Dilshad chargesheeted
State on leather unit funds hunt
Three-hour looting spree
Atal, Sonia call truce for panchayat
BJP takes wraps off deal with Mayavati
Bankruptcy cloud on Cup telecast
Settlement Act sparks debate
Apex court extends CNG net
Judges’ shift raises eyebrows
Choked rice flow galls Naidu

Siliguri, April 5: 
Darjeeling police have filed a chargesheet against alleged ISI mastermind Mohammed Dilshad who was arrested in January.

In the two-volume chargesheet submitted to the sub-divisional judicial magistrate’s court, Siliguri, on April 2, Dilshad and eight other conspirators have been charged for “waging war against the state”.

Darjeeling police and the Intelligence Bureau in a joint raid had picked up Dilshad while he was making an international call to his alleged “ISI controller” in Hyderabad in Pakistan’s Sindh province in January this year.

Subsequently, police picked up four of his Indian agents who allegedly aided him by passing on classified defence documents and information on the Indian army’s installations in north Bengal.

Dilshad’s Indian agents — Mohammed Salim, Manish Goel, Mohammed Sajjad and his brother Mohammed Azad, all residents of Khaprail village adjoining the Indian army’s 33 Corps headquarters at Sukna on the outskirts of Siliguri — allegedly gathered information and photographed vital army installations with the help of sophisticated cameras.

Police sources here said the two-volume chargesheet of 569 and 249 pages respectively was submitted 88 days after the arrests. The police will produce 53 witnesses and exhibit 79 articles seized from the spy ring, including RXD explosives and classified army documents.

A special investigation team official said the police were awaiting the government’s permission to try the accused under the Official Secrecy Act.


Calcutta, April 5: 
The state government has approached the European Investment Bank to participate in the Calcutta Leather Complex at Bantala.

“The bank is interested in the leather complex project and we have given them a status report on the progress of work there,” finance minister Asim Dasgupta said after a meeting with the bank’s chief economist, Alfred Steinherr, at Writers’ Buildings today.

The state government has also placed a Rs 300-crore project proposal for urban development in the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) areas.

Dasgupta said the pace of getting the leather complex finished can be accelerated with the help of the bank. He said the state government was also considering having preliminary discussions with the bank on the common effluent treatment plant (CETP).

The state government had recently taken the CETP project off the hands of leather complex promoter M.L. Dalmiya and Company. Dasgupta hinted that the state government was seriously considering getting all the infrastructure in place at Bantala so that the 500-odd tanneries at Topsia, Tangra and Tiljala could shift there.    

Canning, April 5: 
A group of armed dacoits looted 20 houses at Chandkhali and Bahirsona villages near here last night.

Police said the dacoits took away Rs 2 lakh in cash and jewellery worth Rs 1 lakh. At least 25 people were injured while resisting them.

Twelve people were admitted to a local hospital. Four were transferred to NRS medical college.

The police have so far arrested five dacoits and recovered 25 watches, six cameras, 26 rounds of cartridges and five pipeguns.

The looting continued for about three hours. Villagers came forward to resist the dacoits but they were chased away with pipeguns.

Villagers complained that in spite of being informed, the police didn’t come before morning.


New Delhi, April 5: 
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and leader of Opposition Sonia Gandhi today found an issue not to trade barbs on. After their spat at the joint session of Parliament last month, they agreed to strengthen the local institutions of governance at the All-India Panchayat Sammelan hosted by the Union rural development ministry.

The deliberations were a far cry from the recent high-pitched discussions on Gujarat and the anti-terror law. For a change, the BJP — which had most of its senior Cabinet ministers at the convention — and the Opposition were nodding their heads in agreement.

The two-day convention will look at a host of problems hampering the growth of panchayati institutions. It could set the stage for yet another amendment to the Constitution to devolve greater powers to institutions of local governance.

Inaugurating the convention, Vajpayee said his government was willing to amend the Constitution to relegate more power and funds to local governments.

“This conference can consider an amendment to the Constitution to strengthen panchayati raj institutions. The conference can make such a recommendation to the government — but there has to be unanimity on the issue,” he said.

