Hurriyat faces Advani Hizbul heat
Cong extracts carnage vote
Talks collapse unmasks Pak: BJP
VHP pulls ISI trigger at Atal
Confession to customs is evidence, says court
Centre recasts law panel
TN awaits another tape
House furore over trivia
Khadi vs saffron swadeshi
Anticipatory bail for Sakshi

New Delhi, Aug. 9: 
The Vajpayee government today held the All- Party Hurriyat Conference guilty of “playing a negative role” to bring the peace process with the Hizbul Mujahideen to an end.

In a statemeant read out in both Houses of Parliament, home minister L.K.Advani lashed out at the Hurriyat, saying that right from the moment the Kashmir-based Hizbul leader, Abdul Majid Dar, announced the militant outfit’s three-month ceasefire and made clear its willingness to talk peace, the Hurriyat’s response was more than “just cold”. It had described Dar’s move as “hasty”.

Taking a hard line against the Hurriyat, some of whose prominent leaders were released from prison in April following an initiative taken by the Centre to start a dialogue, Advani said the Hurriyat leadership “was acting under pressure from Pakistan”.

This, in effect, means that the government sees the Hurriyat more as a stumbling block and views some of its leaders, who also wanted Islamabad to be involved in any negotiations on Kashmir, as overtly pro-Pakistan and intent on destroying the nascent peace process.

“They (Hurriyat leaders) certainly did not act in the interest of Jammu and Kashmir and compromised the well-being of the people of the state,” Advani said.

He reminded the members that “in the days and months to come, India will not deviate from its chosen course of talks with all those in Kashmir who eschew the path of terror and violence and our simultaneous battle against all those who continue to stick to that path. We shall persist with our policy of firmness and flexibility.”

Reiterating the government’s stand that Pakistan was behind sabotaging the talks, Advani said the Centre’s willingness to talk to Hizbul and all militant groups and political leaders in Jammu and Kashmir is proof of “India’s sincere desire for restoration of peace and normality”.

Advani made it clear that the “ceasefire offer was made by Abdul Majid Dar” and withdrawn by Syed Salahuddin in Islamabad. It is an admission of the fact that not only was Pakistan behind pressuring the Hizbul’s supreme commander but there was every likelihood of the militant organisation splitting.

In a stern warning to Islamabad and foreign mercenary groups, Advani said: “India shall not be frightened by the intensification of proxy war by Islamabad.”    

New Delhi, Aug. 9: 
The Lok Sabha will discuss the Amarnath carnage on August 17 under Rule 184.

Deviating from its earlier demand for a judicial probe into the serial massacres which claimed over a hundred lives, the Congress, which had disrupted proceedings in the last two days, today changed tack and gave notice for a discussion under the rule which entails voting.

Speaker G.M.C. Balayogi admitted the notice. Later, the Business Advisory Committee at its meeting decided to begin the discussion on August 17.

The decision to admit the motion was taken after Balayogi held a meeting with Congress leaders Madhavrao Scindia and Priya Ranjan Das Munshi and parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan this morning.

Government sources said they had no objection to a discussion under Rule 184 as all the NDA allies were solidly behind the government on the Kashmir issue. The motion, they said, would therefore be naturally defeated.

For the past few days, Parliament witnessed angry scenes as the Congress, supported by the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the ADMK and the Indian Union Muslim League clamoured for a judicial probe into the killings.

However, other Opposition parties like the CPM and the Samajwadi Party were for a discussion. Samajwadi chief Mulayam Singh Yadav even gave a notice for discussion under Rule 193, which does not require a vote.

Das Munshi defended his party’s demand for a judicial inquiry. He told the Lok Sabha during Zero Hour that the Congress will cooperate with the government “to continue talks” (with the Hizbul Mujahideen and other Kashmiri groups).

He said his party believed that a judicial probe could unravel the real reason behind the massacres.

Mulayam asked the government to “teach Pakistan a lesson” by taking steps to destroy terrorist training camps there. “It is necessary to smash the terrorist camps in Pakistan and teach Pakistan a lesson. If it is not done, the situation will further deteriorate,” he warned.

One Shiv Sena member supported him, but went a step further saying that India should even attack Pakistan which was carrying on a “proxy war”. “Why is the government not taking any action against Pakistan?” he asked.    

New Delhi, Aug. 9: 
The BJP today blasted Pakistan for the breakdown in talks with the Hizbul Mujahideen, saying the scrapping of the ceasefire not only “totally exposed” it but also “unmasked” it.

Party spokesman M. Venkaiah Naidu said: “The people of the country were interested and happy about the initiative taken and even the international community was happy that the peace process was initiated. The only country unhappy was Pakistan.”

Naidu said it was “part of history” that whenever a peace initiative was taken in Kashmir, Pakistan derailed the process. “Some organisations have also been unmasked. Some are instruments of Pakistan’s dictation. One leader (of Hizbul) announced ceasefire from Srinagar, another announced its withdrawal from Islamabad,” he said.

The Atal Behari Vajpayee government, he said, had “clearly established” its “sincerity” in bringing about a permanent solution to the Kashmir standoff.

