While asking police to trace the source of the funds, a SC bench of justices Aftab Alam and RM Lodha refused to monitor the case further, saying the charge-sheet in what is known as the cash-for-vote scam has already been filed in the court
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Delhi Police to trace the source of money used to allegedly bribe some parliamentarians ahead of a confidence vote in Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament) in 2008, reports PTI.
While asking police to trace the source of the funds, a bench of justices Aftab Alam and RM Lodha, however, refused to monitor the case further, saying the charge-sheet in what is known as the cash-for-vote scam has already been filed in the court.
"The objective has been achieved. Everything should be left to concerned criminal court which is hearing the case. We were on a minor aspect. Who were involved and in what manner is to be decided by the court (trial court)," the bench said.
Former chief election commissioner JM Lyngdoh on whose plea the apex court had issued a slew of directions in the scam pleaded the matter should not be disposed of and the apex court keep the matter pending.
The court, however, was not convinced with the plea and said he can approach it at any stage when its intervention is required.
The Delhi Police also assured the bench that the probe will be completed within four weeks.
As soon as the court proceedings started, the bench remarked that Delhi Police has not found out the source of money and said the agency must focus on this aspect.
"You (Delhi Police) have not done what we said earlier.
Find out the source of money. You can do it, if you want to do it. You are capable of doing so," the bench said.
During the last hearing, the court had slammed the police for its "half-hearted and hopeless" probe and had asked the police to take the probe to its logical conclusion.
The Delhi Police, thereafter, had intensified its probe and filed the charge-sheet on 24th August in a Delhi court against six persons including Samajwadi Party's former general secretary Amar Singh, BJP leader LK Advani's former aide Sudheendra Kulkarni, two ex-BJP MPs Faggan Singh Kulaste and Mahabir Singh Bhagora along with Amar Singh's former aide Sanjeev Saxena and alleged BJP activist Suhail Hindustani.
While Mr Saxena and Mr Hindustani are in judicial custody, the trial court has issued summons to all the accused to be present before it on 6th September.
The police, in its charge-sheet, has accused Amar Singh and Sudheendra Kulkarni of 'conspiring' and 'masterminding' to bribe MPs to win their votes in the confidence motion after the Left withdrew outside support to government following differences on the Indo-US civil nuclear deal.
The case dates back to 22 July 2008 when some BJP MPs had waved wads of currency notes on the floor of Lok Sabha during the trust vote faced by the UPA-I government, claiming they were given the money to vote in favour of the Manmohan Singh government.
Everyday, thousands of home-seekers surf the Internet, looking for their dream home. How does the residential property market look through the lens of a property portal? Ganesh Vasudevan, vice president and business head of indiaproperty.com, gives an overview to Moneylife
Moneylife (ML): Let us start with how a property portal works. How do you collate data for your website?
Ganesh Vasudevan (GV): We get information from both the demand and the supply side. On the latter, we have the advertisers: individuals, agents and builders who post on the property they have to offer. On the demand side, we have the customers who surf the existing posts or even put up their own requirements. How effective a property portal is depends on how much handholding it does for the customer in identifying a property.
Indiaproperty.com provides video walkthroughs of new projects and details of new properties, along with interviews with the developer. We also research the neighbourhood and provide other relevant information. The idea is to help customers through the entire process.
ML: Since you monitor all these searches and data, can you outline some consumer trends?
GV: Well, I will say that trends are very region-specific. But we do see a shift occur from bigger to smaller apartments. Demand has shifted from 3BHK (three-bedrooms/hall & kitchen) units to 2BHK units. Even if customers do want a 3BHK flat; like those who have families with two kids; they are looking for flats with a smaller area of around 1,300 sq ft.
The reason is reduction in budget. Lending rates on home loans have gone up, and even for double-income households, new properties within city limits are becoming unaffordable, particularly in Mumbai and Delhi.
If I am booking a flat (costing) Rs50 lakh, I need to prepare a buffer of at least 10% of the amount, like Rs5 lakh for added charges and other expenses in the period between booking the flat and taking possession. With interest rates going up, my eligibility for a home loan at a fixed level of income reduces. So my aim will be to look for cheaper flats—either by reducing the apartment size or by settling for a location farther from the city.
ML: Location-wise, what kind of change have you observed?
GV: Affordability is the reason that people are moving to the outskirts. The so-called 'prime locations' are out of reach of most buyers. With improved transportation infrastructure in most metros, people can buy a home in the outskirts of a city and travel daily to their office.
ML: In Mumbai and NCR (National Capital Region), the property hotspots, we see that there is a slowdown. What do you think is the situation going to be like?
GV: Definitely there is a gap between demand and supply. Unsold inventory has been piling up—so in the medium term, we will see oversupply in some areas. Nationally, the NCR and Mumbai make up for more than 50% of new apartment supply in the country, and absorption of new properties in these markets has dropped sharply.
But the long-term picture is robust, simply because the demand for housing in urban areas far outstrips supply, and sooner or later, a person will buy a house. Many customers hence are mentally prepared for fluctuations in price and lending rates. In fact, we have not seen a drop in search volumes for properties in these cities and the number of fresh enquires for new properties is increasing. That shows that the demand has not waned.
ML: How have the builders responded to this present glut?
GV: Like I said, medium-sized units are now becoming more popular. Some builders who are overleveraged, resort to discount sales under pressure. But new technology has come up, which if adopted, will make a big difference. In south-east Asian countries, developers are using in situ casting and other such methods for fast development of multi-storeyed apartment blocks, bringing down construction costs at the unit level, which could lend to value-based pricing of projects.
