Vote-buying watch for RS polls
Handcuffs on hunter of most wanted
Quota in judiciary struck down
AIDS family dies of disgrace fear
Calcutta weather

 
 
VOTE-BUYING WATCH FOR RS POLLS 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
March 28 
In an open admission of the possibility of money power coming into play in Rajya Sabha polls, the Election Commission has sent out an alert to the income-tax department.

Biennial elections are taking place tomorrow to fill 27 vacancies in the Upper House from six states, but the focus is on Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Bengal, where the possibility of cross-voting has created a chance for dark horses to romp home.

Chief Election Commissioner M.S.Gill sprang a surprise at a news conference today, saying that he was in touch with the finance ministry, to which the IT department reports, to “do something to prevent use of illegal money”. He said that in the Rajya Sabha, “voters are few and temptations are mone.”

Reports from Uttar Pradesh suggest the fear of cross-voting has gripped every party, including the ruling BJP, which is fielding Sushma Swaraj and central minister Rajnath Singh.

Uttar Pradesh has two other high-profile candidates, industrialist Jayant Malhoutra and journalist Rajiv Shukla, who is contesting as an Independent.

In Karnataka, liquor baron Vijay Mallya is grabbling the limelight, also as an Independent.

The CPM-led front in West Bengal should not have a problem in sending up its four nominees, but uncertainty surrounds the election of the fifth candidate. The Congress has put up Debi Prosad Roy, to the anger of supporters of former state party chief Somen Mitra who was denied nomination. Roy is facing competition from Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul-backed Independent candidate Jayanta Bhattacharya.

Congress sources said that in desperation party leaders held meetings with the dissidents to persuade them to vote for Roy, but did not succeed. Fear of cross-voting, fuelled by rumours of money-bags changing hands, drove Roy to party chief A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury to complaint against some Congress MLAs who have openly criticised the high command for nominating him.

In Bangalore, Mallya — needing 45 votes to win — was making last-minute efforts to woo legislators in the lobbies of the legislature. He was trying to rope in the Congress’ surplus votes, of which it has as many as 24, but that party itself is a divided house.

Shukla, a columnist and TV personality, has reportedly managed to reunite the Loktantrik Congress Party which nominated him but suffered a near-revolt when its minister, Amarmani Tripathi, opposed his candidacy.

Shukla requires 36 votes and the LCP itself has only 20 MLAs, making him short by 16. But he is believed to have made incursions into the Samajwadi Party and the Congress through his political mentor, a senior Congress MP from Uttar Pradesh.    


 
 
HANDCUFFS ON HUNTER OF MOST WANTED 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, March 28 
Hunter of murderers-in-hiding Suhaib Illyasi was arrested today in connection with the “mysterious death” of his wife Anju two months ago.

Delhi police sleuths swooped down on Illyasi’s flat in the IFS apartments in Mayur Vihar and asked him to accompany them to Trilokpuri police station. The producer of India’s Most Wanted was arrested on charges of abetting a dowry death, destroying evidence and causing mental harassment to his wife.

Anju, 27, was declared dead at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences on January 10. She apparently died from two allegedly “self-inflicted” stab wounds on her abdomen late on the night of January 9. The police, however, registered a case of suicide seven days after her death.

The post-mortem, conducted by a three-member panel of doctors, also said it was not a case of homicide. The investigators initially believed Anju killed herself following a quarrel with her husband. Various theories did the rounds, including Anju’s apparent dislike for Illyasi’s liaison with a man who later claimed he was “obsessed” with him.

Illyasi was produced in the court of metropolitan magistrate Bhupesh Kumar where a large crowd had gathered to catch a glimpse of the man they usually watched on television, tracking murderers.

Dressed in a check shirt and a dark suit minus a tie, a furious Illyasi indicated he was being framed. “This is a revenge not against me, but my programme,” he shrieked. “The victory of the people who are behind the ruining of my programme will be short-lived.”

Illyasi was remanded in judicial custody for 14 days.

After news of Anju’s death made the headlines, most people in Delhi smelt “something funny” and were not willing to dismiss it as yet another suicide by the wife of a high-profile TV producer who rubbed shoulders with the police top brass.

What prompted Illyasi’s arrest was a report by the area sub-divisional magistrate, Ravi Dadhich, who, on the basis of statements made by Anju’s mother Rukma Singh and her sister Rashmi Singh, recommended that a case be registered. Anju’s relatives were not too satisfied with the preliminary observations made by the police and forensic experts that it was a case of suicide.

The police said Rukma and Rashmi Singh alleged that Anju was forced to take her life because of “continuous mental harassment” and demand of money in dowry by Illyasi.

The producer had confided to the police that he had a strained relationship with Anju.

However, her father K.P. Singh, who also lives in Mayur Vihar, had said soon after his daughter’s death that he did not suspect foul play.    


 
 
QUOTA IN JUDICIARY STRUCK DOWN 
 
 
FROM R.VENKATARAMAN
 
New Delhi, March 28 
The Supreme Court has struck down caste-based reservations in the judicial service.

Striking down a Patna High Court order, a five-judge Constitution bench held that Bihar Reservation of Vacancies in Posts and Services (for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other Backward Classes) Act, 1991 “has no application to the recruitment of judicial officers”.

