CBI split plan to handle crime & graft
Atal pours cold water on women’s Bill
Naidu faces BJP drought fire
Centre holds up Jharkhand
Cong banks on Goenka for Panskura poll
House row over attack on MP
Scam trial blow rerun for Jaya

New Delhi, May 9 
A proposal has been mooted in the government to bifurcate the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and one of the objectives is to bring the special crimes division of the investigating agency under the Union home ministry.

Well-placed sources in the CBI said the idea to divide the agency germinated a couple of months ago when the Union home secretary proposed a “federal law enforcement agency”, which would specifically investigate federal crimes anywhere in the country without having to acquire permission from state governments.

The proposal has gained currency now and an inter-ministerial group of officials will be set up under the chairmanship of Cabinet secretary Prabhat Kumar to study in detail how to go about bifurcating the premier investigating agency, whose administrative functions are supervised by the department of personnel and which is answerable to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) in matters of investigation. Other officials in the inter-ministerial group will be drawn from the home ministry, personnel ministry and CVC.

According to the proposal, the CBI will be split into two separate divisions — the anti-corruption wing and the special crimes unit. The special crimes unit will be entrusted with the responsibility of investigating “federal crimes” committed anywhere in the country. The anti-corruption wing will pursue cases of corruption among Central government officials.

Once the proposal is cleared, the anti-corruption wing may not have to seek permission of the states to investigate corruption cases against officers belonging to the all-India services like the IAS and IPS posted in the states and districts. The CBI bifurcation may mean that the two distinct divisions will have separate chiefs.

The CBI is governed by the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1950, and the agency’s original charter envisaged pursuing of cases of corruption among Central government employees and officials belonging to public sector undertaking (PSUs). It was only later that the CBI began to be entrusted with special crimes — politically-sensitive cases, major kidnappings and murders committed by organised criminal gangs and crimes with international dimensions. This continues to be considered a “burden” on an under-staffed and poorly equipped agency.

“Once a final decision is taken, the CBI will go back to its original responsibility of investigating corruption cases against Central government employees and PSUs,” an agency source said.

Government officials said as long as no separate federal law enforcement agency is created, the CBI’s special crimes unit, proposed to be brought under the jurisdiction of the home ministry, will be given the power to pursue federal crimes.    

New Delhi, May 9 
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee washed his hands of the women’s reservation Bill, denying any commitment on its passage in Parliament.

A lukewarm Vajpayee greeted a delegation of women MPs and NGOs, who met him to discuss the Bill today. The Prime Minister said if they are ready for a conscience vote he would initiate steps to put the Bill to vote.

This virtually means burying the Bill as it is unlikely to go through on a conscience vote, even though most major parties like the BJP, the Congress and the Left are, on paper, committed to supporting the move.

There may be problems over the conscience vote itself. The Prime Minister or his government cannot impose a conscience vote on other parties in Parliament.

The Prime Minister told reporters that he would seek support from all other parties and again strive for a broad consensus to get the Bill passed. Asked if he would ensure the Bill’s passage, Vajpayee said: “I want it, if all parties cooperate.” He said there should be a “conscience vote”.

However, consensus on a conscience vote is unlikely to take place as parties like the Congress will be politically embarrassed not to issue a whip on the matter. On the other hand, parties like the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Muslim League are opposed to the Bill in principle, arguing that it should have an in-built clause for reservation for women from backward communities and minorities.

Exasperated at the inordinate delay in getting the Bill processed, the women MPs readily agreed to the Prime Minister’s suggestion, said Jayaprada, former actress and Telugu Desam Party MP in the Rajya Sabha.

But there were differences among women MPs. While Congress leader Girija Vyas said she was against the concept of “conscience vote”, Margaret Alva, was part of the delegation which met the Prime Minister, said: “Let it be defeated. It will expose those parties which are against women. Defeat does not mean death. The Panchayati Raj Bill was defeated in 1989 but was passed after three years,” she said. Alva, who heads the Women Empowerment Committee of Parliament, said the panel will discuss the issue tomorrow.

Najma Heptullah, deputy chairperson of Rajya Sabha, criticised the Prime Minister severely for the “consensus” suggestion. She regretted the government’s stand that it wanted to build a consensus among political parties on the women’s Bill and said the issue should be decided on the floor of Parliament.

“In my 21 years of parliamentary career I have never seen consensus building on any issue. Let the Bill come to Parliament and it should be decided on the floor of the House,” she said.