ML: Is there a demand bracket which has seen very limited supply? For example, in Mumbai, we have a demand for studio apartments, which very few people offer.
GV: One such sector is affordable housing. The term doesn't mean simply low cost housing, but rather a no-frills unit both in the basic apartment and in amenities provided, so as to give a value for money alternative to buyers. These houses may be 2BHK flats with 1,000 sq ft area, priced between Rs15 lakh-Rs20 lakh. We are seeing this trend emerging in pockets near and around commercial and industrial centres. In the Delhi NCR region, you will see a lot of studio apartments which have come up along the Yamuna Expressway.
ML: Any tips for prospective home buyers who search on the Internet?
GV: While short-listing, look for developers or builders who have a credible track record. Search in portals that provide a wide width and scope in terms of options.
Also, try viewing the property location on Google Maps, so that you get a fair idea of the locality. Does it have schools, hospitals, parks and other amenities?And it is definitely advisable to take a second legal opinion on the property particularly—for used properties and land before signing the deal. In most cases, it is the bank which evaluates the property, but it is better to verify things yourself. Check that all required documents, clearances and records are in place. While negotiating the deal with the builder, ensure you understand the construction agreement terms clearly—particularly penalties for delayed payments and delayed delivery of the flat.
As the tussle between KM Abraham and the Securities and Exchange Board of India gets more bizarre, the finance ministry has gone one step further, saying it has received serious complaints against the former member of SEBI of abuse of power and corruption
The Abraham-SEBI saga is getting more bizarre day by day. In a very unusual move, the finance ministry has issued a strongly-worded statement saying that recent allegations made by Dr KM Abraham, a former whole-time member (WTM) of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), are defamatory, devoid of any truth and a complete distortion of the facts.
The ministry has said that it received complaints from several sources against Dr Abraham, ranging from abuse of power to corruption and the purchase of a flat at a concessional rate from an entity, which had benefitted from a deal on the sale of office space to the National Stock Exchange (NSE).
While the NSE is regulated by SEBI, Dr Abraham as WTM had jurisdiction to decide on many critical issues related to the exchange, the ministry said. NSE's purchase of land in Kohinoor City, at Kurla, in suburban Mumbai, is also an interesting story, that Moneylife had reported in August 2009. (Read, 'The Mystery of NSE's land acquisition at Kohinoor City'.)
In addition, the finance ministry said it received references on the alleged links between Dr Abraham, the NSE and the National Securities Depository Ltd (NSDL), on the matter of the role of SEBI in trying to protect NSDL in the initial public offers (IPO) scam, which led to a loss of Rs115 crore. (Read, 'Moneylife stand on SEBI-NSDL vindicated.)
According to the statement, since January 2010 it has also been receiving letters on the conduct of Dr Abraham. The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and the Department of Personnel & Training (DOPT) also referred a complaint received from a member of parliament (MP) to the finance ministry.
"All this while Dr Abraham was making efforts to continue as a whole-time member for another two years. Failing in his efforts, he tried to become the head of the National Institute of Securities Markets (NISM) on the basis of a recommendation made by CB Bhave, the previous chairman of SEBI, without submitting a panel of names as was required under the relevant rules. The ministry in a fair and transparent process advertised the posts for the selection of WTMs. The last date for the receipt of applications was 18 April 2011."
"Thereafter, Dr Abraham sent the letter to the prime minister (PM) alleging interference by the Ministry of Finance in the affairs of SEBI, in a host of cases, through the present chairman, SEBI (UK Sinha). The allegations made against the Union finance minister (Pranab Mukherjee) or his advisor (Omita Paul) that they put pressure on Shri Sinha to manage any case whatsoever, or that the Regulator's integrity has been undermined are false, vexatious and defamatory," the statement from the ministry said.
Mr Sinha reacted with an equally hard-hitting letter (read, 'The stink coming from SEBI-1') which Moneylife has reviewed. The letter exposes the murky goings-on in the past three years under CB Bhave, whose allies in the process were two key members of SEBI. Remember, that during that period, Mr Bhave had positioned himself as a champion of the small investor and a crusader against corporate malpractices. Moneylife alone has been reporting with persistence the real murky practices inside SEBI.
Dr Abraham's credibility, or the lack of it, has to be seen from his own utterances regarding Mr Sinha, the current SEBI chairman. After a conference on 4th May, Dr Abraham praised Mr Sinha. However, within a month he changed tack and wrote a letter to the PM accusing the income-tax department of harassing him over the purchase of an apartment in Mumbai (we will come to the details later).
Dr Abraham also accused finance ministry officials of interference in his work "with the knowledge of finance minister Pranab Mukherjee". And as it turned out, his sharpest and most specific allegations were reserved for UK Sinha, his new boss, for interfering in several high-profile cases!
According to the statement, the finance ministry has all along taken a dispassionate view in the complaints against Dr Abraham that have even been referred to it by MPs. It has refused to intervene in the cases where even Dr Abraham was alleged to have acted in a partisan manner and told the aggrieved parties that they should take recourse of the existing legal mechanisms to redress their grievances.
"The minister (Mr Muikherjee) has strictly respected the integrity and independence of SEBI. As the advisor of the finance minister has said, 'She did not know Mr Abraham and she had never spoken to him'. Equally, nobody from the ministry, much less the finance minister, has ever tried to in any way to interfere with any case pending with SEBI at any level," the finance ministry said.
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