“Now there is a clear signal to the people of Jammu and Kashmir that the government is willing to talk to any militant group which gives up arms and is ready to restore normality,” he said.    

New Delhi, Aug. 9: 
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) today launched a no-holds-barred offensive against the A.B. Vajpayee-led government, alleging that it was “shielding” politicians with ISI links and shying away from tabling the White Paper on alleged ISI activities in India.

The VHP also demanded that the Kashmir Valley be declared a “disturbed area” and handed over to the army. It reiterated its call for the dismissal of the Farooq Abdullah government.

Addressing a news conference, VHP general secretary Acharya Giriraj Kishore accused the National Conference and Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah of having ISI connections. “There are persons within the NDA government linked with the ISI. But the government is reluctant to expose them,” he alleged. He demanded that the National Conference should be expelled from the Central coalition.

Kishore pointed an accusing finger at the Vajpayee government and said: “The Centre was supposed to bring out a White Paper on ISI activities in India. Why didn’t it come out with one? You draw your own inference.”

Asked whether the government’s failure to bring out the White Paper was an adverse reflection on home minister L.K. Advani, he replied: “No individual minister is responsible, the whole Cabinet is responsible.”

But the VHP leader also made a personal remark on Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee and advised him to take a “consistent” stand on talks with the Kashmir militants. “The Prime Minister first said the talks would be within the constitutional framework. Next, he said they would be held outside the Constitution. His stand should be consistent. Why does he change it from time to time?”

Asked what his charge against the National Conference was based on, Kishore referred to a recent incident in Ranvirsingpura, 30 km from Jammu, where a Christian allegedly killed a cow, although cow slaughter is officially banned in the Jammu region, and threw the slain animal in a Muslim-dominated hamlet.

Kishore, who was recently in Jammu, claimed that the state administration refused to punish the killer even after identifying him but instead arrested the complainants.

“It is a fact that the state government is run according to the ISI’s dictates,” he declared.    

New Delhi, Aug. 9: 
The Supreme Court has ruled that a confessional statement, inadmissible as evidence if made before the police, would be admissible if made before a customs official and could be used against the person making the confession.

A division bench of Justice K.T. Thomas and Justice R.P. Sethi said under Section 108 of the Customs Act a statement recorded by customs officers “is admissible as evidence”.

They added that the “court has to test whether the inculpating portions were made voluntarily or whether it is vitiated on account of any of the premises envisaged in Section 24 of the Evidence Act”.

Under the Act, a statement made before a police officer is not admissible and it has to be recorded again before the magistrate who tries the case.

The distinction here is that a statement recorded by a customs official can be admitted, but the court “has to test” it on the touchstone of law.

Referring to Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), the judges said it empowers a magistrate to record any confessional statement made to him during the course of investigation or before the commencement of trial.

But Section 108 of the Customs Act does not contemplate any magisterial intervention and the power under the provision is intended to be exercised by a gazetted officer of the customs department, Justice Thomas pointed out.

“The entire idea behind the provision is that the gazetted officer questioning the person must gather all the truth concerning the episodes. If the statement so extracted is untrue, its utility for the officer gets lost,” the judges said, adding that the court would decide at the trial the veracity of the statement and its utility.

The matter came up after an Andhra Pradesh High Court judgment.    

New Delhi, Aug. 9: 
With the three-year term of the 15th Law Commission ending on August 31, the Centre today reconstituted the panel to “review and repeal obsolete laws”. The 16th Law Commission will come into effect from September 1.

According to a government notification, the Union Cabinet has approved the setting up of the new panel for a period of three years. The commission will have a chairman and three full-time members.

The first Law Commission with a three-year term was set up in 1955 and has since been regularly reconstituted.

Though the term of the commission’s current chairman, Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy, also ends on August 31, government sources said he is the front-runner for the post in the newly-constituted panel. The commission chairman is entitled to an official residence in the capital.

They said Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu is lobbying for his renomination. Reddy, who comes from the state, is also a member of the Constitution Review Commission.

The sources also said that commission member N.N. Gatate — a “close friend” of both Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and home minister L.K. Advani — might get an extension, though the others may not.

According to them, Reddy’s chances of continuing as chairman hinges on the passage of the new law on terrorism, the Prevention of Terrorism Act, better known as “super Tada”.

Reddy not only supported Tada but also framed the new law. Though the Centre wanted to push through the new Bill, the National Human Rights Commission had “outright” rejected it.

It is not yet known whether Naidu has spoken to Vajpayee regarding Reddy’s re-appointment. But official sources said that “moves are afoot” from Andhra Pradesh to renominate him.

The commission will also deal with laws dealing with poverty, examining those “which affect the poor and carry out post audit for socio-economic legislation”.

Its functions include a review of the judicial administrative system “to ensure that it is responsive to the reasonable demands of the times”.

It would examine existing laws, revise Central Acts of general importance to simplify them, recommend “updates” and give its views on any subject if referred to by the government.    

Chennai, Aug. 9: 
As Raj Kumar entered his tenth day in Veerappan’s custody, police today said they were expecting a message despatched by the government’s emissary R. Gopal soon but conceded that it could be some time before the hostage crisis is resolved.

