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Monday, August 24, 1998
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Right message from PM
PRIME MINISTER Atal Behari Vajpayee showed firmness tempered with the restraint of statesmanship on Saturday at Jaipur while referring to the American missile attacks at certain terrorist pockets in Afghanistan and the Sudan.

Educating law-makers
EFFORTS have off and on been made to bring into focus the question of educational qualification of the people’s elected representatives, but without any concrete result.

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Value of first-hand knowledge

by T. V. Rajeswar
DEFENCE MINISTER George Fernandes ruffled quite a few bureaucratic feathers when he ordered some of the Defence Ministry officials to proceed to Ladakh and get to know the state of affairs there first hand.

Blackmail as politics

by Praful Bidwai
HE script could not have been written more fittingly. Ms J. Jayalalitha had the perfect non-partisan issue, the Cauvery waters dispute, on which to strike.She had just the right numbers, with the Congress also hinting that it would be prepared to form the next government.

point of law
SC crackdown on
frivolous writs

by Anupam Gupta

HAVE said so many times in this column, often at the risk of seeming to be irreverent and having my motives doubted by readers accustomed to greater respect for the judicial system.

VVIPs sweat it out at
I-Day reception

by Humra Quraishi

EFORE we move ahead, let me move backwards and recount some of the events related to the Independence Day celebrations. Foremost focus on the reception hosted by the President of India and the First Lady at Rashtrapati Bhavan.


“It’s not that easy, uncle”
by M. K. Kohli

NE day, a year prior to my retirement from a Government College in July, 1989, I happened to visit a big bank. As soon as I stepped into the manager’s office, the gentleman stood up in his seat and greeted me with folded hands.

75 Years Ago

The Reparations question
CONSTANTINOPLE: All information here points to the intractable spirit of the Angora Government regarding the reparation situation which is considered most critical.Top

50 years on indian independence 50 years on indian independence 50 years on indian independence
50 years on indian independence

The Tribune Library

Right message from PM

PRIME MINISTER Atal Behari Vajpayee showed firmness tempered with the restraint of statesmanship on Saturday at Jaipur while referring to the American missile attacks at certain terrorist pockets in Afghanistan and the Sudan. In sum, he said what the official spokesman of the External Affairs Ministry had stated in New Delhi on Friday. There was a great and immediate need for tackling the menace of terrorism globally through effective measures . Mr Vajpayee also took note of the acts of terror " before the US attacks". He reminded the world of frequent UN resolutions against the belligerent intercontinental and trans-border scourge which had its roots in, among other factors, arrogant politicking, fundamentalism and rivalries involving short-sighted power-seekers. India has lost countless lives and scarce resources as a victim of terrorist violence. In an unambiguous reference to Pakistan-sponsored "militancy" and the unending proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir, the Prime Minister has hinted at the "history" of American backing to the regimes that have nurtured the decimating phenomenon through political, armed and intelligence support. Whose creation are the Taliban ? How much condemnation has come from Washington of the terrorist bellicosity of Islamabad which has disturbed the tranquillity of Jammu and Kashmir and quite a few north-eastern states through the organised, subversive activities of the ISI ? Afghanistan has several anti-India terrorist-training centres run by Pakistan just like those near Peshawar and Islamabad. The Indian government has given photographic evidence of these to the UN and the USA time and again.

Why did the global policeman not act earlier the way it did on Thursday ? Did it have to wait until its citizens were killed in their security-shielded sanctuaries abroad ? President Clinton, in particular, should mark the words of Mr Vajpayee: " We would like terrorism to be rooted out completely but when certain parties are involved ( in terrorist acts), a partisan view is taken". He rightly expects that the American government would, at long last, see some purpose and sense in the Indian demand that Pakistan should be declared a terrorist state. Sovereignty is a sacred word. It must not be violated normatively or through might by any country in any context. Was the USA right in launching missile attacks on the Sudan, Afghanistan and a part of Pakistan ? No self-respecting nation will say "yes". But doesn't international law allow " trans-continental crisis pre-emption" in extreme cases ? India sympathises with all hurt peace-loving sovereign nations. But it cannot go beyond a certain limit of decency in international behaviour when its own integrity is violated by Pakistan with continuing support from the USA. This is why the Prime Minister has called for concerted global action to destroy terrorism root and branch.

