C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S


Hearing in Forest Hill case deferred
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 26
Even as advocate Anupan Gupta, appointed amicus curiae by the court in the Forest Hill and Country Club case, opposed the prayer for adjournment, a Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court today deferred the hearing in larger interest.

Pronouncing the orders in an open court, the Bench, comprising Chief Justice Mr Justice B.K. Roy and Mr Justice Surya Kant Sharma, observed: "Having heard this case at great length, we are reluctant to accede to the request for adjournment made by a senior counsel (appearing on behalf of the club), but still in larger interest, we adjourn further hearing to Thursday, April 1, 2004, so that the Supreme Court may be moved and any stay order be obtained in the meantime".

In their detailed order, the Judges observed that senior counsel appearing behalf of the club came up with a prayer for adjournment.

The counsel said he had intentions of advising his clients to file an application for transferring these two civil writ petitions to the Supreme Court so that they could be heard along with another writ petition as the question of applicability of Forest (Conservation) Act qua golf courses situated at Kodaikanal and Udagamandalm was involved.

Speaking for the Bench, Mr Justice Roy further observed: "Mr Gupta, amicus curiae, strongly opposes this prayer, pointing out that it was made after several days of arguments and that the issue as to what is forest and the applicability of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, and Punjab Land Preservation Act, 1900, had already been set at rest in various pronouncements of the Supreme Court...."

Mr Gupta, the Judge added, also submitted that the application for diversion of the land for non-forestry purposes moved by respondent (club) was also rejected by the Government of India, Ministry of Environment and Forests, on October 30, 1998.... The decision was never put in challenge; rather, surprisingly, without impleading the Government of India, Ministry of Environment and Forests, a suit was filed and a decree obtained in 2001, which was under challenge in regular second appeal in which arguments had been concluded and even judgement reserved.

The Judge added that moreover, in these two petitions, the accountability of ministers, politicians, top bureaucrats, top police officers, some of the top revenue officers and some of the members of subordinate judiciary was also involved. Also, under court orders, relevant documents had been handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation and it was examining the matter. 


Liquor vends auctioned for 73.7 cr
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 26
The Chandigarh Administration has netted Rs 73. 77 crore following the auction of 78 liquor vends today.

The auction for the ensuing financial year fetched Rs 6.60 crore more against the revenue of Rs 67.17 crore for the current financial year (2003-2004). This is 9.82 per cent more than last year. A comparison of revenue realized by way of auction over the years shows that there is a steady upward trend in revenue realization. In the past 10 years, it has doubled. A liquor trader, Mr Satya Pal, said this was due to transparency in the auction process in Chandigarh.

The liquor trade in Chandigarh is affected as rates in contiguous areas are more or less the same for every trader to survive and to prevent cross-border smuggling of liquor.

The vends were auctioned in four groups and not five as was the practice earlier based on the geographical location of the vends. The entire process took about an hour. This year, two new parties have joined the trade. One is from Haryana while the other is from Mohali.

The successful bidders deposited 5 per cent of the bid money as security amount at the fall of the hammer. Another 5 per cent will be deposited before March 31. While 2.5 per cent of the bid money will be deposited till April 7. The rest of the money will be recovered over the entire financial year.

The auction was conducted by the Collector-cum-Deputy Excise and Taxation Commissioner, Chandigarh, Mr I.S. Sandhu.


Dream Girl is here
Parbina Rashid

With filmstars dropping in almost every day in the city, Chandigarh Airport has become the ‘must visit’ place for the city mediapersons. So acting on a tipoff that Dream Girl Hema Malini and Rani Mukharjee were scheduled to be in the city today, we found our positions in the venue, greeting each other with the knowing look — they will come, but zoom pass by the waiting press.

After three hours the scheduled flight of Jet Airways touched the ground. Out emerged the radiant dream girl, slim and dignified in a white cotton ‘salwar-kameez’. Rani Mukherjee didn’t show up. An effort to strike a conversation with the actress went futile as she was more eager to join her co-stars on location near Ropar, where the unit of Yash Chopra is shooting for his untitled film also starring Shah Rukh Khan and Preity Zinta.

Refusing to talk about her political career or acting, an irate Hema replied, “We can talk about all this later, I am going to stay in the city for three days. This is not the time for an interview”. Maintaing an icy distance from mediapersons, she waited for the unit people to pick her up. She also refused to reveal where she would be staying, or the exact location of the shooting. “I have no idea about the location or staying arrangements,” she said.

However, unlike most of her co-stars in the Yash Chopra unit, who are maintaing stoic silence about this project or refusing to get photographed, Hema Malini posed for a few minutes for the photographers.


