Bofors papers survive ambush
Stop-Sonia shot in statute session
Basu in dissent damage control
All equal before reckless bus

New Delhi, Dec. 19: 
The last set of Bofors papers landed in Delhi this morning after high drama in which ?lawyers of the appellants? made a desperate last-ditch bid to block its transfer out of Geneva.

CBI officials indicated that they would try to unravel the import of the documents within two weeks. Efforts would be made to append the additional facts to the chargesheet as early as possible, they said.

The ?appellants?, though not identified by name, are believed to be the London-based Hinduja brothers, who admit having dealings with Bofors but deny involvement in the kickbacks case.

An attempt was made on their behalf to block the transfer a day after Swiss Federal authorities announced on Thursday that the papers had been handed over to the Indian ambassador in Berne, K.P. Balakrishnan.

The attempt came despite Swiss authorities having observed that the appellants were trying to hinder investigations in India by citing technical reasons.

The appeal was made to the Swiss government on grounds that all legal avenues had not been exhausted. But the Federal Department of Justice and Police rejected the plea, saying the appellants were ?unable to bring forth either concrete proof or clues to back their claims?. It added that the appellants? strategy was aimed at delaying criminal investigation by India.

Foreign ministry spokesman R.S. Jassal said that on Friday ?the lawyers of the appellants mounted a number of challenges addressed to Swiss authorities to prevent the transfer of the documents.?

?These attempts proved to be abortive, and in cooperation with Swiss authorities, arrangements were made to bring them back to India safely and securely,? he said.

The papers, brought in a sealed cover, will be submitted to a designated court before processing and scrutiny to ascertain their contents for necessary follow-up action, CBI officials said.

CBI director R.K. Raghavan said the agency would take immediate action based on what the papers say. But the government has ruled out disclosing the contents, saying the papers can be produced only before a court of law according to a pact with Switzerland.

Agency reports quoted Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, an accused in the Bofors gun deal, as saying that he would not make any confessional statement as he had done nothing wrong.

In a faxed statement from Kuala Lumpur, Quattrocchi said: ?There is no question of any confession as I have done nothing wrong. I have never received money from Bofors and I never had anything to do with Bofors.?

The statement comes in response to former CBI director Joginder Singh?s remark on TV that an ?influential person? had recently asked him whether he would help Quattrocchi if the accused came to India to make a confession.

Quattrocchi said: ?I am shocked to read such a false, mischievous statement as I have never ever authorised anybody, whatsoever, to represent me before the CBI or any other body or individual, and represent that I intend to make a confession. In case somebody has done so, then such representation is absolutely without my knowledge, consent and authority.?

Quattrocchi also demanded that the name and particulars of the person be disclosed immediately by Indian authorities.    

New Delhi, Dec. 19 
The ?Constitution Assembly?, set up to review the original document which said ?India that is Bharat? 50 years ago, was told today that there should be an ?urgent? amendment to prevent persons of foreign origin from holding high office.

Addressing the opening session of the assembly, Union law minister Ram Jethmalani said the review should suggest reforms to block ?secondary citizens? from prime ministerial and presidential posts. In legal jargon, people like Congress president Sonia Gandhi ? whose entry into power politics triggered a debate on foreign origin ? are referred to as ?secondary citizens?.

If the assembly heeds Jethmalani?s call, it is expected to be added to electoral reforms. The meeting, organised by the Bar Association of India, is attended by representatives of political parties, non-government organisations, trade unions and jurists.

Jethmalani, who also called for recommendations to foster federalism and declare education as a fundamental right, asserted that there was no ?hidden or Hindutva agenda? for the review. Opposition parties have turned sceptical of the review as several proposals have an uncanny similarity with those advocated by the BJP.

?There is a talk going on that we have a secret agenda. This is foolish. A secret agenda cannot be pushed through unless you have a two-thirds majority. The charge is irresponsible and malicious,? Jethmalani said.

He added that the open review was intended at only assessing the copy book (the original Constitution) and its validity and suitability in the new millennium.

