Friday, February 15, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



More powers for grassroots bodies
Punjab finance panel to present report today
P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 14
The Second Punjab Finance Commission will present its report to the Governor here tomorrow. The report relates to the devolution of powers, administrative and financial, to the panchayats and the local bodies as per the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments. As many as 29 functions are to be entrusted to the panchayats alone as per the 73rd Amendment.

The commission, headed by a former bureaucrat, Mr B.B. Mahajan, has come after a period of five years. The first report was presented to the Governor by Mr J.P. Gupta.

Meanwhile, the financial health of Punjab is being mapped for consideration of the next government. Though the SAD-BJP government realised the need for “drastic action” to increase revenue receipts and decrease revenue expenditure, its importance dawned on it rather late, close to the end of its five-year term.

Nevertheless, the government took two major steps when Mr K.R. Lakhanpal was the Principal Secretary, Finance. These steps were the setting up of an Expenditure Reforms Commission and a Disinvestment Commission. The former is headed by the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy Director, Dr Ashok Lahiri, and the latter by a former Punjab Chief Secretary, Mr P.H. Vaishnav.

The reports of these two commissions are expected by April-end.

The financial health report indicates that there is a wide gap of Rs 3,000 crore between revenue receipts and expenditure at present. The question is how to bridge this gap without raising public ire.

There were, sources told TNS, only two ways to do so. One, raise taxes. But in view of the applicability of uniform floor rates of taxes, the scope was limited. The alternative, available to the next government, would be to have a second look at the existing tax exemptions/concessions, including their withdrawal. But the Akalis and the Congress have promised in their respective election manifestoes to provide more of these sops. If the Akalis proposed to continue the present sops and have added a few more, the Congress has also announced sops worth Rs 1,200 crore. Neither has specified how the resources will be mobilised.

The second way to bridge the gap is to enhance user charges on social and economic services and also cut down on “unproductive” expenditure. The snag is that government services are woefully inadequate and quality-wise unsatisfactory.

Then comes the question of ''unproductive'' expenditure. A minimum of 60 per cent goes out by way of wages, salaries, pensions and debt repayments. To meet this, the state has been on a borrowing spree since 1984 because receipts have been lower than expenditure. This picked up after 1988-89.

The only sources of revenue for the government are sales tax, vehicle tax, excise duty and fee from stamp duty on registration. On the non-revenue side it is the net receipts from lotteries, user charges, etc. Besides government transfers (share of the state from central taxes) also come to Punjab. For the past 10 years, the tax buoyancy has been less than 1. The growth of tax collections has been less than the growth of the state gross domestic product. Some improvement was seen in the past two years (1999-2000 and 2000-01). But the same is fast tapering off.

The state, to bridge the gap between the revenue receipts and revenue expenditure, resorted to borrowings. The more the state borrowed, the deeper it went into the debt trap. A vicious circle set in.

Punjab's share in devolution from central taxes has also gone down with the coming up of the 11th Finance Commission compared to what it procured as per the recommendations of the 10th Finance Commission. The total amount received increased but the growth did not correspond to that. The share dipped from 1.46 per cent to 1.15 per cent. The share from the Centre's transfers is now Rs 1,500 crore.

The latest figures for 2000-01 show that wages, salaries and pensions cost the state exchequer Rs 5,700 crore and interest repayments Rs 2,300 crore. The state borrowings were Rs 28,000 crore and of public sector undertakings another Rs 6,500 crore to which government has given its guarantee. The tax revenue was Rs 4,900 crore. The state today is left with little money for development.

The steps needed to improve financial housekeeping are well known. There has to be political will to take the initiative. The state, to increase revenue receipts and decrease expenditure, is consulting, among others, Mr Prem Chand, who has retired from the International Monetary Fund after 27 years’ service.


SGPC poll: 2.7 lakh registered as voters
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 14
More than 2.7 lakh persons, including about 50,000 Sehajdhari Sikhs, had registered in 17 districts in Haryana as voters till January 31 for the SGPC elections which may be crucial for the SAD President, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, who may be defeated in the Assembly poll in Punjab if exit polls are to be believed.

