|E D I T O R I A L
P A G E
Monday, December 27, 1999
HC shows the door to peoples
may focus on lapses in Amritsar, Delhi
Dr Besant and the Congress
A systems failure
HIJACKERS have no friendly government. Even those promoting and exporting terrorism are extremely wary of tolerating hijacking or sheltering the criminals. This should hopefully help in resolving the ongoing drama at Kandahar where an Indian Airlines Airbus has been forcibly taken. Also, hopefully the Indian government should be more organised at this stage of negotiation with the violent men still holding more than 150 passengers as hostages. From Friday evening when the plane began its unchartered flight and for much of Saturday the government spoke in different voices and was struggling to put together a coherent package. The junior Civil Aviation Minister was only an extreme case. His seniors dash to Dubai was an empty gesture. And the talk of not conceding the demands of the cowardly hijackers was an impulsive reaction. It sent wrong signals to pathological hawks who would like to strike ultra-patriotic posture at the risk of others lives. As experience shows, freeing the hostages is the top priority and any demand to stage an Entebbe (when Israeli commandos flew to Uganda to successfully overpower hijackers) should be firmly dismissed as a dangerous bravado. With External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh taking command, sobriety and diplomatic finesse should be in command. It is time to end the confused response of the initial hours with the Crisis Management Group groping in the dark and fumbling at every step. Intelligence and security lapses were compounded by a systems failure. It showed the country, which is rocked by terrorist violence, in bad light. As one analyst has said, hijacking should have been anticipated and a plane taking off from Kathmandu was an automatic choice. Nepals capital city is teeming with terrorists and saboteurs and the security at the airport is virtually non-existent. As a front page report in this newspaper suggested, it is a good idea to set up a second cordon of security for Indian planes at Kathmandu.
Every hour is crucial
during the difficulty phase of talks with the armed men
inside the plane. But recent events should help resolve
the crisis in a peaceful way and very early too. The
United Nations imposed total sanctions on Afghanistan on
November 14 last. And the country has asked for UN
intervention and gladly allowed a team to land and begin
the delicate process, indicating that it wants to
re-establish ties with the world body. Mr Jaswant Singh
has contacted an Afghan Minister and must have sought his
help to get the hostages released. The choice of Kandahar
is worrying; it is the fortified headquarters of both
Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. The hijacking has posed
a formidable challenge to the Talibans untested
diplomatic skills. Pakistan made its thinking clear by
first refusing landing permission for the plane and later
denouncing the act itself, although in a muted tone.
Given the intense international pressure on the military
regime, the country has little manoeuvrability other than
to behave as a law-abiding government. These are hopes
and converting them into positive factors needs a
sure-footed diplomatic touch. It is here that the entry
of Mr Jaswant Singh and his initial reluctance to go
public with his information are of great significance.
Crimes against humanity
EVEN if the Punjab Health Department were to issue a general alert about the possible sale of spurious medicines and life-saving drugs in the state, it would be of little help to the authorities in identifying and destroying the fake medicines being sold as genuine over the counter at most chemist shops. The report on the seizure of huge stocks of bogus medicines by the Delhi Police mentions Punjab and Uttar Pradesh as the main distribution centres of life-threatening drugs. However, there is no reason to presume that the racketeers would overlook the potential of increasing the volume of their profit by flooding the markets in Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir with their home-grown stocks of poison carrying the labels of established drug firms. The more disturbing part of the story is that even a nationwide alert may not help the authorities in identifying and destroying the spurious stocks. Why? Because there are only two laboratories in the country, in Calcutta and Ghaziabad, where drugs are sent for testing. But the tests conducted at even these laboratories indicate only the presence of the active ingredients in the suspect stocks. The tests do not identify the impurities or the contaminants in the drugs. In short, even if a drug carries a poisonous substance or substances, the test gives it a certificate of good health if it contains just the active ingredients which it is supposed to have. Given the scale of the business of fake drugs unearthed by the Delhi Police, the Central and state health authorities should give serious thought to the need for creating a network of drug testing laboratories across the country. These laboratories should have equipment not only for identifying the active ingredients but also both harmful and harmless adulterants in the samples given for testing. The laboratories should also conduct periodic tests on random samples of medicines and drugs which may be picked up from any neighbourhood chemist, public and private health care centres and hospitals.
