Monday, December 3, 2001, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi

E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


Cricket short-changed
here is nothing much to celebrate. Yes, the International Cricket Council and the Board of Control for Cricket in India have reached an agreement that would allow the first of the three Test cricket series between India and England to commence at Mohali today. The series has been saved. But at what cost? 

Terror days in Andhra
axalites have resumed the violent campaign in Andhra Pradesh with a repackaged plan and heightened ferocity. Their attacks in the past weeks and days proclaim this. It all started with a spectacular blast in the Coca Cola bottling plant in Guntur, in the coastal region far away from the forest-clad north which was believed to be the base of the People’s War Group.


After 17 years of gas leak disaster
No end to govt apathy for survivors
N.D. Sharma

ome people are endowed with unbelievable capacity for turning their failures and lapses into an instrument of refurbishing their public image. Few can rival Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh in this respect. 



POTO controversy and its various dimensions
December 2, 2001
Enron is sinking
December 1, 2001
Pointless posturing by ICC
November 30
, 2001
SGPC & Punjab poll
November 29
, 2001
Nepal’s (and India’s) crisis
November 28
, 2001
List of don’ts for MPs, MLAs
November 27
, 2001
Quickfix history
November 26
, 2001
War against terror: The public opinion conundrum
November 25
, 2001
What has Dalmiya done?
November 24
, 2001
BJP’s new stance
November 23
, 2001
Denness stumps cricket
November 22
, 2001
Call back the cricketers
November 21
, 2001


Assembly session or choreographed theatre
Ram Varma
he winter session of the Haryana Assembly opened on November 7 and concluded on November 8. Short and sour, not sweet. Assembly sessions have become a ritual like the Dasehra festival providing fun and fireworks. 


POTO and the jurisprudence of hue and cry
Anupam Gupta
t may be......the duty of a citizen,” said Chief Justice Marshall of the United States, “to accuse every offender, and proclaim every offense which comes to his knowledge; but the law which would punish him in every case for not performing this duty is too harsh for man.”




Beggars form a union, demand free meals
newly-formed union of beggars in Raipur has demanded they should be provided free meals at public functions. They have asked the government to register their names in the “below poverty line” list so that they can get some benefit from society.

  • US children: why do people hate us?




Cricket short-changed

There is nothing much to celebrate. Yes, the International Cricket Council and the Board of Control for Cricket in India have reached an agreement that would allow the first of the three Test cricket series between India and England to commence at Mohali today. The series has been saved. But at what cost? Mr Malcolm Gray and Mr Malcolm Speed from Australia, who between them now control the ICC, and BCCI President Jagmohan Dalmiya have actually buried the hatchet not to save the game of cricket from further ignominy. They have done it to save their own skin. Had the India-England series been scrapped because of the stand-off between the ICC and the BCCI the sponsors would have sued both organisations for damages running into billions of dollars. International cricket itself would have been split into two camps. Pity the players, for they are nothing but puppets in the hands of administrators, most of whom have never played even club grade cricket. Their interest has been sacrificed at the altar of administrative expediency. They know it, yet they cannot protest. However, there is much that needs to be explained. For instance, why did Mike Denness, as match referee for the South Africa-India Test and one-day series, take the unprecedented step of slapping penalties on six Indian players during the second Test at Port Elizabeth? The fury his decision unleashed threatened to destroy the edifice of international cricket. As an after-thought, perhaps at the ICC’s prompting, he issued a clarification from his home in England that he had not said that Sachin Tendulkar was guilty of ball-tampering. Really? Why did he not say so at the press conference at Port Elizabeth where UCBSA President Gerald Majole read out the statement on his behalf? The South African media went to town with screaming headlines about “Indian cricket icon caught cheating”. He kept mum. Tendulkar had merely failed to tell the umpire about the grass he was “caught” removing from the seam of the ball by South African television cameras.

