Court gets slowcoach rap
Young, rich and still a thief
Spot check of CU scripts
Salvaged crime haven turns heritage park
Futuristic firms lap up Saltlec showpiece
Triple mishaps in rush hour
Lung power for clean-air panel
11 labourers mowed down
Ulfa militant shot dead
Rebels threaten to kill hostages

 
 
COURT GETS SLOWCOACH RAP 
 
 
BY TAPAS GHOSH
 
Calcutta, April 10 
The Union law ministry has rapped Calcutta High Court hard on its knuckles for disposing of the fewest number of cases every year among all such courts in the country.

In a recent letter to the chief justice of Calcutta High Court, Union law minister Ram Jethmalani has categorically said “the average rate of disposal of cases in Calcutta High Court is below that of the national average”.

Stressing that Calcutta High Court has the largest number of cases pending anywhere in the country, Jethmalani has said: “Instead of increasing the judges’ strength, the high court at Calcutta should take suitable steps for improvement in the rate of disposal of cases.”

Jethmalani’s comments have raised a storm in the high court, with the authorities denouncing the minister’s observations as “biased” and “unwarranted”.

While Chief Justice A.K. Mathur declined to comment on the issue and sitting judges were not willing to record their views, former judges of the high court said Jethmalani’s comments were a “pack of lies”.

“The minister is totally misinformed and his comments are baseless and a bunch of untruths,” said former high court judge Bhagabati Prasad Banerjee. “I challenge him to prove what he is saying and I am willing to rebut all his charges.”

What rankles is Jethmalani’s “dismissive attitude” towards the shortage of judges here. The minister has said in his letter: “The judge strength of Calcutta High Court has been reviewed. It is observed that the average rate of disposal of main cases per judge per year in Calcutta High Court was 1121. Against this, the national average rate of disposal of cases per judge per year of all the high courts was 1363 main cases.”

The minister said the review of disposal of cases was made on the basis of a resolution passed during a meeting of chief ministers and chief justices in New Delhi in 1984. At this meeting, it had been decided that the law ministry would review the functioning of the high courts every three years to determine whether fresh appointment of judges was required in any of the high courts.

“This is nothing but a ploy to defer the appointment of judges to the high court,” fumed the former secretary of the Calcutta High Court Bar Association, Uttam Majumdar. “Of 50 sanctioned posts, 22 are vacant at the moment. This dismal scenario has been persisting from 1986. Isn’t this reason enough for the delay?”

The Bar Association, the Bar Library Club and the Incorporated Law Society of the high court have for several years been demanding the filling up of vacancies to speed up the process of dispensing justice. In fact, lawyers have resorted to sporadic agitations and cease-work to press for the filling up of judges’ posts.

Lawyers said perhaps Jethmalani had been “misled” into his conclusions by the fact that often, cases which had been disposed of by judges were not recorded in the court’s registers. “It is probably a case of poor display of disposed cases,” said Chhabi Chakraborty, executive committee member of the Bar Association.

“If this had not been the case, then Calcutta High Court would have topped the list of courts in speedy disposal of cases.”

State law minister Nisith Adhikary, however, chose not to comment on the issue. “I don’t want to get dragged into this controversy,” he said. “It would not correct for me to make any comment on this issue.”    


 
 
YOUNG, RICH AND STILL A THIEF 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 10 
The young and the restless are up to serious mischief on the city’s streets.

Three teenagers from well-to-do families were arrested on Sunday on charges of stealing car stereos.

Three other teenage associates managed to give the police the slip. The police recovered five stolen stereos from the back seat of the car in which the boys were travelling.

The deputy commissioner of police, south, Ranjit Pachnanda, said the six boys — four of them residents of New Alipore — are students of reputed English-medium schools in the city. He claimed that the boys had admitted to the crime.

On Monday, the police sent one of the arrested, a minor, to the Juvenile Court in Salt Lake. The other two were produced in court and remanded to police custody.

While two of the accused have passed their school finals this year, the rest are studying in Classes IX and X.

The fathers of these teenagers are all established businessmen. One is a senior executive of a multinational company.

According to the police, two of the boys set out from their New Alipore house early on Sunday morning, telling their parents that they were going for a “morning walk” to Victoria Memorial.

One of them took his father’s car, in which he picked up four more friends. The boys headed straight for Victoria Memorial, where they zeroed in on a car at the parking space.

