Govt mulls cricket probe commission
Crippled killer walks away as Calcutta Police take
Old Tada in new Pot
Centre tilts to partial rollback
Lover steps in with baby claim
Calcutta weather

 
 
GOVT MULLS CRICKET PROBE COMMISSION 
 
 
FROM LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
New Delhi, April 26 
While most members of Parliament appear to favour a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into match-fixing allegations against Indian cricketers, one option before the Atal Behari Vajpayee government is to constitute an inquiry commission.

According to well-placed sources of The Telegraph, if the government exercises the commission-option, it will be headed by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court.

“Among the people who matter, more seem keen to involve the CBI. At the same time, quite a few are of the opinion such an inquiry could drag on and on and, so, Indian cricket will be better served if a commission is constituted,” remarked one of the sources.

The source added: “Of course there are advantages in having a commission but, more than anybody else, the biggest say on how exactly to proceed will rest with the Prime Minister himself and home minister L.K.Advani.”

Yet another school of thought, it is understood, is that everything be put on hold till Delhi police complete the Hansie Cronje investigation.

As a source put it: “It’s possible the investigation could, in time, give direct leads (on Indian cricketers)... Therefore, there also are some who prefer a wait-and-watch policy. However, this lot is in a minority.”

For the record, while Advani hasn’t ruled out a CBI inquiry, sports minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa has pledged to do “everything possible” to book those who haven’t quite been playing cricket.

As for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), thus far, it has only been enthusiastic about “fully cooperating” with Delhi police.

The BCCI won’t mind a CBI-inquiry, but its mandarins will be happier if the country’s premier investigation agency is not brought in the frame.

“We aren’t a mis-managed organisation. So, why have CBI sleuths all over the BCCI? At the moment, certainly, a Delhi police investigation will suffice,” insisted somebody very influential in the BCCI.

Incidentally, the BCCI is an autonomous body, not dependent on the government for funds. It isn’t also guided by the Indian Olympic Association.

With Advani not averse to a CBI inquiry and those who walk the corridors of power talking of a commission being constituted, tomorrow’s meeting here convened by Dhindsa is more than just significant.

The invitees include past and present cricketers and coaches, as also current and one-time BCCI officials. Buddies-turned-foes Jagmohan Dalmiya and Inderjit Singh Bindra fall in the latter category.

Meanwhile, to “understand each other better”, Dalmiya accompanied by top BCCI mandarins met Dhindsa this evening. Clearly, the BCCI delegation wanted to “read” the minister’s mind.    


 
 
CRIPPLED KILLER WALKS AWAY AS CALCUTTA POLICE TAKE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 26 
A notorious contract killer nursing a broken thigh bone stunned Calcutta Police today, making an unbelievable getaway from a city hospital where he was taken for a regular check-up.

Manjit Singh Mange, a member of the Babloo Srivastava gang arrested after a shootout on Park Street two years ago, escaped from SSKM Hospital this afternoon after policemen left his ambulance unguarded for about an hour in front of Woodburn Ward.

Two constables and two sweepers of Presidency jail, supposed to guard the vehicle in which Mange lay on a stretcher with one foot in plaster, went different ways around the same time, gifting the killer the chance to make good his escape and fuelling speculation that the operation was a planned one.

Mange is being treated for a femur injury he suffered during the shootout. He is brought to the hospital once every month.

While Ershad Mondol, one of the constables standing guard in front of the ambulance, went inside the hospital with Mange’s prescription and X-ray plates, the other, Goutam Das “went for a walk in the lush green surroundings of the hospital premises”.

The two sweepers standing at the back of the ambulance also disappeared around the same time, one rushing to the washroom after an attack of stomach cramps and the other sauntering away to buy a packet of beedis.

Mange was nowhere to be seen when constable Das returned to resume guard near the ambulance. Though the police have sounded a red alert throughout the state, the killer could not be tracked till late tonight. All the four guards on duty have been suspended.

Das is reported to have told the police that he asked several people whether they saw Mange flee. Some said they had seen a bearded man with one foot in plaster — Mange has begun sporting a beard since his arrest — riding pillion on a motorcycle and disappear out of the hospital gates.

Another witness standing near Woodburn Ward said he said seen two persons lift a middle-aged man into a Tata Sumo. “I am not sure whether he got out of the police ambulance, but the vehicle sped away immediately,” he said.