The Gurdwara Election Commission, meanwhile, has extended the last date to March 27 for the registration of voters for the SGPC elections . The earlier deadline set for the purpose was January 31. Haryana, which has eight SGPC constituencies but elects 11 SGPC members due to double-member status of the Sirsa, Kurukshetra and Dabwali constituencies, had 2,72,644 persons registered as voters till January 31. The number of Sehajdhari voters registered till that date was 49,629, the number of SC voters, 15,374 and the number of Kesdhari voters 2,22,874. The registration figures for Panchkula and Yamunanagar are still not available in Chandigarh.

While Rohtak, as per the figures till January 31, is the only district of Haryana where Sehajdhari voters will outnumber Kesdhari Sikhs (2,334 and 1,573, respectively) the maximum number of Sehajdhari voters (16,093) was reported from Sirsa.

While the deadline for registration as voters for the SGPC elections was extended on a couple of occasions earlier also, sources in the Haryana Gurdwara Elections Department said that the decision on the latest extension of the deadline was taken at a meeting presided over by the Chief Commissioner, Gurdwara Elections, in which officers of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh also participated. He said the extension of the last date had been necessitated in view of the low registration of voters in Punjab where people were busy with the Assembly elections.

The registration figures for four states till the end of December show that seven lakh voters had been registered in Punjab out of an estimated electorate strength of more than 48 lakh. For Haryana the figure was 1.74 lakh voters out of an estimated strength of 4.8 lakh voters. Himachal Pradesh, however, almost met its target on the registration of voters. In Chandigarh, less than 12,000 voters were registered by the end of December.


HC notice to Punjab on free power
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 14
A Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court today issued notice of motion for April 8 to the state of Punjab and other respondents on a petition for quashing a commercial circular granting free electricity for domestic purposes upto 50 units per month to the members of the Scheduled Caste.

In their petition taken up by the Bench, comprising Mr Justice G.S. Singhvi and Ms Justice Bakhshish Kaur, Superintending Engineer Padamjit Singh, along with six other retired engineers connected with the power sector, also sought directions to the Punjab State Electricity Board to act strictly in accordance with the Electricity Regulatory Commission Act of 1998.

Claiming violation of the Act, counsel for the petitioners stated that even though the Commission was set up in April 2001, decisions pertaining to tariff were being taken without consulting it.

The High Court, in a judgement pronounced in December last year, directed the PSEB to manage its affairs in view of Section 59 of the Electricity (Supply) Act specifying a 3 per cent rate of return. The Bench also granted PSEB six months time to comply with the directions. The judgement was significant as, according to the petitioners, the board was unable to achieve stipulated 3 per cent rate of return because of the government’s decision to give free power to the agriculture sector.


Cong hand alleged in poll agent’s murder
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 14
Mr Surinder Singh Kairon, a former Congress MP, and Mr Virsa Singh Valtoha, a senior Akali leader, have alleged that Congress workers were involved in the murder of a poll agent in Valtoha constituency last evening.

Talking to mediapersons her today, Mr Valtoha alleged that Balwinder Singh, a SAD poll agent, was stabbed by Daljit Singh, a Congress worker.

Balwinder was stabbed when he allegedly tried to resist the attack on another poll agent, Gurmej Singh, by Congress workers led by Anup Singh, son of Gurchet Singh, Congress candidate from the constituency, they said.

Mr Valtoha said it all started when Trishan Singh presiding officer of the booth, tried to press the EVM ballot button in favour of the Congress on behalf of aged villagers on the pretext of helping them. This action was opposed by poll agent Gurmej. The Khemkaran police was informed by workers in this regard but it failed to take any action, he alleged.

In the meantime, Anup Singh entered the booth forcibly and started beating up Gurmej. Balwinder, who was in a nearby booth, tried to intervene. However, a Congress worker, Daljit Singh, pulled out his kirpan and stabbed Balwinder, who later succumbed to his injuries.


