Saturday, August 30, 2008

Defamation litigation: a survivor's kit

Defamation litigation: a survivor's kit

By Subramanian Swamy

The Supreme Court judgment in the Nakkeeran case is the main tool in the survival kit for honest media and other critics of politicians against libel litigation.

ON SEPTEMBER 17, the Tamil Nadu Government filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court stating that it had ordered the withdrawal of 125 defamation cases filed against The Hindu and various other publications. This is a tribute especially to The Hindu `parivar' for showing guts and challenging the constitutionality of the cases filed against its representatives. The Jayalalithaa Government chose discretion over valour by not risking the Supreme Court striking down the libel statute itself as unconstitutional. Rather than lose permanently the weapon of state harassment of critics that defamation law represents, the Government chose to back down.

This is the second time that the AIADMK State Government has directed a carte blanche withdrawal of defamation cases. The first time was on January 1, 1994 when the Tamil Nadu Government withdrew numerous defamation cases filed against me in several Sessions Courts in the State. The reason then was the same: the Supreme Court Bench of Chief Justice M.N. Venkatachalaiah and Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy had heard extensive arguments from me as petitioner in person and the Tamil Nadu Government counsel on the defamation law, and then orally asked why the law should not be struck down. The Government counsel then asked for time, and came back a week later to say that all the cases against me had been withdrawn. Hence, the cause of action for my petition disappeared, and my petition became infructuous. I was personally relieved but the law survived for use on another day.

But Justice Jeevan Reddy, who had listened to me with great care, went on to write a landmark judgment in the Nakkeeran case [1994] that incorporated the core of my arguments and citations from the United States Supreme Court and the United Kingdom's House of Lords. That judgment today c. The judgment however needs to be developed further by more decided cases further clarified by continued challenge to state-sponsored defamation litigation that has become far too frequent in the country, so that freedom of speech and expression can become more deep and extensive than at present.

Under the Indian Constitution, the fundamental right to free speech (Article 19) is subject to "reasonable restrictions." What is reasonable is subjective in a society; it can only be developed to some objectivity by cases decided in courts [`case law'] and according to the political culture of the times. At present, reasonableness is codified in two laws — first, in exceptions to criminal culpability incorporated in Sections 499 and 500 of the British colonial statute known as the Indian Penal Code (1870), and second, the limits to civil liability incorporated as tort law. In India, defamation proceedings can be initiated under either or both, together or in sequence. Most democratic countries have however done away with the criminal law, which is archaic and draconian. But India has not yet done so.

What is one to do if one receives a court summons for alleged defamation? For example, I once received a summons from a Delhi court because I had called a BJP leader, V.K. Malhotra, "an ignoramus." The remark was made by me during the Lok Sabha proceedings, but lifted by a sub-editor and inserted in a column I wrote for the magazine.

Under the law, I had to prove that it was true — or face imprisonment. Now, how does one prove that a person is an ignoramus in a court of law? Add to that the harassment I would have to suffer of travelling to court at least 10 times a year for at least five years to attend the case or face a warrant for my production in court. Or I would have to engage a lawyer who would charge me a hefty sum. All this for a mild rebuke of a political leader? The editor of the magazine decided he could not stomach it, so he apologised for printing the remark. I was left holding the bag.

However, I fought the case and won. Mr. Malhotra was directed to pay me Rs.8,000 as compensation for my petrol bills, which he paid with some reluctance. Now how did I do it?

I pulled out of my survival kit the first tool of defence: in a defamation case, the aggrieved person must prove "publication," which means Mr. Malhotra would have to prove first that I had, in the original text given to the magazine, written what was printed. The onus was on him to produce the original. Now which magazine keeps the original? He failed to produce it and I won.

In a 1997 press conference, I made some charges against Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi. He used Section 199 of the Criminal Procedure Code to get the Public Prosecutor to file a defamation case. This meant the contest in court was between me and the state, and not between me and the Chief Minister personally. Thus the Government would spend the money out of the public exchequer and use Government counsel to prosecute me, a totally unequal contest and wholly unfair (even if legal).

If Section 199 had not been there, the Chief Minister would have personally been the complainant and I would have had the right to cross-examine him. Now which busy politician would like that? Hence, I pulled out the second tool in my survival kit. I filed an application before the judge making the point that the alleged defamation related to the personal conduct of the Chief Minister and not to anything he did in the course of public duty. I argued that Section 199 would not apply. Thereafter, the State Public Prosecutor quickly lost interest in the case. Had the judge rejected my prayer, I would have gone in appeal to the Supreme Court and got Section 199 struck down. But alas, I could not.

In 1988 another Chief Minister, Ramakrishna Hegde, filed a suit against me under tort law for Rs.2 crore damages for my allegation that he was tapping telephones and using his office to benefit a relative in land deals. Although ultimately, the Kuldip Singh Commission and a parliamentary committee studying the Telegraph Act upheld my contentions, I would have had a problem had the court decided the case before these inquiry reports came out.

So I pulled out the third tool in my survival kit, namely the U.S. Supreme Court case laws, the most famous of which was The New York Times case decided in 1964. Contrary to popular impression, U.S. case laws on fundamental rights are applicable to India following a Supreme Court judgment in an Indian Express case in 1959.

Furthermore, since 1994, these U.S. case laws have become substantially a part of Indian law, thanks to Justice Jeevan Reddy's judgment in the Nakkeeran case.

