Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Indian Malaysians seek compensation from UK - Indian Express

Indian Malaysians seek compensation from UK - Indian Express:

'via Blog this'

A group representing Indian Malaysians have filed a suit against the British government seeking compensation of USD 1 million for each of the 1.8 million Indians in the country for allegedly failing to protect them when Malaysia was granted independence in 1957.

The claim was filed in the High Court by Malaysian exiled human rights lawyer Waytha Moorthy yesterday. No date has been set for a hearing, but the Foreign Office has been asked to provide "crucial papers", a spokeswoman for Moorthy said.

According to Moorthy, Indian Malaysians face human rights abuses and live unprotected and in "continuous colonisation" under the rule of the Malay-Muslim majority.

This current situation for the Indian community is, he argued, the direct legacy of the then British Government who gave the Muslim population special rights and privileges in perpetuity in Article 153 of the Constitution of Malaysia, "effectively establishing a system of apartheid which has marginalised Malaysian Indians ever since".

He said: "In India, at the time of partition, the British Government gave rights to minorities. In Malaysia, minority racial and religious groups were hung out to dry.

"The result is that 45 per cent of the population is still being marginalised, humiliated and discriminated against when it comes to jobs, education and finance".

Moorthy added: "Indians in Malaysia are suffering great hardship. The British Government needs to take responsibility, apologise, make reparation, and send out a strong message that the way the Malay Government is acting is morally wrong". Indian labourers were sent to Malaya since the mid-nineteenth century.

Moorthy is the chairman of Hindraf, a group seeking equal rights for Malaysians of Indian origin. The group is banned in Malaysia.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Former President Pratibha Patil pardoned seven rapist- murderers !

Before demitting office in June 2012, Past President of India Pratibha Patil had pardoned seven rapist-murderers, who were awarded death penalty by the sessions courts - and those death sentences were upheld by the respective State High Courts and the Supreme Court of India. But Pratibha patil accepted their mercy petitions on the recommendation of the Ministry of Home Affairs, then headed by P. Chidambaram. 

These criminals are Bandu Baburao Tidake (Karnataka), Dharmendra Singh, Narendra Yadav, Bantu and Satish (Uttar Pradesh); Molai Ram, Santosh Yadav (Madhya Pradesh). 

Read their crimes herebelow-

(1) Molai Ram and (2) Santosh Yadav (Madhya Pradesh): Santosh Yadav was serving a rape sentence in the Central Jail, Rewa (MP). He was asked to do some work in the garden of the jail quarters. Molai Ram was on duty as a guard at jailor R.S. Somvanshi's quarter on 20 February 1996. Jailor Somvanshi's daughter Naveena (16) was alone at home as her father had left for work while her mother had gone to her parents' house along with her son. The two raped Naveena, a student of Class X. After raping her, they killed her and threw the body in a septic tank in a nearby cattleshed. Her body was recovered the next day. It was found that she had died of strangulation and stab injuries. The two were given death in 1999. Pratibha cancelled the death punishment.

(3) Satish (UP): In August 2001, Satish raped a six-year-old girl Vishakha and then killed her. The girl, a student of Meerut's Sarvodaya School, had left home for school on 16 August 2001, but did not return. Her body was discovered from a sugarcane field the next morning. Satish was seen by eyewitnesses as riding a bicycle with the little girl seated on the handlebar the day the girl disappeared. The case was considered to belong to the "rarest of rare category" and Satish was given a death sentence in February 2005.

(4) Bandu Baburao Tidke (Karnataka): Tidke was a sugarcane cutter in Maharashtra's Beed. He came to Huliyala in Karnataka's Bagalkot district in 2002 where he stayed at an ashram, posing as a swami. The same year, he dragged a 12-year-old school girl to his room, raped her and killed her. He then escaped to Shirdi, leaving her body there. He was arrested the same year. He was given the death sentence in 2005 by the Bagalkot district court and sent to Hindalga jail in Belgam. Patil took the decision to pardon him in June 2012. 

(5) Bantu (UP): In this case the victim was a five-year-old girl, Vaishali. On 4 October 2003, one Naresh Kumar, his brother Vishal and niece Vaishali were attending a "Devi Jagran" in village Basai Khurd in Agra district. Naresh Kumar's neighbour Bantu was there too. He took out the child saying he would give her a balloon. When Vaishali did not return for a long time, a search was launched for her. Vaishali and Bantu were found next to a pond at 9.30 pm. Bantu was caught in a naked state. He had raped and repeatedly tortured Vaishali in the worst possible way. She was rushed to a hospital but was declared brought dead. Bantu was given death by the trial court, a judgement that was upheld by the high court and the Supreme Court.