While four boys kept watch, two pried open the windows. Some of the boys then got inside the car, removed the stereo and shifted it to their own car.

Next stop, Camac Street. Operation stereo steal was repeated without a hitch. Another car on a lonely stretch was targeted, the glass window opened and the music system removed.

The gang of six then sped off towards Russel Street, where they managed to add to their booty without much ado.

Convinced that this was their lucky day out, the boys then turned into Middleton Street.

Here, the modus operandi was the same. But, even as the burglars were about to break into another car. a police team patrolling the area noticed them “moving suspiciously near the car”.

The officers swooped on them, only to discover that they were trying to steal the stereos. Two of the boys were arrested on the spot.

The four keeping vigil saw their friends being arrested and fled. The cops chased them and arrested one. The other three managed to escape.

Officers are interrogating the boys to find out where their other associates are hiding. Pachnanda said police officers will raid several places on Monday night in an effort to track down the absconding boys.

The police have informed the parents about their sons’ activities. Pachnanda said he will also get in touch with the principals of the schools these boys attended.

“I want to know more about the background of these boys and when and why they went astray,’’ he said.

This is the third time in the past six months that teenagers have been arrested for criminal activity. Officers from the Park Street police station had picked up two students last year. The detective department, too, had arrested three boys for looting a shop last year.    


 
 
SPOT CHECK OF CU SCRIPTS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 10 
To avoid delays in publication of results of major under-graduate examinations, Calcutta University has decided to introduce spot evaluation of answer scripts.

Under the new system, examiners will be brought to one place where they will evaluate the scripts. Currently, examiners take home the answer scripts and return them to the university authorities after evaluation.

University sources said under the new system, the chances of answer scripts being misplaced will be minimised. The authorities are working out the modalities of implementing the new system from this year for the BA, B.Sc and B.Com Part II examinations, scheduled to begin on April 18.

“With so many examiners in one place, it will require additional manpower to attend to their needs. So once this requirement is fulfilled, there should not be any problem in organising the new system,” said Onkar Sadhan Adhikari, controller of examinations.

With an aim to ensure timely publication of results, the CU under-graduate council had given a proposal to the authorities to introduce the system of spot evaluation of answer scripts in 1999.

Later, the CU syndicate, the university’s highest policy-making body, accepted the proposal in principle and recommended implementation of the system in consultation with officials and staff of the department concerned.

The under-graduate council urged the necessity for spot evaluation to avoid inordinate delay by the examiners in sending the marks of students to the unversity. This created a serious problem, resulting into long delays in publishing the results of various examinations.

Senior university officials said it was necessary to introduce the new system . But it would not be possible to organise evaluation of answer scripts of all major under-graduate examinations at one go because of financial constraints.

“We will start with the B.Com Part II examination and, if we are successful, we may extend the system to other examinations”, the officials said. This year, nearly 20,000 candidates will write the BA , B.Sc and B.Com Part II tests. Nearly 250 examiners will be required to correct 80,000 answer scripts, since each candidate will write four papers.

In the new system, the examiners will be asked to assemble at one spot, probably in Calcutta. They will be provided with accommodation, as well as other allowances for staying here till they complete examining the answer scripts.    


 
 
SALVAGED CRIME HAVEN TURNS HERITAGE PARK 
 
 
BY DEEPANKAR GANGULY
 
Calcutta, April 10 
Mysore Garden, the sprawling five-bigha land adjacent to the Keoratala crematorium in south Calcutta, where dreaded criminals like Swapan and Sridhar used to hide over the past 15 years, has been turned into a park by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC). It will be opened to the public on Poila Baisakh.

The renovation has cost the civic body Rs 34 lakh and is regarded as the costliest beautification programme so far undertaken by the CMC.

“A sum of Rs 10 lakh has been provided by Ashok Mitra from the MPs’ local area development fund. The CMC has provided the rest,” said municipal commissioner Asim Barman.

Apart from trees like the Weeping Deodar being planted in the park around a dancing fountain, the century-old temples of Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva have been renovated. They were salvaged from heaps of garbage dumped there.

While the Vishnu temple was constructed by the Maharaja of Mysore, the Shiva temple was constructed by the Raja of Tripura. It is said that Swami Vivekananda had once rested in the Shiva temple while visiting Kalighat soon after his return to Calcutta from America. CMC will soon declare Mysore Garden as a heritage spot.

