No statute scope for interim VP
Members’ deaths mar 13th Lok Sabha
29 die in Kerala boat capsize
Sponsored shows face axe on DD
DMK backs Jaya on invite

New Delhi, July 27: 
There is no sort of “constitutional vacuum” nor any provision to appoint an interim Vice-President following the death of Krishan Kant this morning.

According to the Constitution, election to the office of the Vice-President “shall be held as soon as possible” in the event of “his death”. Article 68(2) of the Constitution says: “An election to fill a vacancy in the office of Vice-President occurring by reason of his death, resignation or removal, or otherwise, shall be held as soon as possible after the occurrence of the vacancy.”

While this provision makes it clear that the vacancy caused by the death of an incumbent Vice-President is filled by an election, Article 68(1) mandates that an election to fill a vacancy caused by the expiration of the term of office of Vice-President shall be completed before the term ends.

This means that the election to the office of the Vice-President should be held before the term of the incumbent is over, which, in this case, is August 12. The process has already started with both the ruling coalition’s and the Opposition’s candidates filing nominations.

BJP spokesman Arun Jaitley also stresses there is no constitutional provision for appointing an interim Vice-President in the case of a vacancy.

Jaitley, a former Union law minister and a practising lawyer in the Supreme Court, says the “only material function he (Vice-President) performs is that of the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha and this will be done now by the deputy chairperson until a new Vice-President is elected”.

Another senior counsel Shanti Bhushan, who is also a former Union law minister, echoes the opinion. The “Vice-President plays two roles only”, Bhushan said.

“One is that of the President’s when a vacancy has arisen to that office due to the President’s sudden death or removal of the President by the impeachment procedure. Second is that of the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. As there is a deputy chairperson to the Upper House, functioning of that House would be unhampered by the vacancy created by the death,” he says.

Seven Articles — 63-69 — in the Constitution deal with the subject “Vice-President”. Article 63 is the shortest, and simply says: “There shall be a Vice-President of India.”

Article 64 paves the way for the Vice-President “to be ex-officio Chairman of the Council of States” which is the Rajya Sabha. Under Article 65, the Vice-President “acts as President or discharge his (President’s) functions during casual vacancies in the office or during the absence of the President”.

Article 66 provides procedure for the election of the Vice-President by “members of an electoral college consisting of the members of both Houses of Parliament”.

Article 67 fixes the term of the Vice-President at five years. Article 68 deals with the “vacancy” to his office, if and when created, and under Article 69, the President administers the oath of office and secrecy to the Vice-President.


New Delhi, July 27: 
With the sudden death of Vice-President and Rajya Sabha Chairman Krishan Kant today and the death of Lok Sabha Speaker G.M.C. Balayogi in March, the number 13 is proving very inauspicious for Parliament.

While the Rajya Sabha functions continuously, this is the 13th — numerologically an accursed date — Lok Sabha.

Apart from the two sitting officers of the two Houses, many other members, including a record number of 14 sitting MPs of the 13th Lok Sabha, have also passed away recently. To cap it all, Parliament was attacked by terrorists on December 13, 2001.

While Balayogi died in a helicopter crash in a village in his native Andhra Pradesh, Kant passed away less than a month before he was to demit office. Both died when Parliament was in session.

The Lok Sabha lost stalwarts such as Madhavrao Scindia, who died in a plane crash in September 2001, after the demise of another promising leader Rajesh Pilot in a road accident in June the previous year.

In January 2001, senior Congress member Jitendra Prasada had succumbed to a heart attack, while Samajwadi Party member Phoolan Devi was murdered on July 25 that year near her residence in the capital.

Congress Lok Sabha MP from Karnataka Chandrashekhar Murthy died on November 21, 2001. This year, on July 23, another party MP, Atmaram Patel from Gujarat, passed away.


Kochi, July 27: 
Kerala’s tryst with accidents that claim many lives continued today when a passenger ferry boat capsized in the Vembanad lake, leaving 29 people dead and around 40 injured.

The mishap, which occurred a year and a month after 49 lives were lost in the Kadalundi train accident near Kozhikode, took place around 6.45 in the morning, 1 km off Kumarkom. The boat had set off from Muhamma village in Alappuzha district and was bound for Kumarkom in Kottayam.

While the actual cause of the accident is yet to be ascertained, there are indications that the boat capsized because of overcrowding. The capacity of the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation’s boat was 100, but there were nearly 300 people on board.

Director-general of police K.J. Joseph told The Telegraph from Thiruvananthapuram that till this evening, 29 bodies had been recovered, including that of 14 women and a child. District superintendent of police Gopinath said most of the victims were to take the Public Service Commission exam to be held at Kottayam today.

The examination was the main reason that more than the usual number of passengers was on board the boat. Crossing the lake is the shortest and cheapest way for people in the area to reach Kottayam. Muhamma, the point of origin of the ferry service, and the neighbouring village of Thannirmukkam have a predominantly working-class population.

Officials point out that the number of dead would have been much higher if the boat had sunk completely — only parts of it got submerged under water. This, and the fact that most of the people on board knew how to swim, prevented the casualty rate from going up.

Most of those travelling in the boat hailed from small islets that dot the Vembanad lake and were used to the conditions of the lake.

