Tuesday, June 26, 2007
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Tuesday June 26 2007 17:52 IST
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Saturday, June 23, 2007
|Commission to maintain a close watch|
NEW DELHI: The byelection to the Madurai West Assembly constituency, scheduled for June 26, may not be postponed at this stage.
The indication was given by the Election Commission, after reviewing the situation in the constituency on Friday. It directed the Chief Electoral Officer and poll observers to maintain a close watch and send reports.
Highly placed Commission sources told The Hindu: “We will keep our option open. In the last two days, there has been some improvement in the ground situation. Chances of postponement have receded. But, it is not an improvement with which the Commission is fully satisfied. We will constantly review the situation in the run up to the polls.”
At a meeting held in the morning, the Commission considered the reports of the observers, and the response of the State Government detailing steps taken to improve the law and order situation in the constituency, including arrests made in the last two days.
Earlier in the day, a senior Union Minister belonging to the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam spoke to a Commissioner to ascertain whether the byelection would be postponed. According to the sources, the Commissioner told him that reports of Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi threatening to go on indefinite fast amounted to a “veiled threat.”
The Minister informed the Commission that the Chief Minister had not issued any such statement.
Subsequently, Union Shipping Minister and leader of the DMK Parliamentary Party, T.R. Baalu, issued a statement (to PTI) that reports of Mr. Karunanidhi threatening to go on fast were “baseless and false.” He added: “My leader has not made any statement to that effect.”
The Commission sources said the Prime Minister’s Office also got in touch with the Commission and denied reports that Mr. Karunanidhi would go on fast. The Commission made it clear to the PMO that it could not accept a private denial for a public statement. Either the statement must be withdrawn, or there must be a public denial.
According to the sources, Chief Secretary L.K. Tripathy, faxed a letter to the Commission stating that he had spoken to the Chief Minister, and the latter had denied having issued any statement that he would go on fast.
The Commission, after a second meeting in the evening, decided not to postpone the elections at this juncture.
© Copyright 2000 - 2006 The Hindu
MK scuttled EC move on postponement: Jaya
Friday June 22 2007 13:18 IST
MADURAI: Launching a frontal attack on Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, AIADMK general secretary J Jayalalithaa on Thursday accused him of blackmailing UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi to arm-twist the Election Commission from postponing the June 26 bypoll to the Madurai West Assembly Constituency.
Speaking at an election meeting here to seek votes for her party candidate Sellur K Raju, she said the Congress president was meekly caving in to the pressure exerted by the DMK. Apprehensive of a crisis to the ruling coalition at the Centre, the Congress had ensured that the by-election was not postponed, she added.
According to her, the EC had taken a serious view of the largescale violations and money distribution in the constituency and was all set to issue the order, deferring the elections. However, Karunanidhi had successfully scuttled it, she claimed.
Referring to the Presidential election, she charged Karunanidhi with working against the interests of the Tamils by denying President APJ Abdul Kalam, a ‘proud’ Tamil, a second term.
The DMK chief, who is never tired of claiming the leadership for the Tamils, was only interested in securing a Cabinet berth for his daughter Kanimozhi. This was the deal he had struck with the Congress to extend support for Pratibha Patil, the UPA candidate, she said.
Taking on the Chief Minister for promoting his son M K Azhagiri as an extra-constitutional authority, she said this had led to the collapse of the law and order machinery in the southern districts.
Listing out the various charges against Azhagiri, she said that he was the prime accused in the murder of DMK former minister Tha Kiruttinan and in the Dinakaran attack case. She also said that Azhagiri only presided over the cash distribution to voters, besides indulging in intimidation tactics in the by-election.
Taking a dig at the Chief Minister being eulogized as ‘Manu Neethi Cholan’, she asked whether Karunanidhi was prepared to render justice like the legendary king to the families of the three employees of Dinakaran, who died in the attack on the office of the daily, reportedly by the supporters of Azhagiri.
Even the Maran brothers, who cried foul initially, were negotiating for a compromise, forgetting the assurance given to secure justice for the employees of the newspaper, she remarked.
‘‘ Can we forgive them?’’ she asked the people. She expressed confidence that the voters could not be ‘purchased’ and if that was the case, only the Tatas and Birlas would be ruling the country.
She blamed the DMK Government for failing to implement the promises made during the Assembly elections and the spiralling prices of essential commodities and appealed to the electorate to use this by-election for a political change at the Centre as well as in the State.
