Criminals in fray
Buy your bail
Unending crisis in Nepal
Shahzaada of The Mall
No regrets about short tenure
Criminals in fray
THE Patna High Court's directive to the Election Commission to consider countermanding elections in constituencies contested by prisoners is well-intentioned. The court has alerted the commission about the need to check the entry of criminals into Parliament and state legislatures. It was found after the 1996 elections that as many as 40 MPs and 700 MLAs had criminal antecedents. This menace has grown deeper and more complex. Though the N.N. Vohra Committee had exposed the unholy nexus between criminals and politicians, successive governments have done little to check the influence of criminal gangs, drug mafia, caste senas, smuggling gangs and economic lobbies and their extensive network of contacts with politicians, bureaucrats and others. Many elected members are directly involved in cases of extortion and murder. While crime is their source of livelihood, politics provides them the necessary cover of protection from the law.
The Election Commission is yet to respond to the Patna High Court's order. No doubt, there are some problems in implementing the directive. First, while the Representation of People Act does not disqualify an undertrial from contesting an election, it only bars him from exercising his franchise. Moreover, an undertrial is said to be innocent until he is proved otherwise. Secondly, doubts have arisen on the justifiability of retrospective application of law since the election process has already started. In Bihar, for instance, of the 40 Lok Sabha seats, elections for 28 seats were over on April 20 and 26. Thirdly, the commission has to tackle the problem from a national angle without confining itself to Bihar.
As a first step, the Election Commission should find out how many prisoners are in the fray this time, the period of their prison terms and cases of conviction, if any, and the status of undertrials. It should try to remove the hurdles so that undertrials, including those convicted, are barred from entering legislatures. If it faces any problem, Parliament should chip in and enact a law banning the entry of criminals. The sanctity of Parliament and the state legislatures can be protected only when the law breakers do not become the law makers.
THE European Union has every reason to celebrate the enlargement of its membership from 15 to 25. Never before in the history of the Union had 10 members been admitted at one go. This new political, economic and trading bloc may well rise to challenge the United States in terms of its share of world GDP. It is not only the population of the EU but also its manufacturing base that has expanded now. Eight of the 10 new members are former communist states that, after the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, have skilfully gone in for political and economic reforms to adapt to the "Old" but "Free" Europe.
Despite the celebratory mood, it would be fallacious to presume that integration, especially one such as this, would be a painless pursuit of common policies. The partnership is not only for economic progress but also underpinned by the EU's avowed commitment to a common defence and foreign policy. While the new states have a long way to go to catch up with the EU standards of per capita income, they are already harnessed to US-led military engagements. The gung-ho support of some eastern European countries to the US invasion of Iraq is a sore point with the pillars of the Old Europe such as France and Germany. The New Europe as an adjunct of the US and pitted against Old Europe can but sharpen trans-Atlantic divide.
On the economic front too, the picture is not as rosy as it is painted to be. The less-developed New Europe with lower wages and production costs would be required to sustain the dominance and competitive edge of the EU in the global market. While this might mean more jobs and capital flow-and relocation of outsourcing hubs from countries like India- it will, as the German Chancellor observed, make Old Europe richer and not poorer. Every economy needs cheaper labour and the EU is no exception to this law. Nevertheless, any move which further integrates Europe should be welcome to the rest of the world. A united Europe abolishes war from the continent.
Buy your bail
A magisterial order is meant to be so sacred that even the most ludicrous one may require the intervention of the highest court to quash it. But such prominence was apparently never attached to his duty by the Ahmedabad metropolitan magistrate who issued bailable warrants against President APJ Abdul Kalam, then Chief Justice of India V. N. Khare and two other jurists on a false complaint, allegedly for a bribe of Rs 40,000. Instead of being ashamed of his unthinkable act, the magistrate has been accusing the TV reporter, who conducted the sting operation to expose corruption in the lower judiciary, of "playing truant" with the judicial system. Ironically, even Solicitor-General Kirit Raval, appearing before the Supreme Court for the CBI, has submitted that such incidents happen because the magistrates have been overburdened. Perhaps he was unwilling to admit the presence of a vice called corruption. But the Supreme Court has promptly quashed the warrants, besides directing the CBI to further probe the magnitude of such illegal operations in Gujarat.