The sudden passion with which the Clinton regime has declared " a war on international terrorism" is an enigma, the President's personal crises notwithstanding. Pakistan, whose two or three terrorist-training camps have been destroyed, is angry. Saudi-Arabia-born billionaire Osama bin Laden is being projected as the source of all evil and he is spitting fire at the USA. But why had Mr Clinton plugged his ears when the same Osama used to send killer brigades to various places —from Bosnia to Kashmir ? The gathering storm gives out grim forebodings. India's cautious reaction should be treated as exemplary. Terrorism should be fought but not in an arbitrary manner. Warlordish upstartism may have disastrous consequences.top


Educating law-makers

EFFORTS have off and on been made to bring into focus the question of educational qualification of the people’s elected representatives, but without any concrete result. The latest attempt has come through the Delhi-based Centre for Media and Cultural Research in the form of an opinion poll. Though not a well-known organisation, it conducted the poll, covering as many as 20 cities and a number of rural areas, to find out what exactly the people had to say on this crucial issue. One hopes the poll will not go undiscussed, as it has brought out the truth that nearly 80 per cent of those interviewed have favoured a minimum qualification for MPs and MLAs. Its significance lies in the fact that the Election Commissioner, Mr G.V.G. Krishnamurthy, too, had recently stressed the need for enacting a law making a minimum level of formal education mandatory for all those seeking entry into a legislature.

Mr Krishnamurthy’s suggestion seems to have been based on the alarming decline in the standard of the debates in Parliament and the state assemblies over the years. Of course, it is no guarantee that educated MPs and MLAs will be fully equipped with the knowledge of constitutional provisions and the subjects they dabble in the legislatures, going by the standard of teaching in most centres of learning. But, then, it will make a qualitative difference in the proceedings if our legislators will be literate and have a minimum educational qualification. Even a layman can understand that a matriculate (matriculation is no great qualification these days) will be in a better position to articulate the problems of his/her constituency than the one who does not know how to read and write. An educated law-maker can also be expected to maintain a certain level of understanding of the developments within the country and abroad, which can influence discussions in a legislature.

As Mr Krishnamurthy has pointed out, the two primary responsibilities of the MPs and MLAs — looking after the interests of the people of their respective constituencies and functioning as law-makers — make it essential for them to be able to read and write so that they can have a clear idea of the demands of today’s society and the laws required to govern it in an orderly manner. His viewpoint cannot be dismissed as of no consequence. Now one can say that it has also got the support of the electorate. Indeed, we need to debate the entire matter and evolve a national consensus. If necessary, there should be no hesitation to amend the Constitution, as Articles 84 (a) and 173 (a) do not allow any educational qualifications to be prescribed for the people’s representatives, according to a Calcutta High Court judgement. Only literate MPs and MLAs can help improve the quality of parliamentary democracy.top


Value of first-hand knowledge
Field training for bureaucrats

by T. V. Rajeswar

DEFENCE MINISTER George Fernandes ruffled quite a few bureaucratic feathers when he ordered some of the Defence Ministry officials to proceed to Ladakh and get to know the state of affairs there first hand. Whatever be the reasons which warranted this initiative, it was a step in the right direction and hopefully there should be more and more of this nature henceforth.

