Landlord nod must for sub-tenancy
‘Chop-and-change’ plan for HM plant bailout
Buddha builds e-govt backbone
Building focus after tremor panic
Illegal miners crushed in death pit
Atal wins NDA with unity lesson
Unspoken Kashmir in terror fight
Mahajan lands in BSNL with broom
PM ostrich-like: Cong
Ban on stays in graft cases

New Delhi, Sept. 26: 
The Supreme Court today settled the West Bengal Premises Tenancy Act by declaring that tenants should have written permission from their landlords to create sub-tenancy.

A division bench of Justice N. Santosh Hegde and Justice S.N. Variava said in their 20-page judgment that if sub-tenancy was created without the landlord’s permission, he could initiate eviction proceedings against his tenant.

Pointing to a citation — Silverline Forum Pvt. Ltd. vs Rajiv Trust — the judges held that sub-tenancy was legal under three conditions:

if it was created after the commencement of the Act

the landlord of the premise had given written permission to the tenant to create the sub-tenancy

the tenant and sub-tenant had notified the landlord of the creation of the sub-tenancy within a month.

Further, the judges said unless the tenant had taken written permission for creating sub-tenancy and notified it to the landlord, the sub-tenant would get evicted along with the main tenant.

The apex court gave the verdict against the tenant and sub-tenant in the Biswanath Poddar vs Archana Poddar case.

The judges said Calcutta High Court had erred in interfering with the findings of the lower court, which had awarded a verdict in favour of the landlord in that case. The high court had remanded the matter to the trial court again on grounds of allegations of fraud by the sub-tenant.

The apex court today clearly settled the law and the legal position under the Act, saying that the sub-tenant “goes” along with the tenant if the statutory requirements are not fulfilled.

The second respondent in the case, the sub-tenant, was running a travel agency from the rented premises. On his submission that he would suffer hardships if he were ordered to be evicted with immediate effect, the apex court gave him time till March 31, 2002, to vacate the premises. The court also ordered that he should pay Rs 7,000 per month to the landlord as damages for occupation of the building till he vacates the premises.

While giving the ruling, the apex court rejected an argument that the West Bengal law permitted a contract between the tenant and the sub-tenant without the landlord’s knowledge and that there was an “implied” contract permitting the creation of the sub-tenancy in the statute.

The court also said there was no evidence to show that the landlord had consented to the creation of a sub-tenancy. If he had taken rent from the sub-tenant, there was an “implied contract” to show and prove that the landlord was consenting to the sub-tenancy, the court pointed out.

Further, a notice should have been sent to the landlord to the effect that a sub-tenancy was created under Section 16 of the Act, the court ruled, settling the five-year dispute.

The apex court said irrespective of whether the sub-tenant was a party to the original eviction case or not, he, too, would be bound by the verdict against the main tenant. Thus, if the main tenant has to be evicted, the sub-tenant would automatically have to follow.


Calcutta, Sept. 26: 
Hindustan Motors, the C.K. Birla flagship, proposes to transform the manufacturing facility at Uttarpara into an assembly unit and reduce the 9,000-strong staff by 50 per cent for the revival of the plant.

The proposal was placed before labour secretary N.K.S. Jhala by the Hindustan Motors management at a tripartite meeting today. The management was represented by senior vice-president Prabal Chatterjee, the factory manager and heads of the manufacturing and finance divisions. Representatives of both the Citu and Intuc unions were present.

Chatterjee said after the meeting: “We need a pragmatic restructuring for turning around the Uttarpara plant. For this, we need to completely change the manufacturing process. If we have to sell 22,000 vehicles per annum and survive thereof, the plant in the long run should largely become an assembly plant.”

Company officials pointed out that manpower cost at Uttarpara is the highest in the country, but productivity is not satisfactory. “Our fixed expenses is to the tune of Rs 16 crore per month. We have to reduce it substantially. For this, we need to reduce our workforce. We are asking our senior executives to leave the organisation,” the officials said.

The management also requested the state to issue permits for Trekkers.