Denness, of course, was the prime villain. But the ICC bosses too should not be spared for their role in percipitating the crisis. The BCCI on learning about the action against six Indian players requested the apex body to either replace Denness as match referee for the Centurion Park Test or set up a panel of experts for reviewing the harsh penalties imposed by him. The ICC threw the rule book at Mr Dalmiya. It should be asked to explain why it has gone back on its stand and virtually let the BCCI dictate the terms of settlement of the dispute. A dispute that should not have arisen in the first place. There is no need to project Mr Dalmiya as the hero of the avoidable confrontation with the ICC. His role in the entire episode has been as questionable as that of Denness and the two Malcolms. He is guilty of undermining the dignity and authority of the ICC by forcing the UCBSA to remove Denness as the match referee at Centurion Park. That is not all. He instructed the selectors to make Virendra Sehwag serve a one-game suspension by sitting out at Centurion Park. In the deal that was struck between the ICC and the BCCI for saving the India-England series Sehwag was made the sacrificial goat. South African captain Shaun Pollock and all-rounder Jacques Kallis too have unwittingly become victims of the games played by the so-called administrators. The century that each one of them scored at Centurion against India would not be counted in their Test record. After the pathetic batting display by India that saw South Africa win the Centurion Park game by an innings and 73 runs it is doubtful whether the BCCI would be interested in having it treated as an official Test. However, if the Centurion Park Test is given official status Sehwag would become the only player in the history of the game to be punished twice for the same offence. Mr Dalmiya indeed has more explaining to do than Denness and the two Malcolms.


Terror days in Andhra

Naxalites have resumed the violent campaign in Andhra Pradesh with a repackaged plan and heightened ferocity. Their attacks in the past weeks and days proclaim this. It all started with a spectacular blast in the Coca Cola bottling plant in Guntur, in the coastal region far away from the forest-clad north which was believed to be the base of the People’s War Group (PWG). Then came simultaneous destruction of a milk chilling unit near Hyderabad, a Tata-run coffee processing factory in Chitoor in the rain-shadow Rayalaseema and a granite polishing facility in Medak. On Saturday morning the ultras returned to their old ways and destroyed a court building in their traditional base in Adilabad, the northernmost district. For good measure, they shot dead a local Congress leader and hacked to death a policeman. These violent acts have spread terror in all three regions of Andhra Pradesh — the fertile coastal districts, the arid Rayalaseema and the extremely backward Telangana where a feeble movement is on for a separate state. This is a striking change from the recent past when naxalites would confine their area of depredation to three districts of Telangana which provided them with a safe rear in the form of thick forests. What is equally striking is the choice of targets. Until late October, the naxals concentrated on public properties. They would bomb small railway stations, uproot rail tracks, raid isolated police stations and disrupt telephone network. Now they have shifted their attention to privately owned industrial units.

Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu has suffered three setbacks. His oft-repeated claim, on the advice of the police top brass, that the naxal menace has been uprooted has been shown as a hollow bravado. Two, his efforts to invite Indian and foreign investment have been hit. And, three, his family-owned milk chilling plant has been destroyed in Chitoor, showing how impotent the police is since it could not head off an attack on an industrial unit in which the Naidu family has a big stake. He is making angry noises and has pledged to equip the police with the latest communication and transport equipment. As Punjab realised it two decades ago, these are not effective in overcoming the loss of morale of the uniformed force. The violent elements are motivated by three factors. For about 10 years the police has been endlessly claiming that it has got the better of naxalites, particularly after the liquidation of two dalams (groups of raiders) in Medak district some years ago. The ultras wanted to disprove this. Two, the police had killed three important leaders, and their followers are thirsting for revenge. It follows that there will be more attacks and more bloodshed. The PWG has been in close touch with its ideological kin in Nepal and the spurt in violence is a way of expressing solidarity. POTO is the latest provocation. It is sad that during the past more than two decades of naxalite violence the state government has not looked into the socio-economic reasons for violence but has relied on the police. Tribals have to be extremely provocated to take to arms and proclaim their determination to die.


After 17 years of gas leak disaster
No end to govt apathy for survivors
N.D. Sharma

Some people are endowed with unbelievable capacity for turning their failures and lapses into an instrument of refurbishing their public image. Few can rival Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh in this respect. On Tuesday (November 27), a state government announcement said the Chief Minister had directed the Bhopal Gas Disaster Relief Department to issue identity cards to the December, 1984, gas leak victims for their speedy treatment in the department-run hospitals. Mr Digvijay Singh’s concern for providing proper treatment to the gas victims was splashed in the newspapers across the state and beyond — the next day.