Tamil Nadu director-general of police F.C. Sharma said an audio-cassette along with some photographs of the Kannada superstar could reach the authorities either late tonight or tomorrow morning.

“This tape may have messages from Raj Kumar and Gopal. As per available information, Raj Kumar is safe and healthy,” Sharma said.

The bandit is yet to react to the Karnataka government’s response to his demands, which include the release of several prisoners lodged in jails in the state. At least five of them are linked to Tamil extremist groups, leading to questions about why Veerappan has taken up their cause ahead of his own associates. Nakkeeran associate editor A. Kamaraj said in a separate statement that one of his reporters who had accompanied Gopal to the jungles had called to say that a tape and some photographs had been sent to Chennai.

Kamaraj also quoted that reporter as saying that negotiations with Veerappan were continuing and more details would be available in the cassette. But Kamaraj was silent on when his editor would return.    

New Delhi, Aug. 9: 
Hardened as he is, even Lok Sabha Speaker G.M.C. Balayogi found the day exasperating.

Trying to control unruly parliamentarians who raised cain over a variety of issues, often trivial, Balayogi was on his feet most of the day like a schoolmaster chastising errant boys. He even lost his temper and warned RJD member Raghuvansh Prasad Singh: “I will teach you a lesson.”

The uproar began from the fag end of Question Hour over a reply by programme implementation minister Arun Shourie on Bihar. His remark that the state was not properly utilising funds triggered cries of outrage from RJD members who stormed the Well and demanded an apology from the minister for “hurting” the sentiments of the people of Bihar.

The members disrupted proceedings for 10 minutes, ignoring Balayogi’s repeated pleas.

Amid the din, Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee sought to assuage the RJD members but they remained adamant. They refused to let him continue, prompting Balayogi to snap at Raghuvansh Singh.

Attacks on minorities in Gujarat, the reported tension in Udhamsinghnagar and the alleged derogatory remarks against the people of Bihar by writer Khushwant Singh were among the other issues that kept the House boiling during Zero Hour.

But the issue which sparked maximum heat was the alleged “threatening gesture” by a Congress member at the BJP benches.

BJP member and former Bajrang Dal chief Vinay Katiyar interrupted Sonia Gandhi’s speech on revival of khadi industries, saying rules did not permit a member to read from a written text.

Infuriated by Katiyar’s remark, Congress member Avtar Singh Badana tried to shout him down and rolled up the sleeves of his kurta, which the BJP member alleged was a “threatening gesture”.

Balayogi’s appeal for order fell on deaf ears and the protests continued. Sonia sat through the din and then proceeded to leave. Seeing her leave, treasury members began shouting “shame, shame”, which forced the Congress leader to scurry back to her seat.    

New Delhi, Aug. 9: 
Sonia Gandhi today wrapped the symbolic significance of Quit India Day in khadi to rip the BJP-led government’s swadeshi credentials, charging the Centre with ignoring a sector which had “woven the fabric of resistance to foreign rule”.

Surprising even party colleagues, Sonia spent more than half-an-hour espousing the cause of khadi. Criticising the government for its apathy, she said it was a “tragic betrayal of Mahatma Gandhi’s assertion that the centre of swadeshi was khadi”.

The leader of the Opposition accused the Vajpayee government of sharply reducing budgetary support to the sector.

Sonia said when the Congress was in power, it had set up a high- power committee which had come out with an action plan to strengthen the khadi industry in spite of its focus on liberalisation.

The action plan had led to release of Rs 5,700 crore to the sector, which resulted in creation of 20 lakh new jobs in three years, she said and demanded immediate reconstitution of the Khadi and Village Industries Commission.

In the Rajya Sabha, the khadi issue was raised by the author of economic reforms, Manmohan Singh, who demanded a comprehensive policy to revitalise the sector, saying only it could tackle the rural unemployment problem.    

New Delhi, Aug. 9: 
BJP-turned-Samajwadi MP Sachidanand Sakshi Maharaj was today granted anticipatory bail by Delhi High Court.

Afraid that the “vindictive” BJP government might pull out all stops to nab him, the saffron-clad Rajya Sabha MP had approached Delhi High Court for anticipatory bail. Mulayam Singh Yadav, now the maharaj’s chief political mentor, had been crying himself hoarse almost on a daily basis in Parliament in recent weeks, complaining that the Ram Prakash Gupta government in Uttar Pradesh was out to wreak vengeance on their estranged party leader from western Uttar Pradesh.

The bail was granted to Sakshi Maharaj, wanted in not just the controversial rape case but also in two other cases, till August 29 on furnishing a surety of Rs 10,000 and a bond of equal amount. Justice R.S. Sodhi of Delhi High Court who heard Sakshi Maharaj’s petition, agreed that in the event of arrest before August 29, he would be released on bail.

Lawyer I.U. Khan who had moved court on behalf of Sakshi Maharaj, his client, argued that the MP had been falsely charged in all three cases and that especially pertaining to the rape case, the prosecution did not have a shred of evidence. They did not even have a medical report of the alleged victim to substantiate their charges, he thundered in court.    


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