The navy, police and firefighting personnel carried out rescue operations since morning with the help of local people. Eyewitnesses said some of the passengers were rescued by fishermen returning with the morning catch.

Immediately after the accident, local people also took to the lake in country boats to assist in the rescue operation.

The state government has announced an ex-gratia of Rs 50,000 each to the families of the deceased. A crisis cell under the chief secretary has also been set up to co-ordinate rescue and relief works.

The Muhamma area today observed a strike with shoppers voluntarily closing their establishments to share the grief of the bereaved families.


New Delhi, July 27: 
Public broadcaster and India’s biggest television house Doordarshan is readying for a drastic change in its marketing strategy by moving away from sponsored programmes to acquiring programmes.

This is at the core of the suggestion made by media marketer Vijay Jindal. Jindal, who runs his own media consultancy, the Mumbai-based Karma Media, has been roped in by Prasar Bharati to head a newly-formed marketing advisory committee.

The move to rope in Jindal appears to be part of a larger restructuring programme by Prasar Bharati for the public broadcaster by involving acclaimed professionals who have not been in government service. About two months ago, Doordarshan got Alyque Padamsee to head its creative advisory committee that is expected to oversee content and “smarten” up programmes.

Jindal’s appointment as a consultant — he will not be an employee of Prasar Bharati, but will be paid an honourarium — flows largely from the suggestions the creative advisory committee is understood to have made. Chiefly, that the best programmes are acquired and not “sponsored”.

Doordarshan and Chennai-based Sun TV are the only two large broadcasters that rely chiefly on the “sponsored” system.

In a nutshell, this means that sponsors buy half-hour time slots on Doordarshan channels in lieu of fees ranging from as low as Rs 5,000 for the dismally-performing DD Bharti channel to about Rs 3 lakh for DD National, the flagship channel. In exchange for buying the time slots, Doordarshan gives the producers 180 seconds and/or 240 seconds of airtime for commercials. Sponsoring producers are expected to raise revenues by selling the commercial time.

At the moment, about 70 per cent of Doordarshan’s programming is sponsored. On DD Metro, all the programming is sponsored. Doodarshan has by far the largest viewership in the country — and it claims nearly three times the number of viewers than the rest of the channels put together.

In preliminary talks, Jindal, a marketing whiz who has earlier worked with Bennett Colman and Zee, is understood to have pointed out that acquiring and owning programmes is a more pragmatic business model. It will also give the channel more freedom to promote its programmes. (In the sponsored system, promotion of programmes is mainly the responsibility of the producer).

Along with Jindal, other marketing and advertising experts to be on the committee are Sunit Duggal, Jagdeep Bakshi, Murad Ali Baig, Roda Mehta and Satish Mehta. Doordarshan’s deputy director-general (commercial), deputy director-general (audience research) will also be members. The director (commercial) will be the convener of the committee.

Prasar Bharati sources said the committee will also advise on the positioning of Doordarshan’s 23 channels and on advertising and publicity campaigns.

The stress on marketing will see Doordarshan opening more marketing offices in Delhi, Calcutta, Hyderabad and Thiruvananthapuram in addition to such establishments in Mumbai, Chennai (2001) and Bangalore (2002).


Chennai, July 27: 
Politics seems to have an unsuspecting way of generating surprises. The irreconcilable differences between the chiefs of the two Dravidian parties, the DMK and the ADMK, all but collapsed today over the issue of the Centre not inviting chief ministers to the swearing-in ceremony of President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam in New Delhi on Thursday.

Applauding ADMK leader and Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa for her scathing attack on the BJP-led NDA government for not inviting chief ministers for such a prestigious function, DMK president M. Karunanidhi urged the Centre to change its archaic protocol procedures in this regard.

Jayalalithaa had termed it a “deliberate humiliation heaped on the people of Tamil Nadu”, particularly when the President belonged to the state.

“I have always stood firm that the just rights and privileges of the states should never be compromised,” Karunanidhi said in a statement read out before the media at a hurriedly-convened press conference at the party headquarters.

Though the Centre invites chief ministers to such ceremonies as the President’s swearing-in only on request, Karunanidhi said treating “chief ministers with contempt” should not be made a permanent feature.

While the ADMK leader dubbed the home ministry’s explanation for not sending out invitations to chief ministers as a “lame excuse”, Karunanidhi endorsed her criticism saying “invitations are sent and not asked for; what is obtained after making a request is not an invitation”.

The DMK leader expressed the hope that the Centre would change its practice in this regard and invite all chief ministers for functions like the swearing-in of the President and the Prime Minister. Asked whether this was the first time he was “in agreement” with Jayalalithaa over any issue, the DMK leader replied in the negative.

“This is not the first time. We have agreed with her stance that Tamil Nadu should not be bifurcated,” the DMK chief pointed out. The state bifurcation proposal was put forward by PMK chief S. Ramadoss.

Jaya meets Kanchi seer

After nearly nine years, Jayalalithaa held a long meeting with the Sankaracharya of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam, Jayendra Saraswathi, in Kancheepuram, 75 km from Chennai, late on Saturday evening. It was a “one-to-one closed door meeting” without any personal aides, sources said.


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