The Italian government had raised objection over the case being handed by the National Investigation Agency, saying that the agency has no jurisdiction and pleaded that the case be probed by CBI
The Supreme Court on Friday allowed the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to probe the case against two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen and asked the special court to conduct the trial on a day-to-day basis after the charge-sheet is filed.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir clarified that the special court, set up by the Centre for this case, will not take up any other matter and complete the trial as soon as possible.
The bench also comprising Justices AR Dave and Vikramajit Sen said that the two marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone will remain in the custody of the apex court till the completion of the trial.
The Italian government had raised objection over the case being handed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), saying that the agency has no jurisdiction and pleaded that the case be probed by CBI.
The Italian government had approached the apex court, saying that the charges which have been slapped on the marines are not covered by the NIA Act.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Italian government, had submitted that NIA can probe the case only if charges under Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act, 2002, are also slapped against the marines and the same cannot be done in view of apex court verdict to prosecute them only under IPC, CrPC, Maritime Zones Act and United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The two marines were on board Italian vessel “Enrica Lexie” when they had allegedly shot dead two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast on 15th February last year.
India will not command respect if we keep towing the line of least resistance. It is time to put up a firm stand on these matters and consider an embargo on trade until such time China realizes that it can not fool us all the time
India is planning to extend a red carpet (how appropriate!) treatment to the new Chinese Premier, Li Kiqiang, when he arrives next month for a summit meeting with his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh. It is his first overseas trip, and Li Kiqiang will attempt to show how serious and sincere China is in dealing with India. He will emphasise the great importance it attaches to this relationship, at least outwardly!
There have been reports of consultation between the giant neighbours on counter-terrorism and the first ever dialogue on Afghanistan.
Across the eastern Ladakh border, however, Chinese troops have moved some 10 km inside the Indian territory and both sides are facing each other at the Line of Actual Control. Fortunately, no clash has taken place so far, and no injury or death reported, on either side. Flag meetings are said to be in progress.
Apparently, their move was met with no resistance, and Indians were taken by surprise. This unexpected move by the People's Liberation Army and the flag meetings are expected to produce the stale result of both sides claiming for “status quo”, as the perception of Line of Actual Control would differ.
On the TV news channels, however, it was reported that the Chinese have demanded that Indian troops to dismantle the structures built by them (how long ago, we do not know) as a precondition for talks to resolve the issue amicably!
Foreign ministries on either side are in touch to ensure that this border incursion does not dampen the ensuing visit of the Chinese premier and want to play it down.
In the last few years, ever since the Chinese became a financial super-power house, it has relentlessly attempted to expand its overseas activities, in all fields. Without declaring a war it is at loggerheads with its ASEAN neighbours. It has its navy patrolling the South China and Japanese Seas and has threatened everyone on the Spartleys Island, where it is involved in some construction activities. Other claimants, whether it is the Philippines, Indonesia Malaysia and others have not been able to do anything.
Japan, though has the US support, does not feel as safe as it was before. And China is obviously using its proxy of North Korea to threaten South Korea. It is also eyeing at the possibility of entering Afghanistan when US troops are withdrawn. This is more likely to be a move engineered by Pakistan which is averse to Indian influence in that country.
It must be borne in mind that China is already building an all-weather port in Baluchistan and is fully entrenched in Myanmar. The Chinese expansion policy is slowly, but firmly, enlarging in our neighbourhood, ably and silently supported by Pakistan.
All these are not new. We watch these moves every day but remain silent spectators. Should we continue to call Chini-Hindi bhai-bhai or has the time come for boldly saying Hindi-Chini-bye-bye?
According to Oxford English dictionary, Chinese Checkers is a game for two to six players, who try to move the playing pieces from one corner to the opposite corner of the board, which is shaped like a Star. In a similar version, the board is identical to a chess board, where, the coins (similar to carrom coins), are moved, jumping over the opponent's, when he/she leaves an empty square! This is precisely what the Chinese are up to in their political games. Just look up for the other players involved...
Chinese influence in Pakistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and attempts to break-through in Afghanistan with financial assistance are increasing. It made inroads in Nepal and possibly considers Bhutan as a harmless spectator.
Yes, trade with China, or for that matter, with any country is welcome and necessary for survival. But it is absolutely foolish to encourage and expand trade with China and make large investments there, at the cost of Indian industry.
India will not command respect if we keep towing the line of least resistance. It is time to put up a firm stand on these matters and consider an embargo on trade until such time China realizes that it can not fool us all the time.
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)
Seven different agencies regulate fertilizer plants in Texas, but none of them have authority over how close they are to homes and schools
April 25: This post has been corrected.
A week after a blast at a Texas fertilizer plant killed at least 15 people and hurt more than 200, authorities still don’t know exactly why the West Chemical and Fertilizer Company plant exploded.
Here is what we do know: The fertilizer plant hadn’t been inspected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration since 1985. Its owners do not seem to have told the Department of Homeland Security that they were storing large quantities of potentially explosive fertilizer, as regulations require. And the most recent partial safety inspection of the facility in 2011 led to $5,250 in fines.
We have laid out which agencies were in charge of regulating the plant and who’s investigating the explosion now.
What happened, exactly?