Major-General, 3 others face court martial
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 26
A Major-General is among three senior officers to be tried by General Courts Martial (GCM), scheduled to commence next week, for their alleged involvement in corruption in defence deals. The scam was exposed through a sting operation carried out by a website, tehelka.com, about three years ago.

Highly placed sources revealed that the officers facing trial include Maj-Gen P.S.K. Chaudhury and Col Anil Sehgal. The convening orders for the courts martial have been issued by Headquarters Western Command. While the GCM of Colonel Sehgal is scheduled to commence at Ambala on March 31, sources said that the GCM to try General Chaudhury would convene at Chandimandir within the next few days. It is extremely rare for an officer of the rank of Major-General to be tried by a court martial. Details of the third GCM, involving a Brigadier, are unavailable.

With the accused officers finally being tried, the Army’s disciplinary process, dragging over the past three years, is coming a full circle. The GCMs come in the wake of the Phukan Commission inquiring into the scam submitting its report to the Prime Minister last month. The findings of the inquiry have not been made public, though there have been some reports that Defence Minister George Fernandes was given a clean chit on his involvement in the scam.

Army sources said that the first GCM was scheduled to be held in December, but when the modalities were being finalised, some officers felt it appropriate to wait for the Phukan Commission to submit its report., Also, Colonel Sehgal had moved the Delhi High Court, seeking a stay on the court martial proceedings. The high court, in its order on March 23, however, declined to stay the proceedings. Several legal and technical issues also cropped up which delayed the decision to convene the GCMs.

Sources said all the GCMs would convene by mid-April as the trials would become time barred thereafter. The presiding officers of the courts martial would be at least one rank senior to the accused.

Charges against the officers include those concerned with extortion and corruption under Section 53 of the Army Act and acts prejudicial to good order and military discipline under Section 64. These charges carry a sentence of rigorous imprisonment of up to 10 years and seven years respectively, apart from dismissal.

After tehelka.com had carried out its sting operation in March 2001, using hidden cameras to record officers demanding and accepting bribes, Army Headquarters had ordered a Court of Inquiry (COI) into the matter.

The COI, headed by Lieut-Gen S.K. Jain, in its report submitted in May 2001, had reportedly found prima facie evidence of misconduct against six officers during their interaction with “arms dealers”. Besides General Chaudhury, who was then posted as Additional Director-General (Weapons and Equipment) at Army Headquarters, two senior officers, Maj-Gen Satnam Singh and Maj-Gen Manjit Singh Ahluwalia along with Lieut-Col B.B. Sharma were also caught on tape.

The Chief Vigilance Officer in the Ministry of Defence had also reportedly found prima facie evidence of misconduct in the case against three civilian officers, Mr H.C. Pant, Staff Officer in the Ordnance Factory Board, Mr Narendra Singh, Assistant Financial Officer, and Mr P. Sasi, who was attached to Army Headquarters.


Khurpa’ found in collapsed Burail Jail tunnel
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 26
Forensic and engineering experts have recovered a “khurpa” from the tunnel that was dug up by the alleged Beant Singh assassins in June 2002.

This is the first time investigators in the January 21 jail break escape case have found a tool which might have been used for digging this tunnel and the other 94-foot tunnel that they used to flee.

The investigators, who discovered the 60-foot tunnel filled up in an alleged hush-up exercise by the jail authorities, said the khurpa was found beneath the ground near a deserted “fansi” barrack. The khurpa was found from the tunnel whose existence had been dismissed by the jail authorities as well as an inquiry officer from the Chandigarh Administration, Mr Gyanesh Bharati.

However, the police has not yet recovered any tool likely to have been used in the tunnel through which Jagtar Singh Hawara, Jagtar Singh Tara, Paramjeet Singh Bheora and their cook Devi Singh had escaped on the night of January 21. It was their third attempt.

The digging exercise on the tunnel is still going on and the experts have not yet found its other end. They say that there loose earth had been used to fill the tunnel, apparently to conceal it. This had been confirmed through the density check of the tunnel. They also feel that the tunnel had been punctured at several places to make it cave in.

The existence of this tunnel has come as a short in the arm for the Chandigarh police in its case against the arrested former jail officials who had been accused of connivance with Hawara and the others.

The sources said the arrested jail officials had said the lack of density of earth was due to the fact that they had themselves dug up the stretch to find out if there was actually
a tunnel.

The sources said the tunnel stretch also had a marked depression to indicate there could have been a crater there.

The experts said the presence of water in the tunnel indicated that either water was used to make the tunnel cave in or it might have fallen apart during rains.