Records of the CMC say that in December 1894, the then Maharaja of Mysore, Chamrejendra Wadiyar Bahadur, who had come to Calcutta to seek an audience with Viceroy Lord Elgin, died in the city of diptheria. His body was cremated at Keoratala and his sons built the temple there a few years later. It was constructed in the style of the 12th century Chenna Keshava Temple of Bellur, in Karnataka.

“The four-year-long beautification programme succeeded only because of the local people. They wanted Mysore Garden to be freed from the clutches of anti-socials and developed into something worthwhile,” said local councillor Mala Roy.

A wall has been erected around Mysore Garden and murals have been painted on it by artist Pradip Pal of Kumartuli.

While renovating the temple, the CMC discovered that a gold pitcher on top of the temple had been stolen.

Moreover, the cutglass and bronze canopy over the Vishnu idol and most of the Italian marble used for the floor of the temple were missing.

The CMC brought in expert masons from Murshidabad to restore the artwork on the temple walls.

The park will be brightly illuminated, with dome-shaped sodium vapour lamps.

Councillor Roy said an NGO will resume regular puja at the temples.

Mysore Garden will be inaugurated on Poila Baisakh (April 14) by a group of handicapped children from a local school.    


 
 
FUTURISTIC FIRMS LAP UP SALTLEC SHOWPIECE 
 
 
BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT
 
Calcutta, April 10 
Infinity, touted as the first 21st-Century building of the city, has proved that central Calcutta’s loss is Saltlec’s gain.

At a time when more than 10 lakh sq ft. of commercial space is lying vacant in the heart of the city and promoters are desperately seeking corporate takers, the entire 110,000 sq ft of space at Infinity Phase-I, in the electronic complex inside Salt Lake City, has been sold out.

And this, within a month and a half of its inauguration by chief minister Jyoti Basu.

“The futuristic vision at Infinity has paved the way for its success,” Bikram Dasgupta, chairman and CEO of Globsyn Technologies, co-promoters of Infinity along with Webel Ltd, told The Telegraph, on Monday.

“We wanted to create world-class infrastructure at Infinity to invite global majors in the knowledge-based industry to Calcutta and our prime concern was the need of our customers,” said Dasgupta. The list of takers includes telecom companies, Internet service providers, information-technology giants, private telecom operators, all fighting for space in the “IT hub of the future”, Saltlec.

The presence of Dishnet DSL and Global Electronic Commerce Sevices, Global TeleSystems, BNK Group, Modi Telstra, Wintech International, I-Kinetics India Pvt. Ltd, Kanika Infotech, etc, at the colossal Infinity complex corroborates Dasgupta’s claim of “providing customers with the best possible infrastructure”.

Elaborating upon his dream project, Dasgupta added: “We have come a long way from the SDF-building era, and Infinity will act as a reference point in the state.” This, feels the Globsyn boss, will go a long way in “restoring hope” and “creating aspirations” in West Bengal.

After the “huge success of Phase-I”, can Phase-II be far behind? According to Dasgupta, the second edition of this twin-tower complex will be ready by July, this year. And enquiries for Phase-II are already said to be pouring in.

“We are also working on using the Infinity infrastructure as the server with e-offices as its client spokes spread over our eight-and-a-half-acre area at Saltec,” announced Dasgupta.

Globsyn is also planning to help out dot-com starters in the state by providing all necessary ingredients for IT business such as funds, infrastructure and human resources through the training wing, Technocampus, and space.

“Globsyn will be equity partners in these type of projects and the companies will have to prove their credibility within six months,” explained the CEO.

While chalking out plans of various projects to take Calcutta into the ICE (information, communication and entertainment) age, Dasgupta is convinced that “within a year and a half, all knowledge-based industries will be keen to set up house inside Saltlec”.    


 
 
TRIPLE MISHAPS IN RUSH HOUR 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 10 
It was a day of road accidents, traffic snarls and rail disruptions.

Three road accidents, one at Sealdah, one in the BBD Bag area and the other near Rabindra Sadan, threw rush-hour traffic out of gear on Monday. Six people were injured in the accidents.

In the afternoon, three passengers were injured when two mini-buses on the same route collided near Writers’ Buildings. The injured were taken to SSKM Hospital and released after first aid. Both the buses were impounded, but the drivers had fled.