Another aspect which requires urgent attention is the quantum of punishment prescribed by law for those found guilty of indulging in what are without doubt, crimes against humanity. The suspects in the present case have been booked under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act which merely prescribes a fine or a jail term of up to five years. In other words those nabbed by the police, including a bogus doctor, after painstaking investigations, have only to wait for five years, that too if found guilty. Thereafter, they would be free to resume their business of pedalling death in the form of medicines and life saving drugs, which in the present case was worth Rs 1 crore, if not more, according to a rough estimate of the market value of the spurious drugs recovered from the racketeers.
It is evident that the
law-makers have not bothered to apply their minds to the
ramifications of the crime of adulterating food,
medicines, cosmetics and even liquor, with unwholesome
substances, on human health. For a journalist to report a
hooch tragedy or a case of death due to food-poisoning or
intake of spurious medicines is part of his day in
office. But shouldnt the state set a different goal
for itself since it claims to be committed to the welfare
of the people? It would amount to stating the obvious to
say that most crimes fall in two categories
intentional and unintentional. Within the intentional
category is the crime committed for settling a personal
score or in which a person or a group of persons is the
prime target of the criminal. Then there is the crime
which is committed with the limited objective of making
money by putting in the market products which have the
potential to maim of even endanger human lives.
Strangely, the law recommends the death sentence for the
act of murder, but only five years in jail or a fine for
the act deliberately indulging in an act or acts which
may result in mass deaths. The law must be change. The
sooner it is done the better it would be for civilised
society. Creating a new category of crimes against
humanity, with life imprisonment as the minimum and
the death sentence as the maximum punishment, is one
obvious option for making less attractive the business of
adulterating articles of human consumption (or even
external use) with life-threatening substances. If such a
law were to be put into place, it would merely reflect
the belated will of the state to give to the perpetrators
of crimes against humanity their just desserts.
TREATMENT OF PRISONERS
WHAT should constitute a crime and why a criminal should be punished have defied universally acceptable answers. It is not a crime to kill thousands in an undeclared war in Iraq, Kosovo or Chechenya. Yet a 13-year-old boy spent five days in a US jail for writing a scary story about killing classmates. It has generally been a capital offence to kill the sovereign or to try to overthrow him. Yet it is not always so when an overthrown sovereign is killed by the new ruler. On the question of why a crime should invite punishment, the agreement is even less. There are various theories ranging from retribution, reparation and deterrence to exclusion and reformation. In spite of the fact that states, jurists and judges have not fully agreed on any of these while formulating a penal code, they have always decreed and applied punishment.
It is recognised that all systems of punishment have a distinct possibility of error. In Cheshire, England, in 1983, a man named Peter Reyn-Bardt confessed to murdering his wife 23 years earlier when confronted with a skull with hair, brain-tissue and an eyeball, that was found in a peat bog near Peters house. Just before the case was sent for trial, the archaeologists at Oxford University came up with the startling revelation that the skull was mummified part of a woman who had died more than 1600 years ago. In various countries, persons who had been awarded the capital punishment were subsequently found to be innocent, in some cases after the sentence had been carried out. On the other hand, in India, a notorious dacoit who was never prosecuted because of procedural wrangles ended up becoming a law maker.
Recognising this dilemma, a humanitarian approach towards the undertrials and convicts had been gaining ground during the last two hundred years. Till late eighteenth century, prison sentences were rare and the prisons held only debtors, prisoners awaiting trial and convicts awaiting execution or transportation. Even execution was a subject of creative thinking and forms like boiling and quartering were common even in enlightened countries like Britain. Transportation to the colonies in America and later to Australia evolved apparently as a humanitarian measure but in reality as a measure to force people to go to these uninviting places for settlement. In many cases, the judge offered transportation as an alternative to capital punishment. Daniel Defoes Moll Flanders offers a graphic account of such working of the British criminal law enforcement during the period called Enlightenment.
As long prison sentences became an accepted mode of punishment, philosophers stepped in. Jeremy Bentham designed his Panopticon, which would be a transparent circular prison at the centre of which the supervisors lived and kept a continuous watch on the activities of prisoners in the surrounding rings. Others suggested the separate approach where each prisoner was kept isolated from other and had to work in that situation. The silent approach demanded that while prisoners worked in a group, all verbal communication was forbidden. These approaches were actually tried out in US prisons. Putting on shakles, subjecting to hard labour and flogging were other forms of disciplinary measures tried in various countries.
