THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

HP to review appointments during BJP government
Mr Virbhadra Singh, Chief Minister, Himachal Pradesh
New Delhi, December 26
The Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister, Mr Virbhadra Singh, said today that his government would review all “questionable” appointments made by the Dhumal government.

Mr Virbhadra Singh, Chief Minister, Himachal Pradesh, addresses mediapersons in the Capital on Friday. — PTI photo

NHRC notices to Haryana on plight of juveniles
New Delhi, December 26
The National Human Rights Commission has issued notices to the Haryana Government and the state’s Department of Child and Women Welfare (DCWW) over a complaint regarding the plight of juveniles due to their transportation from a remand home in Sonepat to the Juvenile Justice Board at Ambala.

4 scientific research centres proposed
New Delhi, December 26
To encourage students to take up science in higher education as also to meet the shortage of scientists in the country there is a proposal to set up four National Institutes of Science across the country.



EARLIER STORIES

 
A sand sculpture of captured Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein at a beach in Puri on Friday.
A sand sculpture of captured Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein at a beach in Puri on Friday. — Reuters

BJP criticises Lyngdoh’s remarks
New Delhi, December 26
Bharatiya Janata Party President M Venkaiah Naidu today criticised Chief Election Commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh for calling politicians “cheats” and said such improper statements were an attack on the democratic system.

Salman exempted from appearance
Mumbai, December 26
A local court today exempted actor Salman Khan from appearance in a hit-and-run case and deferred the matter to January 15 as the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate had earlier stayed proceedings until he decided the plea of the Maharashtra Government to transfer the case to the other court.

SC ruling on retirement age of PSU staff
New Delhi, December 26
The Supreme Court has ruled that employees of public sector corporations cannot claim the benefit of enhanced retirement age as contemplated by the Fifth Pay Commission across the board unless the Board of Directors of a particular PSU have taken a decision to this effect as per the Centre’s May 19, 1998 notification.

ULFA’s no to amnesty offer
Guwahati, December 26
The ULFA received one of its biggest jolts after the Royal Bhutan Army last night handed over some of the topmost ULFA leaders captured during the ongoing Bhutan operation.
In Video:
Bhutan hands over families of rebels to India.
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RSS against Indo-Pak talks
New Delhi, December 26
While favouring people-to-people contact between India and Pakistan, the RSS, a week ahead of the SAARC meet, today opposed any summit-level talks between New Delhi and Islamabad till cross-border terrorism ended.

Videos
After Aparna Sen and Mira Nair, another woman film-maker, Aneeta Udeep from Chennai, makes her film debut with Knock Knock, I'm Looking To Marry.
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Statues of historical value found in Sangli (Maharashtra).
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Goa lights up for New Year.
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HP to review appointments during BJP government
Tribune News Service

Mr Virbhadra Singh released a list of “relatives” and acquaintances of Mr Dhumal who had got jobs in different departments.

The list has 53 names and mentions the relation of the appointee with Mr Dhumal. As per the list, 18

nephews, two nieces besides other relatives of the former Chief Minister were the beneficiaries.

It says that Mr Dhumal’s brother-in-law Inder Singh was appointed as Security Officer in Himachal Pradesh University.

New Delhi, December 26
The Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister, Mr Virbhadra Singh, said today that his government would review all “questionable” appointments made by the Dhumal government.

Talking to mediapersons here, he alleged that Mr Prem Kumar Dhumal had “interfered” in selections made by various agencies, including the Himachal Pradesh Subordinate Services Selection Board and the Himachal Pradesh Public Service Commission.

“Political favourites had been obliged in selections and merit ignored,” he said.

Brushing aside the BJP’s allegations about making recommendation for jobs to board former Chairman S.M. Katwal, who is facing corruption cases, the Chief Minister said he had never interfered in the selection process.

On Katwal tapes, he said he had not heard them. “The people who have heard it say my voice is not audible. It may have been doctored,” he said.

However, Mr Virbhadra Singh said he had spoken about two persons who had come to him complaining about the “intolerant attitude” of the board. “I was in Opposition then and had talked to the authorities to look into the matter,” he said.

