Judge boycott for slur on lawyers
Share scam probe takes the lid off demat fraud
STAR blackout over fee hike
Wipro II boost to Buddha drive
Rights crusade for wronged women
Hospital lacks men for state-of-the-art machine
Polls may defer under-graduate examinations
The will to overcome
Assembly under siege
JMM chief’s killer convicted

 
 
JUDGE BOYCOTT FOR SLUR ON LAWYERS 
 
 
BY OUR LEGAL REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 28: 
High drama was staged at Calcutta High Court on Wednesday morning. Lawyers boycotted the court of Justice Barin Ghosh “indefinitely” after he allegedly accused a section of advocates of being corrupt.

Following the judge’s alleged remark, lawyers present inside the courtroom rose in protest and demanded that he withdraw his comment. But with Ghosh refusing to retract, the advocates staged a walkout.

Trouble started just after 10 am when an advocate, Kalyan Banerjee, sought to draw Ghosh’s attention to an “urgent” petition, requesting him to take up the matter for hearing. But the judge observed he had often found that such petitions were not as “urgent as they were made out to be”. Banerjee, however, reiterated his appeal to the judge.

It was at this point that Ghosh suddenly put the petition aside and remarked that most appellate lawyers were ‘dishonest’. Banerjee protested the judge’s observation and requested him to replace the word ‘dishonest’ by ‘incorrect’. But Ghosh stuck to his stand.

At this, Banerjee and other lawyers left the court and urged the Bar Association to convene an emergency meeting. At a meeting held later in the day, the Bar Association resolved that lawyers would “boycott Justice Ghosh’s court indefinitely”. The Association also demanded that Ghosh withdraw his observation about appellate lawyers. A copy of the resolution was sent to the chief justice of Calcutta High Court.

Thereafter, a group of lawyers assembled in front of Justice Ghosh’s court and informed other advocates about the resolution. Ghosh, however, remained in office, and passed a few scheduled orders, before leaving around 3.30 pm.

Uttam Majumdar, former secretary of the Bar Association, said if the relationship between judge and lawyer “deteriorates”, common litigants will have to suffer. “This kind of incident has happened twice before in the past 10 years. In one instance, a judge even had to withdraw his comments. Shouldn’t lawyers have the right to expect to be shown a minimum respect by the judges?” demanded Majumdar.

In 1993, Supradip Roy, an advocate, suggested in a Bar Association meeting that lawyers related to a judge should not be allowed to appear before that particular court. A resolution had also been adopted to this effect.

“The resolution had angered one of the judges of that time, Paritosh Mukherjee, who abused me in open court and asked me to leave the room,” recounted Roy.

Subsequently, the Bar Association had met and lawyers had decided to boycott Mukherjee’s court. “The agitation continued for a month. A committee comprising two sitting judges was set up, which ruled that Justice Mukherjee would have to apologise. He apologised and the boycott was withdrawn,” Roy added.

In 1997, in the court of the then Chief Justice P.D. Desai, a verbal application was moved on behalf of then president of the Bar Association Arun Prakash Chatterjee, alleging that a sitting judge was “not behaving properly” with advocates.

Chief Justice Desai had refused to hear the matter. The lawyers then decided to boycott his court.

   

 
 
SHARE SCAM PROBE TAKES THE LID OFF DEMAT FRAUD 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 28: 
A day after arresting an executive of a share-broking firm, the police on Wednesday began a probe into a multi-crore scandal that involves rigging of several bank accounts (also known as demat accounts) maintained by investors for trading in dematerialised, or paperless, shares..

Sumer Jain, a director of Bahubali International Ltd, located in Indian Exchange Place, was produced in the chief metropolitan magistrate’s court, which sent him to police custody for a week for questioning.

Banibrata Basu, chief of the detective department, said a team of sleuths had been given the responsibility of investigation into what is expected to unfold as a major financial scandal. “We are not aware of another instance of such an organised financial crime in recent times. Jain and his associates amply prove that demat accounts of shares with banks , so far believed foolproof, are easy pickings,” said Basu.