SAD men protest against criminal case
Tribune News Service

Ballianwali (Bathinda), February 14
Hundreds of workers of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) led by chairman, Milkfed Punjab and party candidate from Joga Assembly segment, Mr Jagdeep Singh Nakai today staged a dharna in front of local police station to press the district police authorities to cancel the criminal case registered against his (Mr Nakai) close kin of Mr Himmat Singh and others allegedly under pressure from his (Mr Nakai’s) opponents.

A major controversy erupted in his area following registration of criminal case pertaining to the possession of narcotics, liquor and firearms against Mr Himmat Singh during poll days on February 12. While a section of Congress workers alleged that the name of Mr Nakai did not figure in the FIR as the police authorities were under pressure and reluctant to take any action against Mr Nakai for the use of drug and liquor into the elections.

The SAD workers, on the other hand, alleged that criminal case was registered against Mr Himmat Singh and others by the police authorities under pressure from the supporters of Congress candidate, Mr Sukhraj Singh Natt. They alleged that Mr Himmat Singh was gheraoed by a section of Congress workers while he was travelling in the area and they pressurised the police authorities to book him into a criminal case.

A case against Mr Himmat Singh and others was registered in the local police station on the complaint of Mr Gurlal Singh, a resident of Pirkot village. In the complaint, he alleged that about 10 to 12 persons were calling the residents of a locality of Scheduled Caste in this village by offering them poppy husk, liquor and money in lieu of their vote in favour of Mr Nakai.

He said that when they asked why they were indulging in illegal activities, the accused Himmat Singh, who was brother-in-law of Mr Nakai, entered into the jeep with remaining quantity of poppy husk. The accused who was also having a big pouch containing money tried to flee from there after showing the pistol.

However, he and his associates managed to gherao Mr Himmat Singh and his about five associates.

The police immediately arrested Mr Himmat Singh.

Mr Nakai, when contacted, alleged that his brother-in-law, Mr Himmat Singh, who was coming to Rampuraphul on his jeep was stopped by gunmen and three other policemen of complainant, Mr Gurlal Singh a brother of senior bureaucrat of Punjab and when Mr Himmat Singh came out of the vehicle, Mr Gurlal Singh, his associates and policemen badly beaten them up. He added that Mr Himmat Singh and his associates suffered serious injuries.

After beating them up, Mr Gurlal Singh took Himmat Singh and others to local police station where they were again beaten up. The jeep of Mr Himmat Singh was also damaged. After that the entire poppy husk and other illegal things were implanted on Mr Himmat Singh and others and they were implicated into false criminal case.

He alleged those gunmen of Mr Gurlal Singh and three other policemen, who thrashed Mr Himmat Singh and others on February 12 again created a trouble for him when they beaten up his supporters in the Pirkot village. He added that he had already lodged complaints against senior bureaucrat of the Election Commission, for his open campaigning for Congress candidate, Mr Natt.

Mr Kapil Dev, SSP, when contacted, while confirming the fact that a dharna had been staged in front of local police station, said that so far atmosphere was peaceful. He added that instructions had been given to the police officials to maintain law and order.

He added that SAD workers had alleged that case against Mr Himmat Singh was registered under duress of Congress workers. He said that as police authorities had received strong allegations from both sides, an inquiry by a senior police official would be conducted into the matter.


Dharna to protest against MLA’s beating
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 14
A few thousand agitated people today staged a dharna in front of the Deputy Commissioner’s office here to protest against the alleged beating up of present legislator and Panthic Morcha candidate from Samana constituency Jagtar Singh Rajla by a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) in the Samana township yesterday.

The dharna was led by former Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee president Gurcharan Singh Tohra and also joined by dissident Congress leader Harinderpal Singh Mann who had contested from Samana as an independent candidate. It continued for nearly three hours stopping vehicular traffic on one part of the road.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Tohra demanded that a case be registered against DSP Ashish Kapoor for beating up Mr Rajla when he protested against the “rigging” indulged in by him to help Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) candidate Surjit Singh Rakhra. The Akali leader also demanded immediate suspension of the DSP.