(6) Dharmendra Singh and (7) Narendra Yadav (UP): Dharmendra Singh and Narendra Yadav of Agra were convicted for killing five members of a family, including three minors, in 1994. The dispute started over property. One Chandra Mohan had purchased 13.5 bigha land and half a haveli from Dharmendra's grandfather. The other half of the haveli was used by Dharmendra, who was not happy with the co-ownership. Chandra Mohan's niece Rita (15), was often teased by Dharmendra's friend Narendra, but she did not return his advances. Chandra Mohan once gave a thrashing to Narendra.Narendra hatched a conspiracy with Dharmendra to rape Rita and kill the family members. The duo killed Chandra Mohan and five others on the night of 26 May 1994. Rita was raped before the murder.

The Supreme Court held the crime to be "ghastly, premeditated, and one which fell in the rarest of the rare category". In 2004, the then Home Minister L.K. Advani rejected the mercy appeal. But P. Chidambaram's MHA recommended that, "This was a crime driven by greed, lust and family feud, not uncommon in many parts of India." Having regard to all the factors, especially their age and the fact that both have been in the prison for 15 years, home minister P Chidambaram opined that "it would be appropriate to commute the sentence of death of one of life imprisonment." 

During Patil's tenure, the Ministry of Home Affairs commuted to life the death sentences of 35 criminals involved in 19 cases. In June, a Rashtrapati Bhavan spokesperson had said: "Article 72 does confer on the President the power to grant clemency. However, in the exercise of these powers, the President is not supposed to act on her own judgment but is mandated to act in accordance with the aid and advice of the government, which is binding on the Head of State"

Patil's predecessor A.P.J. Abdul Kalam had rejected the petition of Dhananjoy Chatterjee convicted of raping and killing a school girl, and he was hanged in Kolkata in 2004. After Dhananjoy Chatterjee no rape convict has been hanged – because P Chidambaram concluded, “such offences are not uncommon” and Prathibha Patil approved Home Ministry’s recommendation. 

Murder is punishable with life sentence or death under Section 302 IPC. Gang Rape under Section 376 IPC is punishable with life imprisonment. And in the recent case of rape inside bus in Delhi, maximum sentence that can be awarded by the court is only life imprisonment. Because gang rape and attempt to murder can be punished with maximum of life imprisonment only and not death sentence ! 

Hence the public outcry to amend the law to provide death penalty to rapists is very proper and justified. The pardoning power of the President under the Constitution should also be suitably amended to exclude death penalties upheld by the Supreme Court. Once the highest Court awards death sentence, it should be implemented within a week. Death penalties should be executed in public. But will the Cental Govt listen ?

Monday, December 24, 2012

India's supermen in Black - News - India Today

Meet India's supermen in black: When people like Robert Vadra get into trouble, only a handful of lawyers are called to bail them out : Gyanant Singh, News - India Today:

When a dispute or controversy in politics, business, sports or even in the private lives of public personalities makes headlines, top lawyers of the country cannot remain away from the headlines.

The recent high-stake cases pertaining to the gas dispute between the Ambani brothers, the 2G scam, the privacy case filed by industrialist Ratan Tata, the Vodafone tax case, the Sahara-SEBI dispute, the CWG scam, the Presidential Reference, the PIL against Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and the asset cases involving top politicians have only brought to the fore the leaders among the men in black.

The cases have also shown that there are not many who rule the roost. As part of legal strategies, some prospective litigants even hire more lawyers than they actually need to ensure that the opponent is unable to use the services of the best lawyers. It is because of this that sought-after lawyers are roped in just when controversies start brewing.

Here we profile some of the most sought-after lawyers and force to reckon with when they are either supporting or opposing a case in the Supreme Court or any other court. However, the outstation services come with a price which could be two, three, five or even ten times the amount they normally charge. The fees charged by them also vary depending on the case and the client. Apart from bearing the cost of the entourage, the outstation visits could also come with conditions like hiring a private plane. And getting them during vacations is possible only at astronomical rates.

The list does not include government law officers and some veterans who are now very selective with the cases they take up.

Ram Jethmalani - Senior Counsel, Rajya Sabha MP and former law minister

Indulgence: His love for badminton is legendary. Jethmalani has an indoor badminton court built in his MP's bungalow that is the envy of Lutyens' Delhi. He drives around in a Mercedes.

Fees: Rs.40 lakh for taking up a case and Rs.10 to Rs.20 lakh per appearance thereafter

Ram Jethmalani, at 90, has the distinction of being one of the oldest active lawyers of the country and at 18 he was the youngest member of the bar. An exception was carved out for him to enable him join the bar at 18 because the minimum age for enrolling as a lawyer was 21 then.

