‘Persecuted’ scientist in court suicide bid
Govt in cable clampdown
CPM ‘status’ plea to poll panel
George snub fire on Basu
Andhra judges in gender justice cry
Art show visits Big Apple on Atal trail
Age bonus for students

Mumbai, Sept. 8: 
Unable to suffer what he described as persisting “mental torture” by the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre authorities, a young scientist today tried to take his life in the courtroom but ended up behind bars.

Prithwish Sain, 34, was taken into custody after he made an aborted attempt to stab himself with a knife in the court of Bombay High Court Chief Justice B.P. Singh and Justice S. Radhakrishnan.

Responding to a suicide note he had sent to him, Chief Justice Singh had just asked Sain to file a petition when the scientist whipped out the knife, screaming that he had no other choice as “I will never get justice in this country”.

But before he could bring down the knife, lawyers and court staff overpowered him and turned him over to the police.

He was taken to the Azad Maidan police station, but till late this evening, officials were not sure whether to charge him for attempted suicide or for brandishing a weapon in the courtroom, a grave offence.

In his suicide note addressed to the chief justice, Sain, who hails from a peasant family in West Bengal’s Burdwan district, said he has been victimised by the Barc authorities repeatedly since he joined in 1993 for protesting against “illegal” acts of some senior officials.

Sain accused the officials of misusing a laboratory to run “illegal” businesses on the side. He also alleged that senior scientists were doubling as agents for insurance companies.

Barc director Anil Kakodkar was not available for comment. His office said he was busy with a series of meetings all day. But Kakodkar has in the past denied the allegations Sain made against the research establishment.

Sain had earlier said he was forced to wage a war on the country’s nuclear cradle as it had denied him research facilities and “feasible” projects.

Without salary for two years, the health physicist had said that penury compelled him to put his kidney on sale and raise Rs 5 lakh.

The authorities had denied the charges and advised him to seek “psychiatric treatment”.

Continuing his tirade against his seniors, Sain, in his suicide note, said: “As an employee of Barc, I am being tortured physically and mentally by the authorities due to my repeated protests against illegal activities inside my working laboratory.”

After joining Barc in 1993 as a research scientist, Sain said he was assigned “non-scientific” jobs. When he complained to his bosses, “they started harassing me”.

The scientist claimed he was thrown out of the laboratory after he informed the authorities of the “illegal” activities. Sain claims that the higher-ups got “rid of me” by transferring him to Indian Rare Earths Ltd, a public sector undertaking in Aluwa, Kerala.

“But my transfer order was vague. It did not specify my designation or pay, so I refused to accept it,” Sain said. He said he was then transferred to Uranium Corporation India in Bihar, but he refused to go there. “Why should I work in a public sector undertaking? I wanted to be a scientist and this was why I had joined Barc,” he said.

Sain said he moved the high court after the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission issued a “false” chargesheet against him for refusing to comply with the transfer orders.

The case is still pending. He said he decided to take his life because the court had refused to take cognisance of his case.    

New Delhi, Sept. 8 
Amendments to the Cable Television Networks Act have come into effect, tightening restrictions on telecasting pirated films, barring channels from showing late-night adult programmes and banning tobacco and liquor ads.

Simultaneously, amendments to the Cable Television Network Regulations, 1994, have also become applicable. With the changes, the government has taken a more conservative stance. Information and broadcasting minister Arun Jaitley said the most significant aspect of the amendments is the clampdown on film piracy.

The amendments ensure that free-to-air channels are brought under the broadcasting and advertising code applicable to Doordarshan and encrypted channels. There is also a clause making it imperative for cable operators to carry two Doordarshan terrestrial channels and one satellite channel. To enforce the clauses, the government has designated supervising authorities at the level of district magistrates, subdivisional magistrates and police commissioners. Jaitley is also writing to state governments.

There are three major amendments to the Cable TV Network Regulations. One, every channel can beam programmes that are either owned by it or has authority to telecast.

Any violation will attract punitive measures like seizure of equipment and fines. Jaitley feels enough teeth has been given to curb piracy which has been affecting the economics of the film industry.

Two, the wording of the original programme code has been changed to allow only those programmes which do not offend good taste or decency through the entire 24 hours, The earlier code said programmes meant for adults may be aired between 11 pm and 6 am.

The third amendment relates to advertisements on cable TV. Advertisements which promote directly or indirectly the consumption of tobacco and alcohol will be prohibited.    