The Chief Minister said records of selections made during the BJP regime were deleted from computers in Chief Minister’s Office after Mr Dhumal demitted charge.

“Hard discs were erased and they thought the records had been omitted. But these were luckily retrieved after being sent to forensic laboratory in Hyderabad. What has come out is not only revealing but shocking,” he said.

Mr Virbhadra Singh said according to reports so far received from the forensic laboratory, the previous government had “directly interfered” in 2,415 appointments, including 1,739 in the HPSSSB; 133 in Himachal Pradesh University; 192 in State Cooperative Bank; 14 in Himachal Pradesh Public Service Commission; 33 in Joginder Cooperative Bank; 27 in the Himachal Pradesh School Education Board; 158 in Kangra Cooperative Bank; three each in REC, Hamirpur, Takniki Shiksha Board and the Road Transport Corporation; two in Land Mortgage Bank; 10 in Agriculture University, Palampur; 18 in the Health Department; 12 in Nagar Panchayat, Shimla; 23 in the Ayurveda Department; and 45 in other departments.

He said a committee is likely to be set up to review “questionable appointments”.

It would see if injustice had been done. If merit had been ignored then the candidates would be given fair chance, he said.

The Chief Minister said some ministers and BJP MLAs had also levelled allegations against Mr Dhumal “which had not been withdrawn.”

He alleged that Mr Dhumal had connived with Katwal in his acts of “omission and commission”.

He said board records were burnt after three months of selections. “The Chairman could not have acted on his own in doing all this,” he said.

The Chief Minister said his government would collect all details and seek legal opinion before proceeding against Mr Dhumal.

He said that some undertrials were also selected for government jobs by the previous government.

Mr Virbhadra Singh welcomed the anti-defection law passed by Parliament, saying it was timely. However, he said states should have been consulted before making the law regarding size of ministries.

He said he could go for total Cabinet reshuffle to confirm the strength of his ministry to the new norms. “It has to be done in six months,” he said.

Mr Virbhadra Singh also met the Congress President, Ms Sonia Gandhi, today and apprised her of the party’s preparations for the Lok Sabha elections.

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NHRC notices to Haryana on plight of juveniles
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 26
The National Human Rights Commission has issued notices to the Haryana Government and the state’s Department of Child and Women Welfare (DCWW) over a complaint regarding the plight of juveniles due to their transportation from a remand home in Sonepat to the Juvenile Justice Board at Ambala.

The commission asked the Chief Secretary and DCWW secretary to look into the matter, including the possibility of setting up of Juvenile Justice Board or Court at Sonepat or providing a remand home for juveniles at Ambala, an NHRC statement said here today.

A report had been sought within two weeks, it said. The notices were issued after the NHRC took cognisance of a complaint wherein it was mentioned that the juveniles were ferried from the Sonepat remand home to Ambala every Wednesday.

They have to leave Sonepat at 7am after their breakfast and then “wait hungry and thirsty” all day in Ambala district courts, the complaint alleged.

“There is no provision for their tea and lunch anywhere,” it said. They leave Ambala after 4 pm to reach Sonepat at about 7 pm, it said adding if they reached Sonepat late in the evening, they had to forego their dinner also.

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4 scientific research centres proposed
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 26
To encourage students to take up science in higher education as also to meet the shortage of scientists in the country there is a proposal to set up four National Institutes of Science across the country.

Addressing mediapersons here today the Chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC), Prof Arun Nigavekar, said that there was a proposal to set up four centres in the country, one in each zone to encourage science and scientific research.

“We will face a shortage of senior scientists in various organisations including the ISRO and DRDO by 2010 to 2015, with most of the senior scientists due for retirement during the period”, Prof Nigavekar said.

These four National Institutes of Science would be autonomous and would have a common syllabus. It was yet to be decided whether these Institutes would be linked to a university or not.

“Catch them young will be our motto. About 400 students from four zones will be identified for undergraduate as well as postgraduate courses”, said Prof Nigavekar. While the institutes would have a common syllabus they would facilitate research on basic science exclusively.

“The four zones identified are Pune, Allahabad, Orissa and Chennai, but we are still to decide on the time and budget”, said an official of the UGC.