The police investigation was prompted by a complaint lodged by Timir Baran Roy, resident of New Barrackpore, alleging that 300 shares he held in an infotech company had moved out of his demat account with a foreign bank without his authorisation.

Basu said the investigation led the police to Jain, who was found to be maintaining several fictitious demat accounts with the foreign bank named by Roy in his complaint, as well as with several nationalised banks.

After collecting evidence of the alleged cheating by Jain and reconstructing the sequences of tampering with Roy’s demat account, the detectives stumbled upon several other cases where Jain and his associates had defrauded unsuspecting citizens of their shares in various companies.

Jain, in collusion with some bank officials, municipal officers and staff of the defrauded individuals, had been making a tidy packet for himself over the past few years by bribing, forging papers and lying to official agencies. Among the defrauded individuals are doctors, businessmen, legal personalities and housewives.

   

 
 
STAR BLACKOUT OVER FEE HIKE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 28: 
From midnight on Wednesday, STAR has stopped twinkling.

City cable operators have decided to boycott the STAR bouquet of pay channels from March 1, refusing to accept the fee hike effected by the broadcaster.

STAR has increased subscription fees for its bouquet of six pay channels — Plus, Movies, World, News, Gold and National Geographic — from Rs 24 to Rs 30 per month across the country, effective from March 1. For Calcutta operators, who don’t beam Star Gold (except for a few independent operators), it will be an increase of Rs 9 — from Rs 16.75 to Rs 25.75.

“There’s no question of accepting this exorbitant (54 per cent) hike, since it will put tremendous burden on the consumer. Besides, STAR never bothered to inform us about this fee hike. It has come as a bolt from the blue,” said Tarak Saha, spokesperson for the Cable Operators’ Joint Action Committee.

Justifying the raise, Rajeev Sharma, manager, distribution and marketing (East), News Television (India) Ltd or STAR, said: “We get paid for less than 15 per cent of the actual cable connections and the under-declaration factor prompted the hike.”

   

 
 
WIPRO II BOOST TO BUDDHA DRIVE 
 
 
BY KUNAL SENGUPTA
 
Calcutta, Feb. 28: 
West Bengal’s IT aspirations have received a boost with Wipro-II. Azim Premji, head of Wipro, has expressed the desire to set up the company’s second software development centre in Calcutta.

Impressed by the manner in which the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government had responded to its earlier plea for land at Saltlec, Wipro now wants to set up shop on a 77-acre plot at Nonadanga, close to Ruby General Hospital, earmarked by the government for an IT habitat.

“Wipro has assured us they will set up a software development facility at Nonadanga soon,” chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said on Tuesday. He said the Wipro management was in “constant touch” with his secretariat. Bhattacharjee also indicated that IBM and the Tatas were also keen to book a place in the IT habitat.

The government has already asked the West Bengal Electronics Development Corporation (Webel) to develop the plot at a cost of about Rs 30 crore. The habitat will support a vast range of software activities and IT-enabled services.

Wipro has already been allotted 12 acres in Salt Lake for a software development centre. The land was handed over to the software giant within a week of the government receiving the application. “This promptness, and the seriousness shown by the government, prompted Wipro to consider increasing its presence in the state,” said sources in the chief minister’s secretariat.

The software development centre, in which Wipro will invest an initial capital of Rs 40 crore, is expected to employ around 2,500 engineers. Construction is expected to begin before March 2001.

Bhattacharjee said his government was also looking for land to set up a software plaza near the city for small IT development firms. “We have exhausted the land in the Software Technology Park (STP) at Salt Lake and there is demand for more space,” the chief minister added.

The two STPs, the second of which was inaugurated and “overbooked” in November 2000, has roped in big names like Bharti BT, which will be setting up a facility offering 14 MB bandwidth to corporates in the Salt Lake area.

   

 
 
RIGHTS CRUSADE FOR WRONGED WOMEN 
 
 
BY AMIT UKIL
 
Calcutta, Feb. 28: 
The telephone kept on ringing on Wednesday at a ground-floor office in Trinayanee apartments in Santoshpur, south Calcutta. The office belongs to Sanlaap, an organisation that, for the past 14 years, has been striving for equal rights for women and the girl child.