Late 18th and early 19th century saw recommendations for prison reforms in various countries. In 1773, John Howard, on taking charge as High Sheriff of Bedfordshire, noticed that jailors were not salaried officers but depended on fees from prisoners. As a result some prisoners were not released even on acquittal by courts because they could not pay their fees. Efforts of Howard resulted in the House of Commons passing a law abolishing these fees in 1774. Elizabeth Fry at the beginning of 19th century recommended for Newgate Prison that there should be separation of the sexes and women prisoners should be supervised by female staff. Edward Lewis Lawes, who was warden in 1920 of Sing Sing State Prison in USA, required all inmates to wear identical uniforms to eliminate distinctions based on the status of the individual outside the prison.
Post Second World War society saw the emergence of humanitarianism with its emphasis on social and psychological causes of crime and the need for reform and rehabilitation of convicts. Several countries abolished death penalty. Life imprisonment ceased to be for life and a liberal parole regimen was gradually introduced. However, it appears that the pendulum swung too far. Visible signs of jail reform, which included introduction of entertainment in the form of radio and TV and improved food and hygiene in some prisons particularly in Europe and USA started causing a reaction among the conservative segments. Murmurs were heard that prisons had become too lavish and that there would be many who would rather be in the prison than on the streets. Here, the reformer and the critic missed an important point each.
In any sane society, the question would not be whether one would like to be in the prison or on the streets. The question would be why one should be in either of these two situations. These have to seen not as comparable alternatives but as two evils which have to be tolerated and minimised till these can be eliminated. What the reformers missed was that crime has its origins mainly in the psyche of man and not in his physical situation. The reforms focused on the physical needs of the prisoners and not so much on the psychological cure and rehabilitation.
These two errors started showing their effect even before the reforms showed any impact in most of the countries. The conditions in many prisons are dismal even today while the cry for harsher treatment of convicts is already gaining pitch. Flogging by cat-o-nine-tails, was ruled only in 1992 in Barbados as inhuman and degrading. Caning, which is administered by a karate expert wielding a rattan cane is still a legal punishment in Singapore. In China, prisoners are shackled for long periods and torture includes suspension by arms and feet. In 1995, a federal judge in the USA found in a prison in California that naked men were confined in tiny metal cages during extreme cold weather while the wrists and ankles of some were tied together for up to 19 hours at a stretch. In Russia, the prevalence of tuberculosis among prisoners was found to be 40 times higher than the general population. In Lagos alone, more than 500 prisoners died during 1995. The figure was more than 800 for Kenya, that is, one out of every 50 prisoners. It was found that in some of prisons of EI Salvador, there was so much overcrowding that prisoners were forced to sleep in a sitting position.
The situation regarding overcrowding kept on getting worse due to increasing prison populations. Russia and USA had continuously rising prison populations and held more than 550 prisoners per 100,000 population, a figure higher than that for any other country in the world. The USA was also among the frontrunners of the countries, which awarded death penalty with more than 3000, including juveniles, waiting on the death rows. China, of course, led the world on this score. With offences like bicycle theft and political dissent being on the list of capital offences, it is no wonder that close to 2000 prisoners are executed in that country every year.
Given this situation, it is clear that treatment of prisoners is far from humanitarian barring a few pockets here and there. Thus, while the reformers are still struggling with their task, the cry against the so-called comfort being given to prisoners is taking over the field once again. The developments all-over the world during the last few years are alarming.
Let us first consider capital punishment. In Bangladesh, in 1995, buying and selling of women and children became a capital offence. During the same year New York in USA adopted death penalty. In Japan, after a three-year moratorium, several persons were executed in 1994. South Africa has suspended the death penalty in 1990 but resumed it in 1994. (It was declared unconstitutional by a court in 1995). In India, there has been a move to impose death penalty for convicted rapists. Increasing number of countries are adding drug-related crimes to the list of capital offences.
The situation has worsened for other convicts also. The system of chain gangs, where prisoners are tied together by iron chains while they are made to work on road construction projects is being followed by some American states with Alabama re-adopting it in 1995. The introduction of Three-Strikes laws in some states of USA, under which three convictions for felonies would result in a life-sentence has raised apprehensions that prison populations in USA many increase three-fold during the next few years. Iraq recently started the punishment of branding with hot iron and amputation of hands, feet and ears with the pictures of the condition of prisoners before and after this punishment being shown on state television.
