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YSR shock deaths bogus, says senior Cong leader October 5, 2009

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IANS 30 September 2009, 10:02am IST

HYDERABAD: A senior Congress leader in Andhra Pradesh has termed as “bogus” the shock deaths of 600 people following the demise of chief minister 
Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy in a helicopter crash early this month.

Giving a bitter twist to the war of words with the loyalists of the late chief minister, who was known as YSR, Rajya Sabha member V. Hanumantha Rao said the shock deaths were a publicity stunt.

Rao, who is opposing the campaign for making YSR’s son Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy the next chief minister, alleged that Jagan’s supporters were trying to blackmail the party’s central leadership through claims of shock deaths.

The war of words between the senior leader and Jagan’s camp came into the open during a television debate Tuesday night. “These are all bogus and a publicity stunt. They have included even routine deaths and suicides in their account,” Rao said after senior state minister and YSR loyalist N. Raghuveera Reddy claimed that 600 people either died of shock or committed suicide after hearing the news of YSR’s death.

“Was he (YSR) more popular than Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi,” asked Rao, who has already received threatening calls from alleged supporters of Jagan for stating that K. Rosaiah will continue as the chief minister till 2014.

Agriculture Minister Raghuveera Reddy reacted strongly to Rao’s comments and said he was insulting the feelings of the people.

“It is not just the majority of Congress leaders but also leaders from other parties and a majority of the eight crore people of the state who want to see Jagan as the next chief minister,” he said, clarifying that he would abide by the decision of the central leadership on the issue.



UPA’s Bofors burial logic: we paid, so no case October 5, 2009

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Ritu Sarin Posted online: Saturday , Oct 03, 2009 at 0449 hrs

New Delhi : When the CBI files its application to close its case against Ottavio Quattrocchi today, it’s likely to introduce a new argument in the Bofors case: the 1986 contract for 200 Howitzers wasn’t cancelled, no payment was stopped, so there is no case against the Italian businessman.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam said: “The most crucial point in the debate over the tenability of the ongoing case against Quattrocchi is the fact that in the early ‘90s, the Government of the time neither cancelled the Howitzer contract nor withheld payments to the company. Though the CBI chargesheet mentioned wrongful loss to the Government, there was no condonation of the breach of contract (for payments allegedly made to Quattrocchi) subsequently. Hence, no case remains.”

Even Law Minister Veerappa Moily echoed this line: “Once the court quashed charges under the Prevention of Corruption Act and since final payments were made to the Bofors company way back in the ‘90s, the charges become untenable.”

Records show that the advance payment for the contract of SEK (Swedish Kronor) 1.68 billion was made to Bofors on May 2, 1986 while the balance payment amount of SEK 6.72 billion was paid between 1986-1990. (1 SEK is today equivalent to Rs 6.70).

In a note on June 10, 1987, then Minister of State for Defence Arun Singh had recommended that cancellation of the contract should be pursued as an option if the Swedish authorities didn’t cooperate in the probe.

Singh also said that the Prime Minister should “reconfirm with the Chief of Army Staff as to whether the Army could afford the negative impact of a cancellation of the contract”.

On July 4, 1987, the advice of then Attorney General K Parasaran was sought. Though the AG said that Bofors had “clearly breached the contract”, the contract was not annulled.

Sources in the Union Law Ministry, who were involved in drafting the CBI’s report, told The Indian Express that Government’s view that the February 2004 judgment of the Delhi High Court — that cleared the accused — didn’t deserve to be challenged will be another argument cited in favor of closure of cases.


Belgian title for Sonia February 22, 2009

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No punishment under the law

by K.N. Bhat


HAS Mrs Sonia Gandhi committed any offence by accepting the award “Order of Leopold” from the Belgian government? If not, can Tendulkar become “Sir Sachin”? The complaint against Mrs Gandhi seems to be that the acceptance of the award is “acknowledgement of allegiance to a foreign State”, which would disqualify her from continuing to be a MP under Article 102 of the Constitution. Prima facie, the charge looks frivolous.


But there is another provision in the Constitution — Article 18 — with the title “Abolition of Titles”. Strangely, that article is housed among the Fundamental Rights. So, it is the fundamental right of every citizen not to be conferred with any title other than military or academic distinctions. It further says, “no citizen of India shall accept any title from any foreign State”. What if a citizen accepts one — like the “Order of Leopold” —or a knighthood? Article 18 is silent on the sequel to its violation.


