Wednesday, July 4, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Centre warns Jaya govt
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 3
In a virtual climbdown, the Union Government tonight decided to just issue a warning to the Tamil Nadu Government on protection of constitutional guarantee and directed it to take action against officials guilty of having committed excesses during the arrests of former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi and the two Union Ministers.

“After considering the report of the three-member Home Ministry team, which seriously indicts both Tamil Nadu Government and the state police for violation of law, human rights, Press freedom, the right to legitimate political activity and federalism, the Cabinet felt that immediate action by the Central Government is required to ensure that these are restored and not threatened in future in the state,” Union Law Minister Arun Jaitley told newspersons after the three-hour-long Cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

He said the warning was being issued in consonance with the requirements of the Justice Sarkaria Commission report on the Centre-state relations and the observation of the Supreme Court in the Bommai’s case.

“In consonance with the Sarkaria Commission report para 6.8(02), the Cabinet decided that the Central Government in the first instance send a warning to the state government stating all these breaches of law, constitutional procedures, guarantees and proprieties which have taken place,” he said.

The warning would be sent by the Union Home Ministry requiring the state to rectify all these violations which have taken place and the state government will also be required to identify the officials who are guilty of having committed these excesses and proceed against them as per law.

Asked whether any timeframe would be set by the Centre to the state government to comply with the Union Home Ministry’s direction, Mr Jaitley merely said, “The Home Ministry will draft a detailed letter to the state government tomorrow”. The Sarkaria Commission report states that a warning should be issued first to the errant states in specific terms when it is not carrying on the government as per the Constitution.

On what would be the next step of the Centre if the Tamil Nadu Government does not abide by Home Ministry’s warning, Mr Jaitley said the options were many, including the use of Articles 256, Article 355 and Article 356.

Detailing on the Home Ministry team’s report, Mr Jaitley said the report stated that from the sequence of the events it appeared that the FIR was registered against Mr Karunanidhi at 2 p.m. on June 29 and the arrest took place at 1.30 a.m. on the intervening night of June 29/30, which showed that there was hardly any time for investigation and no investigation was possible at such a short time.

The report which dubbed the Tamil Nadu Government and the police action as “vindictive and premeditated”, also questioned the manner in which a particular police official was transferred and who subsequently registered an FIR against the former Chief Minister.

The report also termed as “unjustified” the arrest of the two Union Ministers Murasoli Maran and T.R. Baalu and the entry of the police into the house of Karunanidhi’s son Stalin when he was not there.

“It appears that by going to the house of a Central Minister with the intention of searching on false pretext, by trying to arrest a former Chief Minister, taking him to CD-CID office and not allowing his family members to meet him, an environment of confrontation was created,” he said quoting the report.

The report also pointed out that the manner of arrest was flagrant violation of principles laid down in the annals of apex court....similarly judicial remand of Mr Karunanidhi for 14 days was not necessitated.... But the Tamil Nadu police sought a remand for 14 days.

It also questioned the arrest of 23,000 DMK workers, including six sitting MPs, four former MPs, eight sitting MLAs, 46 former MLAs, a former Speaker and several other political functionaries, he said.

The PMO tonight contradicted the state government’s claim that the Prime Minister requested the Tamil Nadu Government to consider dropping the charges against the two Union Ministers.

Reacting to the state government’s claims, the PMO said, “The Prime Minister never made any request to the state government to consider dropping the charges against the Union Ministers.”

The special Cabinet meeting, which was scheduled last evening, was postponed for today to enable Union Home Minister L.K. Advani, who was on a three-nation tour, to take part in the deliberations.

Mr Soli Sorabjee, Attorney-General of India, who was asked to return to India from London to give his opinion on the course of action in Tamil Nadu, was present during the meeting.

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