These few examples show the success of the forces calling for harsher treatment of the offenders. The human race refuses to learn from history. Even in barbaric times, crime rates were high; even in very poor countries, crime rates can be low. USA, the rich country, had a prison population of 1.8 million in 1998, that is, one out of 150 Americans. That proportion is expected to worsen considerably in the near future. Yet, the U.S. criminal law is becoming cynically harsher every day. In many States of that country, youngsters need curfew passes to go out of their homes during late evening. This month, Meshelle Locke, a 16-year-old girl, as a joke, made a gun with her thumb and index finger and said bang to a fellow student in the classroom. She was suspended from school and barely escaped arrest by the police officers who had visited her following this incident. This is part of the zero-tolerance approach which is being pushed across USA by many including the President.
It will not be long
before other countries will follow these examples. While
a debate rages in many countries against abortion and in
favour of the rights of the unborn, the plight of the
living but wayward find less favour. After all, the
rationality of human beings includes the capacity to be
Govt seeks to please everyone
THE Shiv Sena seems to have learnt the legislative ropes after five years in office. Politically too they have matured as witnessed by the manner in which they have been holding the Congress (I)-NCP Government to ransom.
On the first day of the Maharashtra Assemblys winter session at Nagpur the Sena-BJP opposition wrested an assurance from the Home Minister, Mr Chhagan Bhujbal, that unlicensed loudspeakers in mosques would be removed immediately. The assurance would, on the face of it, annoy Muslim fundamentalists, who had just begun putting aside their distrust of the Congress since the Babri Masjid demolition eight years ago.
The anniversary of the demolition had witnessed communal riots in Nandurbar in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra. The Sena stated in the Assembly that loudspeakers in several mosques in that town were seen blaring communal hatred and highly investigative slogans. The Minister met the former Chief Minister, Narayan Ranes call for removal of all loudspeakers from mosques, half-way.
Before the Shiv Sena government came into existence, Sena chief Bal Thackeray had taken violent offence at a ramshackle mosque behind his very house in Bandra to the microphone blaring the call for prayer five times a day. The protests were muted for five years. The blaring continues in the same ramshackle mosque right behind Thackerays bungalow.
Bhujbal himself put the entire blame for the Nandurbar riots on the Shiv Sena, which held a maha aarati at the town on December 6, leading to communal tension, which soon burst out into riots. As Bhujbal pointed out, the Sena had not conducted a single maha aarati all the five years the Sena was in office. Inside the Assembly, the Sena alleged that the riots were clearly the failure on the part of the Democratic Front Government to maintain law and order.
Outside the Assembly, earlier, the same Sena had alleged that a spate of unrelated murders of lonely elderly people in their flats in Mumbai city connoted the breakdown of law and order under Congress rule. The victims were all innocent householders, while during Sena-BJP rule, all encounter deaths involved only criminals and members of various organised gangs in Mumbai.
Frequent clashes between members of the gangs led by Arun Gawli, Bhai Thakur, Ashwin Naik and Chhota Shakeel continued despite the detention of the gang leaders. There were 41 such encounter deaths in 1998 in Mumbai city, six in Thane and three in New Mumbai, which together form Greater Mumbai.
The police deny that there is a rise in the crime rate in Mumbai despite half-a-dozen murders of elderly, defenceless persons.
The Congress-NCP government has taken two significant decisions, which have been widely welcomed. The first is its decision to introduce the teaching of English in all schools and the withdrawal of 60 out of the 226 policemen guarding Bal Thackeray round the clock. In fact, Thackerays residence at Bandra East looks like a fortress under siege, with gun-wielding commandos clustered at strategic corners. The entire pavement on the main road outside his house has been taken over by the police for tinshed barracks for off-duty policemen on one side and several huge vehicles for the use of policemen parked on the other pavement.
Residents in the locality had been complaining about the public nuisance, particularly the occupation of the pavements for more than five years. The cutback in Thackerays cover has been welcomed by the residents of the area, which has huge colonies of flats for writers, architects, scientists and journalists who live in large numbers in the vicinity.
The other widely welcomed decision is the compulsory teaching of English from Standard I. Two or more generations had grown up with scanty knowledge of English thanks to the Shiv Sena and other orthodox elements in society insisting on discouraging English medium schools. Sena leaders while insisting on Marathi-medium schools saw to it that their own children and grandchildren were sent to the most reputed English medium schools.
In the age of information explosion, it has been realised that Maharashtrian youth would get left behind if they do not equip themselves well with the English language.