Unlike the scientists, technocrats, medical practitioners and allied categories, who have to back up their basic knowledge with constant advancement of their faculties from technical journals and, more importantly, by attending training courses, the civil servants in India are a blessed lot. They are not bound and they are under no compulsion to assimilate the various socio-economic changes, except on their own volition. During Rajiv Gandhi’s time there was considerable emphasis on attending training courses for officers of all categories, including the Cabinet Secretary, who were expected to attend courses and seminars for a week to 10 days’ duration in one of the several administrative centres like the Administrative Staff College, Hyderabad. More often than not, these were more in the nature of an administrative holiday and a junket for the civil servants. The importance attached to the training of civil servants in the middle level by Rajiv Gandhi and his minister in the Department of Personnel, Mr P. Chidambaram, was in the right direction. This programme seems to have somewhat slackened and certainly deserves to be revived and reoriented.

Field training, however, is of a different category. The all-India and Central Service officers go for field training as part of their initial training programme after recruitment, and this includes a week’s attachment to an armed forces post in one of the forward areas. Thereafter field training in the strict sense is not usually prescribed for the civil servants. During the 50 years of Independence a lot many socio-political changes have taken place in the country. Crime has increased, law and order has deteriorated, new categories of crime and criminals have cropped up, armed groups inspired by false ideology have come up, administrative efficiency has deteriorated, policing has grossly decreased and there has been an overall deterioration in the quality of life, both in the country-side and the urban areas. It is the country-side which needs to be studied first hand as most of the bureaucrats are generally urban-dwellers.

In the Intelligence Bureau of the 1950s and early 1960s, its legendary Director, B.N.Mullik, ensured that all those who were selected for the organisation, which was done after careful verification of their work and integrity, were put through a rigorous training schedule. Apart from lectures and field training in Delhi for a period of eight weeks, the officers were sent to certain important states for intensive training. Most of them were asked to spend two weeks each in the states like West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. These three states had then registered a large following to communist ideology, with the Telengana movement in full swing, and the communists not yet subscribing to a non-revolutionary path. Even later some senior officers were assigned to certain areas for specialised studies such as a stay of three to four weeks in the Naxalbari area in West Bengal, Bihar, the north eastern states, etc. More importantly every intelligence officer upto the rank of Joint Secretary or Joint Director should have had a minimum of three to five years posting in the states and particularly in the border areas. It was on this basis that the Intelligence Bureau built up its cadre of officers and their knowledge and experience.Top

In the police department in most states, up to the mid-1960s officers of the rank of DSP and below were compulsorily asked to stay in rural areas for a week to 10 days. When a “grave crime”, which meant a murder, dacoity, robbery or serious rioting occurred, the district police chief was expected to visit the scene of occurrence within 24 hours and stay at least one night there and send a special report by wireless to the police headquarters. The idea of asking him to stay for at least one night at the scene of occurrence was to enable him to meet various people of the village and also others who may like to meet him quietly and apprise him of the events. In the olden days camping in rural areas was an experience by itself. But it was all worth it and it gave the officers the much needed basic knowledge of life in the villages, its cross currents and problems. With the pace of events and crimes going almost out of control and with socio-political forces impeding the investigations, the normal tempo of visits by officers and their supervision of investigation of crimes have gone down. The policing has been reduced to fire fighting operations and there are so many fires at so many places.

Sending the Defence Ministry officials to the Siachen glacier area was, therefore, a step in the right direction as no amount of correspondence between the field units of the Army and Defence Ministry officers could clarify certain issues. Again, I turn to the IB for citing two specific instances to prove the point. There is a heating allowance for the check-posts staff in the forward areas above 8000 ft, and this was given for four months, from November to February, which were the coldest months. Representations had been made to the headquarters that in certain areas there was snowfall even in May and hence the allowance for the four-month period should be extended. For the accounts officer sitting in Delhi, asking for heating allowance for the month of May appeared preposterous, and therefore, it was summarily rejected. It so happened that B.N. Mullik was visiting Nathu La in Sikkim in the third week of May in 1963, and as he came down from the Pass to visit the IB check-post nearby, heavy snow started falling that afternoon. He was amazed and recalled the request for the heating allowance from the check-post staff. He issued orders from the check-post itself by wireless to the accounts officers at the headquarters to extend heating allowance for certain categories of check-posts for longer periods.