The principle in these case laws, restricted to public persons suing for damages, is wonderfully protective of free speech: if a person in public life, including one in government, feels aggrieved by a defamatory statement, then that person must first prove in court that the defamatory statement is not only false, but that the maker of the statement knew it to be false. That is, it must be proved by the defamed plaintiff to be a reckless disregard of the truth by the defamer defendant. This principle thus reversed the traditional onus on the defamer to prove his or her allegation, and placed the burden of proof on the defamed.

This reversal of burden of proof is just, essentially because a public person has the opportunity to go before the media and rebut the defamation in a way aggrieved private persons cannot do. If criticism and allegations against a public person have to be proved in a court of law, what is likely to happen is that public spirited individuals will be discouraged and thus dissuaded from making the criticism. This is what the U.S. Supreme Court in the famous New York Times case characterised as a "chilling effect" on public debate; it held this to be bad for democracy.

Hence the need to balance the protection of reputation in law with the democratic need for transparency and vibrant public debate. The U.S. Supreme Court admirably set the balance for freedom and democracy.

Since Mr. Hegde was an intelligent man, he recognised what my survival strategy meant. He would have come on the stand in court. He would have been examined and cross-examined on why what I said was not true, and how he knew that I had known all along that my charges were false and yet I made them. He therefore sent me a message one day wanting to know if I would call it quits. So his defamation case went from one adjournment to another, until it lapsed upon his death. Before his passing, Hegde and I met. Both of us agreed that it was unwise for politicians who have so much access to the media to rebut charges to file defamation cases and waste the time of already overburdened courts. I got the impression that some sharp lawyer was behind his temporary loss of judgment in filing the case.

Today, with developing case laws, defamation litigation has become a toothless tiger for politicians to use against the media. There are enough dental tools in my survival kit to ensure this. I am therefore writing a full Manual on how to expose dishonest politicians and get away without being harassed in court. I hope honest critics will no more hesitate to speak their minds about what they know to be the truth even if they cannot prove this in court beyond a reasonable doubt.

I am happy therefore that The Hindu chose to fight it out rather than capitulate. More should follow its lead for a better democracy and a freer media.

(The author, an economist, is a former Union Law Minister. As a rule he argues his own cases in court without the agency of lawyers.)

© Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu

Friday, August 29, 2008

Chiranjeevi breathes easy as row over party name resolved

Chiranjeevi breathes easy as row over party name resolved


29 Aug 2008 09:24:00 PM IST

HYDERABAD: In a major relief for Telugu superstar Chiranjeevi, the row over his newly-launched party's name 'Praja Rajyam' was resolved Friday after the advocate who had staked claim to the name agreed to withdraw his application.

Chenna Krishnaiah, an advocate of Kadpa district, met the Election Commission of India officials in New Delhi and agreed to withdraw his application for registration of 'Praja Rajyam' made a month ago.

Chiranjeevi's aides reportedly succeeded in convincing Krishnaiah to withdraw his application and in return promised a key post in the party, sources said here.

Chiranjeevi Tuesday launched his political party 'Praja Rajyam' at a mammoth rally at the temple town of Tirupati. However, his close aides and supporters had to face embarrassment when Krishnaiah claimed Thursday that he had already applied to the Election Commission for registration of a party with the same name.

The actor's camp swung into action to convince Krishnaiah, who had applied for registration in July and was given a month's time by the Election Commission to complete the formalities.

Chiranjeevi's aide Vinay Kumar rushed to Delhi to fulfil the legal formalities for the registration after it was pointed out that their application was riddled with errors and had only 88 signatures instead of the mandatory 100.

Vinay Kumar and two other leaders of Chiranjeevi's party from Kadpa district met Krishaniah in Delhi and they together called on Election Commission officials. It was during this meeting that Krishnaiah is understood to have withdrawn his application.

Party spokesman P. Mitra told newsmen that it had applied for registration and fulfilled the criteria. "Our legal department is looking into the issue. We are confident the Election Commission will accept our application," he said.

A day before Chiranjeevi's meeting at Tirupati, Krishnaiah announced that he has registered a party by the name 'Praja Rajyam' with the Election Commission in New Delhi on June 14 this year.

Krishnaiah, an advocate from Lakkireddypalli town in Kadapa district and a member of the washermen community, said that he was launching the party to help the downtrodden. His party planned to contest all the Lok Sabha and assembly seats in Kadapa district.

As news of Krishnaiah claiming registration of 'Praja Rajyam' spread, Chiranjeevi's fans mounted pressure on him to withdraw his application to ensure a smooth political debut for the actor.

© Copyright 2008 ExpressBuzz


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Who is the next CM of Pondicherry?

Who is the next CM of Pondicherry?

Wednesday August 27 2008 08:05 IST

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Monday, August 25, 2008

TN: 29 eye patients feared loses eye sight at Free Eye Camp

Dinamalar ePaper

Also read the related stories

Villupuram Collector meets eye patients

Special Correspondent

VILLUPURAM: District Collector R.Palanisamy along with a medical team visited Kaduvanur in Sankarapuram taluk on Sunday where 45 persons who underwent cataract surgery in a private hospital recently have developed complications.

Joint Director of Health Krishnaraj, Deputy Director of Health Geetha and an ophthalmic surgeon accompanied the Collector. Mr. Palanisamy told The Hindu that the peripheral unit of the Tiruchi-based St.Joseph’s Eye Hospital at Perambalur had conducted the cataract operation on 45 camp patients on July 29.

