P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Anti-Sikh Riots
CBI grills key witnesses in US
Questioning biased, allege Sikh bodies
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Moga, December 24
Sikh organisations of New York protested outside the office of the Consulate-General of India in Manhattan, alleging that CBI officials had put “unwanted” questions to Giani Surinder Singh, a key-witness in the anti-Sikh riots case, on the second day of the questioning today. They alleged that the investigating agency was trying to protect the Congress leaders involved in the riots of 1984.

A two-member team of the CBI is in the US to record the statements of Giani Surinder Singh and Jasbir Singh, key witnesses in the case.

Giani Surinder Singh had given a statement before the CBI yesterday that senior Congress leader Jagdish Tytler was directly responsible for the massacre of three Sikhs in Gurdwara Pulbhangash at Azad Nagar in Delhi on November 1, 1984, during the riots.

Talking to this correspondent on the phone from New York today, Surinder Singh had alleged that the questions asked by the CBI team gave him a feeling that the investigating team was trying to portray him as the killer.

“I have already stated that Tytler led the mob to kill Sikhs, but the CBI team has asked me whether I know or remember the names of people in the mob and what kind of clothes or shoes they were wearing,” he said.

He said: “The CBI team should have rather asked him how, when and where had he seen Jagdish Tytler instigating the mobs? How did the killings of the Sikhs took place?”

Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a New York-based attorney and legal adviser of Sikh organisation “Sikhs for Justice”, who accompanied Giani Surinder Singh to the Consulate-General’s office, in an e-mail sent to The Tribune, said Giani Surinder Singh had earlier also recorded his statement in the Chandigarh office of the CBI early this year. As such the question of any pressure from any Sikh organisation did not arise.

The team had not yet recorded the statement of Jasbir Singh and would probably question him tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Karnail Singh Peer Mohammad, president of the All-India Sikh Students Federation, alleged that the way CBI team had questioned Giani Surinder Singh on the second day, it appeared that the agency was working under the pressure of Congress-led UPA government.


Indian Diaspora - I
NRIs from US threaten to boycott Chennai Parvasi Divas
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 24
Creation of an independent Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (OIA), grant of Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI), conferring of national awards upon eminent members of Indian diaspora and introduction of the Parvasi Bharatiya Samman award notwithstanding, a section of US-based Indians are threatening to boycott the coming edition of the Parvasi Diwas in Chennai from January 9.

The Indo-American Association of North America, for example, has already announced its decision to boycott the Chennai meeting holding that promises made to earlier conclaves have neither been implemented nor any effort is being to make to honour those promises.

Vikram Bajwa, secretary of the association, says that some support has been promised to the boycott call by some other overseas Indians associations. Bajwa, who once headed a unit of the Indian National Congress (overseas wing), now looks after the NRI cell of the Punjab unit of the Bharatiya Janta Party.

“We have always stood by the country. When India had low reserves of foreign exchange, we all contributed enthusiastically with our deposits. Whenever the country has needed us, we have been there. See how the overseas Indians rallied behind the Indian government and its people in the aftermath of the Mumbai terrorist attacks,” says Bajwa.

Major issues that have enraged people of Indian origin or non-resident Indians include grant of diluted or meaningless duel citizenship, failure of the UPA government to watch, protect and secure interests of overseas Indians in the fields of real estate, investments, education, passport services, grant of visas, education, besides the failure of the government to undertake regular review of black lists.

Besides, overseas Indians are also reportedly unhappy over the slow progress on the issue of setting up of fast-track NRI courts, making Indian diplomatic missions overseas corruption-free and people-friendly and their harassment by declaring them proclaimed offenders (POs) in frivolous and false cases.

Talking to The Tribune, Bajwa said Indian American Associations like NRI sabhas and other bodies of overseas Indians, including the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) are getting flooded with complaints of rampant corruption in police organisations of Punjab, Kerala, Gujarat and Maharashtra where the number of overseas Indians in the lists of POs has witnessed a phenomenal increase.

Every other day, some overseas Indian is declared a PO in a case about which he, she or any member of their family has no inkling till they get notices through Indian missions overseas. As of today, says Bajwa, there are 15,000 overseas Indians who are POs in India.