MDMK General Secretary Vaiko and a host of former AIADMK ministers were also present.
THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS
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Saturday June 23 2007 00:30 IST
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Thursday, June 21, 2007
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Dinamani dated 21-06-2007
Sunday, June 17, 2007
|Why didn't UPA consider only women candidates?|
PROTOCOL SET ASIDE: Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat comes out after meeting Rajasthan Governor and UPA's Presidential candidate Pratibha Patil in New Delhi on Saturday.
NEW DELHI: Rejecting bids by the United Progressive Alliance to arrive at consensus on the Presidential candidate, the Bharatiya Janata Party on Saturday said such attempts were not made "in the spirit of consensus."
Senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said here that a contest was a certainty as the National Democratic Alliance would formally declare its support for Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat at its meeting on June 18.
Mr. Shekhawat will run for President as an independent. Claiming that the UPA's candidature of Rajasthan Governor Pratibha Patil was "made under compulsion," Ms. Swaraj said it was "neither the first, nor the preferred and certainly not the natural choice" of the ruling coalition. It was now presenting the "fake argument" of fielding a woman.
"Fear of defeat"
Ms. Swaraj said the fear of defeat was haunting the UPA, and its constituents agreed to Ms. Patil's candidature to save the alliance.
To a query why the BJP could not support a woman candidate for President, Ms. Swaraj asked if the UPA was so keen on fielding a woman why it did not consider the names of only women candidates? Before and after Ms. Patil's candidature, many male candidates were proposed, she said. The Congress' first choice was Home Minister Shivraj Patil, while External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee was the Left parties' first preference.
Ms. Swaraj said consensus could not be reached as "loyalty to the Gandhi family" appeared the sole criterion for narrowing down the choice to Ms. Patil. "Loyalty to one family vs. loyalty to the Constitution and the nation" would become a major poll issue.
Confident of the victory of the NDA-supported candidate, she said the Presidential polls were not contested on party symbols. "Mr. Shekhawat has a great stature. He resigned from the BJP the moment he assumed office of Vice-President. All Presidential candidates are in fact independents and all of them can appeal to the electoral college; there is no concept of cross-voting as there is no party whip and there is no arithmetic."
To another query, Ms. Swaraj said the Shiv Sena would also support Mr. Shekhawat's candidature and it would announce its decision on June 19.
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Monday, June 4, 2007
Ramaswamy R. Iyer
|There should be provision for an appeal to the highest court against a tribunal's award. But this should be after the reference back to the tribunal and the receipt of its supplementary or clarificatory order.|
THE POINT of departure for this article is the fact that the Special Leave Petitions (SLPs) against the Cauvery Tribunal's Final Order submitted by three States (Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala) have been admitted by the Supreme Court and will be heard further, but the article is not about the merits of those petitions; it is about the role of the Supreme Court in such cases.
Over the years, several inter-State river water disputes have come up before the Supreme Court with reference to a variety of issues such as the competence of the Tribunal to deal with a request for an interim allocation (Cauvery); the non-implementation of an Order of the Tribunal (Cauvery); failures on the environmental and rehabilitation fronts (Narmada); the constitutionality of an Act of a State Legislature terminating all past water accords (Punjab); etc. In each of these cases, what went before the Supreme Court was not the water-sharing issue, which had been adjudicated or was under adjudication by a Tribunal, but some other related legal or constitutional issue. For the first time in the history of the Inter-State Water Disputes Act 1956 as amended in 2002 (ISWD Act), the SLPs in the Cauvery case have brought the Tribunal-adjudicated water-sharing issue itself before the Supreme Court. Some interesting questions arise in this context, which this article will proceed to set forth.
In the case of any SLP under Article 136 (whether relating to river-water disputes or any other), the Supreme Court has first to decide in its discretion whether it should grant or deny the requested Special Leave. It appears that such a process of reasoned decision-making was not gone through in this case. The SLPs seem to have been admitted forthwith without discussion.
The need for a considered grant or denial of Special Leave would apply to all SLPs, but it was particularly important in this case. Whatever the justification for SLPs in other cases, there is a special hurdle to be crossed in the case of an SLP against an ISWD Tribunal's award, namely a specific and explicit exclusion of the jurisdiction of the courts, including the Supreme Court, by the ISWD Act, based on an enabling provision in Article 262. One would have expected that bar to be taken note of and the means of overcoming it gone into before the petitions were admitted.