They complained of pain in the eyes and blurred vision. Therefore, the hospital had taken a majority of them to Tiruchi hospital to attend to the problem. Mr. Palanisamy said he met nine patients, eight men and one woman, who stayed put in the village.

Mr. Palanisamy further said that his Perambalur counterpart had formed a technical team to go into the issue and he would coordinate with him in this aspect.

Meanwhile, Mr. Palanisamy had directed the Health Department officials to bring the nine patients, whom he met today, to Villupuram government hospital for further check up.

© Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Great-grand children of VOC are on streets

Great-grand children of VOC are on streets

Sunday August 24 2008 00:00 IST

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Karunanidhi and his politics of “bandh”!

Karunanidhi and his politics of “bandh”!

Published on August 21st, 2008

Participation of TN CM in the Bandh: Last October 1 2007, Karunandhi, the CM of Tamilnadu participated in a “band” organized[1] by the Democratic Progressive Alliance (DPA). Evidently, he forgotten the Supreme Court’s instructions about the band, particularly sponsored by the political parties.

Realising the implication, he hurriedly left the premises. He asserted on Monday (01-10-2007) that there was no breakdown of the constitutional machinery in the State. When journalists asked him at the Secretariat if there was such a breakdown, he retorted: “May be, for you [there is]. Not for us.” He tried to justify that the government followed the order of the Supreme Court — restraining the DMK and its allies from going ahead with a bandh — in letter and in spirit. Normal life remained unaffected in the State. The Democratic Progressive Alliance, he said, did not violate the order. There was no case against the observance of a fast by him and other DPA leaders.

Inaugurating the fast in the morning, he said that if the Supreme Court had ordered that the fast should not be held at anytime of the day [on Monday], he was willing to prevail upon the leaders of the alliance to call it off. He told the people who had come to observe the hunger strike that he was not fasting in deference to the “orders” of the leaders in the DPA. (Mr. Karunanidhi was unaware of the observations of the Supreme Court made in the morning even as he concluded his speech.). Chief Secretary L.K. Tripathy told The Hindu that all assurances given by the government to the court were adhered to.

However the fact had been different: The AIADMK filed a petition in the Supreme court that the orders of Supreme court was not followed during the band organized by the ruling alliance – DPA. In its special sitting on Sunday, a Bench of Justice Agrawal and Justice P.P. Naolekar, acting on a special leave petition filed by the AIADMK, restrained the DMK, the Congress, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the CPI and the Pattali Makkal Katchi from proceeding with the call for the bandh and enforcing it. The All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) counsel Guru Krishna Kumar alleged before Justice Agrawal (sitting with Justice Sathasivam) that a situation had arisen in Tamil Nadu where transport buses were not plying and shops and establishments were closed. He alleged: “Your orders are not being implemented in letter and spirit.”

Justice Agrawal orally observed: “If what you say is true, then there is complete breakdown of the constitutional machinery in the State. We will recommend to the President to dismiss the DMK government in Tamil Nadu.” Counsel submitted that the Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi was on a fast. Justice Agrawal commented: “Let him go on fast. First let them implement our orders. You file a contempt; we will see. If you make out a case for contempt, we will not hesitate to call the Chief Minister and the Chief Secretary to this court.”

V.G. Pragasam, counsel for the State, told the Bench that some unions were on strike but the government was trying to run the bus services. Justice Agrawal retorted: “What is the government doing? Don’t put the blame on the unions. They will try to perpetuate the bandh to make it a success. We have not issued any direction to the unions. We gave directions only to you [State].” Justice Agrawal observed further: “Is this the Tamil Nadu government? DMK is a strong ally of the UPA government at the Centre. If this is the attitude of the DMK government, then it [Centre] should not feel shy to dismiss the State government.”

When Mr. Krishnakumar submitted to the court that he would move a proper contempt application, the Bench said “do it.” The strong observations by Justice Agrawal were based on the contentions and allegations of the AIADMK counsel and there was no written order. The AIADMK is filing the contempt application on Wednesday, according to its lawyers.

Judge’s outburst against DMK government [2]: A Supreme Court Judge on Monday (02-10-2007) orally observed that if it was found that the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) government in Tamil Nadu had not implemented the September 30 orders to stop Monday’s bandh, the court would “recommend” its dismissal to the President of India. Justice B.N. Agrawal made this observation after the counsel for the AIADMK contended before the court that by not running the transport services on Monday and by keeping the shops shut, the government had failed to obey the directions issued on Sunday. Oral observations made from the bench during the course of hearings have no relevance in law[3].

The Central government supports the State government: When the implication pointed out, the central government firmly ruled out any action against the DMK government in Tamil Nadu. “We will do nothing to hurt the Tamil Nadu government. We are committed. They [the DMK] are part of our UPA government. We will not disturb the State government remotely, directly or explicitly,” Information and Broadcasting Minister P. R. Dasmunsi said at Delhi to the press-people. He was replying to questions on the Supreme Court’s observations that the Centre should not feel shy of dismissing the DMK government if it was found that it had not complied with the apex court order on bandh. He maintained that the issue did not figure in the Union Cabinet meeting and described Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi as “one of the stalwarts” not just of the DMK but of the whole country. Justifying Karunanidhi’s action, he said the Chief Minister planned to go on a fast as it was not violation of the court order.