Similarly, there was no check or review of the names that are included in the black lists on the reports of “corrupt” members of either Indian missions abroad or the state police organisations. In none of the cases, people concerned are ever called or questioned before they are put on the list of people whose entry into India stands banned.

The number of blacklisted overseas Indians of Punjabi origin is about 1,800, claims Bajwa. There have been cases where people are granted visas and refused entry into India in New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai airports.

Bajwa says that various NRI associations of the US, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand are seriously considering withdrawing from this year’s Parvasi Diwas in Chennai.

Tomorrow: Punjab NRI Sabha


Rising Day Temperatures
Govt seeks suitable wheat seed
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, December 24
As fluctuation in temperatures has posed a serious threat to predominantly agrarian economy of Punjab and Haryana, the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) has been told to screen all available varieties of wheat to find suitable out of them for sowing in varying temperature conditions.

Problems faced by agrarian and allied sectors of economy in Punjab and Haryana were discussed at a meeting held under the chairmanship of Dr Mangla Rai, director-general of the ICAR and secretary, agriculture research.

While the day temperature during most period of December remained near 28 degrees Celsius and night temperature remained near 10 degree Celsius, considered not good for wheat, a crop on which country’s food security depends the most. Punjab and Haryana contribute about 75 per cent of the total wheat to the national pool.

‘Spend more on hybrid varieties’

Except wheat, and to some extent rice, private sector has its control over generation of seed of all other hybrid crops. At the meeting of the ICAR, officials said investment in public sector on developing hybrid varieties of various crops should be enhanced to make quality seed available to farmers at affordable price. As the private sector has established control over seeds of various hybrid crops, farmers were forced to purchase such seeds at exorbitant prices.

“We consider 22 degrees Celsius day temperature good for wheat crop during its sowing but this year even temperature remained near 28 during December”, said a senior official of the Agriculture Ministry. “Obviously, we are worried on this count”, he said.

Earlier, Punjab used to face variations in temperatures in February.

A senior official of the ICAR told The Tribune today that a decision would be taken in about two weeks on the issues related to temperature and other matters related to agriculture raised by Punjab officials. Besides agriculture, officials from animal husbandry, fisheries and horticulture departments from Punjab and Haryana also attended the meeting.

Punjab’s other concern is regarding declining per family income of farmers owing to fragmentation of landholdings. Per family income has started declining despite the fact that per hectare yield of wheat has gone up to 42 quintals from 18 acres. Number of small farmers owning land up to 5 acres is about 70 per cent.

The ICAR has been also informed about declining soil fertility and increased use of fertilisers. As the prices of fertilisers have gone up, farmers may cut on the use of fertilisers and that will certainly affect the productivity of wheat. The ICAR has been told to enhance the efficiency of existing chemical fertilisers by 30 per cent.


UN asks France to review turban rule
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 24
The Human Rights Committee of the United Nations has advised France to re-examine the rule forbidding wearing of conspicuous religious symbols, including the turban, in schools, in the light of guarantees given by the state to allow citizens freedom of conscience and religion.

The committee has made the observations after the submission of a report by minority issues experts, including Gay McDougall and special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief Asma Jehangir.

Dr Manjit Singh Randhawa, president, Sikh Nation Organisation, had petitioned to the UN against the ban on wearing of turban by Sikh children in government schools in France.

As per the UN documents, available on official website of the United Nations: www.un.org, McDougall, in her report submitted to the committee and UN General Assembly, has reported: “Serious discrimination is being experienced by members of the minority communities in France”. It has also noted “serious discrimination is being experienced by visible minorities of immigrant heritage, many of whom are French citizens.”


Nanhi Chhaan body keen to bring social change
Ruchika M. Khanna

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 24
Having established its foothold in Punjab, the Nanhi Chhaan Foundation is now working to make it into a national movement for ushering social change. By making a positive impact for protecting the girl child and for preserving trees through the positive power of faith, the foundation is now aiming to spread its message across all religions and regions within and outside the country.

The concept will soon be launched at the Dargah Sharif in Ajmer, the ancient temple of Lord Ganesha in Jaipur and from the Central Church in Delhi. With saving the girl child, women empowerment and environment being the fulcrum of the Nanhi Chhaan concept, the idea has found a lot of international support, and will soon be launched in the USA.