The philosophy behind Article 18 is that in a democracy, all citizens are equal and the State should not disturb this concept through award of titles — academic or military distinctions are earned — not gifted. Constitutions of different States like the US, Germany, Ireland and Japan prohibit the State from conferring titles of nobility.


Why did the makers of our Constitution prescribe a prohibition without spelling the penalty for its violation? This aspect was specifically considered. While discussing the draft Article 12, which eventually became Article 18, T.T. Krishnamachari, a member of the Constituent Assembly, suggested that the words “not being a military or academic distinction” be inserted. Another member, Loknath Misra, said: “We know instances where people have got titles which they do not deserve and the entitled gentleman belies the import of the title”.


Naziruddin Ahmad pointedly asked, “If anybody accepts any foreign title, what is the penalty which is provided? No penalty is provided for accepting it. The State has no means of giving effect to this clause”. To this Dr Ambedkar replied, “The State shall not recognise it.” H.V. Kamath raised a query, “If the State inadvertently or in a fit of absentmindedness or due to some other cause, does confer titles, what can be done against the State? After all, the State itself has conferred the title”.


After considerable exchange of thoughts, Dr Ambedkar said, “My answer to that (to the query as to what is the penalty) is very simple: That it would be perfectly open under the Constitution for Parliament under its residuary powers to make a law prescribing what should be done with regard to an individual who does accept a title contrary to the provisions of this article. I should have thought that that was an adequate provision for meeting the case which he has put before the House”.


Dr Ambedkar further said, “The non-acceptance of titles is a condition of continued citizenship; it is not a right, it is a duty imposed upon the individual that if he continues to be the citizen of this country then he must abide by certain conditions, one of the conditions is that he must not accept a title because it would be open for Parliament, when it provides by law as to what should be done to persons who abrogate the provisions of this article, to say that if any person accepts a title, certain penalties may follow. One of the penalties may be that he may lose the right of citizenship. Therefore, there is really no difficulty in understanding this provision as it is a condition attached to citizenship, by itself it is not a justiciable right.”


It may be recalled that the Citizenship Act, which was enacted in 1955, makes no reference to the acceptance of the title. Nor is there any other law that has given effect to the solution offered by Dr Ambedkar. As the law stands today, Mrs Sonia Gandhi cannot be punished for accepting the Belgian title.


It is a different question whether any person having taken the oath to “bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India” can violate a provision like Article 18 without suffering any consequence. And Article 51-A makes it the fundamental duty of every citizen to “abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals”. Again, no penalties are prescribed for disregarding this constitutionally ordained duty. The Constituent Assembly had rejected the suggestions by many members that no foreign title shall be recognised in India. So Tendulkar can be “Sir, Sachin” without inviting the wrath of law.


What about our own Padma awards introduced in 1954 — four years after the Constitution came into force? In 1977, soon after the Morarji Desai government assumed office, the then Attorney-General late S.V. Gupte opined that the awards were opposed to Article 18. As a result, from 1978 to 1980, the January 25 ritual stood abolished; they were, however, reintroduced in 1981.


In the case of Balaji Raghavan (1996), a five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court held that the Padma awards were only methods of recognising excellence. The court, however, decreed that these honours conferred by the State should not be used as suffixes or prefixes, i.e. as titles by the recipients. A passing glance at some of the recipients of these awards is enough to make one marvel at the art or science of recognising excellence. It is a different matter that many of these excellent men and women do not mind letting the awards being used as suffixes or prefixes, with impunity.


What about the “honorary doctorates” conferred by universities? These institutions of higher learning generally are “States” within the meaning of the expression in the Constitution. Recognition of academic distinctions — Ph.Ds or D.Phils and the like — is conferred from time to time on the basis of merit proven according to the established rules.


The honorary doctors are generally modest enough not to lay claims to any special achievement. Nevertheless, in some States a sizeable number — especially among the politicians — are “doctors” flaunting their prefixes. There was a belief some time ago that these honorary doctorates are like garlands presented at a ceremonial occasion — not intended to be displayed on the streets after the function, though the recipient is its owner. One sees no reason not to treat the honorary doctorates conferred by the universities as anything but titles prohibited by Article 18, if they can be legitimately used as prefixes to the names.


The writer is Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India.