In fact, the Supreme Court had directed the state government — on July 25 this year — to issue identity cards to the gas victims in need of medical aid. A Division Bench comprising Mr Justice B.N. Kirpal, Mr Justice N. Santosh Hegde and Mr Justice K.G. Balakrishnan said in its order that identity cards should be supplied to the victims of the gas tragedy in order to ensure speedy medical relief to them. The Supreme Court had left it to the state government to work out the modalities in this regard. But it wanted the exercise in this direction commenced “within three months” after giving “adequate publicity” in order to enable the persons entitled to receive the identity cards to approach the authorities.

The three-month period expired on October 25 without the government moving an inch towards complying with the apex court directive. Now for all publicity purposes it becomes Mr Digvijay Singh’s concern.

As Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee chief in the early nineties, Mr Digvijay Singh appeared to have made the welfare of the gas victims his major objective, if not the only one, of his life. He was so moved by the plight that he did everything except committing suicide. He submitted memoranda to the Governor, addressed public meetings, squatted on dharnas and at one stage appeared to be competing for getting justice to the hapless families with Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan convener Abdul Jabbar, virtually the only NGO left in the field to talk about the gas victims with consistency.

In its 1993 Assembly election manifesto prepared under Mr Digvijay Singh’s guidance, the Congress said: “the Bhopal gas victims are today feeling utterly harassed and frustrated because of the cumbersome procedure of distribution of interim relief and compensation. The grievances of the victims will be redressed by speeding up the payment of compensation. Besides, schemes for providing jobs to the gas-affected women will be implemented”.

It will not be inappropriate to say that Mr Digvijay Singh forgot the gas victims after becoming the Chief Minister. Eight years of his rule have been full of scandals involving the money meant for medicines and rehabilitation of the gas victims. So many cases have gone to the courts, the Human Rights Commission and the Lokayukta. The hospitals were constructed but these were not equipped. Costly equipment was purchased but the staff to operate them were not recruited. Medicines purchased in bulk for the gas victims were sold in the black market. Rampant corruption was reported in the payment of compensation. The condition of gas victims deteriorated in proportion to the money spent in their name. Mr Digvijay Singh had started distancing himself from the gas victims soon after becoming Chief Minister in December, 1993. There was no word about them in his party’s 1998 manifesto.

Not even a single scheme for the welfare of the gas victims has been started during his eight-year-old rule. Rather, the schemes conceived and initiated in the late eighties by then Chief Minister Motilal Vora — he was the only Chief Minister who appeared genuinely interested in ameliorating the lot of the disaster survivors — have all been virtually wound up. The process was started by the BJP government of Mr Sunderlal Patwa (1990-1992). His Bhopal Gas Disaster Relief Minister Babulal Gour had announced in the Assembly that the victims had become quite prosperous and did not need any help from the government.

The situation today speaks volumes about the present government’s “concern” for the survivors, around two lakhs of them suffering from long-term effects of the MIC gas leak and one lakh afflicted with permanent or temporary disability. Action Plan-I for the medical and economic rehabilitation of the survivors envisaged completion of all referral hospitals by 1995. It has not been done. As Action Plan-I has not been completed, the Central government has not released funds for Action Plan-II (1996-2000). The Supreme Court had, in its order of January 25, 2000, directed the state government to make all the hospitals and dispensaries fully operational by May 25, 2000, but the government has failed in this respect also.

The gas-affected people suffering from cancer were getting free medical aid at the cancer hospital. The state government last year amended the rules to permit free medical aid to only those gas victims who were found to be living below the poverty line.

At least five cases of corruption involving crores of rupees meant for the welfare of the survivors have been pending with the Madhya Pradesh Lokayukta since 1995. Major conduits for the misappropriation of gas relief money have been civil works and purchase of medicines. On November 5 this year, medicines worth Rs 2 lakh were found to have been purchased after the dates of expiry. Similarly, in 1996 medicines worth Rs 1 crore were found with expiry dates having passed. Tragically, the victims going to the hospitals and dispensaries for the gas-affected people do not get the medicines they need and are asked to purchase these from the market.