Talking to TNS here today, Harpal Singh, chairman of the Nanhi Chhaan Foundation and chairman of Impact Group of Companies, said since this initiative cut across all segments of society and faiths, and invoked citizens to urgently act to create awareness and participate in corrective actions, it had found wide support. This concept entails that families, who visit their respective places of religious worship after the birth of a new-born girl, or when a bride enters a family, receive a plant saplings as religious offering.

“Both - little girls and saplings - are nature’s ‘greatest givers’ and by receiving saplings from places of religious worship we hope citizens will imbibe the message of their preservation with divine reverence. The people will be encouraged to have a small ceremonial function to plant the sapling in honour of the entry of a girl in their family. The people will then understand the importance of girl child and the issue will stir the social conscious and saving the girl child will become a major social agenda,” he explains.

Though this initiative was launched in August this year from the Darbar Sahib in Amritsar, Harpal does not want it to be restricted to being a movement launched in a particular religion. “It is for this reason that I have been personally visiting religious shrines of other religions and holding talks with them so that this movement cuts across all religious divides and becomes an issue of national concern. Since faith is the biggest mover, we have launched it from places of worship so as to make an emotional connect with the people,” he said.

The chairman of the foundation said they were now in the process of creating an organisational structure by forming state-level councils and getting the finest global policy makers on board for this movement.


Jor Mela begins under ‘Nanhi Chhaan’
Gurdeep Singh Mann
Tribune News Service

Fatehgarh Sahib, December 24
The three-day Jor Mela, held in commemoration of the martyrdom of Guru Gobind Singh's younger sons Zorawar Singh and Fateh Singh, started with Nanhi Chhaan programme today.

Harsimrat Kaur Badal, wife of SAD president Sukhbir Badal, distributed saplings to newly wedded, expecting women and parents of newly born daughters at Gurdwara Sri Fatehgarh Sahib. The campaign is a joint venture between the state government, Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) and corporate house Ranbaxy group.

Harsimrat, founder patron of Nanhi Chhaan programme, called for timely initiatives against female foeticide and to plant trees to check environmental pollution and global warming.

She said serious demographic imbalances in Punjab's society were foreseen, if people continued killing unborn daughters.

Presiding over the function, Sukhbir said this novel campaign would go a long way in highlighting twin issues of protecting the girl child and environment.

Interestingly, as soon as Harsimrat concluded her speech, people in the audience started leaving the venue. Sukhbir gestured the SAD district president to stop people from leaving. Immediately sounded cops stationed around not to allow anyone to leave the place.

Taking stock of the situation, Sukhbir himself took over the stage and began addressing the gathering. He called for launching a crusade against foeticide and dowry.

Later, while addressing mediapersons Sukhbir said the SAD-BJP government planned to start a women’s college and school in every district of the state. He claimed to propose to the government to utilise the existing infrastructure in such a way that government colleges and schools be used for women’s education in the morning and men in the evening.

He said from the coming year the government was going to establish a Rs 400-crore educational fund for upgrading schools and colleges. He pointed out that a message leaves a better impact if it is given from religious places.



Not keen on LS polls: Manpreet
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, December 24
Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal is not inclined to contest the Lok Sabha election from Bathinda. “I am satisfied with what I am and not interested in national politics at the moment,” said Manpreet, whose name is regularly appearing in various media reports, speculating that he is being considered by his party for nomination from Bathinda.

“Yes, I have read many media reports projecting me as a probable candidate for the Bathinda Lok Sabha seat. But, I can say firmly that there is no substance in these stories. There has been neither formal nor informal discussion at any level with regard to my candidature for the Lok Sabha elections,” said the minister.

“I am emotionally attached to the my Gidderbaha constituency and my voters in that area. I am not ready to give up them, said Manpreet. “Moreover, I am enjoying my job as Finance Minister because it has provided me a great opportunity to learn about the complexities involved in the functioning of a government, administration and above all an official system.”

Former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had made it clear that his son Raninder Singh was prepared to contest on Congress ticket from Bathinda. SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal, who had toured the Bathinda Lok Sabha constituency, especially its Mansa and Budhlada segments, has been saying that someone from Badal family will contest the election from this constituency.

