Delhi deals diesel price blow
Old whine in new Jayas
Mansingh leads foreign secy race
Crime in Calcutta, complaint in capital
Man shot dead in Salt Lake

New Delhi, Oct. 5 
With the ballots stashed away beyond the reach of voter backlash, the Centre tonight raised the prices of high-speed diesel by 40 per cent ? the steepest-ever increase.

The new rates came into effect from midnight. The revision of diesel prices was long overdue but the BJP-led government thought it prudent to defer the blow till the elections were over. This is the ninth revision since domestic diesel prices were pegged to international rates around 18 months ago.

The price increase is bound to have a cascading effect on the economy, but the government claimed it can manage the fallout in view of the low inflation rate.

However, the political temperature soared immediately with the Congress claiming that the way the revision had been brought about showed the BJP-led government had a ?hidden agenda for everything?.

Congress spokesman Kapil Sibal said the decision must have been taken earlier, but it was kept pending as it would have harmed the BJP and its allies in the election.

The Janata Dal (United), an ally of the BJP, sprung to the government?s defence, saying the prices were increased in ?national interest?.

The diesel price mark-up will yield an additional Rs 6,600 crore. However, the government?s oil fund will still be short of Rs 3,400 crore by next March 31 unless the prices of other petroleum products are raised.

M.S. Ramachandran, executive director of the Oil Coordination Committee, said the price increase was only Rs 2.75 per litre, but the retail rates were higher on account of excise duty and sales tax.

The government said the latest round of revision was necessitated by the rise in international prices. The average international price in September, on which the new domestic price is based, was $ 162.10 per tonne ? up from $ 97.38 in March.

Ramachandran acknowledged that the Cabinet had decided to phase out the subsidy on cooking gas and kerosene.

However, with the government sparing cooking gas and kerosene, diesel had to bear the blow.    

New Delhi, Oct. 5 
At last an election whose superscript can be read ahead of the fineprint ? the Atal Behari Vajpayee-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is heading back to power, the Sonia Gandhi-led Congress looks set to be pipped at the post yet again. So if you are heading for your television sets with a sense of expectation, there isn?t any great suspense locked in the box.

Exit polls have competed over the last few weeks to tell the nation what it already had a sure hunch about: Vajpayee is returning as Prime Minister. The Doordarshan poll has given him a 287 majority, STAR News has handed him a greater victory ? 295-305 seats in the 13th Lok Sabha.

The main contenders have themselves blown the thrill of suspense, the Congress more than the NDA. Sonia?s party gave up the simple majority rhetoric early in the campaign and has conceded that the best it hopes for is to emerge as the single-largest party. The NDA, on the other hand, continues to rave with confidence about a substantial majority, perhaps a 300-plus tally.

But in the NDA?s excess might lie its troubles; the fineprint of this poll may be more absorbing than the superscript. Vajpayee approaches power at the head of an unprecedented coalition of regional forces and political personae. The challenge of managing their contradictions would be an unenviable task. His last outing in power was undone by a single constituent ? Jayalalitha of the ADMK ? and though she is out of the coalition now, few would bet Vajpayee has insulated his brood from potential Jayalalithas.

There is the demanding, though politically more sober, Chandrababu Naidu of Andhra Pradesh, and the stormy Mamata Banerjee, raring to join the government this time. There is the ambitious George Fernandes, there is the more ambitious Ram Vilas Paswan. And there are the old socialists like Sharad Yadav, born-again riders of the saffron bandwagon with a proven record for political volatility. Sharad, even if he were to lose Madhepura to Laloo Yadav, will demand a pride of place in the new set-up.

If Cabinet formation forced Vajpayee to throw up his arms in disgust the last time ? it took close to 10 days for the government to be finalised ? this time it may be no less easy, despite the majority the NDA appears set to get. As one observer put it: ?The current alliance is only a greater coalition of more troublesome partners. Fighting elections is one thing, sharing power quite another. Vajpayee may have to have an embarrassingly huge Cabinet if only as a means of damage control.?

Not least of Vajpayee?s problems will come from the BJP. For all the energetic Vajpayee-backing during the election campaign, L.K. Advani is learnt to be none too comfortable with Vajpayee?s growing stature as statesman and may want to opt out of government. Advani?s possible option: assume presidentship of the BJP, so that he can enhance the party?s falling say in governance and exert pressure from outside.

For Sonia Gandhi, it would be another battle lost. It remains to be seen how much of that had to do with her Italian origin, for that never really became an issue at the grassroots. What was evident, however, was the near-total absence of Congress organisation. The last election she campaigned for the Congress as an outsider, but this battle she fought as Congress president; she must, more than the last poll, shoulder blame for the defeat. But the Congress? cloud has a silver lining. It is on the recovery path in Uttar Pradesh ? thanks, in the main, to Sonia and Priyanka ? and but for Sharad Pawar, it could have had a real shot at government formation in New Delhi. Instead of a potential power-earning 30-plus seats, the Congress stands to end up a poor second to the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance in Maharashtra.    

New Delhi, Oct. 5 
Lalit Mansingh, high commissioner to London, is tipped to succeed K. Raghunath as foreign secretary.