He also handed over a memorandum in this regard to Deputy Commissioner Jasbir Singh Bir in which a 72-hour ultimatum was given to the government to take action in the matter failing which the party threatened to start an agitation on the issue.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Harinderpal Singh Mann claimed that all democratic norms had been thrown to the winds yesterday.

He said the SAD candidate had used money to influence the police which acted on his directions and indulged in open rigging at several places. He said in the light of open capturing of booths in the seat the Election Commission should order a repoll in the constituency.

Senior Panthic Morcha leader Prem Singh Chandumajra speaking on the occasion said it was tragic that a people’s representative had been beaten up in front of his supporters. He said not satisfied with this the DSP had taken the legislator to the police station and tried to register a case against him but could not be successful in his designs because the police station was surrounded by agitated party workers.

Meanwhile Congress candidate Brahm Mohindra today released a complaint made by him against the DSP to the press. The complaint had alleged that Mr Ashish Kapoor had been posted as DSP at Samana on the bidding of Mr Rakhra and was pressurising the voters of Samana to vote for him.


Ban exit poll: Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 14
The Punjab Minister of Local Bodies, Mr Balramji Das Tandon, today said the Election Commission must evolve a system whereby opinion polls were regulated and exit polls banned.

Talking to newspersons, Mr Tandon said experience showed that predictions by way of exit polls had failed in several states, the latest being in the case of the Maharashtra municipal elections. He also objected to the Punjab exit polls telecast by several channels on Wednesday, on the ground that these would influence voters in UP, which went to the polls today. Moreover, he said the surveys were conducted unscientifically and presented a distorted picture.

Mr Tandon, who contested from Rajpura, exuded confidence that the BJP would romp home with at least 15-20 seats. The party's organising general secretary, Mr Avinash Jaiswal, even identified those seats.''Our win will be clear and comfortable'', the two added. A unique feature of the elections, he said, was that it was the first ever held after a non-Congress government had completed a full five years term.

The alliance between the Akalis and the BJP was not ''poll-related'' and would continue, irrespective of the electoral outcome, emphasised Mr Tandon. He maintained the SAD-BJP alliance would form the government. The enthusiasm with which electors responded in villages was indicative of a pro-Akali-BJP wave.

He thanked the people for the peaceful conduct of the elections The stray incidents were ''minor''. But he had grouse against the Election Commission which he perceived as ''biased'', whereas the state administration played a fair role enabling the smooth conduct of the elections.


Morcha candidate demands repoll
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 14
Baba Tek Singh Dhanaula, Panthic Morcha candidate from the Dhanaula Assembly constituency and district president of the SHSAD, today demanded from the Election Commission to order repolling at Ratoke village polling booth (near Longowal) in his constituency because a large number of voters could not cast votes after the stoppage of polling at 3.00 p.m. at the booth, yesterday.

At this polling booth, only 432 votes (out of total 805 votes) up to 3.00 p.m. were polled when a voter detected an alleged fault in the electronic voting machine (EVM). The electorate immediately raised the issued and brought the matter to the notice of the presiding officer, and the machine was checked.

The sources revealed yesterday when the voter reportedly pressed the button of “cart” symbol (election symbol of Baba Tek Singh) on the EVM to cast vote, it did not give the requisite tune to show that the vote had been registered in the EVM. This information spread fast in the area and a large number of people gathered near the booth. On this, the polling was stopped. Baba Tek Singh along with his supporters also reached the spot.

Baba Tek Singh said the ADC, Sangrur, who reached the booth to tackle the situation, asked them to persuade the voters to cast votes. But the voters declined to do so and demanded repolling at the booth, he added.

Baba Tek Singh said in view of the circumstances there should be a repoll at the Ratoke village’s polling booth before the declaration of the result of the Dhanaula Assembly constituency. He said this would give an opportunity to those voters to cast votes who could not do the same, the previous day.


Steps to combat female foeticide
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, February 14
The state Health and Family Welfare Department has evolved a comprehensive strategy for strict monitoring of the functioning of ultrasonography centres and genetic clinics in the state to combat the menace of female foeticide.

