Govt retires ?overage? Jaya judge
House hostage in Bihar battle
Smaller foreign role in insurance Bill review
Millennium date for Saint Teresa
Calcutta weather

Chennai, March 4 
Madras High Court sitting judge Justice C. Shivappa, who has repeatedly rejected bail pleas from ADMK chief J. Jayalalitha and her associates, including Sasikala Natarajan, was asked today to step down on grounds that he is already past the age of superannuation.

A communication from Union law minister M. Thambi Durai of the ADMK to Madras High Court acting chief justice N.K. Jain said President K.R. Narayanan had ?determined?, in exercise of his powers under Article 217 (3) of the Constitution, that Justice Shivappa?s date of birth was December 11, 1936, and not 1938. He had, therefore, already completed 62 years in December 1998, it said.

The brief message added that the President had taken the decision in consultation with Chief Justice of India A. S. Anand.

The message said while the judge had declared his year of birth as 1938, it was actually 1936. Both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu had complained that the judge had fudged the dates, it said, in apparent reference to complaints from some lawyers in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka who petitioned the President, saying the judge?s date of birth, as per school records, was December 11, 1936.

Justice Shivappa was hearing a case when he was informed of the development by the High Court registrar. The judge retired to his chambers and refused to comment. ?I will react after receiving the official communiqu?,? he said.

Known for his forthright and blunt ways, the judge shot into limelight in August 1996 when he turned down Jayalalitha?s plea for anticipatory bail in some corruption cases which had just come under investigation.

While Jayalalitha called it part of a campaign by the TMC-DMK combine to malign and harass her, the investigating agencies opposed the bail pleas, saying the probes had just got under way and the cases were only half-complete.

Jayalalitha then asked for a blanket anticipatory bail that would forestall her arrest on any charge and anywhere in the country.

The plea was turned down by Justice Shivappa after it was argued for nearly three months by noted lawyer Kapil Sibal.

The judge also noted the presence of a prima facie case against the ADMK chief. The state, he noted, was well within its rights to arrest an individual for interrogation if it found it necessary. Jayalalitha was arrested the next day and remanded to jail for a month.

A former advocate-general of Karnataka, Justice Shivappa was appointed a judge of the Karnataka High Court in 1994 and was transferred to Madras High Court on April 28, 1994.

Today?s development, however, has raised a few questions in legal circles.

Senior advocate V. Padmanabhan expressed surprise at the fact that the message had come from the law minister instead of Rashtrapati Bhavan or the Supreme Court. ?Why could not the law secretary write to the registrar instead of a minister sending a fax to the chief justice?? he asked.    

New Delhi, March 4 
The Bihar row threw both Houses of Parliament out of gear today as the Rashtriya Loktantrik Morcha (RLM) forced adjournment after adjournment and the Opposition demanded that the Centre either revoke President?s rule in Bihar or immediately table the resolution for ratification in Rajya Sabha.

The Opposition pointed out that the fate of the annual Bihar budget would hang in the balance if the government did not revoke President?s rule or bring the resolution before the Rajya Sabha.

?The budget would then have to be cleared by a Presidential Ordinance which is completely undemocratic,? said CPI MP Gurudas Dasgupta at a joint Opposition press conference in Parliament.

Congress spokesperson Ajit Jogi, on the other hand, asked the government to make a statement on whether the resolution was being presented in the Rajya Sabha, and if so, when. ?If the government had made a statement, this situation (the repeated adjournments) would not have occurred,? he said.

As soon as both Houses met this morning, RLM and Left members made it clear they had no intention of allowing Parliament to function. A determined Opposition in the Rajya Sabha demanded an immediate discussion on Bihar and forced the chairperson to adjourn the House for the day, barely 15 minutes after it was convened.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee ? who was present in the House ? remained silent, allowing minister for parliamentary affairs P.R. Kumaramangalam to handle the Opposition salvos.

Kumaramangalam informed the House the issue will be discussed at the Business Advisory Committee next week. Still, he could not pacify RLM members.

In both Houses, the Opposition closed ranks. The Congress refused to join the shouting brigade, but repeatedly rapped the government for bypassing constitutional norms.

In the Lok Sabha, the row dragged on till early afternoon, when the House was finally adjourned for the day. As soon as the Lok Sabha met in the morning, RLM members, led by Mulayam Singh Yadav and Laloo Yadav, attacked the government for not bringing the resolution on Bihar in the Rajya Sabha.

Left members joined the RLM in cornering the government and Congress members pitched in with their interventions against the treasury benches.

Opposition leader Sharad Pawar said the matter was related to the Constitution and the government must put the resolution before the Rajya Sabha for ratification. Countering him, BJP minister Pramod Mahajan said: ?It is very strange that the Opposition should ask for the agenda of the House. The government has already passed the resolution in the Lok Sabha and is well aware of its constitutional obligations.?    

New Delhi, March 4 
The parliamentary standing committee on finance today decided to ask the government to rewrite the Bill on the Insurance Regulatory Authority by capping foreign equity in insurance companies at 26 per cent and scrapping the provision that would enable non-resident Indians (NRIs) and overseas corporate bodies (OCBs) to hold an additional 14 per cent stake.

