies too are meant only for common enjoyment of the villagers.

vii)  By erecting a fence the judge has deprived the local villagers access to common property resources of the village, on which many of them depend for their livelihood.

viii) The villagers are not able to have access to the water bodies and due to extensive use of water for the judge’s farm where there are huge fruit orchards and other cultivations, the water source for the village has got depleted. Large bore wells/ open wells are said to have been dug inside the farm.

ix)  It is  reported that the entire village administration and government machinery has been exploited to provide facilities and free labour for the judge’s property. It is reliably learnt that the judge is  attempting to manipulate revenue records to obtain pattas for the public and government lands in his occupation.

x) It is an open secret in legal circles that the judicial officers and staff of the judiciary are often asked to supervise and facilitate the maintenance and upkeep of the farm.

xi) We have specific reports that anyone who seeks any information like survey numbers and extent regarding even the village common lands and Government lands is intimidated and not provided the information. Villagers are under mortal fear in this regard.

xii)   Even the village road that leads to the property has been named as ‘Neethi Arasar P.D. Dinakaran Saalai’’. (“Emperor of Justice, P.D. Dinakaran road” )

(more…)


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