Speaking at a divisional-level meeting attended by civil surgeons of Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala, Nawanshahr and Ludhiana here today, the Principal Secretary, Health and Family Welfare, Mr Rajan Kashyap, instructed that special complaint cells should be established in the office of the appropriate authorities at the district and sub-divisional levels and proper record pertaining to complaints and their disposal should be maintained.

Mr Kashyap made it clear that the state government was determined to check the menace of female foeticide. “We are using information technology by way of specially created software and computers in all districts to closely monitor the system of enforcement. Besides, we have decided to create awareness among the public by ensuring the participation of non-government organisations (NGOs). We are using all forms of media, including print and electronic, posters, dramas and “nukkads” to spread the message against the use of ultra-modern medical facilities for female foeticide,”he said.

He said the state government had received a grant of Rs 93 lakh for this purpose from the Central Government last year and a detailed project report had already been submitted to the Centre for allocation of funds.

The civil surgeons were told to ensure that all ultrasound centres in their respective districts should set up hoardings, wall paintings or display boards against sex determination. “We will also send decoy patients to ultrasound centres for sex determination before raiding the premises. All ultrasound scanning machines, found unregistered, during raids will be forfeited.,” Mr Kashyap said. 


SGPC flays attack on gurdwara staff
Our Correspondent

Baba Bakala (Amritsar), February 14
The SGPC President, Prof Kirpal Singh Badungar, has taken serious note of the attack on employees of the local Guru Teg Bahadur gurdwara.

He alleged that about 30 Congress workers, armed with sharp-edged weapons, attacked gurdwara employees yesterday and threw brickbats on residential quarters of the gurdwara.

Prof Badungar said the workers were led by Bhai Jagrup Singh, Tarlochan Singh, Swaranjit Singh, Sarabjit Singh and others.

In a press note issued here today, the SGPC chief condemned the attack and said an inquiry would be conducted into the incident.

He sought action against the DSP who was informed of the attack by the gurdwara manager. The manager, in complaints to the Chief Minister, the DGP and the SSP, Majitha, has demanded action against those responsible for the incident.

Meanwhile, traffic was disrupted here today for over an hour due to a clash between Congress and SAD workers.


Residents seek arrest of Gora, others
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Gidderbaha, February 14
Uneasy calm prevails in this home town of the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, after the residents witnessed unprecedented violence yesterday afternoon when the polling for General Assembly elections was going on.

Though the district police authorities have registered criminal cases against Mr Gurpal Singh Gora, member of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), Mr Charanjit Singh and Mr Rachpal Singh for their involvement in the violence, no arrest has been made so far.

A major section of residents of the town have decided to observe bandh for pressing the police authorities to arrest the accused and their prosecution to logical end apart from disciplinary action against the guilty police officials, who played a partisan role during the polls.

Fear gripped the town when Mr Gora along with some supporters allegedly started violence in the heart of the town near Government Senior Secondary School for Girls here and beat up a large number of persons without any provocation and when they met with some resistance from the victims for their safety, the accused fired at them.

The accused also damaged some vehicles belonging to Congress candidate, Mr Raghubir Singh, who was facing a direct fight with sitting MLA, Mr Manpreet Singh Badal. Mr Gora and other accused were close confidants of Mr Badal.

Mr Raghubir Singh alleged that the supporters of Mr Manpreet Singh Badal indulged into violence to create terror among the people with the aim to keep the poll percentage in this town low, as they were aware of the fact that they would not get much votes in their favour.

He alleged that a senior police official who was present in the town when the violence was going on remained a mute spectator and did try to prevent the same.

He added that a meeting of residents would be held today to work out the strategy for observing a bandh in the town tomorrow. He said still people, particularly women, were avoiding coming out of their dwellings as they were under a great terror.

A housewife asked whether it was election or riots when The Tribune team approached her for reaction on the violence.

It was alleged that though senior police officials were camping in the local police station yesterday, the “munshi” of the police station did not allow the mediapersons to talk to them on telephone.