He keeps judges spell bound by his arguments and his ability to cite precedents which are embedded in his memory. He represented the Gujarat government in matters pertaining to the 2002 riot cases. Recently he also appeared for Ramdev in the case pertaining to police highhandedness in dispersing the crowd at Ramlila grounds. He also represented the 2G accused. He is now representing the Ansals in the Uphaar cinema fire tragedy case.

K.T.S. Tulsi - Former Additional Solicitor General of India and Senior Counsel

Indulgence: He likes hosting lavish parties, watching sports and collecting vintage cars

Fees: Approximately Rs.5 lakh per appearance. But he provides free assistance to needy people

Senior counsel K. T.S. Tulsi enrolled as a lawyer in Punjab after taking a law degree in 1971 but he decided to focus on the criminal side in 1980s and hasn't looked back since then. He has a big list of highprofile clients including Robert Vadra.

Unlike most criminal lawyers, he does not mind being on the side of the prosecution. He took up the job of a special prosecutor in terror cases in Punjab in the 1980s when no one wanted to take up cases against terrorists.

At a time when he was in great demand as a lawyer for accused, he took up the Uphaar tragedy case on behalf of the victims and against the mighty Ansals. His free assistance to the victims of the tragedy continues even to this day. He made headlines when he refused to argue cases for the Gujarat government after Chief Minister Narendra Modi justified the Sohrabuddin encounter - a case in which he was defending the state government before the Supreme Court.

Tulsi recently took up the case of Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar who is facing death sentence for a terror attack in Delhi. The idea was not to re-open the case but to save Bhullar from the gallows. He has sought commutation of his death sentence to life imprisonment on the ground of inordinate delay of eight years by the President in deciding his mercy plea.

Aryama Sundaram - Designated Senior Counsel

Indulgence: Golf, collecting art, cigars and reading

Fees: Approximately Rs.5 lakh per appearance

Aryama Sundaram is a corporate lawyer who has represented the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in a number of cases. He represented the voice of the industry in the Presidential Reference seeking clarification on the mode of allocation of natural resources by the government.

Sundaram also takes up constitutional law and media related cases. He was a lawyer in the S. Rangarajan case which resulted in one of the landmark judgments on the freedom of speech and expression.

He recently appeared for FICCI during the hearing on the Presidential Reference.He has represented the BCCI in a case which cleared the decks for board secretary N. Srinivasan to take over as the President of the board. The apex court in the case turned down a plea to restrain Srinivasan from taking over the top post till it was decided whether an IPL team owner could be allowed to become an office bearer of the board.The restraint was sought by the former BCCI President A. C. Muthiah.

P.P. Rao - Senior Counsel
Indulgence: A former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Rahul Gandhi's lawyer has an Audi A8

Fees: Minimum of Rs.5 lakh per appearance

An expert on constitutional law, even judges cannot ignore Rao's interpretations. He is sought after in election matters too.

Rao took his law degree from the Osmania University and started his career by teaching in the University of Delhi. He, however, switched over to practice in 1967 and became an advocate-onrecord in the Supreme Court in 1969 and was designated a senior by the Supreme Court in 1976.

He has the central government and several state governments in the list of his clients. Though the government has its own team of law officers, it roped in Rao to place its view point before the Supreme Court in the 2G case. His services were availed to defend the President's Rule imposed by the government after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992. He recently appeared for former Railway Minister Jaffer Sharief in a corruption case against him.

Congress scion Rahul Gandhi has also bestowed his trust in Rao who has been seeking action against the petitioner who defamed Gandhi by filing a writ against him.

Harish Salve - Senior Supreme Court Counsel and former Solicitor General of India

Indulgence: He must have an Apple product within 48 hours of its launch. Salve loves to play the piano, enjoys jazz and drives a Bentley.

Fees: Approximately Rs.4.5 lakh per appearance

Harish Salve is undoubtedly one of the best and most expensive lawyers in the country. And going by his career graph as a lawyer, Nagpur-born Salve now belongs to where he is - Delhi, the seat of the apex court of the country. Salve shifted to Delhi in 1976 and joined eminent lawyer Soli J. Sorabjee's chamber in 1980 and set up an independent practice in the mid 80s. He was designated as a senior counsel by the Supreme Court in 1992 and was appointed the Solicitor General of India in 1999.

His stakes touched the pinnacle recently when he won the over Rs.1,1000 crore Vodafone tax case against the government before the Supreme Court.

Salve has appeared for one of the Ambani brothers in the gas dispute between them. He defended Keshub Mahindra when the CBI filed a curative petition to revive culpable homicide charges in the Bhopal gas tragedy case. Ratan Tata, who has approached the Supreme Court against alleged violation of his right to privacy with the publication of the Radia tapes, has also availed his services. Recently, he represented the CII in the Presidential Reference.