Those who have to interact with courts regularly insist that the problem is not limited to Gujarat, but is rather all-India in nature. The lower judiciary has become the byword for sloth and corruption. Since the common man comes in contact mostly with these courts, his faith in even this critical pillar of democracy stands shaken. It can be restored only if the High Courts keep an eagle eye on the functioning of the courts under their charge.
That is not going to be an easy task. There are operators who have got used to taking the judiciary for a ride, with the help of lawyers and even magistrates. Only the other day, the police nailed an advocate in Chandigarh who had been forging bail orders of the Punjab and Haryana High Court and got nearly 200 undertrials lodged in various jails of Haryana bailed out. Since the mischievous elements have become so emboldened as to challenge the authority of even the High Courts, an all-out campaign will have to be launched against them to break their stranglehold.
Unending crisis in Nepal
NEPAL is in severe distress and pain. It is on the brink of becoming a failed state (a term first used by Britain’s former Development Minister Claire Short). Look at some indicators. Nepal’s 1990 constitution is brain-dead (a term used by one of its framers, Daman Dhungana). Democracy remains suspended after Parliament was prorogued and the government dismissed in 2002. The legitimacy of the country’s remaining institutions functioning under Article 127 of the Constitution is questionable.
A puppet government has been installed by King Gyanendra, who with the support of the Royal Nepal Army (RNA) is in supreme command. The economy is a shambles. Rebel Maoists run a parallel administration and control more territory than the state. They frequently call the country to a halt through bandhs. Are these not the symptoms of a failing state ?
Article 127 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal, 1990, contains “Power to Remove Difficulties”: “If any difficulty arises in bringing this constitution into force, His Majesty may issue necessary orders to remove these difficulties. The orders so issued shall be placed in Parliament.” People believe that the King, instead of removing difficulties, has introduced fresh ones and what is more: there is no Parliament to review his actions because “the King can do no wrong”.
In a bid to revive a monarchy discredited by the palace massacre of 2001, the King has appropriated all power. It is widely believed that monarchy choreographed the demise of democracy and the rise of Maoists. Sadly, Nepal’s political leadership displayed immense pettiness and paucity of talent when the country was being squeezed by the Maoists. The King, first the late King Birendra and later Gyanendra, did nothing to unify the country: instead, allowed the Maoists a free run by not permitting the use of the RNA till it was attacked by them in November 2001. The present status quo suits the monarchy as it gives the King time to rebuild royal institutions. That is precisely what King Gyanendra has been doing these last few months, touring his country, showing off the monarchy as the only surviving institution.
Lately, he has felt the heat of the agitating political parties and international forces to announce last month that an election would be held by April 2005. Clearly disregarding the constitution, the RNA swears allegiance to the King and not the people and the elected government as decreed. One of the key demands of the Maoists is to sever this nexus and place the RNA under civilian control.
The Maoists are the second power-centre in Nepal. They want Nepal to be a totalitarian republican state and intend to come to power by using the bullet, not the ballot. They possess an effective army which only recently showed after a lapse of 18 months that it could overrun a government-controlled district though at a considerably greater cost than before. They have engaged four different governments in peace talks, including the one with a comprehensive seven-month-long ceasefire, but negotiations were fruitless. It seems that while they agreed to shelve the issue of monarchy, the government did not reciprocate on their demand for a constituent assembly. They have said that fresh elections can only be held after the underlying causes of the revolution are addressed first.