Sonia echoed Vajpayee. “Panchayat bodies must be strengthened and rural development agencies must be disbanded,” she said but took a dig at the Prime Minister when she reminded him that she had been repeatedly demanding a joint sitting to discuss the issue. “But the government has not responded,” Sonia said.

The Congress chief also recalled the “contribution” of Rajiv Gandhi. “It was my late husband Rajiv Gandhi who played a pioneering role in ushering in panchayati raj. I have personally monitored its functioning,” she said.

For the Centre, particularly rural development minister Venkaiah Naidu, it was a grand display of “commitment” to make panchayati institutions self-sufficient.

Law minister Arun Jaitley, defence minister George Fernandes, information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj and finance minister Yashwant Sinha are also expected to address the convention.

Like all other speakers, Vajpayee rued the slow and ineffective progress of panchayati institutions.

“The panchayats have too many responsibilities — they have to carry out important programmes related to primary education, health and drinking water. But the money they have is totally inadequate,” he said.

In a word of advice to the hundreds of elected representatives at the convention, he said: “They should not get bogged down in their party affiliations — but should make welfare programmes their main priority.”


Lucknow, April 5: 
After playing hide and seek in post-election Uttar Pradesh, BJP leaders — at least some of them — are now conceding that there will neither be any government nor any tie up with the Bahujan Samaj Party if Mayavati is not made the chief minister.

“That was the basic premise of our talks with the Bahujan Samaj Party,’’ senior BJP leader and former minister Om Prakash Singh said.

Talking on the issue categorically for the first time, the BJP leader said negotiations with the BSP progressed only after the issue of the top job being reserved for Mayavati was “worked out”. The rest, Singh said, “were peripheral nitty gritties”.

Singh and Lalji Tandon, who enjoys Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s confidence, are more inclined to join hands with Mayavati instead of sitting in the Opposition for five years.

With the pro-Mayavati camp prevailing over the likes of former chief minister Rajnath Singh, who vociferously spoke against “working as a junior partner to the BSP”, the Thakur lobby is an angry lot.

“This (giving Mayavati the chief ministership) will be the end of us,’’ said a Thakur MLA from eastern Uttar Pradesh. These MLAs feel the making of Mayavati will be the unmaking of the BJP.

Last week, 15 legislators led by Bharat Singh, a Thakur owing allegiance to the Rajnath camp, openly voiced dissatisfaction with the “talks revolving around Mayavati’’. They even launched a signature campaign asking the rest of the BJP flock to dissociate themselves from the negotiations.

A section of the MLAs feels Mayavati will “superimpose’’ the BSP agenda over the BJP’s and hijack whatever little goodwill the party enjoys.

With the BSP giving an unprecedented number of tickets to upper caste MLAs, many of whom have made it to the Assembly, the BJP’s hold on its upper caste vote bank will also be under threat from its ally, they say.

Rajnath has remained silent till now. With Mayavati having succeeded in marginalising him, Rajnath may well be on his way to the Centre with a post in the party organisation. There is already talk of him being offered the post of general secretary.

But one thing is clear — Rajnath will not hold any portfolio under “chief minister” Mayavati. “As of now, the party’s decision to stay in the Opposition stands, it has been ratified by the central leadership. We have always respected the people’s mandate,’’ he had said yesterday.

Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav has still not lost hopes of leading a new government.

Mulayam today said he was “hopeful’’ the Governor would call him to prove his majority in the House, in a tone much milder than what it had been.

“We have the numbers but the Governor has to call us if things are to progress,’’ he said.

However, Vishnukant Shastri has still not shown any inclination to call Mulayam.

A meeting of the BJP’s state executive will be held in Lucknow tomorrow to discuss the “rethink” on its decision to sit in the Opposition, says a PTI report from Delhi.

Former party president Kushabhau Thakre, who is in charge of party affairs in the state, will be present at the meeting to discuss the pros and cons of an alliance with the BSP.


New Delhi, April 5: 
With KirchMedia drifting towards bankruptcy, a question mark hangs over the live telecast of the World Cup soccer matches in India. The tournament begins at the end of May.

While industry executives do not doubt that there will be live telecast, it is still far from clear which channel will feature the games. There is barely enough time left, too, for television channels to prepare for the event.

Last month, Stracon, the company that had bought the rights for telecast of the matches in India went back on its deal with Kirch fearing it could get singed by the beleaguered German firm’s fiscal travails. Kirch owns the worldwide rights for World Cup soccer and also for Formula One racing.