?But can a secondary citizen can hold high office...? Leave political affiliation and discuss the issue in the interest of the country,? he told the assembly.

?Nobody will be allowed to even tinker with the Constitution... There is also another talk that we are going to infuse Hindutva doctrine into the Constitution. There is no need to do that. The present one itself is based on Hindutva principles as it gives the people freedom to profess any religion,? he added.

The assembly, which will conclude on Wednesday, discussed a presidential form of government.    

Calcutta, Dec. 19: 
Nearly a week after a debate erupted on inner-party democracy, the CPM leadership has approached chief minister Jyoti Basu to rein in dissenters.

Basu said he would meet Saifuddin Chaudhury, spearheading efforts to make the party revisit a series of issues, on Monday to find out what he and others want the CPM to address in the days ahead.

?I am distressed at the mounting dissent in the party,? Basu told The Telegraph today. ?Let me talk to him and find out what needs to be done.?

A former CPM central committee member, Chaudhury last week triggered a debate on issues ranging from internal democracy to lack of growth of the party outside Bengal, Kerala and Tripura.

Basu said he was confident of ironing out the problems. ?We must learn to pay heed to the voices of the minority,? the chief minister said, almost echoing Chaudhury who had questioned the sway of majority-ism in the party.

The chief minister added that the question of disciplinary action against the dissenters would arise only after all options fail.

?The question of expelling a dissenter on the grounds of anti-party activity can only be handled by the party. An individual like me has no comment to offer on this,? he said.

CPM parliamentary leader Somnath Chatterjee set the dialogue with the dissenters rolling with an hour-long meeting with Saifuddin Chaudhury today. Chatterjee was not available for comment, but Chaudhury stuck to his original position: the CPM lacks modernity, stifles dissent and is out of touch with contemporary national politics. ?I have rightly pointed out that there is no inner-party democracy,? he said.

Till he was eased out three years ago, Chaudhury was seen to be cut out for a larger role in the CPM. Curiously, his eclipse has not been explained by the leadership.

Chaudhury said: ?I am yet to know the reason for dropping me from the party?s central committee during the Chandigarh congress in 1995.?

There he had opposed the party line of maintaining equidistance with the BJP and the Congress, a policy the CPM later dropped after Basu openly pressed for change.

Speaking at the Maidan on the last day of the Vidyasagar Mela, Basu appeared to empathise with the dissenters.He said the CPM?s main objective was to form a truly people?s government in Delhi. Running a few states like West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura was at best a first step towards that objective, he added.

The party has spent 23 years in office in Bengal and considerable time in Kerala and Tripura, but is still far away from its goal.

?We are participating in parliamentary politics as it is a tool to form a government. I don?t know how long the CPM will take to reach this goal, but it must be said there will not be any deviation from this goal,? Basu said.

The words are a reminder of the folly ? in his opinion and, coincidentally, in that of the dissenters ? the party committed in 1996 by choosing to stay out of the United Front government.    

Calcutta, Dec. 19: 
Even a minister ? red light flashing atop his official vehicle ? is not safe on Calcutta?s roads.

A speeding bus of the Calcutta State Transport Corporation hit PWD minister Khsiti Goswami?s car at the crossing of Southern Avenue and Lansdowne Road this evening. Neither the minister nor any of the other passengers suffered injuries, but the car was badly damaged.

Though the incident took place at 7.30 pm, no traffic policeman was on duty at the crossing. The driver of the empty bus, moving south to north, was arrested.

Speaking a short while after the accident, Goswami said: ?I can?t believe I am still alive.?

Travelling to Dhakuria to attend a programme, he noticed a bus speeding towards his car. Both drivers jammed down on the brakes, evading a head-on collision, but the bonnet of the minister?s car came unstuck on impact and tumbled on to the road.

Residents rushed to the spot. ?They asked me if a minister can meet with such an accident, how could there be public confidence in traffic management. I had nothing to say,? Goswami said.    

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Minimum: 15.6?C (+2)
Relative humidity:
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Mainly clear sky. Slight fall in night temperature
Sunset: 4.51 pm
Sunrise: 6.17 am    

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