At around 9 am, a scooterist and his pillion-rider were injured when a private bus hit their two-wheeler on AJC Bose Road, near Rabindra Sadan. The two were rushed to SSKM Hospital with serious injuries.

An hour later, 25-year-old B. Mondal was injured when he slipped off the footboard of a private bus on route 12, near Prachi cinema, at Sealdah. Mondal, a resident of Bongaon, in North 24-Parganas, was admitted to NRS Medical College and Hospital by police and passersby.

To add to commuters’ woes, services on Eastern Railway’s Howrah-Burdwan section were affected for nearly an hour from 6.18 am due to a power failure. Four local trains had to be cancelled.

A technical snag in the overhead traction wire around 9.15 am detained the Howrah-bound Tarakeswar local near the car shed. As a result, movement of local trains in and out of Howrah station was affected for half an hour.    


 
 
LUNG POWER FOR CLEAN-AIR PANEL 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, April 10 

With air pollution pushing the city closer to choking point than ever before, and the administration finally waking up to the threat, it’s only fair that the victims are allowed to play a definitive role in tackling the problem.

The people of Calcutta are, at last, being given a chance to have a say on framing a transport and environment policy to check mounting levels of air pollution.

The high court-appointed experts’ committee, asked to submit concrete proposals before the court, will approach the public for its views on the issue.

Accordingly, the committee, headed by member-secretary, state pollution control board, K.S. Ramasubban, will declare its intentions to the people through advertisements.

The public will be given 15 days to respond.

The committee will also approach the court, seeking a one-month extension of the deadline to get the final report ready.

The court had asked the committee to prepare the report by May-end.

Among the most contentious issues to be addressed by the expert committee are the phasing out of 15-year-old cars and taxis; special restrictions on plying of auto-rickshaws and more effective ways to monitor auto-emission levels.

With the introduction of India 2000 emission norms from April 1, no new vehicle is being given registration if its engine does not meet the new specifications.

“This is bound to have an effect on the quality of air, as more and more old cars are retired,” a board official said.

However, auto emission is not the only area that the committee is looking into.

Monitoring fuel quality and teaching proper driving methods are also very much integral to keeping toxic levels in the atmosphere under check. Industrial pollution, which is a major contributor to the city’s bad air quality, is also being reviewed.

“This way, people belonging to the taxi, bus and other passenger transport unions, will have a chance to voice their opinions. It would have taken months to give each of them a hearing otherwise,” a committee member said.

There is also an effort to look at ways and means to reduce dust in the city. “Dust pollution is one of the ills we face and we have to look at the reasons behind the very high dust levels in Calcutta,” the member said.

Construction of buildings and civic amenities, burning of dry leaves and old rubber tyres are a major source of dust generation. The member said there should be some guidelines to help reduce dust levels in the city.    


 
 
11 LABOURERS MOWED DOWN 
 
 
FROM SUBROTO ROY
 
Diphu, April 10 
In one of the worst massacres in recent times, militants gunned down 10 labourers and a truck driver at a forest camp inside the Dhanseri reserve forest in Assam’s Karbi Anglong district last night.

Police suspect the Karbi National Volunteers to be behind the attack, but sources said the outfit could not have carried out the attack independent of the Karbi People’s Front, with which it merged to form the United People’s Democratic Solidarity sometime back.

Police said 10-15 rebels raided the forest camp at midnight, lined up all the workers and sprayed them with bullets. Eleven of them were killed on the spot.

The four labourers who survived the attack reported the incident to the police early today. All four are undergoing treatment at the Diphu civil hospital.

The militants also set fire to three truckloads of timber belonging to Suresh Sharma, the trader who set up the camp at Langlakso, 25 km from the district headquarters town of Diphu. Three other trucks which had not been loaded were left untouched.

The militants had clamped a “ban” on felling sometime back. However, Sharma continued dealing in timber with the forest authorities’ permission.

The bodies of the slain labourers and the truck driver were brought to Diphu today. Two of the bodies are yet to be identified. The others are that of Sombahadur Gurung, Purno Chetri, Gobindo Wari (driver of one of the trucks), Santosh Bishwakarma, Pradip Dey, Birbal Bhagwat, Prem Prasad Sharma, Babul Saikia and Deepak Narzary.

