A survey by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in 2018 had rated India as the most dangerous country for women. According to a National Crime Records Bureau report (2019) as many as 32,032 rapes were reported in 2019 — or 88 incidents of rape a day. Every hour, 39 instances of crime against women including four instances of rape are committed in India. Reported rape cases have increased by 88% over a decade. Four lakh cases of crimes against women were reported in 2019 (https://reut.rs/2OD76xi).
The recent observations by the Chief Justice of India (CJI), S.A. Bobde, while granting bail to a government servant who is accused of repeated rape and torture of a 16-year-old child have been widely criticised though the Chief Justice of India has now denied having suggested marriage to the rape accused. To be fair to the head of India’s judiciary, not only was the question possibly raised due to the record before him in accordance with the powers of judges under Section 165 of Indian Evidence Act, 1872 to ask any question but he also did promptly realise the sensitivity involved and quickly corrected himself by saying, ‘we are not forcing you to marry the victim’. The worrisome issue is that legally speaking, rape is not even a compoundable offence and parties are not allowed to enter into compromise. Seeking an apology from the Chief Justice of India is not appropriate; however, South African Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng was recently directed by the Judicial Conduct Committee to apologise unconditionally for making pro-Israeli comments in a webinar.
The real problem is that such avoidable utterances reflect the patriarchal mindset of our judges and the larger society. These statements demonstrate our gender insensitivity. While today the Chief Justice of India is being criticised from all over, let us remember that there have been several orders and judgments by Indian judges in the past which have done huge disservice to gender justice. Accordingly, the innocent question by the Chief Justice of India (“When two people are living as husband and wife, however brutal the husband is, can the act of intercourse between them be called rape?”) is neither the first nor the last instance.
Here, in this instance, the man had married the victim at a temple and subsequently refused to recognise her as wife and married another woman. The accused had allegedly caused injuries to the private parts of the woman, yet was granted bail. Here again, what the Chief Justice of India said was similar to the Modi government’s affidavit, in 2017, in the Delhi High Court. The RSS too had opposed marital rape being made a crime. Interestingly, the Justice J.S. Verma Committee (2013), which was constituted after the Delhi gang rape (2012) had said that rape should be viewed not as an infringement of a woman’s chastity or virginity but a violation of her bodily integrity and sexual autonomy. This autonomy cannot be permanently lost by entering into marriage. Rape remains rape irrespective of the relationship.
In the higher judiciary
Let us look at similar observations by other judges to understand the patriarchal attitude of judges. A few years ago, the top court orally asked a convict who had molested a girl 10 years ago to fall at her feet and that if she forgave him, the Court too would limit his sentence of imprisonment to the period already undergone. In its June 22, 2020 order while granting advance bail to the rape accused, Justice Krishna S. Dixit of the Karnataka High Court asked why ‘the victim had gone to her office at night’; why had she ‘not objected to consuming drinks with him’. He further observed that ‘the explanation offered by the complainant that after the perpetration of the act, she was tired and fell asleep is unbecoming of Indian women; that is not the way our women react when they are ravished’. After a hue and cry, the judge expunged this controversial statement on July 2, 2020. The Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court, in a strange ruling, had ordered that the sentence of the ‘rape convict can be cut if he agrees to pay Rs. 1 lakh to the victim’. Of course, the poor victim accepted the offer. In another case, the Bombay High Court had ordered that breaking a promise of marriage is neither cheating nor rape. Here, the victim had filed for divorce from her husband to marry the accused. Justice Mridul Bhatkar granted bail to the accused observing that ‘it is an unfortunate case of frustrated love affair’. The Madras High Court had granted bail to a rape accused so that he could mediate with the victim. The Supreme Court had to quickly intervene to get the bail cancelled.
The Bhanwari Devi case
Who can forget the shocking decision inBhanwari Devi(1995); she was gang-raped in 1992. The acquittal order by the Rajasthan court gave absurd reasons such as a higher caste man cannot rape a lower caste woman for reasons of purity; her husband could not have watched his wife being raped; men who are 60-70 years old cannot commit rape and one relative cannot commit rape in front of another relative. It has been 25 years but the appeal against such a bizarre judgment has not been disposed of.
Even in other matters about women, a few of our judges at times demonstrate our society’s attitude toward women. A 2020 judgment from the Guwahati High Court treated refusal of applyingsindoor(vermilion) and wearing conch shell bangles (shaka) as sufficient basis to grant divorce to the husband. A few years ago, the Madras High Court gave an absurd order by directing that ‘divorcees too should maintain sexual purity to claim alimony’. Even a progressive judge like Justice M. Katju inD. Velusamy vs D. Patchaiammal(2010) had termed a second Hindu wife as a ‘mistress’ and ‘keep’, and thus not entitled to maintenance.
InNarendra vs K. Meena(2016), the top court held that under Hindu traditions, a wife on marriage is supposed to fully integrate herself with her husband’s family and that if she refuses to live with her in-laws, it would amount to cruelty and the husband would be entitled to divorce her under the Hindu Marriage Act. The High Court had ruled in favour of the wife.
