Wednesday, August 2, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Padmanabhan is new Army Chief
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Aug 1 — Lieut-Gen S. Padmanabhan, GOC-in-Chief Southern Command, who oversaw the famous operation of surrender of militants during the Hazratbal shrine siege, was today appointed Chief of the Army Staff.

He succeeds Gen V.P. Malik, who retires from office on September 30.

General Padmanabhan, popularly known in Army circles as ‘Paddy’, is one of the most decorated officers.

He is also the seniormost officer after the Vice-Chief of the Army Staff, Lieut-Gen Chandrashekar, who is also retiring on September 30.

Born in Thiruvananthapuram, General Padmanabhan, an alumnus of the Indian Military Academy from where he joined the National Defence Academy in 1956, was commissioned in the Regiment of Artillery in 1959.


Jethmalani addresses Rajya Sabha
Comes down heavily on Jaitley
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Aug 1 — Addressing the Rajya Sabha for the first time after being asked to resign from the Union Cabinet, the former Law Minister, Mr Ram Jethmalani, today refuted charges that he had breached the Official Secrets Act and asserted his actions had been "consistent with the strictest standards of probity and ethics".

He also came down heavily on the newly appointed Law Minister, Mr Arun Jaitley, for setting up a committee to probe leakage of documents and said the move was actually an assault on the previleges of the members. He went on to say that the new Law Minister could not start his career in the ministry by launching a massive assault on the previleges of this House.

Mr Jethmalani told the Rajya Sabha that he had not committed any theft as copying ones own correspondence, that too authenticated by him, would not amount to such a crime.

"That making or keeping copies of ones own correspondence is theft will shock the dumbest law student. I won’t waste time on it," he said, giving personal explanation of his resignation episode

Making a point-by-point rebuttal of accusations hurled against him, Mr Jethmalani said no document was confidential and every citizen individually and the public collectively had the right to know the contents unless the documents were such that their disclosures could be withheld under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Bill introduced in Parliament recently.

"The Bill confers no new right. It only recognises and confirms those that arise from Article 19 of the Constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court. Further, it creates an effective mechanism for enforcing those rights," he said.

"A document cannot be made confidential either by agreement or by stamping it as secret and putting it in some safe or locker," Mr Jethmalani said.

Mr Jethmalani, who punctuated his statement with sarcastic wit and humour, said Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had complained that " I have not learnt the lesson of silence".

"To this charge, I gladly plead guilty," he quipped, evoking laughter from the members. " I am nearing the end of my journey. It is too late to change and I have no desire to change either. My teachers and professors whom I revere taught me exactly the opposite".

"But silence in the face of wrong is no different from being a conspirator and truth must be loudly trumpeted from the housetops".

Digressing from his written statement to explain his pronouncement over the issue of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray, the former Law Minister said a humble Mumbai Magistrate had vindicated his stand.

He said it was his proud claim that he had lived by the teaching that silence in the face of wrong was no different from being a conspirator and quipped, "in my humble opinion he (Prime Minister) is a silent beneficiary of my loud and discordant speech".

Regarding the Prime Minister’s assertion that Mr Jethmalani was removed to maintain harmony between the judiciary and the executive, the former Law Minister said his view on the judiciary, executive relationship was "unfortunately different".

"I never suspected that this difference exists since my own view was expressed on many occasions, including on the golden jubilee celebrations of the Supreme Court," he said, adding "The Supreme Court, and, in fact, every court, is to be on the side of the common man who needs constant protection against executive insolence, corruption and incompetence".

"Tension between the judiciary and the executive is a welcome sign. The so-called harmony of the two may well be at the expense of constitutional democracy itself," he said.

Mr Jethmalani said while he was a supporter of judicial activism and all his life had fought for the independence and glory of the judiciary, " I will not surrender any executive privilege to please a judge even if he happens to be the highest".

On the move to set up a committee of the Chief Vigilance Officer of the Legal Department to probe the leakage of documents, Mr Jethmalani said: "I, however, maintain that there is nothing to probe and the whole effort is a waste of public time."

In this regard, he pointed out that a letter said to be written to the Prime Minister recently had obviously been leaked out to Karan Thapar who did BBC’s "Hard Talk" interview with the former Law Minister on July 28.

"I was shocked to learn that he had access to it. The committee should be directed to probe this too," he said.

The appointment of the committee amounted to a "massive assault on the privilege of every member and the House", Mr Jethmalani said.

Asserting that he had not committed any "grave impropriety" by disclosing government documents, Mr Jethmalani said no document was confidential and every citizen had the right to know its contents unless withheld by the Freedom of Information Bill for which, he said, the whole world was praising the government.

"But I regret that there is no light in the hearts and minds of those who level such charges. The whole world will be laughing at us for the colonial mindset that still clouds our good sense".

The Prime Minister and his young Law Minister "will be hard put to answer some embarrassing questions from the liberals of the world. For God’s sake do not make us look ridiculous," he added.

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