He represented the Delhi Police in the matter concerning the mid-night crackdown on supporters of Baba Ramdev who was protesting against corruption and his able defence led to Ramdev's indictment as well. His success story has made Salve the first choice of litigants who can afford him. But it is not always for the money. Salve is the amicus curiae in the Gujarat riot case and in environment matters heard by the green bench of the apex court. He appeared against the accused in the Uphaar fire tragedy case. According to a lawyer who has known him since 1980s, Salve has been successful because he is very convincing and never seems to be forcing his view on the judge.

Mukul Rohatgi - Senior Counsel and former Additional Solicitor General

Indulgence: An avid collector of supercars, Rohatgi loves travelling and Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. He drives a Bentley, has Souzas on his walls and a holiday home in Goa.

Fees: Minimum of Rs.5 lakh per appearance

The number of cases that Mukul Rohatgi argues everyday shows the trust litigants bestow in him.

On Mondays and Fridays, when miscellaneous matters are taken up by the Supreme Court, Rohatgi can be seen rushing along the court corridors to get from one courtroom to another. He handles a wide spectrum of matters which include both civil and criminal cases and his clients include politicians, actors and corporate leaders.

He had a roaring practice in the Delhi High Court when he was appointed the Additional Solicitor General in 1999. He thereafter shifted to the Supreme Court and carved out a place for himself.

He is very polite outside the courts but he means business once he is in court representing a client. He argues in the literal sense of the term and ensures that his voice is heard even if it is at the cost of shouting down his opponent.

He recently defended BJP leader Varun Gandhi against invocation of preventive detention by the then Mayawati government for his hate speech. The order under the National Security Act (NSA) was revoked on court orders.

He appeared, opposite Salve, for the younger Ambani brother in the gas dispute between the two brothers. He has defended several politicians, including Jayalalithaa, in corruption cases. He has also argued on behalf of the Gujarat government in the matters concerning riots in the state.

He has been representing the Commonwealth and 2G scam accused as well. A lawyer who knows him well said his success mantra was his confidence. He can argue for an hour even after a short briefing of a few minutes.

Sushil Kumar - Designated Senior Counsel

Indulgence: Kumar reads spiritual books and is influenced by J. Krishnamurti's life and works. And he reads court cases even in his free time.

Fees: Minimum of Rs.5.5 lakh per appearance

One of the leading criminal lawyers in the country, Sushil Kumar is the only lawyer seen in a sherwani in the corridors of the apex court.

He presently represents A. Raja and Kanimozhi in the 2G scam case and has also argued for Suresh Kalmadi, an accused in the CWG scam.

He has appeared for the Ansals in the Uphaar fire tragedy case and for the hotel chain Sarvana Bhavan proprietor P. Rajagopal who was facing a life sentence for murder. Kumar's services had also been sought for Afzal Guru in the Parliament attack case and for terror accused Abdul Naseer Maudany. He is a formidable opponent for a prosecution lawyer as he can easily make holes in the prosecution theory and win his clients the benefit of doubt. Junior lawyers say there are many who can get notice on an appeal but when it comes to final arguments on merits, one needs Kumar to get an acquittal.

Gopal Subramanium - Former Solicitor General of India and Senior Counsel
Indulgence:Subramanium has an Audi A8, but more than cars, it's culture and ethnic crafts that interest him. He also has has an impressive collection of books.

Fees: Minimum of Rs.5 lakh per appearance

Gopal Subramanium made his mark as the Solicitor General of India at a time when the government's decisions came up for scrutiny before the Supreme Court and he maintained his record after he resigned. He has a roaring practice and is probably making more money than he did before.

He recently appeared on behalf of the state in the Mumbai attack case in which Kasab's death sentence was confirmed. He is also appearing on behalf of the state in the 1993 Bombay blasts case before the Supreme Court. After resigning as SG, he appeared in a case against the appointment of SEBI chief. He also appeared as amicus curiae in the Gujarat encounter cases.

The Uttar Pradesh government fielded him when a petition against Formula - I was filed just ahead of the event. He is presently appearing for Novartis in the highstake patent case pertaining to a cancer drug.

-- The fee rates cited for these lawyers are based on independent inquiries made by Mail Today

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Sting Operation - "they asked for it" - Delhi police Attitude towards Rape victims

The shockingly insensitive 'they asked for it' stance of Delhi cops towards rape victims, exposed by an NDTV-Tehelka sting operation is an SOS to the khakhi top brass in the country. The thinking betrays a deep rooted prejudice, perhaps at one level even connivance with the perpetrators, an anti-victim, male chauvinistic, sexist, mindset and either cynicism or impotence of those black sheep meant to protect; and when that fails, to investigate and prosecute. I'm using the term black sheep because not all cops are bad. Some take an extreme position and mete out their own 'justice' to criminals accused of rape. No right thinking person will hold a brief for this either.

