Citizens' Issues
Maharashtra police never sought Speaker’s permission to prosecute MLAs

Over the past 10 years, Maharashtra and Mumbai police never applied for any permission from the Speaker to prosecute any MLAs for any offence, reveals an RTI

Investigative agencies in Maharashtra have to seek permission of the Speaker if it wants to prosecute any member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) for an offence. It has come to notice now that over the past 10 years, neither Maharashtra nor Mumbai police have ever applied for permission from the Speaker to prosecute an MLA! This information has been revealed in a reply to a query filed by Right to Information (RTI) activist Anil Galgali.


As per media reports, former commissioner Dr Satyapal Singh had announced that the Mumbai Police has sought permission from the Speaker to prosecute MLA and former minister of state for home, Kripashankar Singh in a disproportionate assets case filed some time back. However, according to the RTI reply, received by Galgali, there was no such correspondence in this case.


Galgali said many times, police claims that they are waiting for a reply from the Speaker on their application and once it is received, they would proceed with prosecution of public representatives.


In his RTI application, Galgali requested the Speaker’s office to provide info about the number of cases in which the police has sought permission to prosecute a public representative.


In the reply to the query, Umesh Shinde, desk officer at the Maharashtra Legislative Secretariat informed that – “Nil - Permissions were sought.” Galgali also sought to know what kind of proposals for sanctions to prosecute are needed to be sent to the Speaker, and which cases do not require permission of Speaker to prosecute any MLA. In the reply to this query also was given as “Nil.”


This is contrary to claims often made by police about prosecuting MLAs.


Anil Galgali had sought information on the same subject from Mumbai and Maharashtra Police also. In reply to the query, ACP (Coordination), Mumbai Police said that they have transferred and referred the query to Maharashtra Legislative Secretariat. On behalf of Maharashtra Police, its Public Information Officer DD Phadke replied that they have no records of the information sought. It is significant to note here that as per a survey by an NGO almost 146 MLA's & 26 MP's have criminal records in Maharashtra.


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Why does the aviation industry in India indulge in price wars?

Why Indian carriers are indulging in price wars, instead of considering the options of reductions in flight or even cancelling those that are loss making sectors?

Once again, domestic airlines in India have gone into a price war on offering economic and attractive prices to air travellers. According to information available, the Director General of Civil Aviation confirms that the air traffic grew by a 4.43% in 2012-13 and the scheduled airlines carried 61.42 million passengers, compared to 58.81 million in 2011-12, though during 2010-11 they carried 60.66 million.


Moneylife carried a detailed story on the fare price war that all the domestic carriers offered last month, during which time, Air Costa quietly began to work in and out of Vijayawada, reaching other nearby two-tier cities. It must be noted that these airlines suffered both rising fuel prices and sharp depreciation of the rupee.


When the price war broke out on domestic fares, it was SpiceJet, which set the rules, and all others followed. While full details of the offer have not been made public, in terms of sales thus obtained through slashed prices, it may be safely presumed that the response was overwhelming.


So much so, that, once again, SpiceJet and Indigo have offered low fares based on 30, 60 and 90 days advance purchase, also known as "apex fares".

This has been done to ensure that they have 100% passenger load during the peak summer season, covering April to September, with varying discounts between 10% and 35% from the normal fare. It must be borne in mind that when such low fares are offered, these are always conditional. SpiceJet calls their offer as Super Holi Sale, which started on 12th and will close on 16th March! Readers of Moneylife, who are interested in these special deals, would do well to contact their travel agent, so as not to miss this opportunity.


It may be recalled that the domestic airlines through their Federation have petitioned to the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) that Air Asia should not be given the licence to operate as this will cause immense harm to the existing industry in the country, leading to further losses. Public hearing and various "objections" on this issue have also been dealt with by the DGCA. In fact, it is now reported that, Aviation Secretary, Ashok Lavasa in the ministry is reported to have stated that they would not any airline from starting operations in the country based on objections from existing airlines!


In other words, they would rather go by the book on well laid policy guidelines on these matters!


In a separate development, SpiceJet is reported to have finalized their new set of orders to buy 42 Boeing B 737 Max planes at an estimated cost of $4.4 billion and deliveries are expected to commence from 2018 onwards. According to S Narayanan, chief financial officer, this deal includes swapping of existing orders for 12 Boeing 737 planes, and they expect to fund this acquisition by selling and leasing backing the planes. It is also reported that these Max planes have the potential to save the airline at least 14% in fuel costs.


Sanjiv Kapoor, chief operating officer of SpiceJet appears to have stated, according to the media, that a fresh route plan, starting from 30th March is expected to be announced, resulting in an estimated 20% increase in productivity.


All these are encouraging to note, while, what is depressing to read is the reported record loss of about Rs1,186 crore in 2013-14, which is equal to the combined loss incurred between 2007 and 2013, according to the consulting firm Capa, which again has been reported in the media. One, therefore, wonders why, in such a case, indulge in price wars, instead of considering the options of reductions in flight or even cancelling those that are loss making sectors?


In the next few weeks, chances are Air Asia will begin to operate, whether other domestic carriers like it or not!


So, when the issue of "objections" by other domestic airlines was brought to the notice of Tony Fernandez, group CEO of Air Asia, he is reported to have stated that "the only way to win is to beat me in better produce and price; not through protection and courts. Let the consumers decide".


The only suggestion that the writer can make to Air Asia is to beat all the domestic airline operators by offering one additional service and that of pick up and delivery of passengers by Air Asia coaches! A study of taxi fares to and from airports would reveal that this charge is almost 30% to 40% of the airline ticket! In the past, passengers could use the domestic bus service to and from airport, at nominal rates, and that was run by retired ex-service men. Why and when they stopped is not known, but, today, cab fares are exorbitant and sometimes unsafe. For a few dollars more, Air Asia can take care of this need!


(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also 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.)


World Finance, the high-cost lender, under lens

The investigation by US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau follows a ProPublica story that detailed the company’s lending practices

World Acceptance Corp., one of the largest high-cost installment lenders in the United States, disclosed today that it is the target of an investigation by the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

World, which does business as World Finance, was the subject of an investigation by ProPublica and Marketplace last May. Our story showed how the company's loans are deceptively expensive and often trap borrowers in a cycle of debt. World's business hinges on convincing low-income borrowers to renew their loans over and over again, a practice that can radically increase the amount of interest they pay. The company also packages nearly useless insurance products with its loans in many states, allowing it to skirt state interest rate caps, our investigation found. World boasts more than 800,000 customers.

According to World's disclosure, the CFPB is investigating whether the company is breaking federal laws in how it markets and offers its loans. The CFPB has made a Civil Investigative Demand that requires World to produce documents and answer a list of questions, the company said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

"The Company believes its marketing and lending practices are lawful," the statement concluded.

Last July, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., citing ProPublica's story, pressed a top official from the CFPB during a Senate committee hearing on what the CFPB might do to address the company's practices.

The CFPB, which was created by the 2010 financial reform bill, has broad authority over non-bank lenders like World that in the past had minimal federal oversight. Last November, the bureau took its first enforcement action against a high-cost lender, fining payday lender Cash America $5 million for robo-signing documents in debt collection lawsuits and overcharging service members and their families. The company also paid $14 million in refunds to consumers.




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