The democratic forces have been completely marginalised and made irrelevant after the nomination by the King of a government under Article 127 from the Royalist Rashtriya Prajatantra Party. The five-party alliance has been agitating for the restoration of democracy mainly though the revival of Parliament, which they say was illegally dismissed by the ruler. King Gyanendra has managed to divide the democratic alliance and rule, but his game has now been seen through. The street power of the democratic forces coupled with the students’ unions has spread to the rural areas and begun to worry the King. Hence, his call for elections. But there is serious doubt whether an election is feasible. Hence the rumour that the King might reinstate the Sher Bahadur Deuba government with retrospective effect from October 3, 2002.
The fourth element in the power game is the RNA. It has enhanced its operational capacity - manpower, firepower and mobility - significantly . Bulk of this upgradation has been done by the ongoing Indian military assistance worth Rs 300 crore. The security forces — Army 80,000, armed police 15000, civil police 45,000 — are under the unified command of the RNA, which is under the illusion that it can bring the Maoists down to their knees. For the last four months it has been tied down providing security for the Royal tour out of which the Maoists made political capital. A military resolution of the conflict is impossible.
The people of Nepal are trapped in the crossfire. Neither side respects human rights. In the eight years of this war, nearly 12000 to 14000 persons have been killed, at least 50 per cent civilians. Maoists have admitted losing 4,500 cadres while the casualty figure for security forces is 3,500, though the officially given is much lower.
There are new outside post-9/11 players in Nepal, occupying the space vacated by India. The US sees the Maoists not just as terrorists but, more ominously, as communists also. The US recently reversed its preference for stability over democracy. Ms Christina Rocca last week called for a more representative government in Nepal. Britain has traditionally favoured monarchy. The European Union, Norway, Finland, Switzerland and the UN have offered to play the role of facilitators. But Nepal has rejected external mediation. India has consistently maintained that stability in Nepal rests on the twin pillars of constitutional monarchy and multi-party democracy. The international community led by India must set time-specific benchmarks for the King, who has to take the initiative to restore democracy.
The way ahead is through anyone of the three routes: revival of the Deuba government; appointment of a more representative new government (but not under Article 127); and fresh elections. If a government does not materialise through the existing constitutional process, a fresh election is the only answer. An election is feasible and can be held anytime after November 2004 in three phases and in two months. The RNA has reportedly confirmed to its supreme commander, His Majesty the King , that they would be able to conduct an election by the end of the year. It is worth recalling that the Deuba government was dismissed in October 2002 for its failure to organise an election when the latter sought more time to do so.
Once a new government is in place, the Maoists would have to be brought back to the negotiating table. They are not averse to restarting talks. A ceasefire and a ceasefire-monitoring mechanism would be good CBMs. Such a roadmap for reviving the peace process must be backed by all friends of Nepal. In June 1959, Indian Army Signallers were sent to Nepal to help it organise its first democratic election. Subsequently, India has provided logistic support in the conduct of Nepal’s three other
elections. The King must read the writing on the wall and break the
Shahzaada of The Mall
HIS wandering feet, shifting eyes — indeed his entire body language was cut out for the guiles of Shimla’s Mall. This bright youngman, once my student, was haunted by the mortal fear of being kept away from the Mall if he found work outside Shimla.
Last Sunday, I was loafing on the Mall flexing my tired back and stiff knees. The hawk-eyed Shahzaada (his nickname) sighted me from a distance, and decided not to avoid me this time .
He smiled disarmingly and asked anxiously: “How’s your stomach, sir?”
“Not too bad , Luthra .”
“How’s your knee, sir?”
“It is alright, boy.”
“Oh, that’s very good sir, very good!”
I quickly realised that Shahzaada was trying to keep the conversation focused firmly on my health. Just to pre-empt me from reminding him of an unpleasant task like finding a job.
“Sir, I shall meet you in five minutes. I have to make an urgent phone call.”
“Regarding an interview or something? “ I ventured.
This time he dropped a wall of bricks around me. “Well sir, actually, I just have to communicate my acceptance,” he smiled briefly and walked away.
Minutes later, when Shahzaada returned there was a light tune on his lips and a proverbial spring in his step. “Thank God, sir, it’s all settled now.” I congratulated him warmly, lectured how perseverance always paid, and took him to a dhaba nearby.