For starters, how many women would feel safe in an average police station in the country? The record of custodial rapes is another story in itself. But to suggest that the victim "deserved" to be raped is the most perverse form of escapism. No citizen deserves a crime. Every citizen deserves safety and protection. It's only criminals who deserve punishment. What's frightening is that almost all the cops exposed are Inspectors, who are invariably the investigating officers of crime. The police station constitutes the cutting edge of the department. So when these key players in the criminal justice system make excuses and indulge in a shameless blame game, wouldn't it embolden criminals? Don't we also run the risk of botched up investigation? An investigation into a rape calls for forensic expertise - meticulous collection of evidence ranging from blood, finger nails and skin to semen samples and strands of hair. It also calls for circumstantial evidence to puncture the trademark defence - alibi. If an officer carries the baggage of preconceived notions about the victim, wouldn't that itself be a perfect setting for investigative oversight and ultimately, an acquittal?

It's not the job of an officer to dole out character certificates or sit in judgment over the version of an alleged victim. That's for the court to adjudicate. But if a cop rustles up weak evidence, the public prosecutor would be helpless in preventing a chargesheet from falling by the wayside, from witnesses turning hostile and sometimes, even the victim giving up. Take a look at where the law stands on the issue of 'character'. Under Section 54 of the Evidence Act, the bad character of an accused person is not relevant. Much more irrelevant in the case of a victim! Even a commercial sex worker can be raped. So what are those talking through berets? And look at what the Supreme Court had to say about the testimony of rape victims. In State of Punjab vs Gurmit Singh, the apex court made it clear that the victim's evidence alone is sufficient to convict. The rationale was telling: "In a case of rape, no self-respecting woman would come forward in a court to make a humiliating statement against her honour". Criminal trial can be quite traumatic for a rape victim.

What I find most ridiculous is the argument on dressing as a trigger for a crime of passion. Lust, like beauty, also lies in the eye of the beholder. Actor-politician Khushbu made an interesting point. "There are scores of women who are harassed although they are clad in traditional attire". Public prosecutors will tell you it's not always lust that drives a person to rape. Sift through the clutter of Section 375 Indian Penal Code cases and you will come across other factors like a perverse desire to show authority or to demonstrate superiority over hapless victims. What else would explain the gang rapes of tribal women in Tamil Nadu's Vachhathi village two decades ago? A conviction of 169 officers came just last year! Just recently, an 82-year-old woman was allegedly raped by a 32-year-old man. It took a public outcry and medical reports for the police to take the word of relatives seriously and arrest the man accused of committing the crime. The outrageous 'dress logic' also came to the fore a few years ago when a Vice Chancellor of a University in Chennai banned jeans and T-Shirts on the campus because "professors may get distracted". 

The reference to loose morals is equally frivolous. Whose morals, please? By whose standards? Here's another grossly misrepresented provision of law, that is reflected in movies. An unmarried couple found together in a hotel room. A knock at the door. And the next scene is of the duo being driven away in a police jeep! The Suppression of Immoral Traffic Act does not apply to consenting adults. It only makes living out of earning through prostitution, involving soliciting in a public place, an offence. The Supreme Court has even recognised live in relationships. Consensual sex, as long as the girl is above sixteen, is not the business of a man in khakhi. The police-public ratio is terribly skewed in our country. The crime graph is rising. And the curriculum in our police training academies needs an overhaul and a definite inclusion of gender sensitisation modules. The cops have their task cut out. Georges Clemenceau once quipped: "war is too serious a matter to be left to military men". Perhaps sermonising is too complicated a task for the police!

Friday, December 21, 2012

John Grisham - A Bio

Long before his name became synonymous with the modern legal thriller, he was working 60-70 hours a week at a small Southaven, Mississippi, law practice, squeezing in time before going to the office and during courtroom recesses to work on his hobby—writing his first novel.

Born on February 8, 1955 in Jonesboro, Arkansas, to a construction worker and a homemaker, John Grisham as a child dreamed of being a professional baseball player. Realizing he didn’t have the right stuff for a pro career, he shifted gears and majored in accounting at Mississippi State University. After graduating from law school at Ole Miss in 1981, he went on to practice law for nearly a decade in Southaven, specializing in criminal defense and personal injury litigation. In 1983, he was elected to the state House of Representatives and served until 1990.

One day at the DeSoto County courthouse, Grisham overheard the harrowing testimony of a twelve-year-old rape victim and was inspired to start a novel exploring what would have happened if the girl’s father had murdered her assailants. Getting up at 5 a.m. every day to get in several hours of writing time before heading off to work, Grisham spent three years on A Time to Kill and finished it in 1987. Initially rejected by many publishers, it was eventually bought by Wynwood Press, who gave it a modest 5,000 copy printing and published it in June 1988.