Detective chief Narayan Ghosh said all roads leading out of the city and state have been sealed. “But we are clueless about his whereabouts,” he said. “There are too many conflicting versions in what the suspended policemen are saying.” The police are investigating the role of the constables and sweepers in the escape. “How is it possible that all four would decide to disappear at the same time leaving the dreaded criminal unguarded?” a policeman asked.

Hospital super D.D. Chatterjee said he had not been informed that Mange was being brought for a check-up. A doctor in the orthopaedic department said no constable had come with the killer’s prescription and X-ray plates.    


 
 
OLD TADA IN NEW POT 
 
 
FROM R. VENKATARAMAN
 
New Delhi, April 26 
Old Tada is being refilled in a new Pot.

The new law on terrorism, initially sought to be brought in as the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, is now rechristened the Prevention of Terrorism (Pot) Act.

The government is scheduled to release the highlights of the new Act tomorrow. But a copy available with The Telegraph makes it clear that the “draconian” provisions of the old Act will be retained in a different form.

The new legislation stipulates that membership in a terrorist group is enough to attract the stringent provisions of the law.

The “member” might not even know about the “terrorist or disruptive act” committed by his organisation, yet he renders himself punishable with life imprisonment.

Under Section 3 (5) of the proposed Act, “any person who is a member of a gang involved in terrorist acts shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term of five years which may extend to life imprisonment”.

The Law Commission has drafted a Bill to be introduced in Parliament. A series of “high-level” meetings of officials of the ministries of home, law, external affairs, the National Human Rights Commission and activist groups.

The ministries and the NHRC had turned down a proposal to “soften” the provisions and the final draft retains all the “dreaded” provisions of Tada.

Bail provision, extra judicial confession to be admissible in evidence and the onus of proof of innocence on the accused — the three “draconian” provisions for which the lapsed law was hated — are retained in the new Bill.

Once the new law comes into force, bail will not be granted if the prosecution opposes. This is not in line with normal criminal law.

Besides, “confessions” made before the police will be admissible as evidence. This is known as extra judicial confession. Under normal criminal law, extra judicial confession is not admissible and confessions have to be made before the trial judge or magistrate.

The onus of proving innocence lies on the accused, rather than the prosecution proving guilt.

The provisions of the new act, dubbed “super Tada” by its opponents, also stipulate that anyone who just “holds” any property derived or obtained from a “terrorist” or has been acquired through “terrorist funds” shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term of five years which may extend to imprisonment for life and also fine”.

Possession of information relating to a terrorist or a terrorist act will attract the provisions of the act. A journalist was arrested under the lapsed Act a few years ago as he had interviewed a terrorist and had “possession or information” believed to be of “material assistance”.    


 
 
CENTRE TILTS TO PARTIAL ROLLBACK 
 
 
FROM KAY BENEDICT
 
New Delhi, April 26 
Giving in to pressure from its allies, the BJP-led government is set to partially roll back the increase in price of foodgrain sold through the public distribution system.

Indications are that the government may announce a partial rollback of foodgrain price either tomorrow or on May 3 or 4 when the Finance Bills are expected to be taken up for discussion in Parliament.

The Centre is, however, firm on the increase in prices of cooking gas, kerosene and fertilisers.

According to alliance sources, the government is expected to justify the partial rollback as a special gesture keeping in mind the drought in four states.

Leaders of eight alliance partners met here today and insisted that the Centre reduce prices of foodgrain, cooking gas and kerosene and rescind the order slashing fertiliser subsidy.

Alliance sources said they would raise the issue tomorrow during the Lok Sabha discussion on price rise.

The sources said that as a face-saver, the government will couch the foodgrain rollback in jargons like “adjustments”. The finance minister, who earned the sobriquet “Rollback Sinha” during his first stint in the Vajpayee government, is keen to avoid the “embarrassing” tag at a time when his stock has soared.

By agreeing to lower the price after staving off pressure for months, the government, apart from placating the allies, hopes to take the sting out of the Opposition attack in Parliament.

Reiterating the allies’ demand, the Telugu Desam said that in view of the drought that has gripped Rajasthan, Gujarat, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh, the government should at least roll back prices of wheat and rice supplied through ration shops.

Echoing the Desam, Janata Dal (United) leader Devendra Prasad Yadav said the rise in foodgrain prices has jeopardised food security for 35 crore poor people, especially those in drought-hit areas. “We will continue to raise the issue inside and outside Parliament,” he said.

The BJP sought to play safe, saying the government had to walk the tightrope when “synergising its efforts with the people’s mandate”.