All the schemes of economic and environmental rehabilitation of the survivors have become virtually non-functional. The government claimed to have spent Rs 70 crore till 1994 on economic rehabilitation. Not even 70 persons have been provided with jobs, according to Abdul Jabbar. Mr Motilal Vora had initiated a scheme for setting up a special industrial area where 10,000 gas-affected persons were to be provided employment suitable to their physical condition. After spending Rs 8 crore on its development, the whole project stands practically abandoned. Stitching centres where 2300 gas-affected women were employed were closed down by the BJP government in 1992. The present government has not restarted them, the vociferous promises by Mr Digvijay Singh before he became Chief Minister notwithstanding. An amount of Rs 4 crore allotted by the Central government for disbursement to the voluntary organisations working for the welfare of the gas victims has been lying with the state government for the past four years.

Those who survived the December, 1984, MIC leak from the pesticides plant of the Union Carbide are facing another hazard in the form of huge quantities of toxic wastes left behind by the US multinational. A report prepared by a group of Bhopal citizens after visiting the site and submitted to the Chief Minister says that 21 tonnes of seven residue has been stored at the south-western end of the factory adjacent to Arif Nagar. More than 50 tonnes of Naphthol and other chemicals are stored in other areas. About three acres of land at the eastern end of the factory (next to the Atal-Ayub Nagar and Shakti Nagar localities) are covered with tonnes of solid toxic wastes which only means that the management of the erstwhile pesticides factory had been constantly dumping hazardous material there. The total quantity of the deadly chemicals dumped by the Union Carbide is estimated at 4000 tonnes. The people living around the erstwhere pesticide plant have been drinking water contaminated with these toxic chemicals.

When Everyday Industries (the Indian company which had taken over from Union Carbide) handed over the plant and the land to the Madhya Pradesh government in 1998, the state Pollution Control Board had taken over the responsibility of disposing of the wastes and was reportedly given some money also for the purpose. The state government had later washed its hands off the task. At least in this respect, the recent verdict of the Appellate Court of the USA gives some hope to the people living around the erstwhile pesticide factory. As a consequence of the decision of the Appellate Court, Union Carbide and its then Chairman Warren Anderson are now answerable to the charges of contaminating the ground water and soil in and around the Bhopal factory premises and causing health damage to thousands of people.

The suit filed by seven individual survivors and five organisations representing the victims against Union Carbide and Mr Warren Anderson in November, 1999, was dismissed by Judge John F. Keenan of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. While the three-judge Bench of the Appellate Court upheld Judge Keenan’s verdict in other respects, it remanded to him for fresh hearing the charges of environmental harm allegedly attributable to the Union Carbide India Limited plant in Bhopal (not related to the gas leak disaster) for monetary and equitable relief under various common laws.

The writer, a senior journalist, is based at Bhopal


Assembly session or choreographed theatre
Ram Varma

The winter session of the Haryana Assembly opened on November 7 and concluded on November 8. Short and sour, not sweet. Assembly sessions have become a ritual like the Dasehra festival providing fun and fireworks. This unfortunate development, one should hasten to add, is not peculiar to the present regime. It has become a hallowed tradition in Haryana. The Speaker sends an invitation, the members congregate in the avant-garde hall created by Le Corbusier, there are fiery speeches, accusations, and recriminations, walkouts and wordy duels, wild shouts, hoorays and thumping of tables. At the end, “ayes have it, ayes have it”, and they all troop out to a state dinner. The tamasha is over. The hall is closed to open when the next show starts.

The Constitution requires that more than six months could not intervene between two sessions of the Assembly. The two-day session of the Assembly is held to pay lip-service to this important provision. This “quick fix” saves the entire constitutional edifice, on which the government rests, from collapsing.

Democracy is a government by representation. The will of the people, their anxieties and aspirations are required to be conveyed to the government by their representatives. The Assembly is the proper forum for such communication. It, therefore, stands to reason that the sittings of the Assembly should be held at regular intervals, say, every quarter, to afford a suitable opportunity to the representatives. That is the spirit behind the constitutional provision that such sittings should be held before the expiry of six months. That is the minimum. It goes without saying that the sessions should be of adequate duration to make them meaningful and fruitful. A two-day session is a travesty of law. The minimum requirement has been minimised to the point of absurdity.

Similarly, the Budget session of the Assembly, which is held in February-March is also a nine-day wonder — literally. Four days are taken for the Governor’s speech and five for the Budget. The Governor’s speech, it may be mentioned, spells out the policy thrust of the government for the new financial year, and a full debate on it would serve to edify and educate both the public and its representatives, while the presentation of the annual Budget and a detailed discussion thereon, and consideration and approval of individual grants are central to democratic governance. But the session is over amidst the ritual chanting of “ayes have it, ayes have it” before the representatives have had time even for a cursory look at the bulky budget literature supplied to them in the House, much less to comprehend it and express their views on it. The entire exercise, so pivotal to the health of our democracy, has been reduced to a choreographed theatre — almost a farce.