The way Sukhbir has been moving about in the Bathinda constituency for the past a few years, he himself could contest the seat. The name of his wife, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who has launched the Nanhi Chhaan project, is also being mentioned as candidate for the seat.


Hoshiarpur students do state proud
Bipin Bhardwaj
Tribune News Service

Hoshiarpur, December 24
Setting an example in the fight against global warming, students of a school, located in this backward district of Punjab, have shown the way to the rest of the nation. A group of students of Woodlands Overseas School, located on the Hoshiarpur-Dasuya road, 6 km from here, have won the fourth position in an all-India contest.

A group of seven students, Garima, Gursimar, Chandani, Eknoor, Aman, Deeksha and Tanheer Bariana, has bagged the fourth position in the National Green School Award-2008 conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a Delhi-based central environment agency.

The school, however, was adjudged first in Punjab under the programme. There were three other schools from Punjab that participated in the programme. Around 5,500 schools from across the country participated in the contest.

Talking to The Tribune, principal of the school Simer claimed that the school had been running many programmes with active participation of students and staff members. Exhaustive reports on environment were prepared by the students. Their work on the theme, “Best out of the waste”, was much appreciated.

Under the programme, schools across the country carry out rigorous self-audit of works by student groups on environmental practices and natural resource management on their own premises, she says.

After reviewing these projects, a team of the agency interviewed participants. The panel of examiners included Krishna Kumar, director of the NCERT, Dr MS Swaminathan, agricultural scientist, Vijay Sharma, secretary, Union ministry of environment and forests, and Sunita Narain, environmentalist. Swaminathan, MP, gave away the trophies to the students.

Mandeep Singh Gill, director of the school, said the students under the guidance of two school teachers, Sonia and Praveen Singh, worked through the year on the subject. They displayed a tableau on the theme “Waste” at the Indian habitat Centre in New Delhi. The theme was appreciated by the visiting personalities, including MPs, state secretaries and the media.


Sehajdhari: Ultimatum to SGPC
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 24
An emergency meeting of the Gurmat Sidhant Parchark Sant Samaj, Nihang and Sikh organisations, held at Gurdwara Gurdarshan Parkash, Mehta Chowk, 40 km from here, today, served a seven-day ultimatum on the SGPC to withdraw the affidavit on the definition of a Sikh filed in the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

The meeting, presided over by Baba Harnam Singh Khalsa, chief, Damdami Taksal, condemned the SGPC for “distorting” the definition of the Sikh, circumventing the spirit of “Panthic decisions” taken on May 12, 1938 and 1973, which already concluded that only a “Kesadhari” having faith in Guru Granth Sahib and Sikh tenets could be a Sikh.

The meeting cautioned that if the SGPC failed to withdraw the affidavit from the court, they would become party in the court.

What could be an embarrassment to the SGPC is that GS Lamba, Editor of a Sikh monthly, who was one of the six-member panel constituted by the SGPC to draft the definition of a Sikh and Sehajdhari Sikh, also attended the meeting.

The general meeting of Chief Khalsa Diwan, held under the presidentship of Charnjit Singh Chadha and American Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (AGPC), had already rejected the definition given by the SGPC in the High Court.

Among those who attended the meeting included Baba Daya Singh, Baba Makhan Singh of Taruna Dal, Sukhchain Singh Dharmpura, Baba Sewa Singh Rampur Khera, Baba Parmjit Singh Mahalpur, Baba Avtar Singh Badhni Kalan, Baba Balbir Singh and Bhag Singh Ankhi, Secretary Chief Khalsa Diwan.


Faculty shortage to hit varsities
Varinder Walia and Neeraj Bagga
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 24
University Grants Commission’s Pay Review Committee (PRC) has attributed deteriorating quality of higher education in the country to the alarming shortage of teachers in colleges and universities.

Among the sample universities studied under a survey, the UGC team found that vacancies at all levels of teaching posts were more than 51 per cent in the universities, including 53 per cent of lecturer, 51 per cent of reader and 45 per cent posts of professor.

It stressed that there was a greater need to scrutinise the working of colleges located in rural areas and those being owned and managed by profit-making private institutions. The proliferation of shoddy fly-by-night colleges is a proverbial fetter on our educational map. Outdated courses and archaic teaching methods were still in vogue.