“Parliament is on and they (allies) can place their demand. The BJP has given them some suggestions. The government has to take care of the economy’s health and the poor as well. I leave it to the government to perform its responsibilities,” BJP spokesman Venkaiah Naidu said after the 40-minute meeting.

BJP sources dismissed the allies’ demand as “a way of mounting pressure on the government” to extract concessions from the Centre and ruled out any threat to the Vajpayee government.

The allies have made it clear they will not allow their demand to destabilise the NDA regime.

The government came under mounting pressure on the foodgrain price hike and subsidy cut with almost all allies and Opposition parties pillorying it. Even the parliamentary standing committee on food, civil supplies and public distribution had criticised the government for raising foodgrain prices.    


 
 
LOVER STEPS IN WITH BABY CLAIM 
 
 
FROM GAJINDER SINGH
 
Chandigarh, April 26 
Adding a fresh twist to the controversy surrounding the mysterious death of SGPC chief Jagir Kaur’s daughter Harpreet, Kamaljit Singh, who claims to be her boyfriend, said he would soon file a public interest litigation in the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

In an exclusive interview to The Telegraph from his Chandigarh hideout, Kamaljit held the SGPC chief responsible for her daughter’s death. “She never approved of our relationship. Harpreet’s death does not seem natural. I will demand a probe into the circumstances that led to her death,” he said, adding, “She was not the kind who could take her own life. Had she been keeping unwell, she would have definitely informed me.”

Kamaljit, who claimed that he had been married to Harpreet for 11 months and had known her for six years, alleged that he was evicted from Jagir Kaur’s residence in February after she learnt of his presence. He also said that he feared for his life as well as that of his parents and needed police protection. Kamaljit said that when he was evicted by the SGPC chief, Harpreet too had walked out. “She had no option. She was carrying my baby,” he said.

Harpreet died under mysterious circumstances in Ludhiana’s CMC Hospital late on April 20. She was cremated in her village, Bogowal, in Kapurthala, early next morning in the presence of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and Akal Takth jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti.

Though family sources said Harpreet had been ill for some time and had to be rushed to hospital when her condition suddenly deteriorated, a hospital spokesman initially denied her presence. However, he later said that she died of heat stroke. But Jagir Kaur’s aide, who had rushed to Bogowal hearing the news of the death, said Harpreet had died of diarrhoea. Villagers, however, claimed she was suffering from food poisoning.

While no government official is willing to go on record on what the actual cause of her death could be, local dailies are publishing accounts attributed to relatives that Harpreet could have been murdered or was forced to take her own life for not being able to live with Kamaljit.

The Punjab Stree Sabha also filed a PIL today seeking a probe into the incident. Demanding punishment for the guilty, a spokesperson for the organisation said: “We are basically relying on newspaper reports. From what has been published, it does not look that Harpreet’s death was natural. It is now up to the court to decide the course of action.”

The Punjab Lawyers for Human Rights also filed a PIL in the high court, seeking a CBI probe. The litigation was filed by the organisation’s vice-president Veena Kumari. If a CBI probe was not possible, “then the matter should be referred to the National Human Rights Commission”, said Rajvinder Bains, counsel for the petitioners.

An SGPC member loyal to dissident Akali leader Gurcharan Singh Tohra said: “The youth wing of the party has petitioned the President for a thorough probe. We also demand security by paramilitary forces for Kamaljit. There is more to Harpreet’s death than meets the eye. Kamaljit’s family members too must be protected.”

The storm over Harpreet’s death is likely to add to Badal’s woes. Dissident Akali leaders and even Congress president Amarainder Singh have demanded the resignation of the chief minister.

Ruling Akali Dal legislators are also unhappy with the developments. “Why is the chief minister silent at the allegations that are being hurled at him?” asked a legislator. “This issue has all the makings of toppling Badal.”

While Kamaljit did not specify when he would file the PIL, a lawyer said the petition was ready and could be submitted tomorrow. The police, however, are silent on the issue. “No case, no probe,” a senior officer said.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 
Temperature: Maximum: 34.3°C (-2) Minimum: 25.9°C (nil) RAINFALL: 0.7 mm Relative humidity: Maximum: 89%, Minimum: 60% Today: Partly cloudy sky. Possibility of development of thunderclouds towards afternoon or evening. Maximum temperature likely to be around 35°C. Sunset: 5.58 pm Sunrise: 5.09 am    
 

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