The Education Minister, Ramkrishna More, the architect of the new policy, has stressed the fact that there will be no change in the existing education policy and that the stress on English education does not connote any disrespect to Marathi.
The government, however, is yet to apply its mind to several other pressing problems, particularly of Mumbai city. While in the opposition, the Congress (I) had been most vociferous in denouncing the construction of 55 flyovers in the city, alleging large-scale corruption and questioning the utility of so many roadways.
The new Chief Minister, Mr Vilasrao Deshmukh, himself gladly inaugurated three of the newly constructed flyovers in the first week of December on the ground that they have now come into existence and that there was no point in cribbing about them.
The growing pollution in Mumbai city is a menace and the government seems to be doing little to control it or prevent it. As many as 250 new cars come on to the roads every day, thanks to the aggressive marketing by manufacturers of new models. The city has just 1600 kms of roads. They carry a load of 500 vehicles per kilometre and there are about 1.2 million vehicles in the city.
Checking of vehicles for pollution control is half-hearted and the stipulation that petrol would be sold only on production of a pollution under control certificate from a government-authorised agency has become a farce since fake certificates are easily available.
With so many cars on the road, and no restrictions on the blaring of horns or the use of multi-toned horns (despite a ban on their use under the Motor Vehicles Act), the noise pollution is unbearable in the city.
The government, on the other hand, is going overboard to please the commercial lobby and market forces. It cut a ridiculous figure when it approached the Bombay High Court on a private petition to relax the ban on use of loudspeakers for the millennium celebrations on December 31, 1999. The Chief Justice himself sat on a division bench to dispose of a notice of motion moved by the government, to permit it relax an earlier High Court order restricting the use of loudspeakers till 10 p.m. on normal days and till 11.30 p.m. on festive occasions.
The fact that both the government and the High Court over-looked the fact that the New Millennium Eve is exactly a year later, on December 31, 2000, has shocked environmentalists and the saner elements in society. The 1997 rule restricting the use of loudspeakers till 11.30 p.m. is in conformity with the Union Governments norms on controlling noise pollution.
businessmen and their agents have been loudly endorsing
the demand for the celebration of the New
Millennium at the end of this month, with some
organisations taking the lead in mass entertainment
programmes at several places along Mumbais
seafront, beaches and hotels. They are all bound to reap
a rich harvest and if the kill is good, the festivities
would be repeated a year later when the New Millennium
THE country is justifiably proud over the successful launch of its indigenously developed intermediate range ballistic missile Prithvi and as experts have rightly pointed out, it shows that India is now on a par with advanced nations and has mastered the critical and complex re-entry technology.
The Congress (I), too, is not lagging behind in re-entry technology and its chief spokesman, Mr Ajit Jogi, recently addressed a crowded press conference in New Delhi.
We want to go on record as saying that the Congress (I) has almost caught up with India in re-entry technology, he said. In the early 1970s, the short-range Y.B. Chavan missile was launched, after being blasted off for hobnobbing with the opposition and going to the press with anti-Indira Gandhi statements, but within a short time, it recanted and sought honourable re-entry into the party fold with a face saving formula which involved claiming that, in fact, en-entry was home-coming.
Mr Jogi continued: But our technology had so far advanced and proven that automatic re-entry was made virtually impossible and the Y.B. Chavan missile was subjected to every possible humiliation and was made to cool its third-stage heels in the ante-room of Indira Gandhis official residence for over five months. Even then, re-entry was a maddeningly slow process and cruel burnout and compared to it, Prithvis en-entry into the earths atmosphere was quick and smooth. This only shows that Congress (I)s re-entry technology is way ahead.
Mr Jogi said, The Congress (I) working committee has never rested on its laurels and it is constantly updating its re-entry technology. In the late 1980s, two medium range missiles, Nandini Satpathi Mark I and Tarkeshwari Sinha, Mark II, seeing that Congress (I) electoral fortunes were on the upswing and that it was in a comeback to power mode, sought re-entry into the party which they had left earlier because they had been denied party tickets and cabinet berths. Our re-entry technology was so sophisticated, as compared to the 1980s, that these two were made to sign public statements affirming unflinching loyalty to the party president and the Prime Minister, grovel before the PMs private secretary for an appointment and beg her forgiveness for straying from the party fold and even then, the re-entry was a slow burnout. Just as Satpathi and Sinha were becoming hysterical over the high commands cool attitude, retro rockets were fired at T minus 36 seconds after lift-off and fourth stage engines were fired for not denouncing the opposition that re-entry into Congress (I) was effected.