The state universities show a very depressing scenario, for all positions, the overall level of vacant positions is 58 per cent and it was much higher at the levels of lecturer and reader.

As around 90 per cent of students in university departments were enrolled in state universities, such a high incidence of vacant posts was sure to be making a damaging effect on the quantity as well as quality of teaching and research in universities in general and state universities in particular.

Even the central universities suffer from shortage of teachers. Overall, 36 per cent of faculty positions were lying vacant. Among the deemed universities, nearly one-third of vacancies were lying unfilled, with the highest number of unfilled vacancies being in the case post of professor.

The report maintained that no fewer than 41 per cent of positions at the lecturer level and 18 per cent of those at the reader level were lying vacant. The situation was far more distressing in non-aided colleges as 52 per cent of vacancies at the entry level and 42 per cent of those at the position of reader were lying unfilled.

Nearly 42 per cent of entry level positions were vacant in government colleges against 40 per cent in government-aided colleges, while the corresponding figures or the reader-level positions were 19 per cent and 16 per cent, respectively.


Move to restore pilot, escort vehicles to VIPs
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 24
The Punjab Police is moving very quickly to restore pilot as well as escort vehicles of its own officers and senior bureaucrats and people who have a high threat perception level following the withdrawal of this facility by the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

The state police is expected to submit a draft policy in this regard to the government within one or two days following which the same will be produced before the high court so that pilot and escort vehicle security in Punjab can be provided based on position held by a person as well as threat perception to him.

The order of the HC limiting use of the vehicles to only the Chief Minister, Speaker and Chief Justice means a number of people, including the state Chief Secretary and DGP, besides key officers in the field, are without pilots or escorts.

State DGP NPS Aulakh, when questioned on this, said a policy was being framed to cover key officials like heads of the police and civil administration, state Home Secretary and Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister at the headquarters here, besides key officials like deputy commissioners and senior superintendents of police at the district level. Threat perception to officers will also be taken as a separate criterion. Security given on this ground will be reviewed periodically.


Mega conference of surgeons kicks off today
Sanjeev Singh Bariana
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 24
More than 3,000 surgeons from across the country and abroad will witness live surgeries during the 68th annual conference of the Association of Surgeons of India (ASICON-2008) in Ludhiana on its opening day tomorrow. The conference will conclude on December 30.

On the inaugural day, live operations will be shown to participants at Dumra Auditorium of Dayanand Medical College. The operations will be carried out simultaneously at four venues. Twenty patients have volunteered for the operations following a newspaper advertisement. Dr KK Talwar, director, PGIMER, Chandigarh, will inaugurate the conference.

Surgeries will be performed in two categories of laproscopic and open incision. In the laproscopic category, visiting doctors will witness operations for gall bladder, hernia and appendix. The operations, that will be carried out in the open surgery category, will include parotid glands, thyroid and hernia.

The conference is being hosted in the city for the first time, in fact, for the first time in North India since 1955 when the last conference was held at Amritsar.

Dr Kuldip Singh, organising secretary, said: “It was not an easy job while proposing city’s name as the venue for the conference during the last conference at Varanasi. A majority of the conferences are held in South India and even this time Bangalore and Coimbatore were the top contenders. When I proposed the name of Ludhiana, certain skeptics raised the question of the problem of accommodation for guests besides certain technical issues”.

“I was so sure about the public support towards sharing responsibilities of friends that I said accommodation would be no problem at all. The PAU is the major collaborator with the DMC for the conference. The major parties from the city, who have come forward for assistance, include Oswal, Trident, Vardhman, Avon Cycles, JCT Phagwara, GS Autos, Haveli, Baba Jaswant Singh Dental College, Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital and Libra bus service”. Dr Kuldip Singh is professor of surgery at the Dayanand Medical College and Hospital (DMCH).

As a majority of the city hotels are already booked, rooms have been booked in the hotels in neighbouring cities, including Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur and Kapurthala . Accommodation has also been secured in private residences and farmhouses. “I had a number of eminent people from different walks of life who said ‘you forget about your guests. We will receive them and also take care of them,” he added.