Television industry executives said ESPN-STAR Sports, Sony, A.R. Bukhatir’s Taj Entertainment (Ten Sports) and Nimbus were in the race to buy the rights.

But the feedback from advertising agencies is that World Cup soccer is not so “hot” now, primarily because of KirchMedia’s bankruptcy. As news from Munich that Kirch was set to file for insolvency broke, industry executives began making frantic inquiries on the status of Fifa (which runs world soccer) rights.


New Delhi, April 5: 
The Jammu and Kashmir resettlement Act once again surfaced in the Supreme Court today, triggering a debate on Centre-state relationship.

A division bench of Justices G.B. Pattanaik and Brijesh Kumar declined to vacate its earlier stay on the implementation of the Act and fixed April 19 for further hearings.

Under the Jammu and Kashmir Grant of Permission for Resettlement In (Or Permanent Return To) the State Act, 1982, anyone who had left the state for Pakistan or any other state after the 1947 Partition could come back and settle down permanently.

Panthers’ Party president Bhim Singh challenged the Act, contending that over 200,000 Pakistanis were set to come back to Kashmir and terrorists trained by the Inter-Services Intelligence could use the cover to penetrate the country. Two more petitions in the form of public interest litigations (PIL) also challenged the Act.

In an affidavit, the state government said the law was within its constitutional right. Jammu and Kashmir has a separate Constitution. If the legislature passes a Bill for the second time after it has been denied assent by the President or the Governor, it automatically becomes law. This is part of the partial autonomy granted to the state.

Farooq Abdullah had passed the Act in 1982 and the President’s reference of the Act to the apex court was sent back unanswered. In this light, Abdullah had last year announced that he would implement the law in letter and spirit. The BJP-led coalition at the Centre is understandably against it.

In its affidavit, the state’s advocate general, M.A. Goni, said that since the apex court had sent back the reference unanswered, the current petition had become “unmaintainable” and the “Bill had now become law”.

But Bhim Singh contended that the impugned Act, if allowed, would bring 200,000 Pakistanis to Jammu province alone, which would result in the eviction of nearly five lakh allottees from evacuee land. Evacuee lands are the ones left behind by those who migrated to Pakistan after Partition. These lands were allotted to local residents.

The Panthers’ Party chief argued that the re-settlers would disturb communal harmony and pose a threat to the country’s unity, security and sovereignty.

The case was adjourned for two weeks after solicitor general Harish Salve, who appeared for the Union government, sought the court’s permission to file a counter-affidavit.

Salve submitted that the “Union of India has a different perception on the said law than the state government”.


New Delhi, April 5: 
The Supreme Court today ruled that under the Constitution, no government could bypass its directives and iterated that compressed natural gas should be made available to the entire transport sector, including private vehicles, across the country.

In a set of seven directives, a three-judge bench of Justice B.N. Kirpal, Justice V.N. Khare and Justice Ashok Bhan said: “…. Orders and directions of this court cannot be nullified or modified or in any way altered by any administrative decision of the Central or the state governments”.

“The administrative decision to continue to ply diesel buses is, therefore, clearly in violation of this court’s order,” the judges added.

To make the order effective all over India — and not be limited to Delhi alone — the court called for a scheme containing a time schedule for supply of CNG to other polluted cities.

The scheme should be submitted in court by May 9, the judges said.

The bench made the following directives:

Union of India will give priority to the transport sector, including private vehicles, all over India for allocation of CNG. The gas will be made available first to the transport sector in Delhi and other air-polluted cities.

Thereafter, if any CNG remains, it can be allocated to industries, with public sector undertakings and power projects getting preference.

The Centre’s application for extension of time to run diesel buses is dismissed with the cost of Rs 20,000.

Those persons who have placed orders with bus manufacturers and have not taken delivery shall do so within two weeks from today, failing which their permits shall stand automatically cancelled.

In Delhi, where owners continue to ply diesel buses despite the court order, a fine of Rs 500 a day per bus shall be levied from February 1.

A fine of Rs 1,000 a day per bus will be charged thereafter (from March 1). The money should be deposited with the court treasury.

