Tuesday, Nov 11, 2003
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By Our Staff Correspondent
The Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, going through the memorandum presented by the Leader of the Opposition in the Tamil Nadu Assembly, K. Anbazhagan (second from left), in New Delhi on Monday. The DMK deputy general secretary, M.K. Stalin (extreme left), the Union Minister for Environment, T.R. Baalu, and the Congress leader, G.K. Vasan (extreme right), are also seen. Photo: V. Sudershan
The Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, gave this assurance to a delegation of Opposition members from Tamil Nadu, who met him here today to express unhappiness over the events. "Whatever the authorities in Tamil Nadu have done cannot be justified,'' Mr. Vajpayee said.
Mr. Vajpayee is said to have told the team that in the Indian system of checks and balances, no wing could arrogate to itself the right to overturn this arrangement. He justified the Supreme Court's intervention and expressed happiness over the solidarity exhibited by the media.
The 57-member team of legislators from nine political parties, barring the BJP, sought the Prime Minister's immediate intervention to "protect the legitimate rights and liberty, to stop the dictatorship and end the abuse of power by the AIADMK Government in Tamil Nadu."
The actions of the Tamil Nadu Assembly posed a direct challenge to the freedom of the press and the functioning of democratic institutions, they said.
The delegation stopped short of demanding the dismissal of the State Government but said it had cited enough reasons for invoking Article 356. "The silence maintained by the Union Government perhaps emboldens the Jayalalithaa regime to abuse power,'' the delegation said.
In a memorandum presented to Mr. Vajpayee, the legislators said the sentence of 15 days simple imprisonment imposed by the Assembly on the Editor, the Executive Editor, the Publisher, the Chief of News Bureau and a Special Correspondent of The Hindu for publishing an editorial on April 25 was unprecedented and atrocious.
"What is shocking further is that S. Selvam, editor of Murasoli, was also punished with 15 days imprisonment for merely publishing a translation of The Hindu editorial."
The other allegations made against the Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, were the misuse of the Assembly for political ends and of the Essential Services Maintenance Act by chargesheeting legislators under the Act for sympathising with the cause of striking Government employees.
The State Government ruthlessly and mercilessly dismissed en masse more than 1.7 lakh Government employees without adopting a proper procedure or conducting any inquiry, they pointed out.
The Opposition also raised the issue of arrest of the MDMK leader, Vaiko, and the Nakkeeran Editor, R.R. Gopal, under POTA and the arrest of the DMK leader, M. Karunanidhi.
Describing these as "tyranny and oppression unleashed by the AIADMK Government", the Opposition members said that unless the Centre, which was conferred the power to defend and protect the legitimate rights and liberty of the people, came forward with a great sense of responsibility and constitutional obligation, peace and tranquillity in the State would be in peril.
`Good for democracy'
Earlier, the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, described as "good for democracy" the stay on the arrests of the scribes, when the delegation met him this morning. He hoped that the Supreme Court's directive would strengthen democracy. "As a former journalist, I have always valued a free press and feel sad and unhappy when the freedom of the press is opposed," he said.
The delegation, comprising members from the DMK, the Congress, the PMK, the CPI, the MDMK, the DPI, the CJP and the MGR Kazhagam, was led by the Leader of the Opposition in the Tamil Nadu Assembly, K. Anbazhagan.
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