The second case refers to a former senior officer, who was mostly at the headquarters, looking after matters dealing with the forward areas, including Ladakh and the then NEFA. There was acrimonious correspondence regarding the supply of oxygen cylinders to forward posts in Ladakh, and the officer decided to visit Leh to find out. He travelled by an Air Force flight and alighted in bright sunshine early in the morning in Leh airfield. As he proceeded to greet the officers who had come to receive him, he started choking and found it difficult to breath. He was rushed to the military hospital and administered oxygen. He returned to Delhi by the Air Force flight the same afternoon. There was no more correspondence on the need for the supply of oxygen cylinders which were promptly supplied to the forward check-posts.

The examples and specific cases have been cited to prove the point that nothing is as valuable and worthwhile as first-hand knowledge. I suggest that every officer of the Government of India at the Centre should be compulsorily asked to spend about 10 days in some state or the other, depending upon the ministry where he/she is working. For example, the officers of the Defence Ministry should go to the forward areas of J&K and the North-East. The Home Ministry officials should also do likewise, but they may include the backward areas of Bihar, UP and Madhya Pradesh. The officers of the Ministries of Agriculture, Social Welfare, etc, should have their work cut out, and Department of Personnel should be able to assign them to specific areas and the states.

During the training period the officers should stay away from the district headquarters and spend most of the time in the villages and stay in village panchayat ghars. This should give them first-hand knowledge of the type of toilet facilities available in the villages, the water they drink, the state of sanitation and, more importantly, the multifarious problems faced by the people in the rural areas. When they return to the headquarters, every officer should be asked to submit a tour report and a copy of it should go to the Department of Personnel, which should have the necessary staff structure to study them and take follow up action. This schedule should be repeated every five years till the officers reach the age of 58, two years short of superannuation.

(The writer is a former Governor of West Bengal and Sikkim.)Top


Blackmail as politics

by Praful Bidwai

THE script could not have been written more fittingly. Ms J. Jayalalitha had the perfect non-partisan issue, the Cauvery waters dispute, on which to strike. She had just the right numbers, with the Congress also hinting that it would be prepared to form the next government. And her target, the BJP, could not have been rendered softer: its leadership had exhausted all the big cards in its suite. If Ms Jayalalitha had her way, the shaky, rickety coalition government would be lying spread-eagled on the floor. A senior BJP functionary confessed on August 14: “This is the end. She is all set to withdraw support on the 16th. And there is nothing we can do. We are just lame ducks.”

At the last minute, two things went wrong. The Congress suddenly developed cold feet, and asked for “a little more time”. And the AIADMK’s own allies demanded that Ms Jayalalitha should not “precipitate” matters. Unless the Congress was fully ready, they argued, they would be left in the lurch after pulling down the government. Some of them, e.g. the MDMK, also pushed their own agenda — opposition to Ms Sonia Gandhi, arising from pro-LTTE sympathies — under the guise of advocating “caution”. Some have developed a strange kind of affinity for the BJP, lubricated no doubt by the loaves and fishes of office. At any rate, they managed to restrain Ms Jayalalitha — at least for the moment. But she is far from pacified and continues to be disaffected.Top

The government survived by the skin of its teeth — not because the BJP has leverage over Ms Jayalalitha. The party is not in control of the situation. It does not even have sure access to the lady. Such “concessions” as it made, by transferring 16 senior officials, were made unilaterally. That there was no deal is proved by her own clear — and deeply embarrassing to the BJP — demand that the transfers be cancelled. Indeed, the BJP’s pretence that Mr M.K. Bezbaruah was transferred out of the Enforcement Directorate because Delhi Chief Minister Sahib Singh Verma wanted him stands exposed. Mr Verma has no love lost for Mr Bezbaruah, and in 1994 had bitterly complained against him. Evidently, the BJP used Ms Jayalalitha’s threat to carry out its own dubious manoeuvre against an honest official.

