The Supreme Court said that appropriate government has the power to remit sentence but it has to follow the laid down procedure
Stalling the Jayalalithaa government’s decision to free all the assassins of Rajiv Gandhi, the Supreme Court on Thursday restrained the Tamil Nadu government from releasing all seven convicts and directed it to maintain status quo.
The apex court issued notice to the State government and all the convicts.
The court has asked the Tamil Nadu government to file a reply within two weeks and posted the case for hearing for 6th March.
The apex court said that appropriate government has the power to remit sentence but it has to follow the laid down procedure.
Earlier in the day, holding that the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi was an attack on India’s soul, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the release of his killers would be “contrary to all principles of justice” and the Tamil Nadu government has been told not to proceed with it as it is “not legally tenable”.
In a statement, he said that no government or party should be soft in the fight against terrorism, an apparent reference to the AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu, which yesterday decided to release all the seven convicts in the assassination case after the Supreme Court commuted death sentence of three of them to life imprisonment.
“The assassination of Rajiv Gandhi was an attack on the soul of India,” Singh said in the statement issued soon after the government moved a review petition in the Supreme Court on the “fundamental issues of law”.
“The release of the killers of a former Prime Minister of India and our great leader, as well as several other innocent Indians, would be contrary to all principles of justice,” Manmohan Singh asserted.
He said the Centre has “informed the Tamil Nadu government that their proposed course of action to release the killers of Rajiv Gandhi is not legally tenable and should not be proceeded with.”
The Jayalalithaa government on Wednesday decided to set free all seven convicts in the assassination case after the apex court had commuted the death penalty of three of them to life imprisonment.
Besides Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan, who earned a major reprieve on 18th February from the apex court which spared them from the gallows, Nalini, Robert Pious, Jayakumar and Ravichandran are the other four convicts whose release was decided by the Tamil Nadu government.
Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan are currently lodged in the Central Prison, Vellore, in Tamil Nadu and they have been in jail since 1991.
Nalini, Robert Pious, Jayakumar and Ravichandran, are undergoing a life sentence for their role in the assassination of Gandhi on 21 May 1991 in Sriperumbudur.
The Supreme Court had commuted the death sentence of Murugan, Santhan (both Sri Lankan Tamils) and AG Perarivalan on the ground of 11 years delay in deciding their mercy pleas by the Centre.
It had also rejected the Centre’s submission that there was no unreasonable delay in deciding their mercy plea and the condemned prisoners did not go through agonising experience as they were enjoying life behind the bars.
Gandhi’s assassins were convicted by a TADA court in January 1998 and were awarded death sentence, which was confirmed by the apex court 11 May 1999.
The strike by bank employees causes innumerable difficulties not only to the customers of banks but also to the general public putting the entire economy in disarray. Can the RBI take an initiative to find permanent solution to this?
Last week on 10-11th February nearly a million employees of both the public and the private sector banks were on strike to press for their demands. Their earlier wage settlement had expired on 30 October, 2012. As new settlement was not agreed to even after a lapse of 15 months, the bank employees had observed a day’s strike on 18 December, 2013 demanding early settlement. Despite a day’s strike, no agreement was reached and the conciliation meeting held before the Chief Labour Commissioner, between the bank employee unions and the Indian Bank’s Association (IBA) again failed to arrive at any consensus. Hence two days’ strike was observed by employees earlier this month.
How did the strike affect the banking public?
The representatives of bank unions said that the two days’ strike was a ‘total success’. "All over the country about 10 crore cheques worth Rs7.40 lakh crore could not be cleared. In Chennai clearing house, about 90 lakh cheques worth about Rs64,000 crore could not be processed. Government transactions, foreign exchange transactions and money market operations were also affected. In many places, ATMs did not function or were dried up," said CH Venkatachalam, general Secretary, All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) in a statement.
Apologising for the inconvenience caused to public due to the strike, Union representative Mr Venkatachalam said, "Since IBA and government did not settle our demands, the strike has been forced on us. We are sorry that the banking public would have been inconvenienced by this strike but that was unavoidable due to the non-serious approach of the IBA and government to avert the strike by improving their offer on wage increase and discussing our concerns on the banking sector reforms."
As per the PTI report, commenting on the strike, the Finance Minister said, “I will appeal to employees and officers of banks to recognise that banks’ profits, banks’ earnings have other claims. While claims of officers, staff and employees must be duly acknowledged, and a fair and just (wage) settlement is arrived at, there are other claimants to banks’ profit”.
“It cannot be that all profits are used to declare dividend and to provide enhanced wages and allowances to bank employees. A significant part of retained earnings must be used to infuse additional capital, otherwise banks will not find the amount of capital that is required over the next five, 10, or 20 years,” he said.