That might have put an end to Grisham’s hobby. However, he had already begun his next book, and it would quickly turn that hobby into a new full-time career—and spark one of publishing’s greatest success stories. The day after Grisham completed A Time to Kill, he began work on another novel, the story of a hotshot young attorney lured to an apparently perfect law firm that was not what it appeared. When he sold the film rights to The Firm to Paramount Pictures for $600,000, Grisham suddenly became a hot property among publishers, and book rights were bought by Doubleday. Spending 47 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, The Firm became the bestselling novel of 1991.

The successes of The Pelican Brief, which hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list, and The Client, which debuted at number one, confirmed Grisham’s reputation as the master of the legal thriller. Grisham’s success even renewed interest in A Time to Kill, which was republished in hardcover by Doubleday and then in paperback by Dell. This time around, it was a bestseller.

Since first publishing A Time to Kill in 1988, Grisham has written one novel a year (his other books are The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, The Chamber, The Rainmaker, The Runaway Jury, The Partner, The Street Lawyer, The Testament, The Brethren, A Painted House, Skipping Christmas, The Summons, The King of Torts, Bleachers, The Last Juror, The Broker, Playing for Pizza, The Appeal, The Associate, The Confession and The Litigators) and all of them have become international bestsellers. There are currently over 275 million John Grisham books in print worldwide, which have been translated into 40 languages. Nine of his novels have been turned into films (The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, A Time to Kill, The Rainmaker, The Chamber, A Painted House, The Runaway Jury, and Skipping Christmas), as was an original screenplay, The Gingerbread Man. The Innocent Man (October 2006) marked his first foray into non-fiction, and Ford County (November 2009) was his first short story collection.

Grisham lives with his wife Renee and their two children Ty and Shea. The family splits their time between their Victorian home on a farm in Mississippi and a plantation near Charlottesville, VA.

Grisham took time off from writing for several months in 1996 to return, after a five-year hiatus, to the courtroom. He was honoring a commitment made before he had retired from the law to become a full-time writer: representing the family of a railroad brakeman killed when he was pinned between two cars. Preparing his case with the same passion and dedication as his books’ protagonists, Grisham successfully argued his clients’ case, earning them a jury award of $683,500—the biggest verdict of his career.

When he’s not writing, Grisham devotes time to charitable causes, including most recently his Rebuild The Coast Fund, which raised 8.8 million dollars for Gulf Coast relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He also keeps up with his greatest passion: baseball. The man who dreamed of being a professional baseball player now serves as the local Little League commissioner. The six ballfields he built on his property have played host to over 350 kids on 26 Little League teams.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Cyber-Warfare - How real are its implications ?

EVEN as anxiety about jihadi terrorist threats has eased, thanks to the efforts of intelligence agencies and drone attacks’ disruption of the militants’ sanctuaries, fears over Western societies’ vulnerability to cyber-assaults have grown. Political and military leaders miss no chance to declare that cyberwar is already upon us. America’s defence secretary, Leon Panetta, talks of a “cyber-Pearl Harbour”. A senior official says privately that a cyber-attack on America that “would make 9/11 look like a tea party” is only a matter of time.
The nightmares are of mouseclicks exploding fuel refineries, frying power grids or blinding air-traffic controllers. The reality is already of countless anonymous attacks on governments and businesses. These seek to disrupt out of malice, or to steal swathes of valuable commercial or security-related data. Some experts believe that such thefts have cost hundreds of billions of dollars in stolen R&D.

Many of these attacks are purely criminal. But the most sophisticated are more often the work of states, carried out either directly or by proxies. Attribution—detecting an enemy’s fingerprints on a cyber-attack—is still tricky, so officials are reluctant to point the finger of blame publicly. But China is by far the most active transgressor. It employs thousands of gifted software engineers who systematically target technically advanced Fortune 100 companies. The other biggest offenders are Russia and, recently, Iran (the suspected source of the Shamoon virus that crippled thousands of computers at Saudi Arabia’s Aramco and Qatar’s RasGas in August).

America and its allies are by no means passive victims. Either America, Israel or the two working together almost certainly hatched the Stuxnet worm, found in 2010, that was designed to paralyse centrifuges at Iran’s Natanz uranium-enrichment plant. The Flame virus, identified by Russian and Hungarian experts this year, apparently came from the same source. It was designed to strike at Iran by infecting computers in its oil ministry and at targets in the West Bank, Syria and Sudan.