“This is a non-violent response, showing respect to Mahatma Gandhi’s ideals a day ahead of his birth anniversary [4],” he added that Karunanidhi had set an example through his support and concern for the poorest of the poor, the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, the minorities and the downtrodden. The Union Home Ministry said it was in touch with the State government. “We have been in touch with the government for the past several days in an effort to ensure that peace is maintained. If required, we will continue to be in touch,” Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta said.

Now again another bandh!: On August 20th, 2008, there had been one more national bandh, but called by Central government employees to express and register their grievances against the improper recommendation and implementation of the Sixth pay commission report. As the Communists parties joined, the DPA now took different stand! Yes, there had been plying of busses without any problem, as compared to October 1, 2007! Of course, none asked Munshi but it at Delhi, by the press-people about the contradiction of prevailing situation and condition during the bandhs.

Why and how Karunanidhi made busses to run? The contradicting stand of Karunanidhi has been visible. Now, how he has made the busses run on the band-day?

v Because, he is afraid of Supreme Court or

v to act against the interests of Central government employees?

v Or Munshi to again eulogize him comparing him t[5]o Mahathma Gandhi?

v Or the Communists have withdrawn their support to UPA?

v Or to show his loyalty to UPA, though DPA has still the Communists in it?

A ruler has to be impartial, when the governance is involved. However, he has been behaving just like a DMK activist, many times atheist and fundamentalist also without any care for the people of Tamilnadu. Most of the time, definitely, he is enjoying with non-governance activities, just like “Nero fiddling during the burning of Rome”. For every blunder, he has sarcastic and caustic remarks, ridiculing comments and double-meaning outbursts, which are later interpreted as poetic skill of the senile litterateur.

The report of “The Hinu” this time - Strike has little impact in Tamil Nadu: The Tamil Nadu Bureau reports[6] like this: “Strike has little impact in Tamil Nadu”, adding that “But work in Central government offices, banking, insurance sectors hit”. The nationwide general strike called by Central trade unions did not affect normal life in Tamil Nadu, though its impact was felt in Central government offices, banking and insurance sectors.

Over 60,000 workers, including women, affiliated to the Left parties and Central trade unions were taken into custody for organising picketing, rail roko and road roko. Picketing was held in 504 places and rail roko at 23 centres. One State transport corporation was damaged by agitators. CPI MPs K. Subbarayan and M. Appadurai were among those who were arrested.

In Chennai, CITU general secretary A. Soundararajan and AITUC general secretary S.S.Thiyagarajan and others were arrested. Director-General of Police (Law and Order) K.P.Jain said but for a few stray incidents of road blockade and rail roko, there was no untoward incident in the State. “Attendance in [offices of] Tamil Nadu Transport Corporation, Tamil Nadu Civil Supplies Corporation and TNEB was 100 per cent,” he said. But trade unions and government employees unions maintained that various State government offices witnessed a sharp fall in attendance.

Operations in the installation of Indian Oil Corporation came to a standstill. Over 50 per cent of the workers of the BSNL Chennai Telephones kept away from work. Buses were operated, but transport workers affiliated to the CITU, AITUC and other Central unions did not report for duty. The LIC was hit hard by the strike, according to the all India LIC Employees Federation. The employees also held a demonstration in front of the head office here.

Bank Employees Federation of India secretary S.A. Rajendran said transactions in Tamil Nadu were affected with over 50,000 workers participating in the strike. In Tiruchi, banking operations in public sector banks, barring IOB and SBI, were completely hit. Convener of JAC of College Teachers-Tamil Nadu U. Sundararajan said nearly 10,000 teachers held demonstrations at the district headquarters. Teachers and students boycotted colleges in Coimbatore and Udumalapet.

However, the vernacular press has different stories [7].



[1]R.K. Radhakrishnan, Court order on bandh adhered to: Karunanidhi, in “The Hindu” dated 02-010-2007

[2] J. Venkatesan , Judge’s outburst against DMK government, The Hindu dated 02-10-2007, for details see at:

[3] For this, “The Hindu” clarified as follows: Clarification and regret: In the report “Apex Court pulls up High Court” published on October 1, the references made to the Madras High Court were, according to our Legal Correspondent, oral observations made by Justice B.N. Agrawal and Justice P.P. Naolekar during the course of the three-hour hearing of the AIADMK’s petition on Sunday. These observations, which have no relevance in law, are not part of the Supreme Court’s restraint order in relation to the Tamil Nadu bandh. The failure of our Legal Correspondent in his report to make this clear, thus creating a wrong impression in the minds of readers, is regretted.

Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu:

[4] Thus he made Karunanidhi at par with Mahathma Gandhi!

[5] This time Munshi would assert that he acted before the Gandhi’s birth day!


[7]Just for illustrative purposes:"cls=row3


Also read the related stories

'Strike not to affect bus services in TN'

You can't dictate terms to us, SC warns DMK

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

DMK is now in a minority: Congress

Congress seeks inclusion in Tamil Nadu cabinet

Tamil Nadu Congress president K.V. Thangkabalu and Union Minister of State for Statistics and Programme Implementation G.K. Vasan Tuesday subtly reminded the 27-month-old DMK government that it was now surviving at its pleasure.

From Correspondents in Tamil Nadu, India, 19 Aug 2008 7:01 PM

Tamil Nadu Congress president K.V. Thangkabalu and Union Minister of State for Statistics and Programme Implementation G.K. Vasan Tuesday subtly reminded the 27-month-old DMK government that it was now surviving at its pleasure.