What about the Ghani Khan Chaudhury land-to-land unguided missile that was seeking re-entry into the Congress (I) from Malda in West Bengal for the past five years? a newsman asked.
Mr Jogi responded: In the case of the missile youve referred to, Im glad to say that the Congress (I) has mastered a parallel, but similar technology.
Is it also called re-entry technology?, another newsman asked.
HC shows the door to peoples panel
IMPOSING, for all intents and purposes, a judicial ban on the so-called Peoples Commission set up last year amidst much fanfare and media hype, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has struck a resounding blow for the sanctity of judicial and State processes in the cause of human rights.
The setting up and projecting of the Peoples Commission as a parallel judicial body, declared the court last week on December 20, which also performs the functions of the State regarding receipt of complaints of police excesses and investigation into them, if left unchecked, would encourage setting up of similar commissions by other individuals or groups of individuals and thereby undermine the public peace, safety and tranquillity of society.
Restraining the Commission from holding any public sitting or summoning officers of the government and other agencies to appear before it, the court denounced this effort to devise a parallel machinery and procedure for investigation and trial of alleged human rights violations in Punjab as nothing but an affront to the system envisaged by the Constitution of India.
Neither any functionary of the State nor any private individual, said the court, expounding the principle with exactitude, can have the right to arrogate unto itself the power to adjudicate and decide disputes, except when permitted by law enacted by Parliament or the State legislature.
Constituted by the self-styled Committee for Coordination of Disappearances in Punjab (CCDP), the Peoples Commission is a totally extra-legal body consisting of three retired High Court Judges Mr Justice D.S. Tewatia of native hue, Mr Justice H. Suresh of the Bombay High Court and Mr Justice Jaspal Singh of the High Court of Delhi.
Accepting as they did the CCDPs private invitation to sit publicly as a judicial body despite their retirement, summoning police officers, conducting enquiries and holding trials former Judges, like rebels, holding kangaroo courts all the three lay themselves open to the charge of grave impropriety, if not outright contempt of court.
The December 20 verdict gives them their just deserts.
We...refrain from making any observations, ruled Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice Amar Dutt (sitting Judges properly so called), on the propriety of the persons who at one time held high constitutional office to take up assignment, which according to the petitioners, directly impinges upon the authority of the Constitution.
In our opinion (they add), it is for the holders of such constitutional office to decide whether, after having taken oath to maintain and preserve the Constitution and its institutions, it will be appropriate for them to associate themselves with the activities which undermine the authority of the State established by law.
Though couched in chaste legal language, the message, I am sure, will not be lost.
Looking at the matter from another angle, the verdict significantly rejects the CCDPs claim that the establishment and work of the Peoples Commission derives legitimacy from the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed in Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution.
It is not possible to encourage, holds the Division Bench, a private initiative under Article 19 which ultimately affects the constitutional guarantee under Article 21 (right to life and personal liberty). Where two fundamental rights come into conflict (it states) and one is sought to be extended to the extreme...at the expense of the other, the court will be slow to recognise such an extension.
That is an extremely important statement, one that can serve as a point of departure for the further evolution of the jurisprudence of human rights, and it is only to be regretted that the court has stopped at the statement and elaborated no further.
For almost 35 to 40 years the High Courts and the Supreme Court in India struggled to achieve the right balance between Part III of the Constitution (fundamental rights) and Part IV (directive principles of State policy). The intellectual fatigue resulting from that struggle has prevented the judiciary from essaying likewise to balance the various fundamental rights amongst themselves.
The emotional rhetoric through the medium of which the human rights debate is inevitably conducted has also contributed to the blurring of judicial sights in this regard.
Whichever way one looks at it, I wrote in this column on August 31, 1998, a few days before the matter was taken up by the High Court, the Peoples Commission is an affront to justice, if not a travesty of it.
Even as India battles
gloomily with terrorism in Kashmir and beyond, I share
the satisfaction of being vindicated with millions of my
compatriots in Punjab, who have seen terrorism at first
hand and hope and pray that it will never return again.