Mr K.J.S. Pannu, district police chief, said Mr Gora, Mr Charanjit Singh and Mr Rachpal Singh and about 10 others had been booked under Sections 307, 324, 148 and 149 of the IPC and Section 27 of the Arms Act. He added that different police parties had been dispatched to arrest the accused.

He pointed out that no written complaint was received by him from any one in connection with the partisan role of any senior police official and if it was received an inquiry would be conducted and action would be taken accordingly.


Morcha workers stone DSP’s house
Our Correspondent

Samana, February 14
About 70 per cent shops here remained closed today in protest against the alleged beating up of Mr Jagtar Singh Rajla, sitting MLA and candidate of the Panthic Morcha, by the local DSP near Daya Nand Model School yesterday. Thousands of supporters of Mr Rajla held demonstrations in different bazars and allegedly stoned the DSP’s house. They staged a dharna in front of the office of the Deputy Commissioner, Patiala. Rajla demanded that re-election in the Samana constituency should be held and the DSP suspended.

He alleged that the DSP got many votes polled forcibly in favour of Mr Surjit Singh Rakhra, SAD-BJP candidate. When contacted, the DSP said Mr Rajla and his supporters were acting against the election rules and that they misbehaved with him and even slapped him and torn his uniform.

The protesters also stoned the house of the DSP breaking its windowpanes. The DSP got an FIR registered against Mr Rajla and his supporters in this connection. No arrest has been made so far.


Poll duty leaves women numb
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Phagwara, February 14
Election duty left them numb and sore. They were deprived not only of voting rights but had to dole out substantial sums of money from their pockets. And above all, they were deployed at polling booths far off from the booths where their spouses were on duty.

“I am working at Rail Coach Factory at Kapurthala but was put on election duty here. My spouse is on duty at Sultanpur Lodhi,” remarked one of the poll officials here.

Some of the women employees really had tough time. Some had to look for a relation here to spend the night while a few others had to request the district officials, including tehsildar and even a village Sarpanch, for accommodation.

“Most of us had a tough time in finding a reliable host for the poll-eve night as we were all instructed to stay at the polling booths with the election material. But most of the school buildings where polling booths are located have hardly any facility for board and lodging,” complained most of women employees put on election duty.

“You cannot expect us to sleep on the school premises with no separate facilities for women,” they remarked maintaining that each one of them had spent nearly Rs 400 so far on travel and stay at the place of their poll duty.”We do not know when we get reimbursement for these expenses.”

Most of them were critical of the commission for denying them the right to vote. Against the previous practice of “vote certificate” being issued to them for exercising franchise at the polling booth of their duty, no such system was followed.

“I f I am a voter at Kapurthala and put on duty here at Phagwara, I will have to get two certificates, one from SDM, Kaputhala and the other from SDM Phagwara, before I become eligible to vote. This is almost impossible and as such most of us have been unable to vote in this election,” remarked a Presiding Officer.

There were other complaints also.

“Only yesterday they gave us a new form for filling. This form was about the gender of the voter and the proof of identity carried by him or her,” remarked one official maintaining that against the existing norm of four assistants and a Presiding Officer, the number was reduced to three assistants.

“The workload has increased this time but polling staff have been reduced,” they said.


Shops’ rents lowered
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, February 14
Misappropriation of rent of shops in Zila Parishad Market has come to light. Owners of shops numbering from eight to 15 in a complaint faxed to the Chief Minister, Governor and Director Rural Development and Panchayats of Punjab has to requested for a probe by an independent authority.

According to the complaint shop No. 16 in this market was auctioned for a rent of Rs 2800 per month in favour of Mr Ranjit Singh but Zila Parishad authorities reduced the rent to Rs 275/- per month. Similarly rent of shops number three and five was reduced to Rs 400 and Rs 300 respectively from earlier rent of Rs 1300 per month. The rent of the shop newly built between Canara Bank and Bank of Baroda was initially Rs 1650 per month but now reduced to Rs 1500 per month.

Shops numbering eight to 15 in the Zila Parishad Market were given on rent in the open auction in August 1992 at a rate of Rs 1500 per month. Moreover the Zila Parishad authorities continue to enhance the rent at the rate of 10 per cent every month. They have objected to this discrimination and demanded to be treated like the shop owner whose rents have been reduced considerably.