New Delhi, Sept. 8: 
The CPM has told the Election Commission that it should take into consideration the “present political reality” before it stripped the party of its national status.

Reserving its order on the plea the commission has asked the CPM to submit its case in writing before September 15. It is, however, doubtful if the CPM will be finally able to ward off the de-recognition threat since the Chief Election Commissioner M.S. Gill made it clear that it cannot change the basic rules for determining a party’s national status, simply to suit the interest of the CPM.

At the end of the hearing Gill told CPM representatives that the commission would look extremely partisan if it changed rules for the benefit of the CPM.

Appearing before the three-member poll panel the CPM leaders said at present their party was the third largest in the country with as many as 33 members in the Lok Sabha. “We are the third largest political party, representing West Bengal, Kerala, Tripura, Tamil Nadu and Bihar in the Lok Sabha,” said CPM general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet and Ramachandran Pillai, leader of the party in the Rajya Sabha.

They further argued that the criteria for granting national status to a party should be changed.

According to present rules dating back to 1968, to retain national status a party needs to secure 6 per cent of the votes polled in a state or have one member for every 30 members in the state Assembly or one member for every 25 members in the Lok Sabha.

Ironically, the CPI was able to qualify as a national party because it could fulfil the Election Commission criteria even though it has just two members in the Lok Sabha.


New Delhi, Sept. 8: 
The Samata Party today reacted sharply to Jyoti Basu’s statement that “he does not have time to meet George Fernandes” during the defence minister’s Bengal visit.

Closing ranks behind its NDA ally, the Janata Dal (United) also blasted the Bengal chief minister for saying at a recent Left Front rally in Calcutta that violence should be replied with violence.

“The language they (Marxists) are using is creating an atmosphere of violence,” JD(U) spokesperson Mohan Prakash said. The people of Bengal, he added, wanted a change and the Election Commission should take steps to conduct free and fair polls in the state in view of the prevailing tension.

About Fernandes’ reconnaissance mission for a first-hand feel of the continuing bloodbath, Basu had said “as defence minister”, Fernandes was “free to go anywhere in the country”, but that he did not have time to meet him.

The chief minister’s statement was roundly criticised by Samata leaders Jaya Jaitly and Shambu Srivastava. It is a “sign of frustration among the Leftists over their shrinking base,” they told reporters here.

But even as the partners assailed Bengal’s ruling Left, NDA sources said the Prime Minister had sent Fernandes with a twin brief. To tell Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee that there was no question of imposition of Article 356, and to explain to her that any drastic action might boomerang with the Left using it to gain electoral mileage.

“If Mamata Banerjee is seen as a stooge of the Centre and the Centre takes any action against the Basu government, he will emerge a martyr and Mamata will lose considerable sympathy,” an NDA source said, adding that the whole exercise was to give her “moral support”.

Fernandes himself has ruled out the use of Article 356 as also promulgation of an ordinance declaring parts of the state as disturbed, saying “ordinances cannot be used to declare special zones”.

Asked if the Samata shared Trinamul’s feelings that the state should be placed under President’s rule, Jaitly said: “It is impractical. We have already burnt our fingers in Bihar. It is a road that nobody will like to take.”

She said Fernandes’ visit was to assess the situation and to give moral support to Mamata in her fight against “state-sponsored terrorism”.

The Samata also condemned the death threat handed out by the Pakistan-based militant outfit, Lashkar-e-Toiba, to 22,000 government employees detailed for the census exercise in Jammu and Kashmir.

It also condemned the Lashkar’s warning to cable operators in the Valley to stop broadcasting all channels except BBC, PTV and National Geographic.


New Delhi, Sept. 8: 
Seven women judges, out seeking a fair deal, today told the Supreme Court that the Andhra Pradesh government had violated the “constitutional goal of gender justice”.

The petitioners — S. Renuka and six others — contended that even four years after they were selected as judges to head family courts in the state, they were yet to be appointed.

Adding insult to injury, the state government, they said, had recently issued a notification inviting applications for the posts of additional sessions and district judges, reserving only one post for women.

Responding to the petition, a three-judge bench of Chief Justice A.S. Anand, Justice M.B. Shah and Justice K.G. Balakrishnan issued notices to the Andhra government and the registrar (administration) of the Andhra Pradesh High Court, directing them to reply within two weeks.