These institutes, it was pointed out, would have the-state-of-art facilities and infrastructure to support scientific research and involve huge investment.

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BJP criticises Lyngdoh’s remarks
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 26
Bharatiya Janata Party President M Venkaiah Naidu today criticised Chief Election Commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh for calling politicians “cheats” and said such improper statements were an attack on the democratic system.

Stating that a person holding a Constitutional post should avoid making such remarks, Mr Naidu told newspersons that such comments would lower the dignity of the position he occupied.

“His (Mr Lyngdoh’s) job is to conduct elections and not to declare the entire breed of politicians cancerous”, Mr Naidu said.

“In democracy, people are the masters and they will decide who is good and who is bad”, he added.

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Salman exempted from appearance

Mumbai, December 26
A local court today exempted actor Salman Khan from appearance in a hit-and-run case and deferred the matter to January 15 as the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate had earlier stayed proceedings until he decided the plea of the Maharashtra Government to transfer the case to the other court.

Magistrate S.Y. Sishode exempted Salman for the day on a plea made by defence lawyer Dipesh Mehta that the actor was busy with professional work.

The prosecution informed the trial court that Chief Metropolitan Magistrate R.D. Gate had on Wednesday stayed the proceedings until December 29 to decide the state’s plea for transfer of the case to the other court.

The Supreme Court had on December 18 asked the court in Bandra to go ahead with the case and decide during the course of trial whether the charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder was applicable to the actor or not.

The prosecution, however, objected saying the same magistrate had earlier recorded statements of three witnesses.

Section 164 (6) of the CrPC provides that such a magistrate should refer the statements to another magistrate who is conducting the trial.

The prosecutor argued that since Sishode had recorded the statements he could not conduct the trial and had to refer the case to some other magistrate for trial.

The magistrate asked the prosecution to approach the appropriate forum to decide the issue. Therefore, the state moved the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate who stayed the proceedings until December 29. — PTI

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SC ruling on retirement age of PSU staff
Our Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, December 26
The Supreme Court has ruled that employees of public sector corporations cannot claim the benefit of enhanced retirement age as contemplated by the Fifth Pay Commission across the board unless the Board of Directors of a particular PSU have taken a decison to this effect as per the Centre’s May 19, 1998 notification.

“The employees of different corporations cannot be treated alike since every corporation will have to take into account its separate circumstances so as to forumlate its policy,” a Bench comprising Mr Justice S Rajendra Babu and Ms Justice Ruma Pal ruled.

The ruling came on a petition by the Fertiliser Corporation of India Ltd (FCIL) official Sureshchandra Singh, claiming the benefit of two years in the superannuation age as per the Fifth Pay Commission recommendation, increasing it from 58 years to 60 years.

“Each public sector undertaking is an independent entity and is free to have its own service conditions as per the law,” the court ruled.

Sureshchandra Singh had also claimed the benefit on the ground that the same was being extended to the Board of Directors, contending that there could not be any discrimination of the employees of a particular body as it would amount to the violation of the principle of equality.

Dismissing his petition, the court said the Board of Directors form a different class and could not be compared with the other employees with regard to the conditions of service applicable to them.

The apex court said the government’s May 19, 1998, notification itself did not raise the retirement age to 60 years. “It is only an administrative direction and the courts cannot issue a writ to enforce an administrative instruction that is not having the force of law,” it said.

The court took into account the FCIL’s plea that its Board of Directors had taken a decision not to increase the retirement age from 58 to 60 years.

It further said as per the office memorandum of January 25, 1991, and April 8, 1991, issued by the Ministry of Programme Implementation and Department of Public Enterprises, it was clearly laid down that the guidelines on the issue would be twofold - (i) the directive issued by the President and (ii) the general guidelines.

The government had clarified that under the first category the benefit was meant only for its civil services not to the employees of a public sector undertakings, while in the second category, the directions were only advisory in nature, giving discretionary power to the Board of Directors of a particular PSU to provide the benefit to its workers, the FCIL had contended.

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ULFA’s no to amnesty offer

Guwahati, December 26
The ULFA received one of its biggest jolts after the Royal Bhutan Army last night handed over some of the topmost ULFA leaders captured during the ongoing Bhutan operation.

