Saturday, September 2, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

EC calls all-party meeting
From S Satyanarayanan
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Sept 1 — The differences between the Centre and the Election Commission (EC) on the implementation of the model code of conduct for the general and Assembly elections is likely to be put to rest with the latter calling an all-party meeting on September 16 to deliberate and settle the issue.

As per the EC rules, the code of conduct is applicable as and when the schedule of election is announced. But, the Central Government is of the view that the model code of conduct should be made applicable only from the date of notification of the elections and not immediately after the announcement of the poll dates.

The issue of the implementation of the code of the conduct came to light about three years ago, when the Punjab and Haryana High Court vide its judgement dated May 27, 1997, in the Harbans Singh Jalal vs Union of India and others case, had categorically held that the EC could issue directions that the model code of conduct should be observed by political parties, including the parties in power at the Centre and in the states, from the date of announcement of election by the commission.

Aggrieved by the judgement, the Centre had filed a special leave petition (SLP) in 1997 before the Supreme Court, which is pending before it.

The Centre, in its SLP, had stated that the model code of conduct should come into force from the date of notification, and not from the date of the announcement of the election schedule.

According to EC sources, the September 16 meeting has been fixed, despite the matter being pending before the Supreme Court, following a meeting between the Ministry of State for Law, Justice and Company Affairs and the EC.

In that meeting, it was decided that the content of the code should not be touched and that an all-party meeting might be convened by the commission to decide the question of the date from which the model code should be enforced, the sources said.

The EC has invited two representatives each of all national and state parties for the meeting.

The EC while announcing the dates for the byelections to eight Assembly constituencies, including Sunam, last week had clearly stated that the model code of conduct would be applicable with immediate effect.


NCM upbraids Gujarat Govt
From T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Sept 1 — Concerned at the growing and possibly an irretrievable divide between the majority community and the minority communities in Gujarat, the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) has exhorted the Chief Minister, Mr Keshubhai Patel to “immediately abrogate” the state’s Disturbed Areas Act.

Taking exception to frequent communal riots in Gujarat especially in Surat and some other parts of the state, the NCM prepared a 14-point blueprint and urged the BJP government in Gandhinagar to take expeditious action on it to instil confidence among the minorities.

Expressing regret that the Chief Minister had not toured the riot affected areas posthaste, the NCM has asked the state government to consider imposing a punitive tax on localities surrounding the shops and business establishments damaged in the communal flare-up for fully compensating the victims.

The state government must take adequate action to contain the rising sense of insecurity among the Muslim community and make all efforts to properly rehabilitate all those who have lost business establishments, shops and properties during the riots.

Since the riots in Surat were a sequel to the Gujarat bandh call given by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal, the organisers must publicly accept “full moral responsibility for failing to prevent their field functionaries from resorting to violence while enforcing the bandh.”

The unsavoury incidents in Surat followed the orgy of killing of more than 100 innocent persons forming part of the Amarnath yatra in Pahalgam and some other places in Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistan-sponsored militants on July 31 and August 1 to scuttle the proposed peace process with the Hizbul Mujahideen.

The BJP government in Gujarat, noted the NCM, needed to provide adequate representation to the minority communities in the police and paramilitary forces. Simultaneously, officials having credibility must be posted in communally sensitive talukas and districts. It was also necessary to provide field postings to the officials belonging to the minority communities.

Action taken by the district administration of Surat in assessing the loss to property should be taken up with speed in Ahmedabad and Modasa. The NCM firmly believes that the Keshubhai Patel government should start a programme of sensitising field level functionaries to the problems of minorities and inculcate in them a spirit of fairness.

The state government should ensure that religious lands and buildings owned by different minority communities, particularly those attached to religious places and graveyards, were retained and protected. At the same time the Keshubhai Patel government should refrain from acquiring such land for public purposes.

The request from minority institutions to upgrade their schools must be encouraged as a policy. The state government should provide grants-in-aid for setting up new minority institutions and colleges. Minority institutions catering to the needs of educationally backward sections should not be classified as private institutions while providing grant-in-aid.

The NCM said that the Wakf Board, which has been superseded by the state government be reconstituted at the earliest. Prima facie the NCM did not find any objectionable material in the school books placed before it during its three-day visit to Ahmedabad from August 7 to August 9.

After extensive discussions with the Chief Minister and senior officials, the NCM has sent its recommendations to the Gujarat government.

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