Director-general of police P.V. Sumant told The Telegraph in Guwahati that an operation had been launched to apprehend the rebels. “The operation was actually launched several days back. We busted a hideout of the outfit three days ago,” he said.

Sumant also claimed that the police had kept the Karbi militants in check for the past few months. He said the offensive against the rebels would have been more successful had the terrain not been so inhospitable. “It takes days to reach certain places,” the police chief said. “It took one of our teams four days to come back from a recent operation,” he added.

The DGP said the Karbi rebels were using the district’s proximity to Nagaland to their advantage. “They sneak into the neighbouring state whenever we turn on the heat here,” he said.

In a statement, chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta condemned last night’s massacre and said such killings would only “intensify the feeling of hatred and terror”. According to intelligence sources, the Ulfa was instrumental in the growth of the Karbi National Volunteers.

“The outfit was propped up by the Ulfa, in return for which the latter was allowed to use the forests of Karbi Anglong as a corridor to Bangladesh,” an intelligence official said

The Karbi outfit also provided “safe houses” to Ulfa militants. “The two outfits still have an operational tie-up,” the official said.    


 
 
ULFA MILITANT SHOT DEAD 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Jorhat, April 10 
Ulfa militant Rajat Konwar, who led the attack on Assam veterinary and animal husbandry minister Hiranya Konwar last month, was killed in an encounter with the police at Mahmora Konwar village under Sonari police station in Upper Assam’s Sivsagar district today.

Sariful Hussain, a police commando, was injured in the incident. Police recovered a .38 revolver, four detonators and six rounds of ammunition from the slain Ulfa militant.Rajat was an explosives expert.

Tribal leader killed

Bhujan Ho, former MP and tribal leader, was brutally shot dead yesterday afternoon near Border village, 8 km from here, by four scooter-borne men, reports our Chaibasa correspondent.    


 
 
REBELS THREATEN TO KILL HOSTAGES 
 
 
FROM SEKHAR DATTA
 
Agartala, April 10 
Bent on preventing a Left Front victory in the Autonomous District Council polls, National Liberation Front of Tripura rebels abducted four more relatives of CPI and CPM candidates in the past 24 hours.

The NLFT offensive began with the abduction of Parbati Reang, wife of CPI candidate Manindra Reang, from Dharmapha Tilla village under Santir Bazar police station of South Tripura yesterday. The rebels threatened to kill the Left leader’s wife if he did not withdraw his nomination immediately.

Another group of NLFT militants raided the residence of Revolutionary Socialist Party candidate Kalachand Jamatya at South Maharani and assaulted his family members, including his wife and children. They subsequently drove out the family, locked the house and warned them of dire consequences if Jamatya did not withdraw from the poll fray. Since then, the militants have taken four other relatives of Left Front candidates hostage.

Police sources said here today NLFT rebels abducted Swarna Debbarma, a teacher and CPI candidate Kunja Debbarma’s daughter, from Amtoli-Golaghati constituency.

Another group of rebels abducted Shyamdulal Debbarma, son-in-law of CPM candidate Lalit Debbarma. The latter is contesting the district council polls from Takarjala constituency.Sarbajay Reang, father of CPM candidate Rajendra Reang, was also abducted. The tribal leader is contesting a seat in the district council from Jampui-Damcherra seat.

The abduction spree continued with the rebels taking Janati Debbarma, wife of CPM candidate Mangal Debbarma, from Sadar (East) subdivision hostage. Debbarma is contesting the polls from Pekuarjala-Janmejaynagar constituency. The NLFT has threatened to kill all the hostages if the Left candidates do not withdraw from the polls. The last date for withdrawal of nominations expired today.

5 injured in clash

Five persons were injured in a bomb attack followed by clashes between tribals and non-tribals today at Chakbasta under Jirania police station of West Tripura.

The tribals later went on the rampage and set at least 50 houses on fire, leaving nearly 200 non-tribals homeless.

Police sources said at 11 am today, suspected militants of the United Bengali Liberation Front hurled bombs on a jeep carrying tribal candidates for the ongoing Madhyamik examinations accompanied by their guardians. As a result, four tribals were injured. Even before the incident could be reported to the police, tribals armed with crude weapons attacked a nearby Bengali-dominated village and burned down nearly 50 houses.    

 

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