Calcutta, Sept. 26: 
Be it a Brigade rally or a meet of industry captains, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has never missed a chance to talk about his “government’s commitment towards e-governance”. After an MoU with Microsoft, the first phase of the West Bengal State Wide Area Network (WBSWAN), and the first video-conference between Writers’ Buildings and north Bengal, it’s time to put the “backbone” of e-governance in place.

The first major move — a study of the existing system of administration in 54 government departments. For this, it’s going to be a toss up between Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

The government, however, did not opt for the usual open-bidding route. The IT department invited quotations from just TCS and PwC. Jaya Dasgupta, state IT secretary, explained: “Both companies are internationally recognised in this field and so we invited bids from them only.”

The bids were first submitted to Webel, the state government’s nodal IT agency, and then forwarded to the IT department in the first week of August. “We have been assessing the various technical and financial aspects and we expect to arrive at a decision in a day or two.”

The study report will act as “the backbone for e-governance” as it will provide the basis for application system development for various government departments. “The West Bengal State Wide Area Network connecting all the district headquarters has resolved the connectivity issue. Now, for effective interface between government and citizens and interaction among departments, the application systems will have to be developed. Hence, the study assumes importance for developing right back-end processes,” explained a senior government officer.


Chennai, Sept. 26: 
As relieved officials surveyed the minor damages following last night’s earthquake, the focus today shifted to guidelines for the future to regulate high-rise constructions and other “structural” precautions.

The Structural Engineering Research Centre (SERC), which did a detailed survey in Ahmedabad and nearby areas after the devastating Gujarat quake, has released a brochure on “simple rules and precautions” to reduce damage to buildings.

Though most of Tamil Nadu falls under Zone-II, considered a safe seismological zone, there is a move to bring Chennai under Zone-III, as an increasing number of high-rise buildings are coming up in the metropolis, says SERC director N. Lakshmanan. Over-exploitation of groundwater is another cause for concern.

The quake, measuring a moderate 5.6 on the Richter scale in most parts of the state, had triggered panic last evening. Screaming residents ran out of their homes after two tremors, one after the other, shook the city around 8.30 pm followed by an after-shock of “milder intensity” at 10.37 pm.

Apartment dwellers spent an anxious night outdoors. Slum-dwellers streamed onto the streets, causing traffic snarls. They had to be reassured by the authorities, even as some high-rise buildings and the taxi-way at the domestic airport developed minor cracks.

The terror hangover continued today amid rumours of fresh tremors, but none was recorded today. Two “shock deaths” have been reported in the city since last night, one a 54-year-old woman and the other a 16-year-old boy.

“Fortunately, nothing alarming has happened,” A.K. Bhatnagar, deputy director-general of Meteorology, said. Bhatnagar dispelled fears of post-quake emergence of “Tsunamis” (high waves) as the quake’s epicentre was located in the sea — 50 km east of Pondicherry under the Bay of Bengal. “Tsunamis move very fast and if at all they must have happened within an hour,” Bhatnagar explained.

“From the available information, it looks like a shallow earthquake,” said C.V. Vaidyanathan, head of the computer-aided design group at the SERC.

The Bureau of Indian Standards is expected to re-classify the seismic zone for Chennai in the next three months. But there is no consensus yet on the issue among geologists, says Bhatnagar, adding that earthquakes measuring six on the Richter scale were “not something new to the Deccan region”.

The SERC already has projects lined up to survey susceptible areas in the region and implement quake-resistant designs in public buildings and dwellings. It has also recommended “micro-zonation” as even individual areas within a city require different construction techniques and material, says Lakshmanan.

The SERC also plans to install a larger “Shake-Table” facility, a specialised laboratory for testing of structures and components “for their performance under seismic loads”, Lakshmanan said. But for all these projects to move ahead, “we need substantial sponsorship-funding,” he told The Telegraph.


Ranchi, Sept. 26: 
At least 12 illegal miners were killed after the roof of an abandoned mine collapsed near Lalmatia under Rajmahal project of Eastern Coalfields Limited (ECL), 60 km from Godda, early this morning.

The exact number of casualties is yet to be ascertained. While police and ECL sources claimed that all the 12 bodies were recovered from the debris, unofficial sources feared that more bodies could be trapped under the rubble.

