Saturday, March 16, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Arundhati case: judge writers differently

Apropos Anupam Gupta’s enlightening legal comments and the views of eminent writers on the Arundhati Roy controversy (March 11), I feel that neither the Supreme Court nor the writers commenting on the subject have discussed the matter in its proper perspective. No doubt under the Contempt of Court Act, 1971, the truth of allegations against the court or any justification for the same is no defence, but keeping in view the fact that the judge and the prosecutor are the same under the law, the courts have acted with great restraint in such cases and taken a lenient view in the past in cases of politicians like P. Shiv Shankar (1988) and E.M.S. Namboodiripad (1970), who had alleged that judges were class biased.

While discussing Arundhati Roy’s case we should not ignore that fact that she had to plead and argue her own case because no lawyer agreed to represent her and even her co-accused Prashant Bhushan, an advocate, tendered unconditional apology to the court to save himself. Therefore, if angered by such a situation she in her reply made a grim reference to “judicial dictatorship”, that should be interpreted like a layman’s language. Roy is angry by the court’s order directing her to appear personally in court on every hearing till the final orders are passed. Eminent writers like Vikram Seth and Sir V.S. Naipaul’s appreciation of the role of quietest writers show that we are fast losing the democratic temperament. In such a situation the courage shown by Arundhati Roy in telling the Supreme Court that she has every right to disagree with the court’s views (on the Narmada Dam) and to express her disagreement in any publication or forum she chooses, shows that all is not lost as yet. She has rightly stated in her reply to the apex court that in a democratic set-up respect should be earned and not demanded.


A writer possesses greater sensibilities than a common man and he/she feels more hurt when he/she feels injustice being done at a place where he/she least expects it. Therefore, while judging the intention of the contemner, his/her psyche cannot be ignored and it is here that a writer stands on a different footing than the others and deserves a more considerate treatment, particularly when the writer is pleading a social cause. Courts should not be touchy in such a situation.


Writers & laws: It was amusing to read Gurdial Singh’s confused views. He begins with an assertion that “as far as law of the land is concerned, nobody should be allowed to challenge it in any way or form” and to concludes by saying that “the most disgusting is the role of the intelligentsia which does not spare a thought to the stark future of the country”.

One must accept that in an organised society a writer is not above the law. For he/she must be punished for indulging in any lawlessness, from wrong parking to thievery to murder. But he/she should be placed a bit higher in the social hierarchy than an average person and not punished for speaking up his/her mind that might be insinuated, under the law, as unlawful. Instead of shutting up the intelligentsia, the sensitive eye/ear/mouth of a society, its sayings should be respected and rather be kept within the ambit of amending laws of the land so that the average person could hope for a better future.

However things in actuality appear to be topsy-turvy as politicians’ sayings against court proceedings like the recent saying of Mr Badal in regard to the SC ruling in the SYL canal dispute, are ignored and intelligentsia is not only asked to keep its mouth shut but punished! There is no gainsaying the fact that it is not the writers but the politicians who are the root cause of many an ill of our society. Dalip Kaur Tiwana is absolutely right when she says, “we need more of Medha Patkars and Arundhati Roys in India and in the world”.

BALVINDER, Chandigarh


Punjab Cabinet: size matters

Partap Singh Kairon as Chief Minister had only 34 ministers and at that time the present Punjab, Haryana and half of Himachal were one unit. The number of ministers was reduced to eight at the time of Chinese aggression as an economy drive. The number of ministers was 17 under Lachhman Singh Gill. The ministry never crossed the mark of 20 under Giani Zail Singh and Parkash Singh Badal (1977-80). However, during the tenure of Beant Singh the strength of the Ministry rose to 42. This practice was followed by his successors.

Now with the induction of Mr Avtar Henry into the Ministry, its strength has risen to 21, including the Chief Minister, and the Chief Minister has hinted at further expansion of their Cabinet. I would like to point out that the monthly expenditure of a minister (directly and indirectly taking into consideration the staff and security provided) runs into several lakhs. So a large Cabinet is a burden upon the people of Punjab at a time when the state is facing a financial crisis. I will request Capt Amarinder Singh to keep his Cabinet at the present level in the best interest of the people of Punjab.



Poppy growing

Apropos the report Poppy growing again in Afghanistan. (In the News; March 7), I do not know on which reports this story has been based but there are many factual errors.

The very first sentence assumes that the Taliban had given up opium cultivation. This was a notion that was strenuously cultivated by some developed countries and world organisations in the hope that the Taliban would eventually let them monitor their illicit opium cultivation. Last year’s opium crop did not amount to much because of the drought and not because of any promises that the Taliban kept. It is well known that all other crops too suffered the same fate.

The opium crop that has been sown for this year is yet to even bear flowers. So how can the cost of non recovered opium be already US $2,200 to 2,700.

If the cost of last year’s opium was about an incredible US $ 3,300, how is it possible that heroin produced from this opium was available in Turkey for about US $ 2500 till early October last year? About 10 kg of opium produce 1 kg of heroin. Thus these figures don’t make any sense.

The Taliban had tried to grow opium for the 2001 crop but a substantial portion of it had been ruined by drought. However, sufficient amount of it had survived (in Nangarhar especially where about 10,000 hectares had managed to yield some opium) for them to profit from it. This is proved by the several heroin seizures made in the countries near Afghanistan till October. There was even a seizure of 16 kg of Afghan/Pakistan heroin made in Ludhiana by the DRI in October. In Tajikstan the seizures were close to 7 tonnes. This shows that though the Taliban spoke about a ban, their actions were quite to the contrary. Please do not accept reports like this without investigation.


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