Boring, not lurid

For all the hype, policies on cyber-warfare remain confused and secretive. The American government is bringing in new rules and a clearer strategy for dealing with cyber-threats. Barack Obama is said to have signed in October a still-secret directive containing new guidelines for federal agencies carrying out cyber-operations. It sets out how they should help private firms, particularly those responsible for critical national infrastructure, to defend themselves against cyber-threats by sharing information and setting standards.

The directive is partly a response to the stalling of cyber-legislation in the Senate. Republican senators argue that it imposes too great a regulatory burden on industry, which is already obliged to disclose when it is subject to a cyber-attack. It is also meant to govern how far such bodies as the Department of Homeland Security can go in their defence of domestic networks against malware attacks.

The Pentagon is also working on more permissive rules of engagement for offensive cyber-warfare, for example to close down a foreign server from which an attack was thought to be emanating. General Keith Alexander heads both Cyber Command (which has a budget of $3.4 billion for next year) and the National Security Agency. He has often called for greater flexibility in taking the attack to the “enemy”. The emergence of new cyber-warfare doctrines in America is being watched closely by allies who may follow where America leads—as well as by potential adversaries.

However, Jarno Limnell of Stonesoft, a big computer security firm, says that all levels of government in the West lack strategic understanding on cyber-warfare. So, although questions abound, answers are few. For example, it is not clear how much sensitive information about threats or vulnerabilities government agencies should share even with private-sector firms that are crucial to national security. Often the weakest link is their professional advisers, such as law firms or bankers who have access to sensitive data.

Almost all (roughly 98%) of the vulnerabilities in commonly used computer programmes that hackers exploit are in software created in America. Making private-sector companies more secure might involve a controversial degree of intrusion by government agencies, for example the permanent monitoring of e-mail traffic to make sure that every employee is sticking to security rules. Government hackers may also like to hoard such vulnerabilities rather than expose them. That way they can later create “backdoors” in the software for offensive purposes.

Also controversial is the balance between defence and attack. General Alexander stresses that in cyber-warfare, the attacker has the advantage. Mr Limnell says that, although America has better offensive cyber-capabilities than almost anybody, its defences get only three out of ten.

Setting rules for offensive cyber-warfare is exceptionally tricky. When it comes to real, physical war, the capability may become as important as air superiority has been for the past 70 years: though it cannot alone bring victory, you probably can’t win if the other side has it.

China has long regarded the network-centric warfare that was developed by America in the late-1980s and copied by its allies as a weakness it might target, particularly as military networks share many of the same underpinnings as their civilian equivalents. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) talks about “informationisation” in war, “weakening the information superiority of the enemy and operational effectiveness of the enemy’s computer equipment”. China’s planning assumes an opening salvo of attacks on the enemy’s information centres by cyber, electronic and kinetic means to create blind spots that its armed forces would then be able to exploit. Yet as the PLA comes to rely more on its own information networks it will no longer enjoy an asymmetric advantage. Few doubt the importance of being able to defend your own military networks from cyber-attacks (and to operate effectively when under attack), while threatening those of your adversaries.

But to conclude that future wars will be conducted largely in cyberspace is an exaggeration. Martin Libicki of the RAND Corporation, a think-tank, argues that with some exceptions cyber-warfare neither directly harms people nor destroys equipment. At best it “can confuse and frustrate…and then only temporarily”. In short, “cyber-warfare can only be a support function” for other forms of war.

Four horsemen

Besides the cyber element of physical warfare, four other worries are: strategic cyberwar (direct attacks on an enemy’s civilian infrastructure); cyber-espionage; cyber-disruption, such as the distributed denial-of-service attacks that briefly overwhelmed Estonian state, banking and media websites in 2007; and cyber-terrorism. Gauging an appropriate response to each of these is hard. Mr Limnell calls for a “triad” of capabilities: resilience under severe attack; reasonable assurance of attribution so that attackers cannot assume anonymity; and the means to hit back hard enough to deter an unprovoked attack.

Few would argue against improving resilience, particularly of critical national infrastructure such as power grids, sewerage and transport systems. But such targets are not as vulnerable as is now often suggested. Cyber-attacks on physical assets are most likely to use what Mr Libicki calls “one-shot weapons” aimed at industrial control systems. Stuxnet was an example: it destroyed perhaps a tenth of the Iranian centrifuges at Natanz and delayed some uranium enrichment for a few months, but the vulnerabilities it exposed were soon repaired. Its limited and fleeting success will also have led Iran to take measures to hinder future attacks. If that is the best that two first-rate cyber-powers can do against a third-rate industrial power, notes Mr Libicki, it puts into perspective the more alarmist predictions of impending cyber-attacks on infrastructure in the West.