The victims are said to be local villagers who, in the absence of any other employment, worked for an organised gang of coal pilferers. Both the police and the ECL authorities are tight-lipped over the exact number of casualties. Soon after the recovery of the bodies, the authorities dumped huge boulders and stones to seal the pit of the mine. This, sources said, was a deliberate ploy to hide the exact number of deaths.

Sources pointed out that hundreds of men, women and children have been engaged in illegal mining by gangsters who sell the excavated coal at a much higher price in the open market at Varanasi. The practice is continuing unabated in several parts of Jharkhand.

This morning, too, the illegal mining operations began with sunrise. Around 6.30 am, there was a huge thud which forced people to run helter-skelter. Since all those involved in the illegal excavation were local residents, villagers were the first to rush to the spot. It was after an hour that the ECL authorities and the police reached the site and pressed into action heavy duty machines for removing the debris, the sources said.

Tension has gripped the area since the authorities had to face the ire of the villagers who demanded that the operations to recover the bodies be speeded up. Police and jawans of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) had a tough time controlling the situation.

The Godda district police and the ECL authorities have held each other responsible for the incident. While the police have accused the ECL of leaving the mines “at the mercy of gangsters after excavation of coal”, an ECL spokesman said illegal mining was patronised by the local police.

The police have raked up a fresh controversy by deciding to file a criminal case against ECL officials looking after the Rajmahal project. “We will register a case of culpable homicide under Section 304 against certain ECL officials in connection with the incident,” Godda superintendent of police Baljeet Singh said.

But the decision of the police has sparked resentment among the coal officials. “It was an abandoned mine. It belonged to ECL once upon a time and the mining operations were called off a long time ago. Since the ECL has already been referred to the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction, it was simply impossible to take care of the abandoned mines,” R.R. Mishra, public relations officer of the company, said over phone from the ECL headquarters in Sanctoria.

But the district police chief believes that it is the primary duty of the ECL to ensure that mines abandoned by it after excavation work is over are properly sealed. “These abandoned mines are death-traps. Largescale poverty triggered by a drought-like situation and lack of job opportunities has forced the local people to work as labourers for organised gangs of coal pilferers on a very meagre amount,” Singh said.

Police records indicate that the illegally excavated coal is assembled at many depots that have mushroomed in the area from where they are transported to different parts of the country at an exorbitant price. The racket is flourishing under the patronage of a well-organised “coal syndicate” comprising ECL officials, police and gangsters.


New Delhi, Sept. 26: 
The National Democratic Alliance today rallied behind the government after Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee told his allies to take lessons in unity from the Americans at a time when war was looming over the horizon.

In the wake of reports that some allies are criticising the government’s offer of support to the US and its “failure” to focus on cross-border terrorism, Vajpayee pointed at the unity of the American people and the support they have offered the Bush administration despite political and other differences. He told them there was need for “unity at all levels of national life”.

The Prime Minister’s rap had the desired effect. The NDA passed a “unanimous” resolution offering him unflinching support for any step he decides to take in the global war against terror.

“The NDA supports unreservedly and wholeheartedly the Prime Minister and the government on the steps taken so far, those being taken now and the ones that will have to be taken in future,” the resolution said.

The government convinced the NDA partners that Delhi would benefit from the unfolding situation. Allaying fears that the US policy was taking a pro-Pakistan tilt at the cost of India, the Centre said America’s priority now was to track down Osama bin Laden. It added that Pakistan was best suited to launch a military operation against the Taliban because of its location and also because it was a Muslim state.

The government argued it was sound US policy to pit Islamic countries, and not India or Israel, against the Taliban to blunt criticism that the war on terror was turning into a clash between Christianity and Islam.

“We in India have over 15 crore Muslims, whose sentiments we understand. It suits us if the US does not need our help at this juncture,” a senior Cabinet minister said. The global fight against terrorism cannot ignore the terrorists sponsored by Islamabad for long, he added.

Samata Party leader and NDA convener George Fernandes, who briefed the press along with parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan, said the resolution was passed without any “dissension and any fireworks” at the two-hour meeting.

Asked why the meeting was convened, Fernandes said: “The simple reason is that efforts were made in the media to suggest that there were wide-ranging differences in approach within the NDA. If there was no such campaign, there would have been no need for a meeting.”