Tribune Impact
Probe ordered into rotting of wheat
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 24
The Punjab government has ordered an inquiry into the rotting of wheat procured by Punjab Agro Industries Limited. A report on the wheat stacked in the open by the corporation was highlighted by The Tribune in today’s edition.

SK Sandhu, MD, Punjab Agro Industries Corporation, said a team of officials, headed by general manager, Procurement, AK Bhatia, had visited the two villages mentioned in The Tribune story and it would file a report on the extent of the damage.

He added that another inquiry had been instituted to ascertain negligence, if any, on the part of the store in charge in storing the wheat and whether the choice of the storage space was done properly or not.

The inquiry officer would also report the availability of covered storage space in nearby areas, which might have been overlooked before assigning the wheat to be stored on plinths.


Ludhiana lawyer to be new PPSC member
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 24
The way has been paved for the appointment of Ludhiana based advocate Anil Sareen as member of the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) with Punjab Governor Gen S.F. Rodrigues giving his assent to the recommendation made by the State government in this regard yesterday.

With the appointment of Sareen the state government has filled one of the two posts of members lying vacant in the PPSC. Informed sources told TNS that a senior lady IAS officer who has retired recently was tipped to fill the second vacancy.

Sareen has reportedly bagged the position at the instance of the BJP, which has succeeded in getting its man in the PPSC for probably the first time. Sareen, who practises taxation law at Ludhiana, has been state secretary of the BJP for the past eleven years. He has also served as vice-president of the party’s Yuva Morcha earlier.

After the filling of the two vacancies by the ruling SAD-BJP coalition government, the share of members appointed by it in the PPSC will go up to three with Dalbir Singh Mahal being appointed earlier. However, Congress nominees will continue to outnumber their Akali counterparts in the commission.

Besides Chairman S K Sinha, a former bureaucrat, who was appointed during Capt Amarinder Singh’s tenure as Chief Minister, other members appointed by the previous Congress government are Satwant Singh Mohi, Ajaib Singh, Brig D S Garewal (retd) and Ravinderpal Kaur.


Steps to improve exam preparedness
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 24
The Punjab government will organise a slew of preparatory examinations for government school students before they get down to writing their final exams next year.

This is for the first time that the state government has taken an initiative to improve examination preparedness of government school students.

For Classes V and VIII, the Sarv Sikhya Abhiyaan (SSA) Authority, Punjab, will organise a maths and science test on January 10. While Class V students will take this pre-board test in maths, students of Class VIII will take this test in maths and science.

“The aim is to try and make students start studying seriously around this time of the year. Also the test results will show how much more preparation the students require in these subjects,” said Krishan Kumar, director-general, School Education, Punjab, and project in charge, SSA.

He added that there was also a need to promote the learning of maths and science among students. “These two subjects are important to be recognised as international citizens,” he said.

The SSA would also be holding a special test for girl students. “The test for the girls will be a general test in all subjects and toppers of each block will be awarded,” said Krishan Kumar.


Security Equipment Case
Punjab action borders on contempt: Judge
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 24
A day after Punjab placed before the court “something which was not connected” with the security equipment case in an “attempt to browbeat the judge”, Justice Ranjit Singh today said he was of prima facie view that the action was contemptuous.

As the case came up for hearing, Justice Ranjit Singh made it clear that the action, on the face of it, “borders on contempt” and implied interference in the administration of justice.

“In case someone has tried to dilute the powers of the court to administer justice, it will lead to initiation of contempt proceedings against him, no matter how high he may be”, the judge said. “The state will have to explain whether the instructions had come from it, or was it an individual’s action.”

Not mincing his words, Justice Ranjit Singh asserted if the state or someone else was trying to play mischief, he would take it head on. “I will not allow motives to be imputed to the court,” Justice Ranjit Singh said, adding that the view so far was “tentative”.

The state yesterday had placed before the justice a note by former DGP SS Virk. The note said “try to win over young MLAs like Pavy, Sukhpal, Jassi Khungra, Panjrath, who are very active and have money.”

Virk is one of the accused in the security equipment purchase case, the quashing of which has been sought by co-accused Anurag Saxena. Justice Ranjit Singh is seeing the action as a “crude attempt” to compel him into recusing himself from the case.

“The equipment was purchased in 2002-03. The person the state is referring to was elected in 2007. How is he connected with the purchases?” the judge questioned.