But the Supreme Court reversed the High Court’s order, observing that ‘in India, generally people do not subscribe to the western thought, where, upon getting married or attaining majority, the son gets separated from the family. In normal circumstances, a wife is expected to be with the family of the husband after the marriage. She becomes integral to and forms part of the family of the husband’. Interestingly, though the wife is an integral part of her husband’s family, yet she is not a coparcener under the Hindu Succession Act.The Court also used Indian and Hindu ethos interchangeably without realising that under Muslim Personal Law, a wife has an absolute right to demand separate residence for herself.
InRajesh Sharma vs The State Of Uttar Pradesh(2017), a two judge Bench of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and Uday Umesh Lalit in yet another controversial order observed that there should be no automatic arrests on charges of cruelty. In this case, a demand of dowry was made for Rs. 3 lakh and a car, which the wife’s family was not able to meet. The pregnant wife was sent to her house, where she experienced trauma and her pregnancy was terminated. She was allegedly tortured, as noted by the lower court. An offence under Section 498A is non-bailable and non-compoundable so that the victim is not pressured into a compromise. And it is cognisable in that a police officer can make an arrest without a warrant from the court. The court did not hesitate in issuing a number of directions in favour of the accused — no arrest should normally be effected till the newly constituted Family Welfare Committee submitted its report; personal appearance of accused and out-station family members need not be insisted upon; bail application should be decided the same day. In 2017, the court decided to review this judgment.
And in ‘Hadiya’
In the infamous Hadiya (2017) case too, some of the observations of the Kerala High Court about Hadiya’s independent agency and powers of her father over her were equally shocking and patriarchal. Even though the Supreme Court in 2018 upheld the validity of her marriage and overruled the High Court’s strange judgment, the fact is that the top court’s order of investigation by the National Investigation Agency into the matter of marriage of two adults was absolutely erroneous.
One hopes the controversy now will lead to greater gender sensitivity by our judges, at least in their oral observations and questions, if not the final judgments. It would be better to target patriarchy rather than the Chief Justice of India. Of course the power to ask questions too must reflect gender sensitivity.
Faizan Mustafa is Vice-Chancellor, NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad. The views expressed are personal
On March 5, the Indian media carried news reports, based on remarks by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, that the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, known briefly as Quad, would soon meet at summit level, thus signalling the importance attached to this grouping by the Biden administration. The Quad, which comprises the U.S., Japan, Australia and India, had in February been described by the U.S. State Department as having “essential momentum and important potential”.
India’s engagement with the Quad goes back to China’s expanding footprint in South Asia and the Indian Ocean Region over the last few years. China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, proposing logistical connectivity across Eurasia and the Indian Ocean, rang alarm bells in India as the projects were viewed as encroachments into India’s strategic space. India responded with an upgradation of its naval capabilities and enhancement of ties with the Indian Ocean Region littoral states and other major powers in the region.
The intense debates around the recently enacted farm laws have brought to light the issue of developing a sound regulatory framework to promote India’s agricultural growth — and in keeping pace with the changing times. While the country is divided on the need for the three new farm laws, the fact remains that farmers, mainly smallholders, across India continue to face various constraints in carrying out farming activities. They include constraints in accessing agricultural inputs, markets, finance, human resources, and information, which are critical for increasing farmers’ competitiveness.
Role for the government
The existing institutional set up that controls farm production often fails to ease these constraints. A way out of this problem is to develop a suitable regulatory system that would enable farmers to overcome their constraints. Governments can play a critical role in this regard by enacting laws and regulations that influence farmers’ access to agricultural inputs, cost of production, farmers’ participation in agricultural markets and value chains, the competitiveness of farmers, and private investment in the farming sector.
Where does India stand on this front in comparison to other countries? A recent publication by the World Bank titled Enabling the Business of Agriculture (EBA) 2019 provides some interesting insights on this question (https://bit.ly/3aB98FO). Based on eight indicators, the EBA measures the extent to which government regulatory systems in 101 countries worldwide make it easier for their farmers to operate agricultural activities. The indicators are supplying seed, registering fertilizer, securing water, registering machinery, sustaining livestock, protecting plant health, trading food, and accessing finance. These indicators measure the strength of a country’s agricultural regulatory environment pertaining to market integration and entrepreneurship in agriculture. The EBA is akin to the Doing Business project of the World Bank, which ranks the ease of doing business in countries.
India’s poor standing
Among 101 countries covered, India ranked 49 on the EBA aggregate score. France, Croatia, and the Czech Republic are the three top-ranking countries. Among emerging groups of 20 (EG 20) countries, India has the second least favourable regulatory environment for farming activities after South Africa. Turkey is the top-performing country among EG 20 countries, followed by Argentina, Brazil, the Russian Federation, Mexico and China.