“The thing is, sir, my friend Deepak has come here on a holiday from the States. He thinks, I should start working now. Even you have been persuading me to do so. After all, what is the harm in working, sir.”
“No harm, at all!”
“So sir, Deepak wants me to be his agent in Shimla. I shall collect garments here and export to his company in the States.”
“But how will you manage all this?”
Luthra flashed a broad, knowing smile. “That’s a good question, sir. I need a spacious office with computers, fax, etc and, of course, efficient staff. In fact, I want to recruit straightaway. Sir, you must help me in this. Please send me some hardworking boys and girls. Oh, I’ll pay them well. The initial capital, just a few lakhs, can be raised easily.”
“Where? On this Mall itself?”
“Oh, come on sir! You know I have a big circle of friends. I want to start working on this project right away. I should also spot some talented youngsters, immediately.” He rose, allowing me to take care of the bill.
No regrets about short tenure
MR Justice S. Rajendra Babu, who took the oath of office as the Chief Justice of India yesterday (May 2), may not have much time in command to set an agenda for himself because of a short tenure of one month and only three effective working days due to the closure of the Supreme Court for the summer vacation, but he has no regrets on this count.
Mr Justice Babu is not bothered about his short tenure and looks at it only as an eventuality in his 39-year-long career as a jurist, which includes 16 years as a Judge of the High Court and the Supreme Court.
Known for his strict discipline and toughness in the court room and sharpness of judicial verdicts, Mr Justice Babu, the 34th CJI, will be in office exactly for 31 days. He believes that the performance of a judge is expected to be viewed with his sensitivity to social problems.
He has fully lived up to his belief as it is evident from his various judgements on sensitive issues during his six-year tenure as a Judge of the highest court of the country. But a judge has limitations as he cannot go beyond the parameters of law, he says.
Born on June 1, 1939, in Karnataka, he started his career as an advocate in Bangalore in 1965 and was appointed a Judge of the Karnataka High Court in 1988. He was elevated to the Supreme Court in September 1997 and is slated to retire on June 1 when the court will be having two-month-long summer vacation beginning on May 8.
He has a grip over a variety of legal subjects, be it the Constitution or criminal or civil laws, and has shown his activist approach in matters relating to the environment, degradation of which poses a big challenge to humanity. Taxation is considered the field of his expertise as before being appointed a Karnataka High Court Judge, he had been a standing counsel of the Income Tax Department for several years.
Mr Justice Babu says that the law is only an instrument to provide justice, which cannot be made available to the common man unless the judiciary understands the dynamics of society and the problems faced by it. He has full faith in the system, which he believes would continue to evolve itself to correct the maladies, but avoids to talk about “corruption” in it.
He says that despite several flaws in the justice delivery system in India, it is by and large alive to the needs of society. That is why people consider courts as temples of justice.
During his tenure as an apex court Judge, he was a member of various Benches, which had dealt with important matters like the Ayodhya dispute, disinvestment issues, corruption cases against high-profile politicians, validity of POTA and matters related to the fundamental rights of people.
Among the very important verdicts pronounced by him were setting aside of the NDA Government decision on the disinvestment of public sector oil companies — HPCL and BPCL — exoneration of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa in the Tansi land scam case in the absence of evidence with severe strictures, which legal experts had described as nothing less than her “moral conviction”.
His verdict in the HPCL and BPCL disinvestment case was described by legal experts as upholding of the constitutional superiority over the policy decisions of the government of the day. The government had tried to bypass Parliament to implement its decision to sell the shares of HPCL and BPCL to private parties even when the two PSUs were created through an Act passed by the legislature. But a Bench headed by him ruled that the government could not ignore Parliament, which is supreme in a democratic set-up like ours.
Similarly, in the Jayalalithaa case, he said though the prosecution failed to produce concrete evidence against her, the Chief Minister’s “conduct” was not above board. Mr Justice Babu had reminded that the politicians, in whom people reposed their faith in every election, were expected to live up to their promises and work within the “code of conduct”, which was not meant to be preserved as an “ornamental relic”.