Apparently disagreeing with Punjab’s reply that the intention behind submitting the note was to bring the matter to the Bench’s notice, Justice Ranjit Singh said the state would not have expressed its desire to move an application for asking the judge to recluse himself, if that was the intention.

The orders have been reserved in the matter and the judgment is likely to be pronounced after the vacations in January.


Cong ex-MLA serves notice on Bhattal
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, December 24
Former Congress MLA from Sangrur and chairman of an NGO, Umeed Foundation, Arvind Khanna has served a defamation notice on Leader of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) Rajinder Kaur Bhattal for allegedly issuing a statement against him, regarding his name in the report of Volker’s Committee on oil-for-food scam.

About a fortnight ago Bhattal had reportedly stated that at Sangrur on December 8 former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had virtually projected Arvind, who had been named in the report on the oil-for-food scam, as the party nominee for the Lok Sabha elections from Sangrur.

Arvind said today, “If Bhattal does not tender a public apology for her statement against me, he will certainly file a Rs 10-crore defamation suit against her as his name was not in Volker's Committee report though his brother’s name was there”. He also said Bhattal’s statement, regarding his name in the report, was totally wrong.

Arvind also said he had today also sent a defamation notice to a local reporter of a Hindi daily newspaper for publishing a news item that a rape victim had stayed for a night at his Umeed Foundation premises here. He said it was totally wrong as the victim had given a statement to the police that she stayed during the night in the house of Balbir Mann at Sangrur. He said the foundation had sent a defamation notice to the reporter, demanding public apology and Rs 25 lakh as damages.

Regarding factionalism in the Congress, especially in Sangrur, Arvind said there was no factionalism in the Congress here. He said besides him, some other persons were also aspirants of the Congress ticket for the Sangrur Lok Sabha seat, but it did not mean that there was groupism in the party as everyone had a right to seek party’s ticket for LS elections.

He further said whosoever would get party ticket for Sangrur, all Congress persons, including him, would extend whole-hearted support to him. He also said though it had been propagating by opponents that he (Arvind) did not stay here, it was not true as he had a home here and his foundation had been functioning here for the past 10 years.


Judges’ phone-tapping issue rings again
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 24
Judges’ phone-tapping issue is ringing again. It seems an affidavit placed before the Punjab and Haryana High Court by the State of Punjab says the state has equipment that can be used for listening to conversations.

The issue was brought to the fore in these columns. The high court had, subsequently, taken suo motu cognisance of the news-report. The state had, however, submitted an affidavit stating it was not indulging in phone tapping.

Describing the affidavit as “smart”, Justice Ranjit Singh today said the equipment the state had did not require it to approach the service provider. “While sitting within range, you can hear anything. No prior permission is required.”

Justice Ranjit Singh agreed that the equipment was required to be used for subverting militant activity. But at the same time some irresponsible officer of the state could be using it for listening to the conversation of those holding constitutional posts,”

Justice Ranjit Singh expressed the apprehension. Stressing upon the need for having safeguards, the Judge referred to attempts by some officers of the state to make CDs concerning some judicial officers. “Do you think it is possible for the court to administer justice, if he apprehends some state officer was recording something or listening to conversation?” the Judge questioned.

Further referring to “judge-bashing” by the Bar, Justice Ranjit Singh said the consequences were far more serious. “It is only weakening the institution. What will happen to you, where will the common man go, if the institution is weakened?

Taking serious note of the apprehensions expressed by some of the judges as reported in the news item, the high court had directed the issuance of notices to the states through the Home Secretaries. The states were asked to specify if there was any procedure regulating the bugging of the phones at their or the Central government’s level.

The high court had subsequently disposed of the matter after observing directions were not required to be issued as Punjab, Haryana and UT had denied bugging the phones.

After taking on record the replies denying the tapping of phones, the Bench of Justice Tirath Singh Thakur and Justice Surya Kant put an end to the matter.


Candidate’s plea for appointment
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 24
In a petition, a candidate has sought directions to the State of Punjab, PPSC and the high court to appoint him in PCS (judicial branch) against three vacant posts. The petitioner contended the posts were vacant due to non-joining of three selected candidates. These, he asserted, should be filled as per the Punjab Judicial Service Rules.


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