Other than the beneficiaries of its various programmes, the NGO’s work has been noticed by several organisations abroad, including the US state department. In a recent human rights report, the department has singled out Sanlaap for its efforts in breaking the barriers between the police and sex workers, perhaps the most prominent among groups of women to be deprived of rights. News of the report was published in Wednesday’s edition of The Telegraph.

“Seeing how women were continuously becoming poorer, and how they were not getting their due — be it in education, health or any other matter — a group of us got together in 1987 and decided to work towards improving the situation,” said Indrani Sinha, founder-secretary of Sanlaap. Within three years, they had conducted a study of sexually-abused girl children in Calcutta and its suburbs, and the disturbing findings became the focus of their work: A large number of girls below 17 had been tricked, trafficked and forced into prostitution. Quite a few were HIV positive as well. “We had to intervene and try to put an end to the worst kinds of human and child rights violations.” Since then, all women affected by violence and deprived of rights have been included.

A pathbreaking programme was getting the law-enforcers’ attention, sensitising them on women’s rights and arranging an interaction between police personnel and sex workers.

“We started this when Tushar Talukdar was the police chief. He not only spoke on rights issues, but instructed policemen at all stations to discuss these problems,” Sinha said.

A major meeting was held early last year, which was attended by senior officials of the Calcutta Police and the CID. Members of the women’s grievance cell and trafficking departments were present.

“Several issues came to the fore in the interface that they had with women from red-light areas. They said, after antisocial elements, it was the police who harassed and humiliated them the most.”

The officials asked why and took up almost each case individually. “Today, the situation has changed dramatically,” Sinha said, though a few cases of bribing continue. “The police now help them out, and the sex workers even go to them directly for help.”

The women’s wings of the CPM and CPI have also supported Sanlaap’s efforts in protecting human rights. In addition to grants from the state and Central governments, funding has been received from agencies in Germany, the Netherlands and the UK. “On the basis of our work, I was chosen in 1997 by the US government for an exchange programme on trafficking. Since then, several groups from that country, including Senators and US embassy officials, have visited us and seen our activities,” said Sinha.

   

 
 
HOSPITAL LACKS MEN FOR STATE-OF-THE-ART MACHINE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 28: 
The Rs 7.5-crore Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine, inaugurated with much fanfare at the Bangur Institute of Neurology (BIN) on Monday, may well share the same fate as the costly linear accelerator machine at Chittaranjan Cancer Hospital, which, for years, remained in packing boxes and in disuse.

For, even as the waiting list for the lone and limping CT scanner at Bangur Institute increases, the new MRI scanner will be grossly under-utilised, as there is no designated manpower to run it.

The Wipro GE MRI scanner has state-of-the-art configurations that are matched by only two other units in the country. It has provision for interactive real-time MR imaging, spectroscopy, diffusion and perfusion, as well as functional imaging. It is capable of running 24 hours, examining up to 50 patients, day after day.

“Once initiated, the super-conductivity field always has to be kept on,” explained an application specialist of Wipro.

But no dedicated specialists, radiologists or technicians have been recruited or trained to man the machine.

The only personnel that have been trained are already working at Bangur Institute and will have to share their time between the CT scan unit and other departments. “So far, three radiologists, two post-graduate specialists and four technicians have been trained... All of them are in-house staff,” said the Wipro man.

Senior doctors at BIN, while welcoming the introduction of the MRI scanner, said more trained personnel were required.

“If we examine even 26 patients a day, we will be able to break even in about three year’s time, and that too, after 30 per cent of the cases are examined free of charge,” said a senior neurologist, not wanting to be named. “But we need at least six full-time dedicated radiologists to begin with.”

The MRI scanner has been in use since last November. A total of 420 cases have been examined since then, all free, to impart training to the nine personnel. “All the cases were genuine and required examination of tumours and other aspects in the brain, as well as whole body scans.”

The charge for an MRI examination at BIN will be around Rs 4,000, compared to over Rs 7,000 in the private sector. The rate is yet to be officially announced.

While inaugurating the machine, former chief minister Jyoti Basu said: “This is for the benefit of the people, and it must be maintained properly.”