Chidambaram said, “The capital is to take care of a number of things. Firstly, banks are obliged to declare a dividend, both to the majority owner of the bank and the other shareholders. Another part of retained earnings has to be infused as capital in the bank for furthering its business”.
Responding to the finance minister's statement that entire profits of banks cannot be utilised for enhancing wages of employees, Mr Venkatachalam said, "That is not our demand also. We are only asking for a reasonable increase in wages that too when banks are making good profits."
Reiterating that bank employee unions are ready to resolve the issues by discussions, he said, "The United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU) is always open to resolve the demands by discussions and negotiations but IBA and the government should also be forthcoming. If the same negative attitude will continue, we will be left with no alternative than to further intensify the agitation. UFBU will be meeting shortly for this purpose."
Who is the ultimate sufferer in the bargain?
All said and done, there does not appear to be a solution in sight in the immediate future. Bank employee unions say that they are ready to resolve their demands through discussions and negotiations and the finance minister says that claims of officers, staff and employees must be duly acknowledged and a fair and just wage settlement should be arrived at. But what comes in the way for an early settlement is not clear to the banking public, who are at the receiving end of all the problems caused by the strike with none to save them from this chaotic situation.
Because of the strike by bank employees, it is possible that many depositors would have not received the interest on their fixed deposit on the due date, many would not have received the pension or annuity due to them, and many borrowers would have failed to get their loans disbursed when they needed the money badly, and many businesses would have suffered on account non-receipt of documents of title to goods or failed to dispatch the documents through the bank in time to their customers. One can go on and on to list the problems encountered by people due to the strike, which has been a recurring feature every five years. In short, the strike by bank employees causes innumerable difficulties not only to the customers of banks but also to the general public putting the entire economy in disarray.
RBI should take the initiative to change the way banks function today:
Unfortunately, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has not got involved in this imbroglio and is a silent spectator to this happening so far. RBI, as the protector of the banking system and as the central bank vitally interested in the orderly functioning of banks in our country, should suo motu take the initiative to work out a system of putting in place. RBI should not only put out alternative channels for delivery of banking services but also automatic route of salary revision for employees without bilateral talks as stated below, by constituting a high level committee immediately to go into this entire aspect of wage negotiations in banking sector with a view to minimize the impact of such strikes on the society and the public at large. In order to follow the consultative process generally followed by RBI, the committee should be headed by the deputy governor of RBI and should consist of representatives of bank management, bank employees, bank customers from trade and industry and bank depositors and borrowers with the following terms of reference:
1.To identify various problems encountered by the public when the majority of bank employees go on strike and suggest remedial measures to minimize the inconvenience caused to the bank customers by making available essential services through alternate channels or through banks who are not part of the strike called by employees. Since the new generation banks are not a party to these settlements, possibility of routing some of the essential services through these banks to minimize hardships to the banking public can also be explored.
2. To suggest an out-of-the box solution to eliminate the confrontation between the employees and the management of banks by introducing an automatic route of salary revision for bank employees once every five years. For example, this can be done by a built in system of linking the rise in wages to the average of CPI/WPI/Core inflation index of the previous five years and with such other parameters as relevant for the banking industry, so as to give up the present system of lengthy bilateral negotiations which has been the root cause of recurring strikes and strife between the parties during more than last two decades. This could serve as a novel experiment in bringing down industrial strife in a country, where labour, one of the largest and important factors of production, can live in peace and harmony.
Need for a quick resolution of imbroglio to save the economy from chaos:
Once the committee gives its report, RBI in co-ordination with the central government should quickly formulate appropriate guidelines for all to follow and drastically curtail the need for employees to go on strike and thus bring to an end the disruption in banking services happening today.
The banking industry today is under tremendous strain affecting their health due to a variety of factors and they certainly need a quick resolution of the dispute with their employees. The employees too are restless as their real wages have been eroded due to the rising inflation in the economy during the last couple of years and deserve quick settlement of their demands without any further sacrifice on their part. And the bank customers, who are the innocent victims of this industrial dispute and suffer for no fault of theirs, too deserve better deal.
Therefore, in the interest of all concerned and in its own enlightened self interest, RBI should not only come out with guidelines to minimize the inconvenience caused to bank customers in the unlikely event of bank employees observing strike again in the future, but also explore the possibility of avoiding the employer-employee conflict in the banking industry, which is taking an ugly turn every five years, causing immeasurable damage to the economy and inconvenience to the general public.
Will the new young and dynamic Governor of RBI take up this unenviable task of putting a lid on this archaic system of dispute resolution in the banking industry by introducing radical changes in the way in which banks function today and lay a strong permanent foundation for undisruptive banking services in our country for the greater good of our economy and its people? This will certainly herald a new era of peace and prosperity for all the stake holders in the banking industry, giving a boost to the struggling economy as well during this critical period in the banking history of our country.
