Spare the MeECL pensioners

Editor,

Your esteemed daily reported, ‘Treat MeECL wounds, don’t kill it’: UDP (ST June 7, 2021), The MeECL wounds need the right medicine rather than cutting and throwing the wounded parts. The body of the MeECL is not just the MePDCL as conceived by our leaders; it has extended families,- the pension holders who served the MeSEB and later MeCEL, after corporatization in implementing the Electricity Act, 2003 across the nation.

The reality is that the Corporations born out of State Electricity Boards (SEBs) are actually not doing better than the erstwhile Boards wherever they exist. Whereas the State Government had the responsibility of taking over all the 4(four) entities – the holding company, the MePDCL, the MePGCL and MePTCL, for initial 6(months) and allow them to start independent businesses with zero balance. After six months, the State Government did authorize the Holding Company (MeECL) to take over the other three entities which is continuing till date with the exception of the MePTCL.

Meghalaya and the MeSEB in particular had survived with the tariff which was revised time and again in the last 35 years from 1975 till March, 2010 with logical increment of tariff with the sanction of the competent authorities.

It’s only after Corporatization that power was vested with the MSERC which suddenly disallowed the MeECL from paying pension to pensioners and the family pension holders. This has wounded the hearts of over 3000 elderly citizens and their family members. On grounds of empathy alone the MeECL authorities cannot shirk off their responsibility of paying pension to retired staff and this is a basic human right and also a fundamental right enshrined in the Indian Constitution. All laws and rules are subservient to the Indian Constitution. It is because of this right to live that old-age pension is given to take care of senior citizens. Sudden stoppage of pension is like telling people to stop eating food.

The wound is right here in the hearts of thousand lives. Please treat our wounds.

Yours etc.,

Thrumen Sangma,

Via email

SC verdict on Dua case

Editor,

Apropos of the news item ‘SC quashes sedition case against Dua’ (ST June 4, 2021). On the issue of protection of speech and expression of media personnel a bench comprising Justices U U Lalit and Vineet Saran said that ‘every journalist is entitled to protection under the Kedar Nath Singh ruling (the famous verdict of 1962 on the scope and ambit of offence of sedition in the IPC)’ and quashed the case against veteran journalist Vinod Dua. The case against Dua was for his alleged comments against Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his YouTube show last year, saying a 1962 verdict entitles every journalist to protection.

Appreciating the verdict, while Editors Guild of India demanded repeal of the “draconian” and “antiquated” sedition laws, the Indian Women’s Press Corps hoped that the apex court judgement will provide ‘’immediate relief’’ to the journalists who are in jail under sedition charges. The Indian Penal Code (45 0f 1860) was framed/formulated and enacted in 1860 without inclusion of sedition law. Kedar Nath Singh in 1962 had given a historic judgement that the sedition charges cannot be invoked against a citizen for criticism of government actions as it is in conformity with the freedom of speech and expression. In fact, criticism of government activities in a democratic republic is a fundamental right of citizens for assessing whether the system of governance is moving on the right track, in the right direction or needs rectification/review/reinforcement for improvement. The criticism of government actions can be likened to periodical medical tests of human beings/people/citizens through diagnostic & pathological tests to assess the status of the biological system functioning (Metabolism & Catabolism) and needs medication for keeping operation of the health system running normal.

The crux of the legal tangle in Dua’s case has remained unsolved. The apex Bench however rejected the prayer of Dua that no FIR should be registered against any media personnel with 10 years’ experience unless cleared by a High Court Committee on the plea that it would amount to encroachment into the domain of the executive. The Indian Judiciary has a unique reputation/distinction of administering its ruling freely, fearlessly and without discrimination or apprehension of any kind. As per the Constitution of India nobody is above law and the rule of law is applicable equally to all citizens of the country including “executives, legislators-MPs & MLAs and all politicians’’ who are elected by the people.

On the above perspective the demand of the EGI for repeal of the draconian and antiquated sedition laws [Section 124A] that find no place in any modern liberal democracy appears more than justified! After all media personnel are not criminals. Criticism of government actions or governance is neither a criminal intimidation nor a provocation or threat of violence resulting in public disorder to endanger the security of the State.

Right from weather forecasting, forewarning for floods, tracking terrorists’ disruptive actions to typhoon devastation and disaster, media persons, risking their lives, lead round- the- clock and serve news for safety of people affected .The Army and disaster management groups take over for rescue, relief and rehabilitation!

It is unfortunate that even after more than seven decades of Independence draconian sedition laws designed by the British rulers to suppress the liberty of citizens including media personnel are still being applied by the ruling dispensations at the union and state level indiscriminately. The excruciating manner in which such laws are implemented by the law enforcement authorities in different parts of the country leading to pre-trial incarceration, needs further intervention by the Apex Court. The Law Commission of India had also issued a directive in 2018 that for expression of a thought not in consonance with government’s policy no individual should be charged with sedition. In effect the Law Commission had underscored that existing/prevalent sedition laws run counter to the protection of fundamental rights as enshrined in Articles 19 & 21 of the Constitution and need to be repealed!

Protest against an attempt to stifle the voices of the citizens and implicating them in criminal offences with even concocted and fabricated charges of treason by the state power in the largest democracy of the world is contemptible. It would be prudent for the government of the people, by the people and for the people to remember- Vox populi, vox dei! (the voice of the people is the voice of God)

Yours etc.,

Samares Bandyopadhyay,

Advocate, Kolkata High Court

Via email

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