This dysfunctional development in Haryana had its origins in the “Aya Ram Gaya Ram” culture, which affected the body politic of the state. The chameleon-like changing of colours tended to create occasional constitutional crises. Guarding the stable became a major preoccupation as some senior party leaders flaunted their mastery, nay, a fail-proof Ph.D., in the game of government formation by horse-trading. “Stablewatch” became the most important activity of the government.

This malaise mostly erupted during Assembly sessions, and it was, therefore, sought to minimise it by minimising the duration of Assembly sessions so that the ordeals and the strains of “Stablewatch” were fewer. In order to make a token observance of the letter of the constitutional provisions, briefest possible Assembly sessions, like the two-day quickie, were invented.

However, the situation has undergone a sea change after Parliament passed the Anti-Defection Act. It has proved to be an effective antidote against this disease inasmuch as it requires a minimum of one-third members of a party to change sides for a legitimate split. Although partly the problem still persists as this Act does not operate against independent members, or when the party strength is small. As a logical corollary, the Act should be amended to provide for re-election in all cases, disregarding the concept of a split. In case of an independent member, the same provision should operate once he announces his alliance with any party, whether he formally joins it or not.

But the fact remains that the Act, even as it stands today, affords substantial relief against this debilitating disease. In the changed constitutional environment of comparative stability it should be possible to discard the fear of the black sheep bolting the stable, and prolong the duration of Assembly sessions.

Mr Om Prakash Chautala has exhibited a remarkable hold over his party and government, and has been able to withstand pressures, and continue with a small size ministry. He should make bold and break this wrong practice of “quickie” Assemblies. A beginning could be made by having a six-week-long Budget session. This step, among other things, would alleviate the reported frustration among the honourable members and revitalise the sinews of democracy in the state.

It is to be remembered that our parliamentary institutions are modelled on the British Parliament, which is acclaimed as the mother of parliaments. I had an occasion once to watch its proceedings in Westminster and was struck by the quiet dignity informing the conduct of the House. The Prime Minister was speaking on the implications of a bill under consideration, when he spied a member at the back rising on his feet. He at once sat down, as if looking for such an opportunity, and rose only after the member had had his say, and resumed his speech, first taking up the points raised by the member. Thrice in the span of the 15-20 minutes that I sat in the gallery, the Prime Minister had quietly sat down when he saw members rising in their seats. They were not using microphones, there being what is called pin-drop silence. The Speaker sitting in his high chair was almost superfluous. In contrast, our Parliament and Assemblies become virtual fish markets.

Besides, there is subterfuge and guile. As alleged by Mr Bhajan Lal, the Haryana Assembly session was scheduled to last four days, but was curtailed to invalidate and frustrate the Opposition move against the Speaker. No doubt, Mr Chautala would stoutly deny the allegation. But the point is the Assembly should not give the impression of being a place where games of hide and seek are played. It should be treated as a forum where views are freely aired and are heard with respect and discussed dispassionately, where dignity and decorum prevail.

The writer, a retired IAS officer, is a former Chief Secretary of Haryana.


POTO and the jurisprudence of hue and cry
Anupam Gupta

“It may be......the duty of a citizen,” said Chief Justice Marshall of the United States, “to accuse every offender, and proclaim every offense which comes to his knowledge; but the law which would punish him in every case for not performing this duty is too harsh for man.”

Too harsh for man. Handed down in 1822 in Marbury vs Brooks, these words of John Marshall — the Judge who gave the concept of judicial review to the world — sum up the entire argument against the offence of “misprision of felony” embodied in Section 39 of the CrPC and Section 3(8) of the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance, 2001.

And though in the entire debate for and against POTO, no one, from its ablest defenders to its ablest critics, has ever examined the offence of misprision of felony, it is this offence shorn of its historical common-law name that has aroused the wrath of the Fourth Estate and sent the Government of India scurrying for justification.

As Marshall’s words indicate, the offence lies in concealing or failing to disclose the commission of a crime by another after it has come to one’s knowledge.