(For about 10,000 diesel buses that ply every day, the amount will be Rs 50 lakh a day for the first month and 1 crore a day for successive months.)

National capital territory of Delhi to phase out 800 diesel buses a month starting from May 1, 2002.

Owners who continue to operate diesel buses will have to pay the fine till the buses are phased out or changed to CNG mode.

Allocate and make available 16.1 lakh kg of CNG per day in the national capital territory of Delhi by June 30.

Prepare a scheme containing a time schedule regarding the other polluted cities of India and submit it in court by May 9 for its consideration; LPG could also be supplied as an alternate fuel.

Permits cancelled due to non-compliance of the court orders to convert to CNG mode could be given to scheduled castes and tribes and other weaker sections of the society, for which a scheme should be prepared and submitted to the court within four weeks.

The apex court had earlier ordered that January 31 should be the deadline for phasing out diesel buses.

However, the Delhi government, by an admnistrative order, extended the deadline on its own.

The Supreme Court took exception to this while making an order to be applicable to all India now.


Chennai, April 5: 
The transfer of 32 judges, including those of the three special courts trying cases of corruption during the previous ADMK regime in Tamil Nadu, has raised eyebrows in political circles. Madras High Court notified the transfers today.

Among those being shifted is principal sessions judge Ashok Kumar, who had taken the city police to task over the “inhuman” manner in which they had arrested DMK chief M. Karunanidhi last June. Kumar, now appointed Krishnagiri district principal sessions judge, will be replaced by the principal district judge, Salem, A.R. Ramalingam.

Special judge A.C. Arumugaperumal Adityan, who was trying the Rs 66.65-crore disproportionate wealth case against chief minister Jayalalithaa and her confidante, Sasikala, has been shifted to Tirunelveli as district principal sessions judge.

Adityan was also trying the Rs 28.28-crore SPIC disinvestment case, involving Jayalalithaa and industrialist A.C. Muthiah, as well as the London hotels case in which ADMK MP T.T.V. Dinakaran, a relative of Sasikala, is one of the key accused.

P. Anbazhagan, special judge-III, who had convicted Jayalalithaa in the first two Tansi land deal cases before the high court overturned the verdict last December, will take over as new special judge-I from Adityan. After the high court verdict in the first two Tansi cases, Anbazhagan had acquitted all the accused in the third case, the R.R. Industries case, based on the high court verdict’s reasoning.

S.S.P. Daravesh, the special judge-II who acquitted Jayalalithaa and the other accused in the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board Coal Import scam case last December, has now been posted as principal sessions judge, Namakkal.

It may be recalled that the Tamil Nadu government had recently decided to reduce the number of special courts from three to one on the grounds that there was not sufficient work to justify their continuance.

Jaya defends Bill

Jayalalithaa today scotched speculations of “political motive” in the proposed legislation to bar MLAs from holding directly elected posts in local bodies. The move is being seen as a ploy to target Chennai mayor M.K. Stalin, son of the DMK chief.

The chief minister said she did not think the proposed legislation would fail legal scrutiny.


Hyderabad, April 5: 
Chief minister Chandrababu Naidu has come down heavily on officials of the agriculture ministry for objecting to the release of additional quota of rice for implementing the food-for-work programme in Andhra Pradesh.

Contending that Andhra was the only state that had wholly utilised the excess rice in godowns, the Telugu Desam chief said his eagerness for taking up more development projects was being misread by Delhi.

The chief minister said the ministry’s officials were not justified in raising the objections on grounds of misappropriation.

“My government is taking stringent action against those misusing the rice,” he told partymen here. “No one will be spared.”

This is not the first time Naidu has criticised Central government officials. In 1999, he had taken offence to the Centre’s delay in sanctioning LPG for the “Deepam” programme.

This time, the row is over the release of 5 lakh tonnes of rice for the food-for-work scheme.

So far, the state has received about 16 lakh tonnes for the programme, which, the government claims, has generated 35 million mandays and led to the completion of three lakh projects.

The Centre had sanctioned another five lakh tonnes on the eve of the joint Parliament session, convened to pass the anti-terror Bill.

However, an official of the agriculture ministry clarified two days ago that only 1.5 lakh tonnes of rice was released pending submission of account for the 16 lakh tonnes received so far.


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