The real issue in all this as far as Ms Jayalalitha is concerned has nothing to do with ideology, the Cauvery or officials’ transfers. It is entirely about the lawsuits against her in a myriad cases of corruption which are closing in rapidly. But, then, the crucial issue for the BJP too has nothing to do with political principle and the honesty or dishonesty of officials. It has to do with power, power at any cost. That alone guides all its manipulative tactics. Before it sealed its alliance with her, the BJP was fully unaware of Ms Jayalalitha’s horrendous record of misgovernance, as well as her “whimsical” ways. She herself made no bones about her priorities: to have all cases against her weakened, and investigations slowed down or suspended.

The BJP consciously rationalised its alliance with the AIADMK. Party Vice-President Jana Krishnamurti, who crafted the deal, wrote in BJP Today soon after the election results that under the arrangement, the BJP would provide the AIADMK “respectability”, and it in turn would give the BJP the cadres and numbers it lacks in Tamil Nadu. Patronising as it was, this attitude implicitly recognised that Ms Jayalalitha was in desperate need of “respectability”, given her mile-long reputation for corruption. The BJP knew full well what it was risking. And it took that risk. It was aware that it would have to play a game of mutual blackmail with Ms Jayalalitha. And it has played it.

The causes of the deepening crisis of the government — indeed its increasing unviability — are not confined to the BJP’s troubles with its Southern allies alone. Big trouble lurks in the East and the West too. Both the Samata Party and the Biju Janata Dal are on the verge of a split and seething with discontent. And the BJP has to carry the burden of growing opprobrium from its disgraceful alliance with the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra after the Srikrishna Commission report. It has to kowtow to fanatical pressure from the VHP, in Gujarat. Internally, the BJP is deeply divided and unsure of itself. There is growing rivalry between Mr Vajpayee and Mr Advani, between Mr Jaswant Singh and Mr Brajesh Mishra, between Mr MM Joshi and Ms Uma Bharati.

The state of the Union Ministry today is analogous to what economists call “oligopolistic equilibrium” — a situation of gross asymmetry between participants, who are held together not by free choice but by those wielding disproportionate power. Any attempt to alter that equilibrium can lead to its complete breakdown. This is precisely why the BJP has not been able for months to induct Mr Jaswant Singh into Cabinet as Foreign Minister despite Mr Vajpayee’s keenness to do so. Opening the issue of Cabinet expansion is opening a can of worms. Such a state of equilibrium represents a grave disorder and a terrible malady.Top


“It’s not that easy, uncle”

by M. K. Kohli

ONE day, a year prior to my retirement from a Government College in July, 1989, I happened to visit a big bank. As soon as I stepped into the manager’s office, the gentleman stood up in his seat and greeted me with folded hands. The bank must be observing the courtesy week, I thought. But I proved to be wrong. The warm welcome was exclusively for me.

“Do you recognise me, sir?”

“I’m afraid I don’t.”

“I used to be your student, sir. When you were a school teacher. In 1957.”

“But I can’t recollect.”

“I’m Rajesh, sir. Could I narrate an incident to refresh your memory? One day I was getting my essay on ‘Horrors of War’ corrected by you when you suddenly asked me,

‘Do you smoke?’ My answer was in the negative. ‘But how is it that you’r smelling?’ was your next question. You searched my pockets but drew a blank. Then you searched my satchel and, to my great shame, discovered a half-consumed packet of costly cigarettes. You made me touch my ears and swear that I would never touch cigarettes again. This was followed by a full-fledged lecture to the class — on the horrors of smoking. War took a back seat.”Top

The whole scene flashed across my mind.