Amitabh meets his cousin after 40 years
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 26
“Aap sab log kahan the. Main to aap ko kab se dhund raha tha,” — (where were you all these years. I had been looking for you ) — was the instant reaction of super star Amitabh Bachchan as he hugged his cousin sister, Harvinder Kaur, whom he met after nearly 40 years.

The tearful and emotional reunion took place at the Sector 9 residence of industrialist Kewal Dhillon where “Amit” and his troupe are shooting “Ab tumhare hawale watan sathiyo”. It was a mere coincidence that one of Mr Kewal Dhillon’s, friends, Mr Babbu Chadha, mentioned to him that Amitabh Bachchan’s cousin, Harvinder, lived in the city.

The moment the message was conveyed to Amitabh, says Mr Dhillon, he got excited and expressed a desire to see the family of his cousin without any further delay.

Accompanied by her daughter, Leena, Mrs Harvinder Kaur, too, took no time to reach there. He hugged her and kissed her on her forehead. The apprehension of Harvinder’s family that “Amit”, as she used to address him earlier, might not recognise them as he had become a “super star” had proved wrong. Amitabh wanted to meet his “Jijaji” — Mr Harbhajan Singh — who runs a filling station in Sector 7.

Amitabh enquired about each and every member of Harvinder’s family. He spent more than two hours with his cousin’s family before promising to visit them in their house in Sector 8 before going back to Mumbai after the shooting here.

Amitabh’s mother, Ms Tejee Bachchan nee Tejwant Kaur, was the youngest of four daughters of Mr Khazan Singh Suri, a Barrister, whom the Maharaja of Patiala had made his Revenue Minister. Mr Khazan Singh had four daughters and Gobind Kaur, mother of Harvinder was elder to Tejwant.

“Amit, in turban, you look exactly like your grandfather,” remarked Harvinder and Amitabh nodded in the affirmative saying that he had been keeping a picture of his “Nana” with him.

Another aunt of Amitabh, Mrs Koran, is related to the President of the Punjab Cricket Association, Mr Inderjit Singh Bindra, who had been the President of the Board for Control of Cricket in India.

When Amitabh was making enquiries about his maternal family, Harvinder reportedly told him that she did manage to get his numbers from uncle (“Massad ji” — Mr Harivansh Bachchan) but could not reach him on his Mumbai numbers. Afterwards she did not have the courage to establish contact with him again.

“I have got my brother back,” was all she could say.

Meanwhile, the shooting of the film continued at Mr Dhillon’s residence for the entire day today.


Licences to under-aged: HC seeks affidavits
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 26
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has directed the states of Punjab and Haryana, besides Union Territory of Chandigarh, to file affidavits regarding the issuance of licences to the under-aged.

Taking up the traffic regulation and pollution control case, Mr Justice Swatanter Kumar also asked them to file affidavits specifying the number of people challaned for unauthorised use of black films, red lights and riding without helmets.

Pronouncing the orders, the Judge added that a committee appointed by the court shall also submit its report regarding steps taken by the state governments and authorities regarding prevention of accidents and compliance of court orders. Mr Justice Kumar also fixed April 2 as the next date of hearing in the case.

The High Court had earlier made helmets compulsory for both men and women riders and those on the pillion. Persons wearing turbans had, however, been granted exemption. The use of black films had also been banned. Exemption was provided only for security reasons.

The High Court Bench, comprising Justice Sat Pal and Mr Justice Kumar, had also directed the punching of licence for each traffic offence. Licences were also made compulsory for conductors. The Administration was also told to demarcate parking areas in each sector for vehicles.

Taking up a petition filed by a Jalandhar-based kidney patient, a Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court today directed the authorisation committee to consider his request within five days.

Issuing the directions in an open court on Mr Dalbir Singh’s petition, the Bench, comprising Chief Justice Mr Justice B.K. Roy and Mr Justice Rajive Bhalla, also fixed April 7 as the next date of hearing in related cases.

In his petition, Mr Dalbir Singh had earlier contended that the donor had submitted his affidavit. Even Hoshiarpur’s Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) had also submitted his report in the matter confirming that the cases were genuine.


Mango Enclave losing its charm
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Developed as a buffer zone between the industrial and the residential areas of Chandigarh, the “Mango Enclave” along Purab Marg is gradually succumbing to onslaughts. Severely encroached upon and least protected, the belt, once considered environmentally and commercially significant, is now marked with rapid fruit fall, reduction in tree cover and unauthorised encroachments at several points.

Mango trees in the belt have dried up, while several others have lost the capacity to bear fruit. Contractors of orchard land in the belt inform that about 30 trees are being annually lost to storms due to lack of protective covering of trees like poplars, which may not save the mango tree completely, but can provide a considerable cover in the case of heavy winds.