Heptullah said she had suggested to the government that the Bill be introduced in the Rajya Sabha where, she felt, there would be no problem in its passage. She said she had met the Prime Minister several times on the issue but there has been no concrete outcome.

There was no MP from the Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal in the delegation. These parties had vociferously opposed the introduction of the Bill last year. However, with a view to shed his “anti-women” image, Samajwadi chief Mulayam Singh Yadav today invited members of the team for tea at his residence ostensibly “to understand their viewpoint”.    

New Delhi, May 9 
The government’s most favoured ally Chandrababu Naidu came under fire from twin quarters today, with two BJP legislators alleging that he had diverted Central funds for a state civic project and a drought survey team linking the spate of Andhra farmers’ suicides to scanty relief.

BJP MPs Jitendra Reddy and A. Narendra Reddy alleged at a press conference that Naidu had diverted Rs 384 crore drought funds for his Janmabhoomi project. They also rubbished Naidu’s claim that the Centre had sanctioned only Rs 15 crore for relief, saying he was trying to create the impression of an “unsympathetic” Centre.

The drought report —- prepared by a five-member Central BJP team led by B.C. Khanduri —- too gunned for Naidu, saying he should work out a “permanent solution for the drought very quickly”. The report was submitted to the Prime Minister today.

The report, made public at the BJP’s daily press briefing, pointed a finger at Naidu for the suicides of 22 farmers in the state, saying that they had been driven to death by their inability to repay loans due to a poor harvest.

The report suggested that the chief minister should begin various water storage projects and provide the farmers facilities for lift irrigation.

“We visited the families of the farmers who had committed suicide... the families are in a pathetic state and are very worried about the future,” the report said.

“We also met a family of a lady who had committed suicide. She was the head of the family and was running her house. She had taken a loan of Rs 40,000 for her daughter’s marriage, expecting to repay from the cash crop. She went on cultivating the barren land, but could not raise any money due to poor crops. The pressure of the money lender was so great that she committed suicide,” the report added.

A miffed Telugu Desam parliamentary party leader Yerran Naidu today snubbed the BJP for making baseless allegations, and urged it not to “mislead” the people. “A responsible party heading the government should not make such statements,” he said.

Commenting on the Andhra MPs’ charge that the chief minister had diverted crores of drought funds, Yerran Naidu said: “Let them release the government order explaining under what head the funds were released. They are confusing the people.” He also ridiculed the drought report, saying they had drawn conclusions “in two days after visiting two districts when 18 districts were hit.”

“If the Centre has released Rs 384 crore to the state, where is the government order?,” Yerran Naidu asked. He said the Centre had sanctioned Rs 221 crore in instalments, and the BJP was dubbing even “routine” funds as drought relief. He said the state had received only Rs 15 crore the from Prime Minister’s relief fund which was meant to pay the pension of people living in drought-hit areas.    

New Delhi, May 9 
The Centre has decided to put on hold the Bill on creation of the Jharkhand state. L.K. Advani is believed to have told BJP MPs during a meeting of the parliamentary party today that the Centre wants to study the 59 amendments suggested by the Bihar government when it forwarded the Bill to President K.R. Narayanan last Friday.

The budget session will end on May 17 and it is unlikely that the Centre will be able to process the Bill in such a short time. However, Bills relating to the formation of Uttaranchal and Chattisgarh would be brought in during the ongoing session, BJP spokesman Venkaiah Naidu told reporters quoting Advani.

The Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh Assemblies had returned the Bills regarding Uttaranchal and Chattisgarh respectively with minor amendments and the legislation will be brought in the current session of Parliament, Advani said.

BJP members from Jharkhand are agitated over the move to defer the tabling of the Bill. A delegation of 11 MPs from south Bihar will meet Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee tomorrow to request him to expedite the formation of the state.

Senior BJP leader from the Jharkhand area Saryu Rai said the Bill was delayed by the Rashtriya Janata Dal government in Bihar, from which Jharkhand will be carved out. He said though the Assembly passed the Bill on April 25, it was sent to the President only on the evening of May 5. Besides, the President had sought an English translation of the Bill along with its Hindi version. But till today, the state has not forwarded the translation in an attempt to delay the Bill, Rai alleged.

He said the RJD members introduced several unnecessary amendments in the Assembly, while the Congress members followed suit in the legislative Council.    