“Thirty-one years have passed, sir,” my old student went on, “and I have kept my word. In my own interest. I don’t know how to express my gratitude to you for your timely advice.”

Now another smoking incident. Slightly different. The other day I was travelling in a bus. A young man sitting next to me lit a cigarette. An elderly Sikh passenger sitting behind us politely asked him not to smoke. But I have just lit the cigarette,” he said. “Let me finish it, please”.

“No”, was the firm reaction. The young man reluctantly put out the cigarette and threw it out of the window. He looked defeated.

I got a chance to speak to him.

“What do you do for a living?”

“I am a computer engineer.”

“You must be getting a handsome salary.”

“Yes. Rs 15,000 per month. This is the start. I am just 22.” “Good, very good!”

“Thank you, uncle.”

“If you don’t mind, could I know how many cigarettes a day you smoke?”

“Twenty — on an average.”

“Well, when do you have the strongest urge?”

“When I am under mental stress.”

“Smoking is just a palliative. To fight back mental stress you must develop inner resistance. Through positive thinking, for instance. Incidentally, do your parents know that you smoke?” “No. Actually, I avoid their company, as much as I can, for I can’t smoke in their presence.”

“Don’t you feel guilty?”

“I do.”

“In that case, don’t you want to give up smoking?”

“I want to. But it’s not that easy, uncle.”

My destination came and I got off the bus. The young man’s cry of despair continues to ring in my ears.

I have a psychological tip to offer to those who think they have reached the point of no-return. Don’t force your mind to give up smoking. Persuade it to do so. Otherwise there is the danger of a relapse.


The Reparations question
Satisfactory result

CONSTANTINOPLE: All information here points to the intractable spirit of the Angora Government regarding the reparation situation which is considered most critical.


Lausanne: Whilst the impression has gained ground that an unsatisfactory communication has been received from Angora which considers that the concession of Karagatch is insufficient for reparations, the situation is calmer and easier. The conference today is regarded as crucial.


The conciliatoriness of the Turkish delegate, Riza Nur, at today’s meeting of the political sub-committee and the absence of irritation between Turks and Greeks are regarded as a bright augury. A number of questions, including that of the establishment of foreigners in Turkey, have been settled very amicably.

The Graeco-Turkish treaty will contain the Greek recognition of responsibility for the damage done in Asia Minor; while Turkey, in view of Greek’s financial position, renounces the reparation claim. The Karagatch triangle, which has been ceded, includes the town and railway between Karagatch and the Bulgarian Frontier. There will be mutual restitution of ships captured since the Mudros armistice.Top


SC crackdown on frivolous writs

point of law
by Anupam Gupta

I HAVE said so many times in this column, often at the risk of seeming to be irreverent and having my motives doubted by readers accustomed to greater respect for the judicial system. But it is the Supreme Court saying so now and that, apart from the pleasure of being vindicated, makes all the difference. The “growing tendency to make use of the court as a forum to seek some cheap publicity,” says the Supreme Court, must be guarded against. “We regret to say that seeing one’s name in newspapers everyday has lately become the worst intoxicant....”

Quashing in appeal a High Court order issuing notice to the President and Chief Justice of India, the apex court has particularly cautioned the High Courts against misuse of the writ jurisdiction for publicity’s sake. The need for such caution, it holds, is greater when a person holding a high constitutional office is impleaded as a respondent in a writ petition or “when matters of policy are involved.”

Instances of the Supreme Court using its discretionary appellate jurisdiction under Article 136 to set aside High Court judgements or orders finally deciding and disposing of cases, are legion. That is what Article 136 of the Constitution is meant for. But entertaining an appeal against a mere notice issued by the High Court on a writ petition, is not something which happens every other day. The total number of such cases under Article 136 since the inception of the Supreme Court in 1950 could be counted on one’s fingers. And that is what makes this case, Union of India versus S.P. Anand and others, decided a fortnight ago on August 7, so important.