According to the petitioners, in December 1996 the state government had issued notifications for direct recruitment of 10 judges for family courts. They said they were selected after passing the written test. They were also interviewed by a panel of seven high court judges.

Later, the “full court” of the Andhra Pradesh High Court confirmed the appointments and their names were forwarded to the state government for formal postings.

“In the meanwhile,” the petitioners said, the state government issued another notification on July 20 inviting applications for six posts of district and sessions judges, reserving only one for women. “In these days of gender equality and opportunities, the government need not favour us with chivalry,” they told the court. “It is enough if they honoured even the existing rights for us.”

The petitioners pointed out that for direct recruitment to posts for which men and women were equally suited, there should be 33 percent reservation for women.

The “only one” reserved post in the latest notification was “unconstitutional” , they argued, besides being “arbitrary” and violative of the “right to live and dignity”.

Pointing out that “right to live has been expanded to include right to live with dignity” in various decisions of the apex court, they said the refusal to effect their appointments amounted to “infringement of dignity”. Counsel for the petitioners Indira Jai Singh — a leading feminist lawyer — said the government “seemed adamant to frustrate the bold initiative of the high court appointing women judges”. It was “yielding to pressure” from “vested interests”, she added.

The government, she said, has been dragging its feet, seeking clarifications from the high court when they were not necessary. “To the knowledge of the petitioners, the high court has not taken any action,” she added. According to the petition, out of 200 district judges, there are, at present, only 10 women judges in the state.    

New York, Sept. 8: 
The Vajpayee visit is not the only Indian show in New York. At 20 Rockefeller Plaza, the plush New York headquarters of Christie’s, the auction house is preparing for “one of our best ever parties” to mark its first sale in the US of contemporary Indian paintings.

Since New York considers itself ahead of London to be the centre of the world art market, this will be a chance to see whether works by Indian artists are starting to appeal to an audience beyond non-resident Indians.

“That’s our goal,” declared a confident Hugo Weihe, senior vice-president and head of the Indian and South-east Asian department at Christie’s who recently returned from a trip to India.

“We feel the time is right to expand the market. In March, we had a very successful sale of Japanese 20th century art as well as Korean. So, under the umbrella of 20th century Indian art, we would like to present Indian art for the first time.” Senior experts at Christie’s are certainly pulling out all stops to give prominence to this auction on September 20.

As the guests wander round the spacious galleries, which are currently being spruced up, they will get a chance to inspect the Indian paintings in the James Christie Room. They will see a self-portrait by Rabindranath Tagore, which has come from a source in Toronto and is expected to fetch $ 12,000-18,000.

“There is a lot of interest in Kalighat paintings, which is turn of the century Bengal material,” said Mallika Sagar, one of Christie’s India specialists. “There is a book written last year by Jyotindra Jain on Kalighat which has spread knowledge of what the paintings were. It has done a lot for the market.”    

New Delhi, Sept. 8: 
There is some relief in the offing for parents whose children are regularly denied admission in government schools. Pulled up by Delhi High Court, the Delhi administration is going to amend the school rules which require parents to furnish a birth certificate or a court affidavit as proof of age.

The amended Delhi School Act will have a sub-clause which will now put the onus of certifying the age of a child on the school authorities and not the parents. At present, parents who cannot produce birth certificates of their children have to furnish affidavits as proof of age. Using this as a pretext, Delhi school authorities made a practice of refusing children admission in municipal schools and those run by the Delhi directorate of education.

Responding to a public interest litigation filed by Ashok Aggarwal, a lawyer, Delhi High Court ticked off the authorities in no uncertain terms, forcing the Delhi directorate of education to amend a sub-clause in the admission rules.

According to the amended rules, where parents are not able to furnish an affidavit, the head of the school will refer the matter to the nearest hospital to determine the age of the child. “But this will not come in the way of his admission,” said Aggarwal.

The same principle will apply to National Open schools. Rattled by the court’s strictures Delhi directorate of education has splashed an advertisement in some national dailies about the new admission rules so that they are not misused by heads of schools.

There have been many instances when school authorities have told parents that they will only accept affidavits signed by an executive magistrate and not by anyone else.

The advertisement clarifies that an affidavit signed by any official of the Delhi administration will do.

“The amended Delhi school act will go a long way in helping parents and students from the weaker sections,” says Aggarwal.

However, a lot depends on the success of disseminating this information. And for this, the state education board along with voluntary agencies, have set up citizens’ committees to monitor admissions and functioning of schools.    


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