'Our party workers are yearning to bring back Kamaraj rule in the state. We lost power in Tamil Nadu 40 years ago. But, our 20 percent vote bank is not only intact but also growing,' said Thangkabalu while addressing Congressmen during a function to celebrate the birthdays of late Congress leaders Rajiv Gandhi and G.K. Moopanar here.

'The Congress will not be afraid of agitations to assert its rights, to capture power at the centre and elsewhere to underline its self-respect,' Thangkabalu added.

Vasan launched a bitter attack on the leftwing and rightwing opposition in the state.

'The left and rightwing parties are spreading a false fear psychosis in the nation by claiming we have hawked our defence interests through the nuclear agreement with the US. Our people will not be taken in by this canard,' said Vasan.

'The ruling DMK ought to realise that its regime is now in a minority and is continuing due to our indulgence. It is high time we should be accorded our rightful, respectful place in the state government,' a Congress legislator told IANS after the function.

Meanwhile, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi leader Thol Thirumavalavan, another supporter of the DMK, faulted the state police for attacking his party workers in the southern outskirts of here last week to prevent them from attending a fete.

'Everyone knows that the police arrived on the scene four hours after a minor skirmish in Kalpakkam and savagely assaulted VCK workers and broke windscreens of vehicles to apportion blame on us. It was an obvious attempt to prevent our people from coming to Chennai,' Thirumavalavan said.

Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi holds the home portfolio that controls the state's police department.

The Congress with 35 and VCK with 2 legislators respectively are the only parties supporting the DMK government which has 95 lawmakers in the 235-member house.

While the PMK with 18 legislators was jettisoned from the Democratic Progressive Alliance led by Karunanidhi in June, the left with a combined strength of 15 in the assembly announced its wish to render its relationship with the DMK asunder Aug 1.

PMK's founder leader Ramadoss Monday said that his party would back a hypothetical left sponsored no-confidence motion against the government.

(© IANS)


Saturday, August 16, 2008

Soon, TV channels on your mobile

Soon, TV channels on your mobile

Saturday August 16 2008 18:29 IST


NEW DELHI: Very soon, you will be able to watch a slew of TV channels on your GPRS-enabled mobile phone. Time Broadband Services Pvt. Ltd. (TBSL) announced Saturday it would launch its services in India later this month to provide 15 digital entertainment and news channels on cellular phones.

"Everything is going digital and everyone is on the move. With this new concept, you do not have to wait to get back home to catch the breaking news. It will be there just a click away from you," TBSL senior vice president Irfan Khan told IANS.

"Our channels will be entertainment based verticals for both Bollywood and news based channels," he added.

Though TBSL will initially launch only 15 channels, their target is to raise this to 99.

According to Khan, the company has tied up with the Film and TV Producers Guild of India for entertainment content, with the Indian Music Industry (IMI) for music content and with Sony Pictures for Hollywood content.

"For news-based content, we are planning to tie up with news agencies like Reuters," he added.

The service is already available in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and China.

Mumbai-based TBSL is funded by Dubai Ventures and has been in the Indian market for past 19 years as a producer of feature films, and TV serials and music creation team. It was among the first Indian entities to have ventured into the convergence space between telecommunication and entertainment.


Jaya: Pondy CM squandered Rs.7.5 million in airfare to save his "non-performing ministry"

Puducherry chief minister in New Delhi to save ministry

Aug 16th, 2008 | By Sindh Today

Puducherry, Aug 16 (IANS): With five cabinet members turning rebellious, Puducherry Chief Minister N. Rangasamy flew to New Delhi Saturday to meet the Congress high command - the second time this week - in a last-ditch attempt to save his chair.

At least five members in Rangasamy’s cabinet have refused to have anything to do with the government if he continues in power, a minister said, requesting anonymity.

‘If Rangasamy is not replaced, the stalemate in this union territory will continue and not a single file will move. His fall is imminent,’ the minister added.

The crisis began a fortnight ago and the Congress high command had been postponing taking a decision on the matter.

Though unrepresented in Puducherry, the AIADMK has been carrying on a campaign against Rangasamy.

AIADMK supremo Jaya Statement

In a statement, AIADMK chief Jayalalitha had alleged that the chief minister had squandered more than Rs.7.5 million in airfare by repeatedly travelling to New Delhi for no apparent reason other than attempting to save his ‘non-performing ministry which completely opposes him’.

Ironically, a section within the ruling DMK in Tamil Nadu has also been working on the sidelines against the continuation of Rangasamy, DMK sources said on phone from Chennai.


MK hints at early elections

MK hints at early elections

Friday August 15 2008 03:23 IST

Express News Service

test drive: Chief Minister M Karunanidhi's convoy hits the road moments after he opened the newly constructed Usman Road flyover, in the city on Thursday.

CHENNAI: Chief Minister M Karunanidhi on Thursday hinted at the possibility of early elections to the State Assembly by calling upon the DMK cadre to prepare themselves for such an eventuality. The current term of the Assembly ends only in 2011.

“It is time the DMK prepared itself for forming the government in the State," he said while speaking at a government function to mark the inauguration of a flyover connecting North Usman Road and Duraisamy Road in T Nagar. By making this remark, apparently, Karunanidhi had dropped hints for forming a DMK Government with a clear majority.

Ever since the present DMK Government assumed office in 2006, political parties had been sarcastically describing it as a minority government. Karunanidhi also said he was ready to take the risk of facing early Assembly elections.