   

 
 
POLLS MAY DEFER UNDER-GRADUATE EXAMINATIONS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 28: 
Calcutta University will postpone all its major under-graduate examinations slated for May, as the Assembly elections are likely to be held in the first week of the same month. State electoral department officials said the date for the Assembly elections will be finalised at a meeting in Delhi on March 14.

University officials confirmed on Wednesday that the under-graduate exams will be deferred if the election date coincides with the examination days. “We are awaiting the Election Commission’s announcement and will announce the revised dates accordingly,” said Onkar Sadhan Adhikari, CU controller of examinations.

Calcutta University is rescheduling its examination dates for the second time. Some under-graduate examinations, initially slated for March, were first postponed in January. Nearly a lakh examinees are awaiting the announcement of the election date. Hundreds of them assemble at their colleges every day to enquire about the exam dates.

“Our exams were rescheduled only last month. They were to begin from May 29. We are already lagging by two months and any further delay will definitely affect our juniors,” said Sharmila Basu, a B.Com Part I examinee of a south Calcutta college.

Adhikari said steps were being taken to ensure minimum delay in holding the exams once the elections were over.

   

 
 
THE WILL TO OVERCOME 
 
 
BY MADHUMITA BHATTACHARYYA
 
Calcutta, Feb. 28 : 
Power of Five. The three magic words in a six-room, yellow-and-green school building in the heart of Calcutta. The boys and girls at Chowringhee KG and High School have gone a long, long way with the Rs 5 they each try to drop into the school collection box every week. Cleaning the streets, sponsoring cataract operations, health check-up camps...

The tiny school on Chowringhee Lane has over 500 students. Says school administrator P.B. Dasani: “Children of New Market sweepers to those of middle-class parents study here.” In 1999, Dasani read of the ICC Better Calcutta Contest, and decided it would be the chance to get the kids involved in relevant extra-curricular activities. Teams of students met residents and shopkeepers from Chowringhee Lane, Kyd Street, Sudder Street, Marquis Street and Tottee Lane.

“The maximum number of complaints was about the high incidence of malaria,” explains Dasani. The local residents were more than a little sceptical.

“We did have a few doors slammed on our faces back then,” remembers 14-year-old Sabir. But that did not stop them from setting up a free blood-test camp. Reports were delivered and free medicines distributed, mainly to rickshaw-pullers and cart-pullers of the area.

Then, the crew took to the streets, sifting lime with their own hands, whitewashing the election graffiti. More discouraging remarks, but they kept their heads down and hands moving. “We often feel bad, but we never give up hope,” says 15-year-old Puja, a regular volunteer.

Every Saturday, the children don aprons and gloves to do the morning rounds with the Corporation sweepers, helping them clear away garbage and sprinkling bleaching powder. After a wash, they distribute food to a hundred homeless people of the locality. On September 3, 2000, they held another malaria camp. Fewer detected cases of malaria were evidence of the success of the clean-up drive. A week later, they held an eye camp.

All the while, the Chowringhee School fund was growing. Pragji, a dishwasher at a local tea-stall, was blind in one eye and had a cataract in the other. “He needed an operation, otherwise he would soon be completely blind,” says young Nizam, who lives nearby.

Shakuntala, a middle-aged housewife from Rani Rashmoni Road, was detected with cataract in both eyes. The Chowringhee kids put their heads together, and emptied their collection box.

They had, by then, accumulated Rs 31,000, which they used to pay for Pragji’s and Shakuntala’s cataract operations and post-operative treatment. They also helped a man from Murshidabad, who had lost everything in the floods last year, with money for his daughter’s heart surgery.

On Rose Day, the students paid a visit to a cancer hospital in Thakurpukur with gifts, roses, and sweets. “They were so happy to have us there... We plan to make regular trips to the hospital,” smiles Abu.

After another recce of the area (this time with public support), the lack of sanitation emerged as the problem. “We took pictures of a man urinating against a wall,” proclaims Afsana. “Then, we went to the CMC. They promised they would do something, but that was many months ago,” adds a dissatisfied Puja.

So, a Sulabh complex in the area will be the school’s “main project” this year. Another project in the pipeline: evening classes by students for illiterate children.

