Flicker of mercy for Rajiv killers
Mamata jumps on to Hindi mail
Netaji ash appeal jars Jaswant

Chennai, Nov. 25: 
The Madras High Court today set aside Tamil Nadu Governor Fathima Beevi?s order rejecting the mercy petitions of the four sentenced to death for killing Rajiv Gandhi.

Justice K. Govindarajan held the order invalid on the ground that the Governor did not ask for the advice of the council of ministers. The judge directed her to reconsider the petitions after getting the government?s opinion as mandated by Constitution.

??The impugned order is not valid in law and it cannot be sustained,?? he said. ??It is for the Governor to pass fresh orders on the petitions after getting the advice of the council of ministers.??

With the DMK unwilling to ruffle its supporters sympathetic to the Tamil Eelam cause, the government is likely to suggest that the four on death row ? Nalini, Murugan, Chinna Santhan and Perarivalan ? be granted clemency and their sentences reduced to life imprisonment.

Chief minister M. Karunanidhi refused to comment on the court order, saying he had not gone through its details.

The judgment follows Congress president Sonia Gandhi?s appeal to President K.R. Narayanan to spare Nalini on the ground that she is the mother of an eight-year-old girl.

The date for the execution of the four has been postponed by the Centre as the President has been flooded with over 10,000 mercy petitions on their behalf.

The accused, however, have not made any direct appeal yet to Narayanan. The President has indicated he will follow the home ministry?s advice.

In the high court in Chennai, Tamil Nadu additional advocate-general T.R. Rajagopalan argued that under Article 161, the Governor was not bound to seek and abide by the advice of the council of ministers.

The relevant business rules were silent on the issue and Beevi had enough discretionary powers to decide on the issue, Rajagopalan said.

He added that the state government had given the Governor all relevant material and she rejected the mercy pleas after going through the facts and the notings on the files, endorsed by the chief minister himself.

Rajagopalan claimed that on at least 240 occasions, Governors had decided on mercy petitions on the basis of facts made available to them. In no case had the opinion of the council of ministers been sought.

But Justice Govindarajan rejected these arguments, saying that the mere absence of any mention in the business rules does not override the constitutional requirement to obtain the advice of the ministry when deciding on mercy petitions.

??When the Governor cannot act on his or her own to decide the petitions under Article 161, it cannot be said that seeking such advice is not necessary,?? the judge said.

He also made it clear that cases where the Governor can use discretionary powers do not include mercy petitions.

??The Governor enjoys nothing more and nothing less than the status of constitutional head in a Cabinet-type government, a few exceptions apart,?? Justice Govindarajan said.

He also cited several Supreme Court judgments to show that the Governor was bound to seek the opinion of the council of ministers.    

New Delhi, Nov. 25: 
Beware Bangla brigade. Mamatadi is on the track to become Mamataji.

Taking time off her inauguration-a-day schedule in Bengal, the railway minister today went national, announcing a Rajyabhasha Coach to promote the Rashtra Bhasha. The coach will be attached to different trains and it will eulogise the use of Hindi.

Mamata?s brainwave came this afternoon when the Hindi advisory board called on her at Railway Bhavan this evening. It also coincides with efforts in her home state by a section of the intelligentsia to swear by all things Bengali.

Mamata has already stolen a march over the Left Front in Bengal by renaming Sealdah station Kolkata before the government could do the same to Calcutta. But having come this far, she has switched track.

Mamata, who speaks a smattering of Hindi, jumped at a board?s suggestion and gave the green signal to the Rajyabhasha Coach. The theme of the project will be Rail ki bhasha, mail ki bhasha, Hindi bhasha.

Mamata has also decided to have a group of stage performers trained and enact plays on important railway stations that falls on the route of the coach. They will sings paeans to Hindi as the link language and underline the need for national integration.

The minister said she had more plans to make the golden jubilee year of the official language more significant. Film director Shyam Benegal had been requested to make a 13-episode serial on ?Rail and Hindi?.

The board members were surprised at the alacrity with which she grabbed the proposal. But Mamata told the committee g that Hindi, like the railway, linked the whole country and it had no substitute as a link language.

Mamata recalled that the Tamil leader, Gopalswamy Iyenger, had introduced in the Constituent Assembly 50 years ago the resolution for declaring Hindi as the official language.

Besides, the move to make Hindi the link language was supported by several non-Hindi speaking leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Keshav Chandra Sen, Rabindranath Tagore, Subramaniam Bharati and Lala Lajpat Rai.    

Tokyo, Nov. 25: 
Jawaharlal Nehru dodged the issue. So did his daughter. But Jaswant Singh could not.

At a meeting with Japanese industrialists today, the foreign minister was cornered into saying that the government would make efforts to bring back an urn believed to contain Netaji?s ashes to India. The urn is kept in the Renkoji Temple here.

Singh visited the temple this morning and saw the glass urn. Though he did not mention Netaji by name, he wrote in the visitor?s book: ??This is a rare privilege to be so fortunate as to come to this shrine and pay homage to the memory of a great son of India.?? Even this could raise eyebrows as neither Pandit Nehru or Indira Gandhi had written anything that could be linked to Subhas Bose.

Successive governments in Delhi have side-stepped Japanese requests to take back the urn, fearing political backlash on the sensitive issue. India officially maintains that Netaji did not die in the 1945 air crash and a committee has been formed to look into the circumstances leading to his disappearance.

Singh made the statement during a meeting with captains of industry at the Imperial Hotel. Midway through the session, he was bluntly asked by an elderly gentleman why India was hesitating to take back Netaji?s remains. The septuagenarian, who identified himself as a close associate of Netaji, said: ?This is about the ashes and remains of Subhas Chandra Bose. I have been associated with this for 54 years.?

He said he was a member of the Indian National Army and had fought the British in Imphal and Manipur. ??What we would like now is for the Indian government to accept the ashes so that they can find a resting place in his own country,?? he said.

Caught off guard, Singh paused for a few minutes before replying. ?I appreciate your sentiments. This is an issue of high emotional attachment for India and Japan,? the foreign minister said. ?I will persuade my government to work with utmost concern so that the ashes can find a resting place in his homeland.?

Indian journalists tried in vain to get the name of the elderly gentleman. Office-bearers at the Joint Forum of Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry said he was not a businessman.

Unlike Singh, who paid tribute to ?a great son of India?, both Nehru and Indira wrote on Buddhism when they visited the temple on different occasions.

??May the light of Buddha continue to guide us towards truth and peace and the service of the people,?? Indira Gandhi wrote during a visit to the temple in 1969.

However, many here ask why Indian leaders insist on visiting Renkoji since it is not among the better known temples in Japan. It attracted visitors only after the urn was kept there in 1945.    

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