The object of placing a writ petition before the court for preliminary hearing, says the Supreme Court, is to ensure that a writ petition which is “frivolous in nature or in which no relief can be granted” by the court under Article 226 of the Constitution is dismissed at the threshold. Dismissed without even issuing a notice.

Coupled with the denunciation of publicity-hungry petitioners who would push the court into forbidden or sensitive areas of policy, this statement of the law of judicial procedure is pregnant with implications for what passes in the name of public interest litigation.

“In the instant case, we are constrained to say,” remarks the Supreme Court, a shade of anger lurking behind the remark, that the “learned Judge of the High Court has failed to bestow the requisite care and circumspection” in issuing notice on the writ petition and not dismissing it summarily. The notice would serve no purpose but to “distract the respondents (the President and Chief Justice of India) from performing their other important functions.”Top

This is an observation even more significant than the earlier statement of procedural law. Holders of high public office, says the apex court in so many words, have other important things to do. Let not the courts distract them with their notices. The same observation coming from a public functionary however high — that a judicial notice can cause distraction in public service — nay, even the slightest suggestion to that effect, would be treated by most Judges as contempt of court.

Better late than never that this realisation (of the distracting effect of litigation) has dawned upon the judiciary even if the occasion for introspection be a litigative notice to the Chief Justice of India. Over-estimation of the judiciary’s role and influence in public life is a fallacy characteristic of most legal scholars, and the over-drive of public interest litigation in recent times has sharpened the cutting edge of this fallacy in India. “I have spent all my life under a Communist regime,” said Nobel laureate Alexander Solzhenitsyn, taking a less insulated view of the matter, “and I will tell you that a society without any objective legal scale is a terrible one indeed. But a society with no other scale but the legal one is not quite worthy of man either”.

But what exactly was the case before the Supreme Court about?

Entertaining a writ petition under Article 226, the Indore Bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court had on April 3 last issued notice to “the other side”. The petitioners sought a direction to the Chief Justice of India to set up a circuit Bench of the Supreme Court at Indore, and to the President to grant the necessary approval for the purpose under Article 130 of the Constitution. The Supreme Court, reads the Article, “shall sit in Delhi or in such other place or places, as the Chief Justice of India may, with the approval of the President, from time to time, appoint”.

No court can give a direction either to the CJI or to the President to exercise the power under Article 130, the Supreme Court has now declared, scotching the notice without waiting for more. Article 130 is an enabling provision and cannot be construed as casting a mandatory obligation. The question whether the Supreme Court should sit at a place other than Delhi involves the taking of a policy decision by the CJI, apart from the considered approval of the President to the CJI’s proposal. No writ petition lies for forcing such a decision, no court can grant any relief in the matter.

The judiciary counsels restraint, some wag might say, only when its own action or inaction is questioned. But that is how the law grows, and becomes a principle for all.


VVIPs sweat it out at I-Day reception

by Humra Quraishi

BEFORE we move ahead, let me move backwards and recount some of the events related to the Independence Day celebrations. Foremost focus on the reception hosted by the President of India and the First Lady at Rashtrapati Bhavan. Perhaps, because of the rains it was held inside the Durbar and Ashoka halls and not on the Central Lawns and this change in the venue itself caused problems. After going through a thorough double security check-cum-frisking, up a narrow staircase, when the venue hall was finally-reached it proved too obviously small for the number of invitees — a total of near five thousand. And the result was, to put in mild terminology, simply disastrous. With no place to move or breathe or even to do those elaborate namaskarams, it was a sight to see the who’s who and the so called VVIPs in ‘bandgalas’ and formal suits fanning themselves, wiping the sweat off their brow, shaking their heads in total despair but their jammed and crushed sardines situation not easing for protocol demanded that none could leave before the departure of the President.