The generosity of these children seems to have no limits. Beams Dasani: “We received the first prize in the health category of the Better Calcutta contest. The children saved half the prize money and donated the rest to the ABP-TT Gujarat Relief Fund.”

   

 
 
ASSEMBLY UNDER SIEGE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Ranchi, Feb. 28: 
Thousands of activists of the Bhogta caste today made an abortive attempt to gherao the Jharkhand Assembly during the second day of the budget session.

They were demanding their inclusion in the list of Scheduled Tribes.

The Adivasi Chhatra Sangh, along with other tribal organisations Assembly, had yesterday tried to lay siege to the Assembly to demand a fair deal for tribals in the state.

In another development, the CPM (Liberation) today announced its decision to gherao the Assembly tomorrow to protest against the alleged mass rigging of the Ramgarh bypolls held on February 19 and 22 by the BJP and its allies.

Chief minister Babulal Marandi had won the Ramgarh seat on a BJP ticket, defeating his nearest CPI rival by over 19,918 votes.

Bhogta activists, who claim that they are descendants of tribal martyrs Nilambar Shahi and Pitambar Shahi (who were hanged to death for revolting against the British), said they were counterparts of the Khairwar tribe which was listed as a Scheduled Tribe.

The activists stated that their exclusion was part of “larger conspiracy to split the tribal population”.

Carrying placards, the tribals said today’s campaign to gherao the Jharkhand Assembly was to draw the government’s attention to their plight.

Director of the Jharkhand Tribal Research Institute P.C. Oraon told The Telegraph that no research had been undertaken to trace the origin of Nilambar and Pitambar Shahi and establish the claims of the Bhogta tribals that they were descendants of these two martyrs.

He said Shahis were the Maharajas of Chotonagpur and in many parts of the present day Jharkhand, Shahis claim to be Brahmins.

In Bihar too, Shahis were upper caste Bhumihars. Before they could be enlisted as Scheduled Tribes, their lineage had to be established through anthropological research, the director added.

   

 
 
JMM CHIEF’S KILLER CONVICTED 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Jamshedpur, Feb. 28: 
The designated CBI court of the first additional district and sessions judge, S.K. Murari, today convicted Birendra Singh for the murder of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha president Nirmal Mahato. A formal verdict in the case will be pronounced tomorrow.

“The trial could have been completed earlier. It was delayed because two others accused in the case, Narendra Singh alias Pandit and Dhirendra Singh alias Pappu, were absconding. Besides, Birendra Singh had also moved the High Court against the charges established against him by the CBI and for not getting the investigating officer of the case examined. However, the High Court rejected his plea,” said S.P. Mishra, deputy legal advisor of the agency’s Patna unit and special public prosecutor of the case.

On August 7, 1987, the JMM leader, along with Suraj Mandal, Nirmal Bhattacharya and Inder Kumar Chaudhary was on his way to the residence of a local transporter. As soon as they stepped out of the Tisco guest house in Bistupur, a car (DEA 2544) arrived and five persons stepped out. They shot at Mahato from point blank range, killing him on the spot. An FIR was filed at the Bistupur police station on the basis of Mandal’s statement.

The case was initially investigated by the local police, but was later handed over to the CBI. The agency submitted its chargesheet on June 5, 1989 which established evidence against Birendra Singh as the main accused and Narendra Singh and Dhirendra Singh as conspirators.

“According to the CBI’s investigation, Birendra Singh fired first and his brothers followed suit. The driver and owner of the vehicle used by them were also named as accused. But the agency has produced them as witnesses,” Mishra said. He said clinical and forensic tests had confirmed the involvement of Birendra Singh and the two other accused. “Even the blood stains found on the clothes of Birendra Singh were that of Nirmal Mahato. We could establish the fact through clinical examination of the blood group,” Mishra added.

While Narendra Singh is still absconding, Dhirendra Singh surrendered before the court and has been lodged in Ranchi Central Jail, Mishra said. Mahato’s brother Sudhir, a senior JMM leader, said all those associated with the movement for a separate Jharkhand state were happy.

   
 

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