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Blood on hands, Delhi stops sealing
- Centre braces for conflict with court

New Delhi, Sept. 21: After yesterday’s bloodshed, the government appears to have made up its mind to have a showdown with the judiciary, if it comes to that, over the demolitions ordered in Delhi.

Rattled by the violence resulting in four deaths in police firing, it suspended the sealing of unauthorised commercial units in residential areas till Monday — this action itself is in a way a challenge to the Supreme Court that had ordered closing down of such establishments.

The Prime Minister today set up a group of ministers headed by home minister Shivraj Patil to figure out how to deal with the crisis. After the group’s meeting, Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit announced that the sealing drive was being suspended.

It is now expected that the government will submit an affidavit to the court on Monday when the case comes up for hearing explaining why it decided to suspend to the sealing.

At least one member of the group of ministers, law minister H.R. Bhardwaj, however, wondered how the court’s order could be suspended.

Depending on how the court reacts, the government will take its next step with the group of ministers working as the think tank.

After the deaths in police firing, Manmohan Singh seems to have decided that the government will not balk at the possibility of a showdown with the judiciary.

As announced yesterday by urban development minister Jaipal Reddy, on the prompting of the Prime Minister, after Monday’s Supreme Court response, it will be decided if a special session of Parliament will be called to pass a law to overcome the judicial order to seal unauthorised commercial establishments.

Although government sources could not explain what the contours of the law would be, a source said: “The PM feels enough is enough.”

Singh feels framing and interpreting laws was not the judiciary’s sole prerogative and if the executive was pitted against the courts in the process, so be it.

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi was equally exercised over Wednesday’s deaths and spoke with the Prime Minister. Whenever the executive has come up against the judiciary — as in February 2005 over the Jharkhand government formation — Singh chose to err on the side of caution and advocated conciliation.

The sources said this time, his mood had changed. If necessary, the government would put the amended law in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution to secure judicial immunity. But the problem is that the Ninth Schedule itself is under a special constitutional bench’s scrutiny, with the next hearing in October.

Praveen Khandelwal, the president of the Delhi Traders’ Association, which spearheaded Wednesday’s bandh, welcomed the move.

“I think the government should announce the time for the Parliament session. It is very important to defuse the tension right now,” he said.

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