But even as the formalities got over and one was free to move out a worse situation had to be confronted. There was a traffic jam of sorts, consisting of these VIP cars. And though I have been attending these particular receptions since the last three or four years but never before witnessed this sort of a situation. Either some new arrangements were being experimented with or else a raw person was entrusted with the format; whatever be the case it was an unpleasant experience. Imagine sitting in your vehicle in the first gear for over 45 minutes, in the worst possible humidity, with no escape route. I really don’t know how the diplomats fared in the situation but not spotting very many in the Durbar hall the general word around was that they were being hosted in the other hall “can’t you see only we blacks are here, the goras are in another hall downstairs”, quipped a colleague. But Rashtrapati Bhavan sources deny this; they point out that when the Ashoka hall was packed the rest of the guests were accommodated in the Durbar hall and there seems merit in this reasoning for diplomats being punctual must have been the amongst the first to reach, so were placed in the first hall.

And this time I not even writing about who was wearing what for with the packed situation all that was visible were sweat trickling faces and harassed expressions and loud mutterings esp. from those who had to attend the evening programme at Rajpath. Maybe an official must for some — like the Delhi administration officers and those manning the special secretariat for the Jubilee Celebrations. Moving on to the programme at Rajpath, the rains couldn’t have played a greater dampner. To add to it, the top brass of the BJP were worried not only about the programme fiasco but also about the PM’s health, for he had “muscle pull” in the morning function at the Red Fort. Thankfully, the next day was Sunday, the proverbial rest day, for many of the officers who attended the cultural programme at Rajpath fell ill the next day “the rain coats and umbrellas were not sufficient... and most of us were wet yet had to sit through” says a senior Cultural Department official. And before we move on let me write that with the August 15 festivities coming to a close the special secretariat erected for the Jubilee celebrations is busy winding up. Having exhausted the allotted budget of a near 51 crore (spread over three financial years) it would ease to exist in the next couple of months, for what’s left to celebrate. Any, with political doldrums everyday what was there to celebrate all through.Top

Celebrations from the heart

The only enthusiasm that could be witnessed was at the party hosted by the Austrian ambassador H. Traxl and spouse Shovana Narayan, in honour of the 51st year of our Independence... there was warmth, a feeling of genuine celebration and joy in the gettogether. The guest list was long and impressive — Satish Gujral and spouse Kiran, Uma and Aruna Vasudev, Satish Chibba, Jyotindra Jain and spouse Joota, Shobha Broota, K.K. Kohli, Sonia Rodrigues, DG of the ICCR and spouse Reba Som, deputy DG of the ICCR and spouse, Suresh Kalmadi, Shanta Serbjeet Singh, Mohini Kent (who has very recently married Noon, the cuisine king of the UK), Avinash Pasricha, Sudhir Tailang, Sudhir Dar, Chandni Luthra, Sourish Bhattacharya, the ambassador of Israel and his spouse dressed in an embroidered black silk sari. I could go on and on with the names but there has to be some stopping now for I have to fit in the conversation I had with Satish Gujral. As he got talking about the ear surgery (cochlear implant surgery) he very recently underwent at Sydney he recounted how his wife Kiran sat outside the OT for five hours till the operation was concluded. “In fact the 40 years that we have been married we haven’t been away from each other for more than two hours... we are together all day... “Asked if there was any special formula for sustaining love he said “Love is no joke... we really can’t stay without each other.”

To that Kiran added “We really feel for each other... Satish is a very sensitive, intense person and his humour and wit is remarkable... at times when he can’t express himself he feels agitated: in fact if his hearing hadn’t got impaired he says would have definitely become a lawyer. He has a way with the words and an excellent memory.”

Special team returns

The special team sent by the National Commission for Minorities to investigate the alleged victimisation of the minorities in Gujarat returned to the capital last weekend. Though they are still preparing the final draft of their report, to be presented to the Commission in the first week of September but indications are that what they witnessed in the particular villages wasn’t very different from the reports they had been receiving and definitely not an okay situation as reported in some sections of the Press.Top

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