Based essentially on the duty to “raise hue and cry”, the offence was first given a name, misprision of felony, by Sir William Staundford in 1557.

“Even since the days of hue and cry,” wrote Lord Denning in 1961 in Sykes vs Director of Public Prosecutions, “it has been the duty of man who knows that a felony (or grave crime) has been committed to report it to the proper authority so that steps can be taken to apprehend the felon (or the criminal) and bring him to justice.”

It was his duty, Denning elaborated, dipping into history, to raise hue and cry, that is to say, to report it to the sheriff of the county or his officer or to the constable of the town; whereupon it was the duty of that officer to levy hue and cry, that is, to shout aloud calling on all able-bodied men over the age of 15 to pursue the offender; and it was their duty to join in the pursuit.

First codified, said Denning, by the Statute of Westminster (1275), the duty was re-enacted in the Sheriffs Act of 1887:

“Every person in a county shall be ready and apparelled at the command of the sheriff and at the cry of the country to arrest a felon...”

In the light of this history, he said, referring to other authorities as well such as Coke, Hale and Blackstone, “it is plain that there is and always has been an offence of misprision of felony and that it is not obsolete. It is true that until recently it has been rarely invoked, but that is no ground for denying its existence.”

He was responding to counsel’s argument that there were no recorded cases where any man had ever been indicted for misprision of felony from the time Staundford wrote in 1557 till the year 1938.

Staundford, said the counsel, had made a mistake, and all the subsequent authors had copies from him. The mere repetition of the “cantilena of lawyers” cannot, he said, make law.

That, incidentally, is a remarkable metaphor though judges normally employ a similarly-sounding but quite different word: catena.

While “catena” (from “catena” or chain in Latin) is a linked or connected series, “cantilena” (from “cantus” or song) is, according to the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, a vocal or instrumental passage of sustained lyricism.

More than anything else, it is Denning’s opinion in Sykes vs Director of Public Prosecutions that has served to resurrect the offence of misprision of felony in modern times.

Accompanying Denning in the House of Lords — he sat on the highest British court for 5 years and, unable to cope with its conservatism, stepped down in 1962 to adorn the lower though not lesser judicial office of Master of the Rolls — were Lord Goddard, Lord Morton of Henryton, Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest and Lord Guest.

Each one of them concurred no doubt but with a caveat of sorts.

“(I)n my opinion, the offence should be sparingly prosecuted,” said Lord Goddard, though “I am by no means prepared to say that it has no use in our criminal law at the present day...”

“The fact that prosecutions have been, and doubtless will continue to be, infrequent,” said Lord Morris, “demonstrates that the law is the hand-maid of reason.”

Caveat or no caveat, however, the verdict of the House of Lords in Sykes’ case has come in for severe academic criticism.

The effects of this restatement of the offence of misprision of felony, writes J.W. Cecil Turner, editor of the 12th edition of Russell on Crime, “remain to be experienced. If it were seriously observed by shopkeepers alone, it can safely be estimated that the strain on the courts of summary jurisdiction in the large cities would be increased to breaking point.”

The rule as to misprision of felony, writes Prof Glanville Williams in his well-known work on criminal law, “is unreasonably wide. Read literally, it would make it an offence for a mother to fail to inform the police that her eight-year-old son has taken a cake from the pantry, knowing that it is wrong to do so.”

Hue and cry, he remarks, is an “obsolete practice” and the reference to it in the Sheriffs Act of 1887 “may safely be taken to indicate that the statutory provision itself is dead.”

Lest the reader take this assault on the statute lightly, let it be known that the author of the remark is one of the most learned and respected of English jurists.

In fact, adds Prof Williams, whatever the law might be, it is not the general custom to prosecute for misprision of felony, even where a person who knows of a felony is questioned by the police and refuses to make a statement.

Indeed (he says) Stephen, writing in the 19th century, regarded the offence as “practically obsolete”; and American courts have refused to recognise it as subsisting.

The reference is to Sir James F. Stephen who, incidentally, also drafted the Indian Evidence Act.

As for American courts, a conspicuous attempt to revive the offence a la Sykes vs Director of Public Prosecutions was made by the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland in Pope vs State (1978).

Expressing concern about “the contemporarily indifferent or the uninvolved sophisticates, who deny being their brothers’ keepers,” the court upheld the conviction of Joyce Lillian Pope for “having sinned by silence when the circumstances cried out for her to protest a mother’s prolonged and inhumane treatment of a 3-month-old child...”