Moreover, anyone contemplating a cyber-attack on physical infrastructure has little idea how much actual damage it will cause, and if people will die. They cannot know if they are crossing an adversary’s red line and in doing so would trigger a violent “kinetic” response (involving real weapons). Whether or not America has effective cyber-weapons, it has more than enough conventional ones to make any potential aggressor think twice.

For that reason, improving attribution of cyber-attacks is a high priority. Nigel Inkster, a former British intelligence officer now at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, highlights the huge risk to the perpetrator of carrying out an infrastructure attack given the consequences if it is detected. In October Mr Panetta said that “potential aggressors should be aware that the United States has the capacity to locate them and hold them accountable for actions that harm America or its interests.”

He may be over-claiming. Given that cyber-attacks can be launched from almost anywhere, attribution is likely to remain tricky and to rely on context, motive and an assessment of capabilities as much as technology. That is one reason why countries on the receiving end of cyber attacks want to respond in kind—ambiguity cuts both ways. But poor or authoritarian countries attacking rich democratic ones may not have the sorts of assets that are vulnerable to a retaliatory cyber-attack.

The difficulty is even greater when it comes to the theft (or “exfiltration”, as it is known) of data. For China and Russia, ransacking Western firms for high-tech research and other intellectual property is tempting. The other way round offers thinner pickings. In 2009 hackers from an unnamed “foreign intelligence agency” made off with some 24,000 confidential files from Lockheed Martin, a big American defence contractor. As a result they could eavesdrop on online meetings and technical discussions, and gather information about the sensors, computer systems and “stealth” technology of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. This may have added to the delays of an already troubled programme as engineers tried to fix vulnerabilities that had been exposed in the plane’s design. Investigators traced the penetrations with a “high level of certainty” to known Chinese IP addresses and digital fingerprints that had been used for attacks in the past. Less than two years later, China unveiled its first stealth fighter, the J-20.

Theft from thieves

As Mr Libicki asks, “what can we do back to a China that is stealing our data?” Espionage is carried out by both sides and is traditionally not regarded as an act of war. But the massive theft of data and the speed with which it can be exploited is something new. Responding with violence would be disproportionate, which leaves diplomacy and sanctions. But America and China have many other big items on their agenda, while trade is a very blunt instrument. It may be possible to identify products that China exports which compete only because of stolen data, but it would be hard and could risk a trade war that would damage both sides.

Cyber-disruption has nuisance value and may be costly to repair, but it can be mitigated by decent defences. Cyber-terrorism has remained largely in the imagination of film-makers, but would be worth worrying about if it became a reality. Stonesoft’s Mr Limnell reckons that, though al-Qaeda and its offshoots show little sign of acquiring the necessary skills, they could buy them. Mr Libicki is more sceptical. Big teams of highly qualified people are needed to produce Stuxnet-type effects, which may be beyond even sophisticated terrorist groups. Also, the larger the team that is needed, the more likely it is to be penetrated.

The Obama administration’s attempt to develop a more coherent—and perhaps less secret—doctrine of cyber-warfare is sensible so long as it is not just an excuse for hyping something that, as far as is known, has yet to kill anybody. The idea that offence beats defence is also suspect. If more attention were paid to fixing the security flaws in Western software, cyber-attackers would have fewer entry points. And more effort should be put into solving the attribution problem. Getting caught is a deterrent that state actors take seriously. But given that the essence of cyber-warfare is ambiguity and uncertainty, gaining clarity and certainty will be exceptionally difficult. That makes policy both hard to construct and harder still to explain

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Kerala’s Startup Village gets 1GBPS internet Connection, 2nd in the World

Kerala’s Startup Village gets 1GBPS internet Connection, 2nd in the World:


While most other places in India struggle to get a decent 1 mbps connections, Kerala’s Startup Villagehas become only the 2nd place in the world to get a whooping 1 GBPS internet line. The only other place that has 1 GBPS connectivity is Google sponsored Startup Village in Kansas City, USA, which was launched last year and is part of Google Fibre Network.

Startup Village, based out of Kochi in Kerala is India’s first Public Private Partnership model Technology Business Incubator for product startups.

To give you a perspective of what speed a 1 GBPS internet connectivity can deliver – you can watch over 200 HD movies streaming online simultaneously or download the entire HD movie in less than 30 seconds.
How has it been possible?

Startup Village being located at Kochi, gives it a distinct advantage – There are 2 undersea cables (used for internet backbone) that terminate at Kochi that allowed quick procurement of High-Speed internet connectivity.

Kochi Startup Village Chairman said “Startup Village aims to build the elements of a world class tech ecosystem to realize the dream of a Silicon Coast in India. Apart from 100% teledensity and literacy, the submarine landing station at Kochi creates a perfect backdrop to try this ambitious pilot to effectively change the tech start-up policies in India to be at par with Silicon Valley”.

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