?This will give Indian private entrepreneurs a 74 per cent stake instead of the 60 per cent that is provided for in the original insurance Bill that was tabled last year in the winter session,? members of the committee said.

The committee also wanted to raise the minimum investment limit from Rs 100 crore to Rs 200 crore for life insurance and reinsurance business. However, it felt that the Rs 100 crore investment floor could be retained in the field of general insurance.

It also sought to increase the period within which Indian promoters have to bring down their holding to 26 per cent to 10 years from six years.

The standing committee is likely to give its approval to a modified insurance Bill before Parliament adjourns for recess on March 18.

The committee also decided that the note of dissent should be submitted before March 12 to enable it to place its report before March 18.

The government sees the passage of the insurance Bill as crucial to further the process of economic reform.

The opening up of the insurance sector is seen as an important step to help the country access long-term funds that it sorely needs to revamp the infrastructure sector.

According to the Rakesh Mohan Committee on infrastructure, the country needs an investment of $115 billion over the next 10 years.

CPI MP Gurudas Dasgupta said he and other like-minded members would be filing a dissent note as they felt the move to open up the insurance sector to private players ?was a retrograde step. It will not even fetch the government Rs 500 crore while the social welfare aspect of the insurance business will be lost forever.?

Dasgupta and other Left MPs feel that common customers would lose out in the long run with insurance premia rising and social insurance disappearing.

The insurance Bill had been opposed even within the BJP. Last year, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had to intervene at a BJP parliamentary party meeting to break the impasse over the issue.

Human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi had led a vocal section of the party in opposing the clause that said no promoter shall at any time hold more than 26 per cent of the paid-up capital.

They argued that along with the 14 per cent NRI/OCB holding, foreign companies would actually be in a position to take control of the Indian insurance companies as the local promoters would be allowed to hold just 26 per cent.    

Calcutta, March 4 
Mother Teresa?s canonisation seems imminent, with the Vatican today announcing Father Brian of the Missionary Fathers of Charity as the Postulator or the person who will argue her case for sainthood. He will fly into the city from Rome as early as Tuesday to hasten the process.

In a fax message to The Telegraph, a Vatican spokesman said they received an e-mail from the Archbishop of Calcutta, Henry D?Souza, this morning. The e-mail said: ?The Postulator will be Father Brian, MC, of the Missionary Fathers of Charity. He is due in Calcutta on March 9.??

The Missionaries of Charity said Father Brian is of Canadian origin but now based in Rome. ?He is the superior of one of our houses in Rome,?? said Father Julius of the Missionary Fathers.

Sources in the congregation disclosed that Father Brian was chosen after much deliberation. ?In the end, we chose him to argue Mother?s case before the Archbishop and the Vatican because he was close to Mother and is low-profile. Father Brian was present during Mother?s funeral. Moreover, the Postulator has to be sensitive to the people he interviews and keep their confidence,?? the source said.

Once Father Brian arrives in the city, the formal process of canonisation will begin. Vatican officials said it is now up to Archbishop D?Souza to ensure that proceedings are accelerated.

?The ball is now in the court of the local Ordinary (meaning Archbishop D?Souza). It is he who would initiate the sainthood process,?? the source said.

Vatican officials said the mood is very positive there and even locals are clamouring that Mother Teresa be declared a saint in 2000 for it marks 2,000 years of the birth of Christ.

?There is a possibility of that happening, judging by how things have unfolded. First Pope John Paul II waives the mandatory five-year waiting period and then the Postulator is appointed so quickly. One would believe that canonisation is imminent,?? the official pointed out.

The Telegraph had reported on Sunday that the Supreme Pontiff had written to the Archbishop on December 12, saying he had scrapped the mandatory five-year waiting period. According to the rule introduced in 1983, the process of canonisation can only begin five years after a person?s death.

The Vatican today said the Pope?s move is ?unprecedented and an exception??. A church official in Rome said over phone: ?It has pleasantly surprised all alike.??

When contacted at the Vatican, the Press office of the Holy See explained what prompted Pope John Paul II to take such a significant decision. In September last year, the Vatican had said the five-year period would not be waived as ?Rome has its rules?.

?The move was in response to requests from the Archbishop of Calcutta, bishops all over the world, Catholic faithful and associations,?? a spokesperson of the Press office said.

He pointed out that even the Congregation of Saints in the Vatican, which deals with canonisation, had petitioned the Pope on December 2 to waive the five-year rule.

Father Ciro Benedettini, a Vatican spokesman, today said: ?The demand was so great and insistent that the Holy Father thought he should go ahead.??

Vatican officials said the Pope, as the church?s supreme legislator, can always decide to waive a rule like this. A reason he did so in this case was that the rule seemed superfluous in the case of Mother Teresa.

The Vatican said since her death, Mother Teresa has been cited several times by the Pope as a model of holiness in action. In a recent talk on the topic of dying, the Pope said: ?Mother Teresa, along with many saints through the centuries,?? had given the kind of care and attention needed by people in the last phase of life.    

Today?s forecast: Mainly clear sky. Not much change in day and night temperature

Temperature: Maximum 33.7?C (1?C above normal )
Minimum 19.2?C (1?C above normal)

Relative humidity: Maximum 83%
Minimum 24%


Sunrise:5.59 am
Sunset: 5.37 pm

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