Though Raghunath, who is on a two-year extension, will step down on November 30, the race for the foreign secretary?s post has started hotting up. The diplomatic corps is abuzz with speculation on who will bag the plum job in South Block.

A 1963 batch Indian Foreign Service officer, Mansingh was sent to London last year. Indications are that if the BJP-led coalition returns to power, he may be recalled and asked to take over from Raghunath.

However, in case the Congress comes to power, Chandra Shekhar Dasgupta, posted in Brussels as India?s ambassador to the European Commission, could be appointed foreign secretary. Dasgupta, who belongs to the 1962 IFS batch, is believed to be close to Congress leader and former foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee.

Dasgupta, who gained from the Centre?s decision to raise the retirement age to 60, lost the race for foreign secretary last year when the A.B. Vajpayee government extended Raghunath?s tenure by another year.

Though considered a highly competent officer, Dasgupta, who has also served as ambassador to China, lost out for his apparent proximity to the Congress.

Mansingh, too, was in the running last year. But he was sent to London after the government decided to continue with Raghunath.

Mansingh has served in Geneva, Abu Dhabi, Kabul, Washington, Lagos and as the director-general of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations. Before leaving for the United Kingdom, he was the dean of the Foreign Service Institute.

Mansingh was posted in London at a time when India was keen to re-build its relations with Britain, which had plunged drastically after the Pokhran blasts in May last year.

But the ties have since improved considerably and some sections in South Block have expressed doubts whether the present set-up in the London mission should be disturbed.

But others disagree. ??Nothing can be more important than the foreign secretary?s job. If the government wants to give him the top job, it can also look for a replacement for him in London,?? a senior diplomat said.

A dark horse in the race could be the high commissioner in Dhaka, Deb Mukherjee. He is from the 1964 IFS batch and if given the foreign secretary?s post, will get two years in the top post.

Another officer in the running is Nareshwar Dayal, who holds the post of secretary (east ) in the foreign ministry and is Mukherjee?s batch mate.

Though the foreign secretary?s post usually goes to the seniormost serving official in the external affairs ministry, there have been many instances when junior officers have been given the job, superseding seniors.

Much depends on the political dispensation of the day which selects the incumbent for this high-profile post. The choice for Raghunath?s successor will, therefore, change depending on whether it is the BJP-led coalition or the Congress which wins the race for Delhi.    

New Delhi, Oct. 5 
A police complaint can now be filed countrywide for any crime committed anywhere. An FIR for an offence committed in Calcutta, for instance, can now be filed in New Delhi and the courts will have to take cognizance.

The Supreme Court today ruled that an FIR could be filed in any police station in the country. High courts cannot quash an FIR on the ground that it was not filed in the police station within the jurisdiction of which the crime was committed.

In a landmark judgment expanding the horizon of criminal jurisprudence, the division bench of Justice K.T. Thomas and Justice M.B. Shah set aside a Delhi High Court order quashing an FIR lodged in the capital for an offence committed in Patiala.

Satvinder Kaur was allegedly harassed and tortured by her husband and in-laws for dowry at their Patiala residence. After returning to her parents? home in Delhi, she lodged an FIR in a police station in the capital.

The husband appealed before the high court that for an offence allegedly committed in Patiala, no FIR could be filed in Delhi. The court upheld the appeal.

Setting aside this judgment today, the apex court said: ??The findings of the high court are, on the face of it, illegal and erroneous because the station house officer of the Delhi police station where the FIR was lodged can investigate any cognizable offence under Section 156 of the Criminal Procedure Code.??

The judges said that ??at the stage of investigation??, there should not be any interference by courts under Section 482 of the CrPC on the ground that the ??investigating officer has no territorial jurisdiction?.

Further expanding the scope of criminal law, the bench said: ??If upon an investigation, it appears to the officer-in-charge of the police station that there is sufficient or reasonable grounds of suspicion to justify the forwarding of the accused to a magistrate, the officer shall forward the accused under custody to a magistrate empowered to take cognizance of the offence on a police report and try the accused or commit for trial.??

The judges said that if the investigating officer feels the crime was not committed within the jurisdiction of the police station, then the FIR can be forwarded to the police station concerned. ?But this would not mean that in a case which requires investigation, the police officer can refuse to record the FIR and investigate it,? the court added.

The judges made it clear that ?there is no absolute prohibition that the offence committed beyond the local territorial jurisdiction cannot be investigated, inquired or tried?. ??No proceeding of a police officer shall be challenged on the ground that he has no territorial power to investigate,?? they said.    

Calcutta, Oct. 5 
A valiant driver was gunned down at CD block in Salt Lake when he took on a group of miscreants trying to rob a woman late on Tuesday night. He was identified as Fatik Karmakar, 34.

The police said that around 10.30 pm, three miscreants surrounded a woman, who was walking back home alone, and attacked her. They snatched her gold chain, but the woman raised an alarm.

Karmakar, who was parking his car nearby, witnessed the incident. He chased the gang and nabbed one of them. One of the gangsters then whipped out a gun and fired at Karmakar point-blank.

He was hit on the head and died on way to hospital. The gangsters escaped.    


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