The DMK chief’s comment acquires significance in the backdrop of veiled threats by Left parties to move away from the DMK-led front.The PMK had already snapped its ties with the DMK. The DMK Government is forced to rely on the Congress for its survival.And there are reports that the DMK may opt for early elections to the Tamil Nadu Assembly along with Lok Sabha elections.

One more flyover

Local Administration Minister M K Stalin on Thursday promised one more flyover for T Nagar to ease traffic congestion in the area.

Speaking at the function to mark the inauguration of a new flyover connecting North Usman Road and Duraisamy Road, Stalin said he had received many a representation from traders, legislators, councillors from the T Nagar area and the general public demanding a flyover at Usman Road-Burkit Road junction. “Authorities will observe the utility of the flyover for the next 10 days and based on their comments, the new flyover at Usman Road-Burkit Road junction will be designed," Stalin said.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Govt not soft on terror, stats on our side

Govt not soft on terror, stats on our side

Karan Thapar / CNN-IBN

New Delhi, Sun, Aug 10, 2008 at 20:02: Why is the Centre blocking the legislative laws that certain states have proposed to the President’s office for concurrence? Is the Centre soft on terror? Is the situation in Jammu and Kashmir giving the Centre sleepless nights? Karan Thapar quizzed Home Minister Shivraj Patil on theses and other issues in Devil’s Advocate and here’s what followed.

Karan Thapar: Hello and welcome to ‘Devil’s Advocate’. How does the government view the situation in Jammu and Kashmir? Has the time come to take special measures to tackle terrorism? Those are the two issues I shall explore today with the Home Minister of India, Shivraj Patil. Home Minister. Let’s start with the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. In your assessment, how grave is the situation?

Shivraj Patil: The situation (in Jammu and Kashmir) is something that must be handled very carefully and handled in a manner that does not hurt the feelings of any section of society over there.

Karan Thapar: So is it proving to be a challenge?

Shivraj Patil: It has to be handled in a manner which would help overcome the difficulties which may arise out of misunderstanding.

Karan Thapar: Do you fear that the present crisis in Jammu and Kashmir could re-ignite either the militancy or the cessation tendencies which were beginning to come down this year?

Shivraj Patil: Militancy and terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir had come down in the last four years by 70 per cent. It is a big achievement. And I would give credit to the people of Jammu and Kashmir and the government of Jammu and Kashmir. But these kinds of activities may encourage some people to either continue or to increase the militancy.

Karan Thapar: Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mehbooba Mufti have both said that the Kashmiris are considering reviving pre-1947 economic links with parts of Kashmir that are now in Pakistan. And to be honest, many other people on television from the Valley have expressed similar sentiments. Does that worry you?

Shivraj Patil: I would not like to comment on the statements given by these leaders without going into the details. You will please excuse me for the same.

Karan Thapar: But what about truck drivers on the road, and ordinary people in the shops in Kashmir. They say that if there is an economic blockade and we can’t trade with Delhi, then we will revive relations with Pakistan. Does that sentiment worry you?

Shivraj Patil: I do not think that it is a sentiment which is entertained by every truck driver or every citizen.

Karan Thapar: Is it a minority, then?

Shivraj Patil: Why I say this is because the road is open. The road is used by the truck drivers and the others. From the Valley, they can go to Jammu and from Jammu they can go to Punjab the other parts of the country.

Karan Thapar: But Home Minister, on Thursday and even on Friday there were people from Srinagar saying that they can’t get their fruits through, they aren’t receiving their medicine supplies. These are the ordinary people saying that if you cannot open the roads, then we will revive economic links with Pakistan.

Shivraj Patil: That will not be necessary and anybody who understands the geography, history and the conditions of the region, would agree. But the road is open and we will do our best to see that the road is not closed or allowed to be blocked by the agitators.

Karan Thapar: Did the intelligence agencies warn the Government that emotions and passions were building up in such an exceptional way, particularly in Jammu or were you taken by surprise?

Shivraj Patil: No, we did have some information but that information was not limited to Jammu. That information also pertained to Kashmir.

Karan Thapar: But did you expect an outcry, an emotional outburst of this nature?

Shivraj Patil: I would say that what has happened there is something that has to be carefully dealt with. But then, we were not unaware that something of this nature could be started by somebody.

Karan Thapar: Twice before, you have said that the situation has to be dealt with carefully. How much of a test is it?

Shivraj Patil: This is psychological test just as much as it is an economic, social and even a political one. All these aspects have to be borne in mind while trying to solve the problem, which is faced there.

Karan Thapar: Without naming any names, because I know you do not want to, would you say that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir represents a failure of the Government at various levels?

Shivraj Patil: We shall have to consider not only the Government but the political sections of the society also; as the social and cultural angle and the history and geography of the place too.

Karan Thapar: So the element of failure and responsibility could be very widespread?

Shivraj Patil: If something of this nature happens, each one of us, whether or not we do something, are sorry and at times we feel that it could have been better if we were able to avert it…it could have been done, it would have been better.

Karan Thapar: The Government is sending an all-party delegation. You desire to speak to the widest cross section of people. The BJP in particular had asked not once, but repeatedly to hold talks with the (Amarnath) Sangharsh Samiti. Are you prepared? Is the Prime Minister prepared to do that?

