Centre awaits President sermon to judges
Face-saver hunt after Clinton clean chit to Pak
Census drive in no man’s land
BJP and Bihar allies set for ‘friendly fights’
Trinamul vows to kill four for one
Left sharpens budget knife

New Delhi, Jan. 27 
Tomorrow, it will be the turn of the judiciary. President K.R. Narayanan, who has snubbed the executive and the legislature in his jubilee of the Republic sermons, is expected to persist with his critical mood when he speaks at the celebrations to mark 50 years of the Supreme Court.

The government is waiting with a marginal degree of anxiety to hear what the President has to say about the judiciary. Narayanan has in the past expressed his views on judicial reforms and is expected to repeat them tomorrow.

Narayanan was candid in his criticism of the executive in his Republic Day-eve address to the nation. He picked on the fast-paced reforms which, he says, has left millions in the lurch.

The President’s comments were not just a criticism of the Vajpayee government’s policies but directed against the liberalisation path charted out by Manmohan Singh.

While addressing lawmakers today, Narayanan asserted that the Constitution should not be tampered with.

The President’s ascerbic views prompted Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to spring to the defence of what is one of the BJP’s pet subjects.

Narayanan’s reproachful mood has surprised many as he had so far not entered into a confrontation with the government since it returned to power in October.

During the previous Lok Sabha, Narayanan had a covert feud with the Vajpayee government over reservation for judges. A leak in an English weekly worsened relations between Raisina Hill and South Block.

The dispute was resolved when the Prime Minister went over to Rashtrapati Bhavan to assuage hurt feelings.

Narayanan has long been demanding reservation in the judiciary for backward groups which are unrepresented in the Supreme Court and are few in number in the high courts.

The President’s critics in the government are waiting for a closer look at the text of his speech tomorrow. If he sounds Dalit-friendly, muted criticism is likely to be aired privately.

Other allegations against the judiciary like delayed justice, piled-up up cases and lack of concern for the downtrodden may also find place in the address.

The Prime Minister and the Chief Justice A.S. Anand had traded charges on the issue at the golden jubilee celebrations of the Supreme Court last November. Vajpayee had described the state of affairs in criminal law as ‘‘shocking’’ and said the government was considering a total revamp of the judiciary.

Returning the fire, Anand blamed the Centre for the huge pile-up of cases, saying it had not appointed the required number of judges.    

New Delhi, Jan. 27 
Embarrassed by US President Bill Clinton’s remarks yesterday rejecting charges of Pakistan’s involvement in the Airbus hijack, Delhi tried to draw solace from a recent report in an American newspaper which quoted unidentified US officials talking about Islamabad’s complicity in the incident.

India has maintained that there is clear evidence of Pakistan’s involvement which has been reinforced with the hijackers going to Pakistan and indulging in anti-India propaganda.

“Our assessment on Pakistan’s complicity in the crime remains unaltered and, in fact, has been further strengthened,” foreign ministry spokesman R.S. Jassal said. Claiming that India has conveyed to the US its assessment, he said a report has been submitted to the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had said India would ask the US to declare Pakistan a terrorist state. Washington’s lukewarm response forced Indian officials to admit, although in private, that Vajpayee’s remarks were “ill-advised” and should have been avoided. But Clinton’s remarks yesterday was the most categorical snub so far.

“We do not have any evidence that the Pakistani government was in any way involved in the hijacking,” Clinton said while addressing a White House press conference.

Trying to wriggle out of the embarrassment and, at the same time, careful not to criticise Clinton, Jassal said: “Statements from the US suggest their assessment of the event and the attendant circumstances is not yet complete.”

Falling back on a report in New York Times, Jassal said, “US officials have confirmed the involvement of Harkat-ul-Ansar in the hijack and the support and patronage such terrorist organisations have been getting from Pakistani official agencies over the years.”

Referring to the anti-India remarks made by Azhar Masood, one of the three militants freed as part of the hostage swap, at Lahore, Jassal said evidences from Pakistan only strengthen “our views”.

Initially, there was a feeling in New Delhi that the report quoting unidentified US officials was part of Washington’s “graded response” before it officially accused Pakistan, or its official agencies, of being involved in the hijack. However, the rejection of Islamabad’s involvement by the US President and the state department has put India in a spot.

In South Block, many see this as an attempt to give a longer rope to the Pakistani government to keep the avenues open for a possible visit by Clinton to the country during his proposed South Asia tour in March.

Recent visits by US senators and US assistant secretary of state Karl Inderfurth have laid stress on terrorist groups operating from Pakistani soil. Pervez Musharraf has also been asked to throw them out or ban their activities in the country.

Not blaming Pakistan directly for the hijack could be a move to ensure that the military regime takes some action against groups like the Harkat to regain the confidence of the international community.    

New Delhi, Jan. 27 
India and Bangladesh will soon launch a joint census to decide the future of about 100,000 people who have “notional citizenship” and, therefore, no voting rights or benefits.

These people have been spread over 194 enclaves within the two countries since 1950.

The issue came up at the sixth meeting of the Indo-Bangla Joint Working Group in Dhaka between January 24 and 26.

The Indian side was led by home ministry joint secretary (Northeast) G.K. Pillai, while Bangladesh was represented by Janibul Huq, joint secretary (political) in the home ministry.

“It was a positive step in the light of the 1974 Indira-Mujib agreement on boundary-related matters,” a home ministry official said.

He added that a joint operation was in the offing to determine the citizenship of people living in enclaves which, geographically, became part of erstwhile East Pakistan and India after Partition and the subsequent accession of Cooch Behar to the Indian Union in 1950.

Once the census is complete and both sides agree to the transfer of enclaves, a constitutional amendment to Article 3 would be required.

While Delhi has 83 enclaves (10,000 acres) within Bangladesh, Dhaka has 111 (17,000 acres) within India, spread over Assam and West Bengal. The estimated population of about one lakh hardly enjoys any freedom enshrined in either the Bangladeshi or the Indian Constitution.

However, there is reason to believe that following Pakistani rule and two successive military regimes since 1971, thousa