Economic value of the belt has thus reduced largely, now that the Municipal Corporation of Chandigarh is giving away orchard land just for Rs 12,21,000 for seven years, as against private orchards that fetch hefty sums. A private orchard with nine acre in Mani Majra fetches about Rs 6 lakh for two years. Compared to this, the figures for the mango belt are dismal.

Contractors of orchards along the belt, admit that the belt has turned unproductive over the years. “This belt gives just 10 per cent of fruit it originally used to give. It is heavily exposed to encroachments and cattle menace,” informed the contractor.

The problems are many. The attack of insects like mango hopper, powdery mildew and mealy bug is severe and protective measures are minimal. For the entire belt spread over about 70 acre, there is just one tubewell, where water stands just at three inches. This water is used by the MC nursery in Sector 29, leaving orchard contractors along Purab Marg high and dry. Admits the current contractor, “There is no water for the trees. Pollution is severe. You touch the leaf of the tree and it is black. There is no fencing anywhere. Fruits often fall prematurely and are eaten by cattle. Even branches of trees are extending into each other, reducing productivity further. Strategic pruning of branches is a must.”

Due to poor quality of mangoes in this belt, a carton fetches just Rs 40, as against the normal market rate of Rs 80. “Fruits are very small and their quality is poor,” says the contractor.

It is learnt that the mango belt was once shielded, but the shields were removed by residents of economically weaker section houses, many of which have come up in this area. Now the trees are exposed to pollution, passages for scooters and unauthorised cutting at times. Danger of diseases also looms large. Senior Horticulturist, Punjab Agricultural University, Dr Satish Narula informs, “Mango trees in the region are threatened by mealy bugs, powdery mildew and mango hopper. While these attacks can be controlled by sprays, which we recommend regularly, malformation of mango trees cannot be prevented.”

Permanent fencing of the mango belt is recommended by experts, but the proposal for the same is still under consideration. XEN, Horticulture, MC, Mr Raghbir Singh, admitted to Chandigarh Tribune, “Water problem will be taken care of. A proposal to install tubewells is being considered. We are also considering fencing.”


Revolt in BSP over Kashyap’s nomination
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 26
More than 25 office-bearers of the local unit of the Bahujan Samaj Party have resigned from their posts in protest against the selection of Mr Hem Raj Kashyap as the party candidate for the Chandigarh Lok Sabha seat. This was announced by Mr Rajinder Makwana, president of the Nagar Nigam unit of the party, at a press conference here today.

Mr Hem Raj Kashyap’s name was cleared by the election committee headed by Mr Narender Kashyap, the party observer for the local seat. The committee also included Mr Balbir Jhangra, the president of the local unit. The majority of local office bearers and party office bearers were not taken into confidence. “Mr Kashyap is a total outsider and not aware of the local issues”, said enraged office-bearers.

Those who have resigned included Mr Makwana, Mr Sohan Singh, adviser, Mr Intzar Ali Siddique, vice-president, Mr Sukhdev Singh Doaba, secretary and Mr Rajesh Kahara, general secretary of the Nagar Nigam unit. Those who have resigned include office-bearers of party committees in at least eight wards of the city.

Party workers had written to Ms Mayawati, the party president, on March 22 in this regard. A reply was still awaited. “We are sure that the party high command will respect our feelings. We will not leave the party. We will not sit quietly in our homes if Kashyap is given the seat”, Mr Makwana said. 


Franchise Plus launched
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 26
Exchange4media, a publishing house, today launched the first issue of Franchise Plus, a bi-monthly magazine, at a function here today.

Addressing a press conference, Mr Ritesh Vohra, Director of Franchise Plus, said in the inaugural issue a comprehensive survey of the franchising industry in the country had been covered. The cover story ‘ Boom’ was based on the survey report. He said the magazine was targeted at people who were looking for business opportunities in the franchising, retailing, distribution and real estate.

He said the publishing house planned to enter Middle East and other markets in the Far East in the coming financial year.

Mr Vinod Behl, Editor of Franchise Plus, said the content plan of the magazine included quantitative and qualitative surveys conducted by TNS, a market research agency.


Rakesh Khurana wins bronze
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 26
Mr Rakesh Khurana, a member of the Chandigarh Philatelic Club, has won a bronze medal for his collection of stamps on Russia in a two-day philatelic exhibition held at the office of the Chief Post Master General, Punjab circle, here recently.


Security guard died of two shots
Tribune News Service

Mohali, March 26
The preliminary post-mortem report of Baljinder Singh, a security guard with the owner of Commando Caterer, Mr Kanwaljit Singh Walia, says that he died of two shots.

This has deepened the mystery of Baljinder Singh’s death, who, according to the police, had died when his carbine went off accidentally while he was cleaning it.

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