When reminded that his own party spokesperson had warned the government against joining the “America-centric” war on terror, Fernandes evaded a direct response. “Different people express different views. This is the NDA,” he said.

External affairs and defence minister Jaswant Singh briefed NDA members on the developments. Jaswant will leave on a tour of France, Germany and the US later this week to project India’s position and concerns. Subsequently, he will visit China, Fernandes said.

Mamata keeps mum

Mamata Banerjee today attended her first NDA meeting since returning to the fold on August 27.

The Trinamul Congress chief backed Vajpayee’s efforts to first build a consensus within the alliance and then across the political spectrum on Delhi’s stand over military action against Afghanistan. Mamata, however, remained mum through most of the meeting, sources said.


New Delhi, Sept. 26: 
The US is not naming Kashmir but has hinted that it will not be excluded from the fight against terrorism.

US ambassador to India Robert Blackwill today said: “There are no good terrorists or bad terrorists. There are only terrorists. Attacks on innocents even for political purposes cannot be acceptable.”

This would seem to include what India calls Pakistan-exported terrorism in Kashmir and Islamabad describes as freedom struggle. A few days ago, secretary of state Colin Powell had made a similar comment in response to a question if the US would include terrorism in Kashmir, among other places, in its mission. Without naming Kashmir, he had said Washington would indeed do so.

US officials are possibly reluctant to name Kashmir for fear of upsetting Pakistan, who they need at this point of time much more than they do India.

“Terrorism is a universal proposition. The manifestation of terrorism is in many countries and we have joined the international community in this fight,” Blackwill said. “This is a problem that cannot be stamped out in a piecemeal way. There is a growing consensus that we need to address terrorism everywhere.”

The freezing of bank accounts and assets of 27 terrorist outfits, including the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, which is linked to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaida organisation, is being described as the “first step” by the Bush administration. Indications are that many more, including those that are on India’s list, will also be brought under the American net as it is spread wider.

The ambassador said the “key objective” of the US was to smash the terrorist network and the export of terrorism from Afghanistan.

Addressing concerns expressed here over whether the new high in US relations with Pakistan will be at the expense of its ties with India, Blackwill said: “The US is determined to treat South Asia in a non-hyphenated way. But I encounter the hyphen more often in India.”

He added: “We are treating India-US relations separately. It’s not connected to events occurring in Pakistan or in US-Pakistan relations.”

The ambassador argued that one cannot keep a scorecard of inning to inning developments in assessing which of the two sides is winning. The relationship should be seen as part of the big picture. He pointed out that stability in Pakistan was in the interest of the entire region. The Bush administration believes President Pervez Musharraf is managing the country well. But this does not mean a change in Washington’s position on restoring democracy in Pakistan.

“It’s an extraordinary situation and we are encouraged by what Musharraf has said. But he has to deliver what he has promised,” Blackwill said. The ambassador pointed out that growing India-US relations have been transformed after September 11 in an “accentuated way” that may not have been possible if the tragedy that struck the Americans had not taken place. “It expedited the process of coming closer between the two sides.”


Sept. 26: 
After lighting a bonfire of predecessor Ram Vilas Paswan’s freebies, communications minister Pramod Mahajan has taken his broom to the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, the restructured department of telecommunications.

Mahajan has dissolved telecom advisory committees in the country after allegations that these were packed with relatives, friends and family retainers of poli-ticians. The ministry spent Rs 25 crore a year to maintain these committees.

Mahajan, who is the fifth communications minister of BJP-led NDA government, has also downsized the public grievances cell at BSNL. He has decided to scrap the free telephones Paswan had proposed to give to former department of telecom employees. Mahajan has relinquished control over the rest houses under the direct supervision of the communications minister.

The communications ministry used to spend Rs 6 lakh on each meeting of the National Telecom Advisory Committee, which has 114 members.

The disbanding of telecom advisory committees followed a directive that said: “The need for continuation of TACs was under review and it has been decided to dissolve them with immediate effect.”

Each committee member was entitled to 1,150 free calls every cycle. All telecom circles put together, the total number of such members was around 16,000.