Probe may focus on lapses in Amritsar, Delhi
AS the postmortem begins on the latest incidence of hijacking, the security lapse at the Kathmandu airport is being repeatedly focused on. But one is not sure whether these hijack of the plane together with the lapse would have some affect on the well planned celebrations in Nepal, scheduled to take off next week to mark the 55th birthday celebrations of King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev of Nepal. In fact the Nepalese ambassador to India, Dr Bhekh B Thapa is also hosting a reception in New Delhi, on December 28 evening on the occasion of the kings birthday. And when contacted the deputy chief of the Nepalese Mission here, Mr M.K. Bhattarai, had this to say on the hijack and the aftermath: the Nepalese Cabinet held an emergency meeting yesterday (December 24) and have condemned the hijacking of the IA plane and also ordered a fresh round of investigations ...
His reaction to the allegations of poor security arrangements at Kathmandus Tribhuvan International Airport Why come to these conclusions when I am telling you that the government has set up an investigation committee and are awaiting its report.
Meanwhile, its been impossible to get in touch with the Secretary, Civil Aviation (GOI) Mr Ravindra Gupta. He has been in office the whole of Friday Saturday night, holding a series of meetings with the Crisis Management Group (CMG) and though no heads have rolled till the time of filing this column (Saturday noon) but it is said that once the crisis stage gets over, investigations are likely to pinpoint at some lapses at Amritsars Raja Sansi airport and also here, in the capital, when anxious relatives could not get basic information at the IA counters.
Xmas celebration low key?
Christmas celebrations were low key in many Christian families here. In fact on Christmas morning when I contacted John Dayal, I was told that he, along with Kamal Mitra Chenoy, has left for Ahwa in Dangs district (Gujarat), for there could be further build-up of the communal tension. Remember last year anti-Christian riots took place in this district. And this time too there is apprehension of a flare-up after the confirmation of the news that shilanyas took place and members of the Hindu Jagran Manch had planned to hold functions in certain temples around the same time when morning mass would be conducted in churches. Though the state machinery has given all possible assurances but the times we are living in, assurances are seldom taken seriously because the so-called state machinery is often swayed by vested political interests of those manning the very machinery.
Meanwhile, the other news is that the Prime Minister had cancelled all celebrations lined up for his birthday (December 25) in view of the hijacking. And when I contacted his astrologer Gita Sen whether any special havan was organised she came up with a definite no. Nobody from his household or family had contacted me but I am told that puja was conducted in his home by the family members ....regarding the predictions for him, they remain unchanged. As soon as he had become the Prime Minister I had predicted that he would be in office for three years, after which poor health would cause problems and he may have to think in terms of finding a substitute. Regarding this coalition setup it would continue without any hurdles till he is the Prime Minister....
Last week I attended two more iftars at Rashtrapati Bhavan hosted by the President on December 20 evening and the one hosted by Congress President Sonia Gandhi on the rescheduled date, December 23. A marked difference between the two. The one at Rashtrapati Bhavan was because of obvious reasons marked by tight security and formalities but the one hosted by Sonia Gandhi was relaxed and very well attended. Envoys from the majority of the Middle Eastern countries, Delhis top socialites, the majority of Congressmen from in and out of Delhi, business executives and many from the walled city were present. And Sonia Gandhi could be seen going around and talking to the guests. And what left me impressed was her greying hair that is, not camouflaged by dyes. Anyway, let me not get distracted and move ahead to the food spread. It was indeed excellent, and when I asked Jairam Ramesh whether the arrangements for the annual iftars were manned by a group of Congressmen he said Imran Kidwai was solely in charge of all the arrangements. I strongly suggest that Rashtrapati Bhavan should borrow his services for its future dos.
Focus on Udham Singh
Sahmat is all set to
start the new year with focus on Udham Singh, who at the
age of 41 years was hanged by the British in 1940 for
killing Michael ODwyer in London, to avenge the
Jallianwala Bagh massacre. In fact, on December 27 the
11th Safdar Hashmi Memorial lecture will be delivered by
the Director of the Bhai Veer Singh Sadan, Mr Mohinder
Singh, with special focus on Udham Singh. And on January
1 morning at the Safdar Hashmi Marg (Mandi House),
several of our top artists will pay a special tribute to
WHATEVER one may think of Dr Besants position in regard to the Bengal Ordinance, no one can fail to be filled with admiration at the sincerity and earnestness with which she is striving for the restoration of the unity of the Congress.
Her latest effort in this direction consists in the fine example she has just set by signing the Congress creed and paying the usual subscription of four annas.
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