Around 7:30 p.m. on April 17, a fire broke out at the West Chemical and Fertilizer Company plant in West, Texas, a small town of about 2,800 people 75 miles south of Dallas. Twenty minutes later, it blew up. The explosion shook houses 50 miles away and was so powerful that the United States Geological Survey registered it as a 2.1-magnitude earthquake. It flattened homes within a five-block radius and destroyed a nursing home, an apartment complex, and a nearby middle school. According to the New York Times, the blast left a crater 93 feet wide and 10 feet deep, and the fire “burned with such intensity that railroad tracks were fused.”
The blast killed at least 15 people, most of them firefighters and other first responders.
Have fertilizer plants ever exploded before?
Yes. A plant in Sergeant Bluff, Iowa, that manufactured ammonium nitrate fertilizer — the same explosive chemical stored in West — exploded on Dec. 13, 1994, killing four people and injuring 18.
But fertilizer plants are safer now, said Stephen Slater, the Iowa administrator of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. “All kinds of technologies have had huge improvements,” he told the Des Moines Register. “And we haven’t had any bad experiences at the plants in the 20 years since [the accident]. I’m knocking on wood.” (Slater did not respond to our requests for comment.)
Who regulates these fertilizer plants?
At least seven different states and federal agencies can regulate Texas fertilizer plants like the one in West: OSHA, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the Texas Department of State Health Services, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Texas Feed and Fertilizer Control Service.
Some of the agencies do not appear to have shared information before the blast.
Fertilizer plants that hold more than 400 pounds of ammonium nitrate, for instance, are required to notify the Department of Homeland Security. (Ammonium nitrate can be used to make bombs. It’s what Timothy McVeigh used to blow up the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995.) The West plant held 270 tons — yes, tons — of the chemical last year, according to a report it filed with the Texas Department of State Health Services, but the plant didn’t tell Homeland Security.
Carrie Williams, a Department of State Health Services spokeswoman, told ProPublica that the agency isn’t required to pass that information — which is also sent to local authorities — on to Homeland Security.
While the exact cause of the explosion is unknown, a federal official told the New York Times that investigators believed it was caused by the ammonium nitrate. The blast crater is in the area of the plant where the chemical was stored.
The plant also filed a “worst-case release scenario” report with the EPA and local officials stating there was no risk of a fire or an explosion. The scenario described an anhydrous ammonia leak that would not hurt anyone.
Did any of these agencies fail to inspect the plant when they should have?
It’s unclear. OSHA conducted the last full safety inspection of the plant in 1985. “Since then,” the Huffington Post reported, “regulators from other agencies have been inside the plant, but they looked only at certain aspects of plant operations, such as whether the facility was abiding by labeling rules when packaging its fertilizer for sale.”
You can view the full OSHA report here. Since 2011, OSHA has carried out inspections based in part on the level of risk that plants like the one in West reported to the EPA. Since the West plant had told the EPA there was no risk of a fire or an explosion, it wasn’t a priority. The plant also may have been exempt from some inspections as a small employer. An OSHA spokesman told ProPublica that the agency would be investigating whether the plant had such an exemption.
As the Huffington Post also noted, the most recent federal safety inspection of the plant, in 2011, resulted in a $5,250 fine for failing to draft a safety plan for pressured canisters of anhydrous ammonia, among other infractions. (There’s no evidence that anhydrous ammonia played any role in the explosion.)
Why was a plant that stored explosive chemicals allowed to be located so close to a school?
The EPA and other federal agencies actually don’t regulate how close such plants can be to schools, nursing homes and population centers. In Texas, the decision is left up to the local zoning authorities.
A Dallas Morning News investigation in 2008 found that Dallas County residents were “at risk of a toxic disaster because outdated and haphazard zoning has allowed homes, apartments and schools to be built within blocks — in some cases even across the street — from sites that use dangerous chemicals.”
Ed Sykora, who owns a Ford dealership in West and spent a dozen years on the school board and the city council, told the Huffington Post he couldn’t recall the town discussing whether it was a good idea to build houses and the school so close to the plant, which has been there since 1962. "The land was available out there that way; they could get sewer and other stuff that way without building a bunch of new lines," Sykora said. "There never was any thought about it. Maybe that was wrong."
Who’s investigating what happened?
OSHA, the EPA and the U.S. Chemical Safety Board are all investigating. But don’t hold your breath waiting for the Chemical Safety Board’s conclusions. The agency is still investigating a blast that killed seven workers at an oil refinery in Washington State three years ago, as well as the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion that killed 11 workers in 2010 and sent oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico for months.
A Center for Public Integrity investigation found that the number of accident reports completed by the Chemical Safety Board had declined dramatically since 2006. Daniel Horowitz, the agency’s managing director, said that the agency was stretched thin and had been asking for more investigators for years.
“Going forward, the owners and employees of Adair Grain and West Fertilizer Co. are working closely with investigating agencies,” Donald Adair, the plant’s owner and a West resident, said in a statement last Friday. “We are presenting all employees for interviews and will assist in the fact finding to whatever degree possible.”
Has Congress introduced any new regulation legislation?
Yes, but it would roll back regulations rather than strengthen them. Eleven representatives — one Democrat and 10 Republicans — sponsored a bill in February that would limit the EPA’s regulatory authority over fertilizer plants. It has been endorsed by industry groups such as the Fertilizer Institute. Kathy Mathers, a spokeswoman for the Fertilizer Institute, told ProPublica that the group supports the bill because it would more clearly spell out how the EPA can regulate the industry.
Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly stated two different figures for the number of people killed in the blast. It is at least 15 people.
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