It is, of course, possible that this aspect will be examined when the petitions are taken up for detailed hearing. However, it is not clear how the question of jurisdiction will come up at that stage. The petitioners are hardly likely to raise the issue. Perhaps the learned judges themselves will do so. But does not the very admission of the petitions constitute an implicit decision on admissibility? Having admitted them, how can the Supreme Court go into the question of admissibility? Will it not be inevitably led into an examination of the merits of the petitions? Will that be in order?
This writer is not arguing (a) that the bar of the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court was right; or (b) that the bar is absolute and cannot be overcome. He has been arguing for years that a single, non-appealable decision by an ISWD Tribunal was likely to leave one or more parties to the dispute with a sense of injustice; that it was desirable to amend the ISWD Act to provide for an appeal against the Tribunal's Final Order to the Supreme Court; that such cases were going to the Supreme Court anyway on other related issues, and it would make sense to recognise and provide for this; and that if the Supreme Court gives a decision on an appeal against the Award, the likelihood of non-compliance might be greatly reduced. However, these ideas have not so far found acceptance. The ISWD Act remains unamended insofar as the bar of jurisdiction of the courts is concerned.
What are the ways in which the bar can be overcome? Among the possible routes are Articles 32, 131, and 136 of the Constitution.
Article 32 relates to fundamental rights, and it does not seem easy to invoke it in the context of river water sharing. That Article was, in fact, invoked in a petition by the Bangalore Water Users' Association. Among the BWUA's arguments was the one that the Tribunal's allocation to Karnataka did not make an adequate provision for Bangalore's drinking water needs and that this constituted a violation of a fundamental right. It is not clear whether the fundamental right to drinking water implies a fundamental right to drinking water from a particular source, namely the Cauvery. There are other related issues, including above all the question whether any individual or organisation other than a State Government had any locus standi in relation to adjudication under the ISWD Act. In the event, the Supreme Court dismissed the BWUA's petition on the ground of absence of locus standi. The question of fundamental rights, etc., did not come up at all.
Article 131 is about Centre-State or inter-State disputes in general, whereas Article 262 is specifically about inter-State river water disputes. It is not clear to this writer how a general provision can be invoked in a case covered by a specific provision. Besides, clause (2) of Article 262 that enables the barring of the jurisdiction of the courts begins with the words "Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution": that does not seem to leave recourse to Article 131 open. However, the question whether Article 131 provides a route for an appeal to the Supreme Court against an ISWD Tribunal's Order has not come up for consideration.
Article 136 is the actual route taken by the three petitioner States in this case. The wording of the Article, and in particular the reference to "any Court or tribunal in the territory of India," seems to bring the ISWD Tribunals within the purview of the Article, but we cannot forget the specific bar in the ISWD Act in pursuance of Article 262; and, as mentioned above, that Article begins with a "notwithstanding anything in this Constitution" clause. Is that clause over-ridden by Article 136? That question was not discussed before the petitions were admitted. Perhaps it will come up at a later stage.
It must be noted that all four parties to the dispute have also submitted petitions to the Tribunal for a clarificatory or supplementary order, as provided for in the ISWD Act. Simultaneously, then, the dispute will be before both the Supreme Court and the Tribunal. Does that not create an intriguing and possibly untenable situation?
Finally, there is a further question of some importance. If a way out of the bar of jurisdiction can be found via Article 32 or 131 or 136 in this case, it can be found in every case. Under what circumstances will the bar actually operate? Surely a bar that can be removed in every case is not a bar at all. Speaking subject to correction by legal experts, and of course subject to whatever the Supreme Court may eventually lay down in this case, it seems to this writer that the establishment of a route to the Supreme Court against an ISWD Tribunal's Award via other constitutional provisions will be tantamount to amendments to Article 262 of the Constitution and the ISWD Act. As argued earlier, such amendments may indeed be needed; but should they not be explicitly made?
In conclusion, we must take note of an alternative suggestion made by the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution. This was to the effect that the ISWD Act should be repealed and that inter-State river water disputes should be brought within the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, as is the case in the United States. Without entering into an elaborate discussion on that subject (as warranted by its importance), this writer would merely say that there is no need to repeal the ISWD Act and bring such cases within the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court; and that the one serious weakness in the present dispensation, namely, that some of the parties to a dispute may be left with a feeling of grievance or injustice, can be remedied by providing for an appeal to the Supreme Court against the award of a tribunal (after the completion of the reference back to the tribunal and the receipt of its supplementary or clarificatory Order).
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