Another important verdict delivered by him was on correct interpretation of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), which was “misused” by several state governments to oppress the opposition. Though the judgement had upheld the constitutional validity of the anti-terrorist law, it had laid down clear guidelines for the trial courts and how the law should be strictly applied only against the persons posing threat to the security, unity and integrity of the nation.
A secret about Mr Justice Babu, which only his close friends and brother judges know, is that he has a great interest in Hindu mythology and has good command over Sanskrit.
Since he would be relinquishing his office after a month, he has spelt out his future plans clearly. A keen lover of children, he plans to have regular interaction with school students and teach them about the great Hindu epics and the ethical values they spread.
PAKISTAN’S cricket bosses
might have thought that they had sent a bouncer to Shoaib Akhtar when they ordered an enquiry into his rib injury which they thought was a fake. The supposed injury had prevented him from bowling against India in the Rawalpindi Test recently. But the quickie seems to have given them a befitting reply. He is believed to have presented before them medical documents from the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital which indicate swelling in the rib. So how was he able to bat on the fourth day of the Test if he was really injured? Simple, says the fastest bowler on earth, bowling requires a run-up from 40 yards and delivering the ball with certain force while batting involves far less strain. Batsmen, are you listening?
But the quickie seems to have given them a befitting reply. He is believed to have presented before them medical documents from the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital which indicate swelling in the rib.
So how was he able to bat on the fourth day of the Test if he was really injured? Simple, says the fastest bowler on earth, bowling requires a run-up from 40 yards and delivering the ball with certain force while batting involves far less strain. Batsmen, are you listening?
Still hopeful When Mr H.D. Deve Gowda became Prime Minister, he rekindled faith in miracles in the lives of many politicians. “If he can make it against all odds, why can’t we?” was the general belief of all such netas. Mr Gowda thinks that he is back in contention. His hopes have been given wings by the exit poll reports which say that the country is going to have a hung House. Mr Gowda thinks that in such an eventuality, he will be a kingmaker if not the king. “If regional parties are in a position to form an alternative government, I will support it. There will be political regrouping,” he says. Any why not? If luck can favour him once, why not twice? There is no bar on miracles happening to the same person once too often.
When Mr H.D. Deve Gowda became Prime Minister, he rekindled faith in miracles in the lives of many politicians. “If he can make it against all odds, why can’t we?” was the general belief of all such netas.
Mr Gowda thinks that he is back in contention. His hopes have been given wings by the exit poll reports which say that the country is going to have a hung House. Mr Gowda thinks that in such an eventuality, he will be a kingmaker if not the king. “If regional parties are in a position to form an alternative government, I will support it. There will be political regrouping,” he says.
Any why not? If luck can favour him once, why not twice? There is no bar on miracles happening to the same person once too often.
In hand of God
Shoaib may not be the most popular player in his country today but illness has brought an outpouring of love for another player in another country: Maradona. Almost the entire Argentina was united in prayer during the 12 days that he spent in hospital after a massive heart attack possibly caused by a cocaine overdose.
The 1986 World Cup-winning captain was at one stage fighting for his life but he made steady progress in recent days.
Maradona became addicted to cocaine during a seven-year spell playing for Italian side Napoli from 1984-91.
His roller-coaster career, which included 34 goals in 91 matches for Argentina, began in 1975 and ended in 1997. He also played for Argentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Seville and Newell’s Old Boys.
The knower of Vedas (who carries on the oral tradition) is the highest heaven in which the revealed words of the Vadas abide.
— The Vedas
Atman is without beginning and end. It is indestructible and it creates this body.
— Sri Rama
Man attains to the sublime state of bliss through the name of God.
— Guru Nanak
One should not be complacent with a small debt, a slight wound, a spark of fire and an insignificant passion, because what is insignificant now may soon become uncontrollable.
— Lord Mahavir
It is only when one takes shelter in god that one is saved.