Shivraj Patil: Well, I would not speak for the Prime Minister. In fact, as suggested, the Prime Minister has already spoken to the leaders of different parties…personally, separately and in fact in the conference also. And the attitude of the Government of India and the Prime Minister has been to facilitate dialogue at every level. But in this case we have to go step by step, it not correct that we should jump to the highest level alone (directly). Now, if we could hold a meet where all the party leaders met and they said that let a delegation (from the centre) go there (to Jammu and Kashmir) and meet and talk to them and later on, let also consider their suggestions…and yet afterwards take a call on what can be done…then it can be done!

Karan Thapar: So, later on it is possible that the Prime Minister could get involved himself, but not at this stage. Right?

Shivraj Patil: I wouldn’t say ‘Yes’ or ‘and all those things.

Karan Thapar: You have an open mind on the issue, right?

Shivraj Patil: I did tell you that the Prime Minister did meet so many people from Kashmir…the Hurriyat people and the others. He did go there and he met them there.

Karan Thapar: Let me put this to you. There’s no doubt that the Government is going to hold talks, there’s no doubt that you are going there and so is External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee going. Does the Government have a proposal in mind that could become the framework of a solution? Do you have any ideas?

Shivraj Patil: This is the time when we would like to hear what they have to say. We have our own views; we do have our own ideas. But we are not going to say that this is the way in which you should think.

Karan Thapar: So you going to hear first, is it?

Shivraj Patil: Yes, we will hear first and then we shall cull out the common points. Then we will try to do the things in such a manner that it will give satisfaction to all concerned.

Karan Thapar: So in other words, you are going to go, you are going to hear and then you are going to try and put together a formula incorporating what you have heard?

Shivraj Patil: Yes, in co-operation with all party leaders and in co-operation with the Government and everybody.

Karan Thapar: Today, there are voices in Jammu and the Valley, calling for a division between Jammu and Kashmir. Some others are calling for trifurcation of the state. Could that be a solution or is that ruled out completely?

Shivraj Patil: These are very big issues. It is not proper for a minister to express his views on issues like this. I would leave it to the entire government as such to decide rather than saying anything on this.

Karan Thapar: So, there is no official government position on this issue?

Shivraj Patil: We have a position, but if we say yes or no, it has repercussions. At this point in time we should avoid such things.

Karan Thapar: Quite right, so it is an open position. You are neither saying, yes, you aren’t saying ‘No’, but you are waiting to see how things develop.

Shivraj Patil: No, as a matter of fact, there are people who are saying that Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh should not be divided into regions and that they should remain one; and there are other groups that say ‘No, it is necessary to do that.’ Now what must the government do? The government is continuing with what is available now.

Karan Thapar: But is the Government listening? Will the Government form its views later on?

Shivraj Patil: We are living in a democracy and if some people have expressed their views, we cannot say, ‘do not express!’. And if majority of the people is expressing their views differently, we cannot say that even if you are in big numbers we are not going to consider your opinions.

Karan Thapar: Meanwhile, the BJP has announced that they will launch a nation wide general strike on August 11th. Does it worry you that this could exacerbate the situation both in Jammu and in the Valley?

Shivraj Patil: I would say that I would appeal to any political party or any section of the society and request them to refrain them from doing anything that would encourage the divisive forces or the forces of misunderstanding between the sections in society. But in a political situation if they have taken a decision we leave it to them, to their judgment and their assessment and we think that all political parties and all the leaders of political parties in the country understand the implications of each and every step they take.

Karan Thapar: Are you worried that things in Jammu and Kashmir might take a turn for the worse before they start getting better?

Shivraj Patil: I am not worried about anything. I have to be careful about everything. And I do not have to lose heart. But I have full faith in the capacity of the people and that of the political parties. I have full faith in the capacity of the government to understand the things involved in such issues and then to tackle the issue itself.

Karan Thapar: I want to talk to you Home Minister about the terror situation India confronts. The tribunal looking into the SIMI matter has rebuffed the Government initially by revoking a ban on SIMI. Many people see this not only as embarrassing but also as a slap in the face of the Government. How do you comment on this?

Shivraj Patil: Now, if you think that the evidence has to be given in the complaint itself or in a petition itself, it cannot be done. Evidence is separately produced.

Karan Thapar: Are you suggesting that the judge heading the tribunal slightly misunderstood and that he actually looked for the evidence?

Shivraj Patil: I should not be criticising the judge. This is not a forum where I can criticise the judge. I am trying to explain that the evidence is given in a folder. Then the judge takes a call and a decision on whether the evidence is enough or not or could more evidence have been given. If this matter has been decided by one court then we in India have the appellate jurisdiction.

Karan Thapar: Yes, I do understand that the matter then went to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court ruled in your favour. But the point is that the newspapers are reporting that the reason why the judge revoked your ban at the tribunal level is because your officials were deemed to be unprepared. She (the judge) said that you had given documents that were two years old. She was suggesting that the Home Ministry had handled this issue without competence.

Shivraj Patil: Well, I cannot sit in judgment on the judgment delivered by a judge. It will be wrong on my part to do so.

Karan Thapar: But are you embarrassed by the judgment?

Shivraj Patil: I would say that I would wait before I form any opinion about any thing like this until the judgment is given by the Supreme Court finally. The intervening stage is exactly the stage when we should use our discretion to be restrained.

Karan Thapar: You are asking the press and the people of the country to wait till the final judgment but people are saying just this…are you embarrassed as Home Minister that your ministry and your officials should be written about in the papers in this manner?