The bench headed by Justice S.B. Majumdar added that “if two candidates, one belonging to the general category and another to the reserved category are found to be equally meritorious, preference can be given to reserved category candidate”.

But, the court, added, the provision cannot be legally enforceable.

The Patna High Court had said that in case of two meritorious candidates belonging to general and reserved categories, “the rational scheme envisaged by the Constitution” was to give preference to the reserved category candidate. The apex court quashed the order, holding it “unnecessary” and be ”treated to be of no legal effect”.

While Justice G.B. Pattanaik and Justice U.C. Banerjee agreeing with Justice Majumdar, Justice V.N. Khare and Justice R.P. Sethi differed. They said that reservation could be effected in judicial services also.

The tone and tenor of the judgment is that the judicial service cannot be put on a par with the secretarial staff. Justice Sethi and Justice Khare, in their dissenting judgment, said: “It is not correct as held by the high court that reservation in judiciary would amount to relegating the judicial service at par with not only the secretarial staff or the administrative executive or council of ministers and legislature but also their own staff.”

However, the majority opinion was that the “judicial service is not a service in the sense of ‘employment’. The judges are not employees. As members of the judiciary, they exercise the sovereign judicial power of the state”.

Citing the All-India Judges’ Association case, the three judges said: “Judges are holders of public offices in the same way as the members of the council of ministers and the members of the legislature. When it is said that in a democracy such as ours the executive, the legislature and the judiciary constitute the three pillars of the state, what is intended to be conveyed is that the three essential functions of the state entrusted to the three organs of the state and each one of them in turn represents the authority of the state”.

Justice Pattanaik said judiciary being one of the three limbs of the Constitution, “those who are entrusted with the affairs of administration of justice, must be presumed to have greater expertise in understanding the constitutional requirements” where caste-based reservation has no role to play”.

Justice Banerjee said the state could not interfere with judiciary with such legislation providing reservations.    


 
 
AIDS FAMILY DIES OF DISGRACE FEAR 
 
 
FROM ANAND SOONDAS
 
Auraian (Pratapgarh), March 28 
Choosing death over disgrace, an AIDS victim killed his wife, son and daughter before committing suicide.

“I have AIDS and I will die soon. My wife, too, has got the disease from me. I have two children. They are innocent, but I cannot leave them to be disgraced by society. And they too might have got it by now. So I am killing them before I kill myself. If the sulphas (poison) does not work I will slit their throats. I am solely responsible for this. I hope god forgives me,” says a note left by Hiralal Tiwari.

The deaths are the most hideous ever in Auraian, a small village in Pratapgarh, Uttar Pradesh. When the police broke open the door to Hiralal’s house on March 24, they found 11-year-old Nitish and 14-year-old Nita dead and tied to a cot. The bodies of Hiralal and his wife Pushpa had turned blue. Bottles of the poison were lying about. The razor-sharp knife, which Hiralal would have used had the poison failed, was also found.

Hiralal, who earned his living as a taxi driver in Mumbai, was mistaken in his belief that he might have transmitted the disease to his children. But he was probably right in guessing the reaction of his fellow villagers once they found out he had contracted AIDS. Even his younger brother, Mahendra, refuses to acknowledge his blood-ties to Hiralal. “I am a friend of his from Mumbai,” he lies. “Don’t ask me anything.”

Auraian has recoiled into silence — the deaths will not be discussed. Neighbours and family members huddle in corners and refuse to talk. “It was a very bad thing to happen. It is an omen,” a villager mutters under his breath and walks away.

Even the “educated” are as ignorant. “It’s an old disease,” says Patti police station’s officer in charge, Mahendra Kumar Singh. “Now it has a fancy name. More people are killed by the word AIDS than by the disease itself,” he says confidently. His colleagues nod in agreement. “Yeh bemari ka to ilaz hai” (there is a cure for this disease), he adds.

The villagers are shaken as much by the knowledge of Hiralal’s disease as by the manner of the deaths. They cannot but wonder how Hiralal, who they recall as a gentle soul, contracted the disease and assume it must have been because of sex with an affected person.

“He must have been possessed” says Mohanlal Tripathi, Hiralal’s childhood buddy.

Hiralal came to know he had AIDS on March 9. By then it was too late. His wife, too, was symptomatic. He decided if he had to die it would be in his village and not in Mumbai, where, he once told Tripathi: “The dead disappear without respect, without friends. Wahan koi kisi ke liye nahi rota.” (No one cries for anybody there).

Avni Srivastava, a doctor in nearby Patti town, who treated Hiralal after his return, says if his patient had believed that AIDS cannot spread without intimate physical contact, his two children would probably have lived.“I never imagined he would take this step. Otherwise I would have warned his family, though I was under oath to keep it a secret,” says the doctor.

Hiralal in his letter begs that his and Pushpa’s bodies should be not sent for post mortem, so that the disease is cremated with his death. “That is my only wish,” the letter ends.

A Mumbai doctor had given Hiralal at least two more months. But, says Tripathi: “He was too meek to face death head-on. It was guilt and shame more than the disease that killed him.”    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 
Temperature: Maximum: 35.1°C (normal) Minimum: 21.9°C (-1) RAINFALL: Nil Relative humidity: Maximum: 85%, Minimum: 34% Today: Partly cloudy sky. No major change in maximum and minimum temperature. Sunset: 5.47 pm Sunrise: 5.36 am    
 

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