Kuldeep Singh tenant of shop between Bank of Baroda and Canara Bank in the Zila Parishad Market here has given an affidavit that rent of shop was reduced to Rs 230 per month after he allegedly paid Rs 28000 to an officer of Zila Parishad. Affidavits by the tenants of shop No. 6 and 13 have also filed affidavits of having been told to pay gratification. 


78 pc voter turnout in Jalalabad
Our Correspondent

Jalalabad, February 14
This border constituency witnessed a record turnout with over 78.3 per cent of the voters exercising their franchise. Out of 1,50,587 registered voters, 1,17,878 voters polled their votes at 188 polling booths. The poll percentage in Jalalabad town was 61.29 per cent, whereas it was 81 per cent in the rest of the constituency.

The polling in this constituency remained peaceful, though it had witnessed poll violence in previous two elections. The administration here had taken various measures to check poll violence.


SC stays recovery of IT from PUDA
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 14
On a special leave petition (SLP) filed by the Punjab Urban Planning and Development Authority (PUDA), a Division Bench of the Supreme Court comprising Mr Justice Syed Shah Mohammed Quadri, and Mr Justice S.N. Variava stayed the recovery of income tax against the authority.

Revealing this, a PUDA spokesperson stated that the stay order was passed by the Court on January 8, 2002, but a certified copy of the same was received only recently. The relevant order of the Supreme Court says: “Issue notice. There shall be interim direction to the petitioner to file the income-tax return, but the authorities shall not recover any tax pursuant to order of assessment, if passed, pending further orders of this court.”

Earlier, the Income Tax Department had served a legal notice on PUDA requiring it to file its income tax return. This had been contested by PUDA in the form of a writ petition before the Punjab and Haryana High Court, claiming exemption under Section 10(20A) of the Income Tax Act, 1961. However, the Punjab and Haryana High Court, while disposing of the writ petition, did not decide as to whether PUDA’s income was exempt in view of Section 10 (20A), but rather directed the Assessing Officer to consider this claim.

The plea taken by PUDA was that a bare reading of Section 10 (20A) revealed that PUDA ‘s income was totally exempt from income tax and as such the income tax authorities did not have any jurisdiction to initiate proceedings under the Income Tax Act, 1961. Section 10 (20A) says: “Any income of an authority constituted in India by or under any law enacted either for the purpose of dealing with and satisfying the need for housing accommodation or for the purpose of planning, development or improvement of cities, towns and villages, or for both”.

The Supreme Court issued an interim direction to PUDA to file its income tax return, which was accordingly filed with “nil” income, in view of the total exemption claimed under Section 10(20A). Simultaneously, the Supreme Court has directed that the “authorities shall not recover any tax pursuant to order of assessment, if passed, pending further orders of this court”. The spokesperson further told that a copy of the Supreme Court’s interim order had been communicated to the income tax authorities as well as to various PUDA’s bankers so that no recovery of tax either directly, or in shape of TDS (tax deduction at source), may take place.

The spokesperson clarified that PUDA was a statutory authority constituted under The Punjab Regional and Town Planning and Development Act, 1995, and its net income could not be distributed to any authority, including the government, by way of dividend or otherwise and had to be ploughed back exclusively for urban development purposes.


Take action against MC official: DC
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, February 14
Mr Vikas Pratap, Deputy Commissioner, has written to the Principal Secretary, Local Government, and the Election Commission to take suitable action against an Executive Officer of the Sirhind-Fatehgarh Sahib, Municipal Council as he was allegedly found guilty of violating the model code of conduct during the elections.

Earlier the ADC (D) had confirmed the allegations levelled by a councillor that large-scale encroachments on municipal land were going on at the behest of the EO and he had also floated tenders worth Rs 79 lakh during the election period. The ADC(D) had also said that some shopkeepers, who had purchased shops from the council, had illegally encroached upon Verandahs without getting the site plan approved from the council.

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