Reversing the verdict a year later, the Maryland Court of Appeals held that the crime of misprision of felony does not, and should not, exist.

The crime, said the court, was too broad in scope inasmuch as the duty to act arises merely from the commonly inadvertent acquisition of information, often from or about friends or relatives whom one is then obligated to betray.

Moreover, not only are many swept, however unwillingly, within the law’s ambit, but the crime partakes of the vice of vagueness. What, for instance, constitutes sufficient knowledge (of a crime or intended crime) to trigger the duty to inform?

That apart, the court noted, misprision might endanger either the right against self-incrimination, or the right of privacy, or both.

On the basis of these considerations, it concluded, the crime was incompatible with present-day circumstances and unnecessary to the preservation of law and order.

Are Messrs L.K. Advani, Arun Jaitley and Arun Shourie listening?




Beggars form a union, demand free meals

A newly-formed union of beggars in Raipur has demanded they should be provided free meals at public functions. They have asked the government to register their names in the “below poverty line” list so that they can get some benefit from society.

Taking a cue from industrial workers, nearly 50 beggars of Raipur joined hands to form a union to fight the injustice being done to them by the social mainstream. The union would try to find a redressal to their problems which make their life different from others.

The union aims to arrange for free food and other necessities to bring some comfort to this unfortunate lot. The first of its kind in the country, the union is becoming popular day-by-day with more and more beggars joining it. Union President Yusuf Khan alleged that most beggars were very vulnerable and exploited by society.

Jamila, one of the members of the union said, “I have been begging after my husband’s death five months ago, it has really become difficult to survive because many a times you don’t get anything. I am happy to join the union because I think the formation of the union will benefit us.” ANI

US children: why do people hate us?

The new business department of an advertising agency gets a call from an unspecified client: ‘We’ve got a brief which we’d like you to work on. We’ve recently realised that our brand is not as secure in the market place as we thought.

We need to turn around the fortune of our brand and change people’s opinion of it.’ The new business director says ‘Sure, who is your target audience and what’s the brand?’

Unspecified client replies: ‘Our target audience is The World and our brand is: The United States of America.’ This might not be far fetched. After 11 September, schoolteachers across the USA were fielding questions from confused pupils, one of the most frequent being: ‘Why do people hate us so much?’.

The events of 11 September triggered a massive, unprompted global consumer research group which resulted in Americans questioning who they really are. Not only was it plain that many in the Arab world had a deep-rooted hatred of the USA, The western world was happy to dish its share of criticism as well.

So how does a country like the US go about rebranding itself and convincing a cynical global audience that it is not the ‘big, bad, domineering and arrogant’ nation some people think it is? The Observer


Study to be quiet, and to do your own business.

— The Holy Bible, 1 Thessalonians 4:11

* * *

Do not scald your tongue in other people's broth.

— An English proverb

* * *

O man, work with vigour and vitality

Drive away the devil of poverty and disease.

May your honest earnings support the people,

Engaged in benevolent deeds

For the welfare of society.

— Atharva Veda, 6.81.1

* * *

Our service in the world gets us a seat in the Court of the Lord.

— Guru Nanak Dev, Sri Rag, Sri Guru Granth Sahib

* * *

The real serviteur is a rare one among millions.

— Guru Arjan Dev, Malar, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, page 1269

* * *

The miser for another hoards

His bags of needless money;

The bees laboriously pack

But others taste the honey.

— The Panchatantra, Book II

* * *

Share your joy, your wealth and your knowledge with others less fortunate. That is the surest means of winning Divine Grace.

— From the discourses of Sathya Sai Baba

* * *

The man who has firm faith

that God is abiding within the heartand soul of every man finds

enough strength to surmount

and bear the greatest of tragedies ,

with a sublime contented smile.

— Atharvaveda, 20.17.6

* * *

Thou art the river of life for me.

AThou art the Great Giver, fabulous Thy wealth.

It is Thou who givest,

Thou who takest.

There is none else besides Thee.

* * *

Thou art wisdom

Thou art foresight;

How can I comprehend Thee?

O Nama’s Lord, O dear God,

Thou art He who forgivest!

— Sant Namadeva, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Rag Tilang, page 727

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