(The author is banking analyst and he writes for Moneylife under the pen name ‘Gurpur’ )
Activists used Section 4 of RTI Act at IG-Registration’s website to unearth a big land scam involving Pune’s divisional commissioner Prabhakar Deshmukh and top notch politician
Ajit Pawar, deputy chief minister of Maharashtra transferred demolition man and honest IAS officer Shrikar Pardeshi, who was until recently the commissioner at Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corp (PCMC). At the same time, Pawar, the junior, (he is nephew of NCP leader Sharad Pawar) declared in public that Pune’s Divisional Commissioner Prabhakar Deshmukh’s 300 acre agricultural land scam, is just a baseless allegation. Ajit Pawar’s claim is based on a few ‘tapped’ phone conversations, which he listened to!
While, much hue and cry should be raised about Ajit Pawar admitting that he heard conversation of `tapped’ calls, Right to Information (RTI) activist Vijay Kumbhar researched deeply into Deshmukh’s scam that could just be the proverbial tip of an iceberg.
In rural areas, land comes under Maharashtra Agricultural Lands (Ceiling of Holdings) Act, 1961. This Act has come into force from 2 October 1975. Prior to implementation of this Act, a person could hold lands to the extent of 100 acres or more. The criteria for land to be kept with the land holder is:
* Cultivated land: 18 acres
* Barren land: 36 acres
So, under this Act, the landlord can keep minimum 54 acres of land as a family holding. Excess land is taken by the state government, for distribution to the landless poor and ex-servicemen. The land in Jambhe village area, where Deshmukh bought the 300 acre land for Rs2 crore, is a deemed government land since 1977. It is a mineral-rich zone and any change in land zone is prohibited. Importantly, the land has also been ear-marked for project rehabilitation. Despite this, Deshmukh bought 300 acres of agricultural land in the name of his family members and close relatives. Incidentally, he is also the President of Satara Planning Administration.
Vijay Kumbhar thoroughly inspected website of Inspector General of Registration & Stamps (http://igrmaharashtra.gov.in/ and http:www.pune.nic.in), to investigate the matter. While, it has been observed that most public authorities do not suo motu upload information under Section 4 of the RTI Act, both these websites have uploaded most of the land records. The http://igrmaharashtra.gov.in/ website has put up land details of 360 sub registrar officers, 31 district level offices, nine divisional level offices and that of headquarters Pune. Close to 22 lakh documents have been registered across the state and revenue handled is close to Rs5,000 crore, states the website. Strangely though, the http://www.pune.nic.in portal has uploaded land records of all the talukas of Pune except Mulshi, which indeed is a lucrative business area for those who sell farmhouse plots, but that’s another story!
Kumbhar’s findings regarding Deshmukh’s land scam are as follows:
Questioning the deal, Kumbhar says, “How come Satish Bhimsen Agarwal came in to the picture? Till 2009, the land seems to be a village community land. Then how ownership of the land was transferred in the name of Agarwal? As per the rehabilitation Act, this land was prohibited from any type of transfer, then how come this land was sold and transferred?; If the land is village community land, then nobody including the state authority can disburse or change the use of land; there are several Supreme Court citations that safeguard village community land, so how come they didn’t apply here?; Who gave permission to sub-divide the land?”
After procuring this information, Kumbhar, made a formal complaint to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra. In the complaint, he stated, “How come Satish Bhimsen Agarwal came in to the picture? Till 2009 land seems to be village community land, then how ownership of the land was transferred in the name of Agarwal? As per the Rehabilitation Act, this land was prohibited from any type of transfer, then how come it was sold and transferred?; If the land is village community land then nobody including the state authority can disburse or change the use of land; there are several Supreme Court citations that safeguard village community land, so how come they didn’t apply here?; Who gave permission to sub-divide the land?”
Kumbhar says, “…as per ready reckoner, the rate of agriculture land at Jambhe is about Rs5.20 lakh per hectare and for NA land the rate is Rs340 per sq. ft. As per this rate, the cost of this land comes to Rs41 crore as NA land and Rs6 crore as agricultural land. The why was this land sold at just Rs2 crore? Is it because the divisional commissioner and his relatives are the beneficiaries?”
“Is there any business that gives so much return within a period of one or two years? The land, which was purchased at just Rs2 crore, will now generate Rs127 crores just through sale of land. Interestingly, in his declaration to the government, Deshmukh has declared that he owns two flats, one in Pune and other Mumbai, both worth Rs6 crore and 95 acres of land.
In the meanwhile, Satara-based RTI activist Shivaji Raut, who has also been procuring documents regarding Jambhe land scam, has been receiving death threats. Raut made a formal complaint to the police, for protection. This goes to show the depth of vested interests that are busy protecting a corrupt bureaucrat. Is it because similar skeletons may stumble out of their cupboards?
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)