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SC upholds the right to free speech

The Supreme Court directive reprimanding the Gujarat government for initiating prosecution against Ashis Nandy, a political columnist, for writing a newspaper article is a clear vindication of his right to freedom of speech and expression.

Of late, many attempts have been made to gag the press. The recent episode of the Ahmedabad Police Commissioner ordering registration of criminal case under charges of sedition and criminal conspiracy against the resident editor and reporter of The Times of India, Ahmedabad, and the ransacking of the Loksatta Editor’s office in Mumbai are only a few of them.

Last year, the Delhi High Court proceeded against Mid-Day newspaper for carrying charges against a former Chief Justice of India. There have also been cases where the state assemblies have invoked the breach of privilege powers against newspapers in an arbitrary manner (The Hindu case of 2003). The defamation cases at the hands of state also act as Damocles’ sword hanging over the head of the press. The press is made to suffer at the hands of the legislature, the executive and the judiciary.

Aren’t these instances show attempts at impairing the freedom of press? These incidents would continue until and unless the Constitution clearly recognises the media’s right to express its opinion and disseminate it in the public domain.

HEMANT KUMAR, Advocate, Ambala City

Clear the confusion

After reading B. G. Verghese’s article, “Blackmailers at work: Choose between power and national interest” (June 28), one feels that so much has been said and written about the Indo-US nuclear deal that it has become difficult to distinguish whether it is a bane or boon for the country. All this has left the common man confused.

Apparently, there is no transparency on the government’s part in the conduct of the deal. The contours and ramifications of the agreement have not been thoroughly debated in Parliament. Top nuclear scientists have also raised doubts and apprehensions.

Portraying the critics as villains and the government’s bid to continue for a full term before the general elections will neither enhance its image nor improve the Congress’ poll prospects.

In the national interest, the government should stop playing the game of one-upmanship and show complete transparency. It should call a special session of Parliament, table the complete deal in the House and organise a full-fledged debate. The question of operationalisation of the deal should be decided by secret vote in Parliament.

Dr TIRATH GARG, Ferozepur City

Foot in the mouth

This has reference to Gen V.P. Malik’s article entitled “Indo-China border: When a minister shouts his mouth off”. I think General Malik has a chip on his shoulder about politicians. Mr Pranab Mukherjee is a seasoned and mature politician and minister. Having being ruled by the British for nearly 300 years, it is obvious that we would inherit some of their traits and one of these being to keep a stiff upper lip. Therefore, on Chinese soil as Foreign Minister Mr Mukherjee would put up a bold face and say there’s no tension between India and China.

“Keep your chin’s up – boys” is his encouraging message to his troops facing the Chinese eyeball to eyeball. “Never say die”, is to put it more aptly as any Brit would say.

Mr Mukherjee also knows that India can’t take on China militarily or economically. So, naturally he won’t go to China and cock a snook at them. In fact, that would not be diplomacy.

Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was not exactly soft in the head when, on his return from Munich, he declared that he had come back with peace, with honour. We know during that period of time his country could not match the German military machine. I am afraid our Generals, Admirals and Marshals during their tenure as commanders do not stand up to the politician.

SIMRANJIT SINGH MANN, Camp: York Cottage, Dalhousie

Retirement age

The Punjab government’s plan to raise the age of retirement to 60 years is unjustified. The unemployment problem in the state is acute and the educated youth are suffering because of fewer vacancies.

The country’s future is in the youths’ hands. They are disappointed due to unemployment and are turning to addiction and drugs. Event the employment of retired persons on contract basis in certain departments is adding to the already aggravated problem. The government should drop the proposal of raising the retirement age.

H. S. GHAI, Advocate, Khanna

Expert panel must select VCs

In his article, “Treat VCs with respect” (July 5), Prof Amrik Singh has written about the treatment meted out to VCs by the state bureaucracy. With high regards for GND University’s VC who did not buckle under pressure, it must be said that a VC is often appointed on political grounds and when the gentleman concerned has possibly canvassed for the post.

Are VCs expected to do this? Some are prone to indulging in politicking on the campus. Some form pressure groups and some even face cases in court.

Respect is earned and never demanded. A new selection process, where a small committee of eminent retired administrators, educationists and men of letters, all of whom are not angling for political patronage, recommend a panel of three names to the Governor/ Chancellor or the Vice-President of India as in the case of Panjab University, merits consideration.

No Chief Minister or the state education department should have the power to recommend or suggest the VC’s name, thereby insulating the post from state interference and the periodic sacking or pressures to resign when a new government takes charge. The Chancellor can have any charge against a VC investigated independently and, if need be, take immediate corrective action.

We have few men of Partap Singh Kairon’s calibre these days. We need an independent, selfless and competent selection panel and a system of ‘recall’ by the Chancellor as and when necessary.

Maj-Gen HIMMAT SINGH GILL (retd), Chandigarh


Congress & BJP

Both the Congress and the BJP are patriotic parties. Both should agree on a common minimum programme and form strong governments at the Centre and in the states. They should fight terrorism, corruption and social evils unitedly and thus preserve and protect national integrity.

As the regional parties are interested in their regions, there is no alternative to a coalition between the Congress and the BJP. The sooner they realise this, the better it would be for the country.


Dubious companies

A company named JVG Finance vanished in thin air 11 years ago with crores of rupees invested in it by mostly retired people, the majority of them from the defence forces. The victims went to the court, but the culprits hoodwinked justice due to loopholes in the laws.

Later, a liquidator was appointed by the court to sell all the assets of the company and reimburse the amount so raised to the investors on pro rata basis. Years have passed, but nobody knows about the liquidator’s action. The investors are helpless and suspect the connivance of powerful bureaucrats in helping the company elope.

Though many more finance companies have conveniently eloped with investors’ money, the government has failed to provide adequate safeguards against such large-scale frauds. Poor investors who have sunk their hard-earned money are still looking up to the powers that be to save them from their misery.

Lt-Col BHAGWANT SINGH (retd), Mohali

Tax on speeches

Politicians have hardly anything to say. Still they speak because they must speak. To quote Bernard Shaw: “it is better to keep your mouth shut and be thought of as a fool than to open it and remove all doubts it.”

Anyhow, the Union Finance Minister not to tax his mind too much to mobilise resources. He should impose a tax on talking as suggested by Justice A. N. Grover, a former Supreme Court Judge. This way, the Finance Minister will not have to lose his sleep over what he needs to do to bridge the yawning gap between expenditure and revenue.

The tax on talking has many advantages. Quite possibly, it will shut the mouths of many politicians. It is also a pleasant feeling for the common man that when the politician opens his mouth he not only puts his foot into it but also that of the taxman.

D. V. JOSHI, Bartana (Zirakpur)


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