Top Army sources from the 4 corps at Tezpur informed that they would be presented before the media later in the afternoon.

More ULFA militants have surrendered in the past 24 hours as Bhutan stepped up its operations even as the ULFA rejected the Assam Government’s amnesty offer. Assam Governor Lieut-Gen Ajai Singh said today at Raj Bhavan two to three militants were surrendering together proving that their “backbone was completely broken”.

Earlier the Indian Army killed seven ULFA and NDFB rebels and five others surrendered after they sneaked into India during the ongoing crackdown by the Bhutanese government on their camps there, Lieut-Gen Ajai Singh said here today.

The bodies of the rebels were recovered, along with the weapons, from the encounter site in the early hours, Army sources said adding that their identity was yet to be ascertained. During the past 48 hours, according to the Bhutanese Government sources, around 70 ULFA and NDFB militants have been apprehended by its army.

Meanwhile, seven ULFA and NDFB rebels also surrendered at Mangaldoi in Darrang district, sources said.

According to Army sources, more than 210 rebels belonging to the ULFA, NDFB and KLO had been captured so far. The Bhutanese side, however, refused to comment on the number of arrests. ULFA commander in chief Paresh Barua rejected the general amnesty offer of the Assam Government. He said last night that no ULFA cadre would accept the amnesty offer.

The Assam Government gave a deadline till January 31 for surrender and accepting the amnesty offer or face the brunt of the military.— UNI

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RSS against Indo-Pak talks
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 26
While favouring people-to-people contact between India and Pakistan, the RSS, a week ahead of the SAARC meet, today opposed any summit-level talks between New Delhi and Islamabad till cross-border terrorism ended.

“Time is not ripe for summit-level talks between India and Pakistan. For such a development, we should first be convinced that cross-border terrorism has ended and terror infrastructure in Pakistan has been dismantled,” RSS spokesman Ram Madhav told newspersons here.

“However, if there is a handshake, what can be done,” he added apparently referring to the last SAARC summit in Kathmandu when Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf approached Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and shook hands with him.Reacting on the Government’s decision to resume bus and rail services between India and Pakistan and to have cricket series between the two countries, Mr Madhav said “there should be no objection to such people-to-people contacts”.

Asked if there was an Indo-Pak interaction on the sideliness of the SAARC summit, Mr Madhav said the Indian side should raise the issues of infiltration and cross-border terrorism.

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BRIEFLY

Rs 1 lakh reward on gangster
DEHRA DUN:
The Uttaranchal police has announced a cash reward of Rs 1 lakh on gangster Prakash Pandey alias PP, whose henchmen allegedly carried out the killings of an advocate and a businessman in the Unnao area of Uttar Pradesh. Shocked by the killings of advocate Ravi Varshnay and businessman Anup Samant, whose bodies were found buried in a factory in Unnao on Wednesday, the police is also taking the help of interpol to track down PP, who is believed to have established his base in Nepal. — PTI

Indian film script for Oscar library
MUMBAI:
In a rare honour for an Indian movie, the script of Karan Johar’s blockbuster ‘Kal Ho Na Ho’ has found a place in the US-based Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, presenters of the prestigious Oscar Awards for excellence in cinema. In a letter to Johar, the Academy has sought the film’s screenplay for placing it permanently in their library for the reference of filmmakers. — UNI

Kidnapped trader freed, 3 held
MUZAFFARNAGAR: A trader who had been held for a ransom of Rs 10 lakh was freed and three of his abductors arrested, according to police sources here on Friday. The trader Anil Kumar (45), was freed from a village and three of his kidnappers arrested in this connection, Superintendent of Police (Rural), G M Goswami, said. — PTI

Fake stamp papers gang busted
KANPUR: An inter-state gang of fake stamp paper suppliers was busted here with the arrest of four persons and seizure of used stamp papers worth Rs 12.5 lakh, police said on Friday. The stamp papers and a bottle of chemical used for removing the matter on them was seized from a house in the Gangaganj area, Deputy Inspector-General of Police O.P. Tripathi ssid. — PTI

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