New Delhi, May 9 

The cash-starved Congress plans to involve R.P. Goenka, elected to the Rajya Sabha recently, in the Panskura by-election, reports our special correspondent.

In the wake of the state unit’s stiff opposition to Sonia Gandhi’s decision of fielding Subhankar Sarkar, the party hopes to cash in on Goenka to lend more “credibility” to the contest.

Sources close to Sonia justified fielding Sarkar. “If Mamata Banerjee was serious about a direct fight, she should have approached someone — Prabha Rau, Madhavrao Scindia or even Sonia Gandhi, directly or indirectly,”a source said. An MP involved with Bengal affairs said: “You cannot put the entire burden of taking on the Left on the Congress alone. Mamata should also be seen as doing something.”

Sonia’s move to involve Goenka, a Nehru-Gandhi loyalist, comes after reports that a section of the state unit was planning to launch “non-cooperation” during the poll campaign. State chief A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury has already refused to campaign.    

New Delhi, May 9 
The Samajwadi Party today stalled proceedings in both Houses of Parliament following the alleged thrashing of the party’s Rajya Sabha member, Munawar Hasan, by Uttar Pradesh police.

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) members had yesterday raised a ruckus in Parliament on the killing of Dalits in Uttar Pradesh. Today it was the Samajwadi Party’s turn to punch the Uttar Pradesh government. Its members got into a belligerent mode as soon as Parliament met and kept shouting till the Lok Sabha Speaker adjourned the House before lunch time.

In the Rajya Sabha, the Samajwadi members raised the issue with equal aggressiveness and forced chairperson Krishan Kant to refer the issue to the Privileges Committee. There was high drama as Hasan tore the arm of his kurta to reveal the bruises as a mark of alleged police beating. “I am referring the issue to the Privileges Committee,” said Kant.

Congress members pitched into the din with full-throated cries of “shame, shame”. Senior party member Pranab Mukherjee demanded that the issue be referred to the Privileges Committee.

Hoping to pacify the angry Samajwadi members, home minister L.K. Advani responded to the issue in the Lok Sabha. “A Rajya Sabha member has been allegedly assaulted by the police. The chairperson has already referred the issue to the Privileges Committee. I cannot say anything on the issue without getting a report from the Uttar Pradesh government,” he said.

Hasan charged the Uttar Pradesh police with brutally assaulting him while he was sitting in a dharna in Muzaffarnagar a couple of days ago. The Samajwadi activists were protesting against an earlier police assault on a gram pradhan.    

New Delhi, May 9 
Jayalalitha suffered yet another setback as the Supreme Court today told her to stand trial in the Rs 6.5 crore coal import scam case.

Stating this, a division bench set aside orders issued by the special court in Chennai and the Madras High Court discharging the former chief minister in the case. “The trial court would not, and should not, have discharged the respondent (Jayalalitha) at this pre-mature stage in respect of the offences charged against the other nine accused persons,” the bench of Justice K.T. Thomas and Justice R.C. Lahoti said.

This is the third time in two weeks that the apex court has overruled special court judgments and directed Jayalalitha to stand trial. The Supreme Court set aside orders discharging the ADMK chief in both the Tansi land case and the colour television purchase scam.

The Tamil Nadu government had accused Jayalalitha and nine others, including her deceased Cabinet colleague V.R. Nedunchezhian, of criminally conspiring with some foreign suppliers to import coal for the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board at a higher cost during 1992-93.

The prosecution alleged that by making financial gains for themselves, the accused had cheated the exchequer of Rs 6.5 crore. The then state PWD secretary, V. Sundaram, had raised objections against accepting tenders by Indonesian firms to supply coal at $40.20 per metric tonne when a Singapore company was ready to strike a deal for $35.24 per tonne. According to the prosecution, the state government rejected the Singapore offer “without even starting negotiations”.

But the trial court discharged Jayalalitha on the ground that “materials produced were insufficient to frame a charge” and several pages were removed from the secretariat file relating to the coal deal. Quashing the order, Justice Thomas, writing the judgment for the bench, said: “If Jayalalitha came to know of these prompt warnings and despite them she accorded her green signal to import coal, how could it be concluded at this premature stage that she was not aware of the serious implications of the clandestine deal on the state exchequer?”

Quoting the prosecution case that the conspiracy could not have been hatched without the then chief minister’s connivance, Justice Thomas described Jayalalitha as “the hub of a cabal for knocking off a huge sum of public money to make vast gains at the cost of the state exchequer”.    


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