Shivraj Patil: So many people take pleasure in embarrassing us and in writing things about us. But sometimes as human beings, we also feel hurt. But we cannot function by feeling hurt or embarrassed. We have to do our duty. Instead of criticising the court or the judge who delivered this judgment, our duty was to go against the judgment and we went to the Supreme Court against the judgment. And the Supreme Court did not take any time in giving an order staying the judgment.

Karan Thapar: Let’s then broaden the subject. Many people in India are concerned about vulnerability of the country against terrorism. Let me ask a simple question. Do you view terrorism as a law and order issue essentially handled at the state government level or do you see it as an attack on the defence of India and the integrity of the country…and therefore a subject to be tackled by the Centre?

Shivraj Patil: The defence of India is the responsibility of the Government of India assisted by the state governments. Maintaining law and order is the responsibility of the state government. And maintaining it, whether, it is militancy or extremism, is the responsibility of the state government assisted by the Union Government.

Karan Thapar: Wait, wait a little. So, you are saying that terrorism is a problem related to law and order and therefore a primary responsibility of the state government?

Shivraj Patil: Yes, I am saying that.

Karan Thapar: Then, let me put this to you. This is a point made by the BJP many times. They say that if the Government believes that terrorism is primarily the state-government-issue, then why is the Central Government preventing the President from giving her assent to five different legislations that have been passed by the state governments to tackle terrorism? They say it is contradictory.

Shivraj Patil: When TADA was on the statute book it was opposed by those who were responsible for enacting POTA. We asked them why did you do it? They said that they did it because TADA gives you the right to jail a person for more years than a person would be jailed under regular laws. Now, should we not apply the same principles here?

Karan Thapar: I understand what you are saying. The same people who are criticising you today are being hypocritical because they adopted a different position when TADA was in the statute book.

Shivraj Patil: Yes.

Karan Thapar: But just because these people are being hypocritical, does not mean that there is no need for tougher legislation.

Shivraj Patil: That is why, when we repealed POTA, we did not repeal it lock, stock and barrel. We transferred the provisions in POTA to Unlawful Activities Act.

Karan Thapar: It is true that you transferred many of POTA’s clauses to Unlawful Activities Act.

Shivraj Patil: Not clauses but whole chapters.

Karan Thapar: But there were two important provisions that never got transferred. One is the provision for tougher bail and the second one was provision that enables in court the admission of certain types of evidence. Both were left out. Today the police chiefs say that they were necessary in the fight against terror.

Shivraj Patil: That is exactly what has to be understood. Under the evidence act, the criminal procedure code and under the existing laws of the Unlawful Activities Act, a non-bailable case is decided by the court. The court can say that ‘I give you the bail’ or even say that ‘I don’t give you bail’.

Karan Thapar: What you are suggesting is that the laws as they are existing today are sufficient in the fight against terror and that you do not need tougher laws. Is that the position you are taking?

Shivraj Patil: My position is clear. In my opinion, the existing laws should be used properly. They can certainly help the police and the investigating authority in controlling terrorists. But if, in cases, the law says that he can be jailed for 60 days, but they (the law authorities) want it for 90, 120 or 150s day, it can be done. But if you are going to say that he can be in there for any number of days, like be put into jail for three years without giving him the bail, when he is to be punished for a year, I am not going to accept that.

Karan Thapar: That means you are ready for certain toughening and not a blanket toughening of the law?

Shivraj Patil: Yes.

Karan Thapar: Okay. So you think you have answered satisfactorily the reasons why the Central Government is preventing the President in giving her assent to the five different legislations that are on the books by the states of UP, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat. The contrary position is that the state of Maharashtra, admittedly before you came to power has passed identical legislations. So, the net result is that today in India, in Maharashtra and Gujarat, to take that example, you have different laws with different criteria and standards for tackling terrorism. Surely, today, terrorism is a major problem and that is indefensible.

Shivraj Patil: That is exactly why there is a provision of three lists in our constitution. The legislative powers are given to the state legislature. They can make any law. But if it is in the concurrent list, whether a draconian provision should be accepted…having repealed POTA, having gone to the people on this issue specifically, if we are doing it and when the Parliament says that such a law should not be on the statute book, if you ask the executive to say that, ‘No,’ then that is not done.

Karan Thapar: There’s a small problem in your answer. You began your answer by stating the three lists in the constitution. The law and order has given to the states. Five state governments have passed legislations that they believe are essential in the fight against terror and yet you are stopping it, so you are contradicting the principal you began by announcing.

Shivraj Patil: No. The executive of the state and the state legislature will decide whether the existing laws should remain on a statute book or should they be repealed. But if the new laws are coming which are contrary to the decision taken by the people at large through the elections, contrary to the decisions taken by the Parliament in repealing POTA….

Karan Thapar: That you won’t permit?

Shivraj Patil: You will ask me, if the Parliament decides these things, can the executive say yes to it?

Karan Thapar: My last question. Many people hearing you will say that this is just an excuse to cover up the fact that this Government is weak on terror.

Shivraj Patil: If you look at the statistics related to the casualties, the injured persons and the damage to property, if you compare the last four years’ time with the four years before that, and find that the statistics are in favour of this Government, then how can you say that we are soft on terror? And even if we are soft on terror and the method is working, we should adopt it and continue with it.

Karan Thapar: I should point out to you Home Minister that people will disagree but thank you for speaking to us.

Shivraj Patil: Okay.

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