As part of “streamlining the administration,” Sanchar Bhavan officials claimed other schemes that are a burden on BSNL’s budget will also be scrapped over the next few days.

Mahajan plans to bring out a vision document to address policy issues and administrative and technology changes that need to be brought about in an environment of convergence and the possible creation of a convergence ministry.

To meet this challenge, Mahajan has set up a seven-member internal committee under the chairmanship of the member, finance, the Telecom Commission, to prepare a draft within two weeks on the changes needed. The vision document will be circulated among members of the parliamentary standing committee examining the Convergence Bill, which was introduced in the monsoon session.

Even as the move to scrap the TACs has been welcomed by officials in BSNL, the decision to dump the proposal to offer free phones to former employees is being viewed with a frown. A senior BSNL official was sceptical. “It will not serve the purpose if the next minister revives the (TAC) scheme or some other scheme is introduced with a different name.”


New Delhi, Sept. 26: 
The Congress today demanded the dismissal of the State Trading Corporation chairman for the “scandalous” import of 10 lakh tonnes of wheat from Australia during the tenure of the United Front government and questioned the absence of politicians’ names from the CBI chargesheet in the case.

The party also slammed Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for his statement yesterday that media reports regarding starvation deaths were “malicious propaganda”.

Vajpayee’s stand was “unfortunate”, Congress spokesperson Jaipal Reddy said, adding that the party “disapproved of the ostrich-like attitude of the Prime Minister to this burning issue (starvation deaths)”.

Calling the starvation deaths “shameful”, Reddy said: “There is no point in covering up these things on the pretext of false patriotic pride.”

The CBI, which filed an FIR last week on the unwarranted wheat import, had alleged that a criminal conspiracy was hatched resulting in a huge loss to the exchequer. The import was not needed at all and even if it was required the wheat could have been procured from Europe at a lower price, the agency said. Australia supplied wheat to other countries at a rate lower than what was paid by India, it was alleged.

Reddy demanded that a chargesheet be filed against all the guilty. “The absence of names of politicians is strange and untenable,” he told reporters here.

Reddy, who was a minister in the United Front government, said the FIR alleges that trading corporation chairman S.M. Dewan had entered into a “criminal conspiracy with the aim of obtaining benefits causing a huge loss to the state exchequer”.

Expressing surprise over the two-year delay in filing the FIR, he said: “The CBI itself is guilty of inordinate delay in the matter. We also demand the CBI to explain the delay.”

On Vajpayee’s statement on the starvation deaths, Reddy said: “It is unfortunate that the Prime Minister has chosen to regard persistent reports of starvation deaths as ‘malicious propaganda’.”

He called the deaths “a matter of shame” and to ignore it a crime. The government should acknowledge this “unfortunate phenomenon” and provide a comprehensive plan to tackle the paradox of overflowing granaries and death by starvation.

In a letter written on August 16, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi had drawn Vajpayee’s attention to the issue. She had called on Vajpayee with Manmohan Singh to express concern over the reports.


New Delhi, Sept. 26: 
In a blow to corrupt politicians and other public servants, the Supreme Court today directed that no appellate court should even temporarily stay any trial in cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Accused public servants have been known to approach high courts to stay proceedings against them in corruption cases — Jayalalithaa in the Tansi land scam case, for instance. The case is on appeal before Madras High Court after her conviction by a trial court.

Justice K.T. Thomas and Justice S.N. Variava in a separate but concurrent judgment said Parliament had imposed an “undiluted ban” on granting stay on proceedings involving offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act and “no court shall circumvent the said ban through any means”.

Thomas said even an error, omission or irregularity in getting the sanction to prosecute a public servant should not be a ground to grant a stay.

Prosecution of a public servant in a corruption case requires “sanction” from a higher authority. For example, the Governor’s sanction is required to try a chief minister. Similarly, the President’s sanction is needed to try the Prime Minister.

In cases against Prafulla Kumar Mahanta (in the Letter of Credit scam) and Jayalalithaa (over 46 cases), arguments had gone on for days on the issue of sanctions from the Governors when they were chief ministers of Assam and Tamil Nadu, respectively.


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