Notably, India lags behind its close competitors in world agriculture, namely China, Brazil, and the Russian Federation (https://bit.ly/3aJ3wJl). Compared to these three countries, India has the weakest performance on five out of eight indicators. They are registering fertilizer and machinery, securing water, sustaining livestock, and protecting plant health indicators. Registering fertilizer and machinery indicators measure domestic laws and regulations that provide farmers access to fertilizer and agricultural machinery. The regulatory processes that help farmers make appropriate decisions regarding the level of investment in irrigation are measured by securing water indicator. Sustaining livestock indicator captures the quality of regulations affecting farmers’ access to livestock farming inputs. The quality of legislation on phytosanitary standards (SPS) is captured through the protecting plant health indicator.
Inadequate access to quality agricultural inputs such as fertilizers, water, and mechanical power can cause productivity loss, higher cost of food production and uncertainty, and lower capacity of farmers to produce surpluses, adopt new plant varieties and accept new opportunities to improve their income.
The regulatory system that governs irrigation management is essential for reducing the variability of farm output, prices, and incomes, minimising vulnerability to natural shocks, and incentivising the production of riskier and high returns crops. Gaining access to the global agricultural value chain requires a sound regulatory framework on SPS. For instance, thanks to active involvement by the SPS authority, namely National Agrarian Health Service (SENASA-Peru), Peru had become one of the world’s leading exporters of asparagus.
The comparative score of India on supplying seed, trading food, and accessing finance indicators is high. Supplying seed indicator evaluates laws and regulations that ensure timely release of seed to farmers. A robust seed supply system is required for improving yield and adopting new crop varieties. The trading food indicator assesses laws and regulations that facilitate exporting of farm products by farmers. The regulatory framework on the use of warehouse receipts is assessed using accessing finance indicator. A robust warehouse receipts system enables the farmers to obtain the credit needed to invest in agriculture. Warehouse receipt operators accept deposits of crops and provide warehouse receipts to farmers as evidence of deposited crops. By using warehouse receipts as collateral, farmers can receive credit.
The EBA project results reveal that, compared to its close competitors, the strength of India’s agricultural regulatory environment is weak on the whole and with respect to key performance indicators.
The future of world agriculture and food production is expected to increasingly depend on middle-income countries such as China, India, Brazil, and Indonesia, just like the high-income countries dictating the fortunes of global agriculture in the past five decades (https://bit.ly/3ryD0cL).
To make the best use of this great opportunity, India needs to put in place an agricultural regulatory system that would make it easier for its farmers to conduct agricultural activities, thereby improving their productivity, competitiveness, and income.
Sthanu R Nair is Professor of Economics, Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode. The views expressed are personal
The political career of Muthuvel Karunanidhi (1924-2018) lasted for eight decades. He took over the reins of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in 1969 and remained its leader until his death in 2018. Through the retelling of the life of the DMK stalwart inKarunanidhi: A Life, the authoralso gives “an insight into the workings of the modern Indian state”. An excerpt:
Realising the way the Union government was zeroing in on the DMK [after Indira Gandhi declared the Emergency in 1975], M. Karunanidhi instructed his party cadres not to slacken their political work and to conduct both ward-level as well as district-level party meetings without fail. K. Anbazhagan, who became the treasurer of the party after MGR’s exit, ensured that at least one political event was held in every district of the State. The theme of these political meetings was the restoration of democracy.
On the evening of January 31, 1976, Karunanidhi addressed a school function and said, ‘This might be my last speech as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.’ Before leaving the function, he had asked one of his confidantes to inform the leaders of the Opposition, who had taken refuge in the State, about the impending dismissal and asked them to seek a safe exit. (George Fernandes was one of the prominent leaders Indira Gandhi wanted to arrest. Karunanidhi not only provided him a safe sanctuary but ensured that not a whiff of his presence in Tamil Nadu reached the bureaucracy or the police. Fernandes was arrested in West Bengal, a fortnight after the fall of Karunanidhi’s ministry.) In an hour, Karunanidhi reached his Gopalapuram residence to be greeted by his nephews — Amirtham and Selvam — with a telex. It was a news agency report that said the government has been dismissed and the Assembly dissolved. ‘At last, the suspense is over,’ Karunanidhi said.
For some strange reason, Indira Gandhi ordered the arrest of people close to Karunanidhi but not his arrest. The Central government cut off the telephone lines at Karunanidhi’s home, and at the offices of the DMK andMurasoli. The Army was called to carry out flag marches to instil fear and to curb protests. Within three hours of the dismissal, a posse of policemen landed at Karunanidhi’s place and wanted to arrest his son M.K. Stalin. This news sent shock waves through Karunanidhi’s family because Stalin had got married recently and his wife was expecting. Stalin, who was travelling, returned to Madras the next day and was arrested and lodged in Madras Central Jail. Within three days, the police arrested Murasoli Maran.
The police were refusing to release the names of the cadres arrested and the party was desperate to have a list of those picked up by the police. The excesses committed by the police in north India added not only an element of fear but also a sense of helplessness. Since 1969, Karunanidhi had led a special homage meeting for Anna on February 3 at the Anna Memorial, which he continued. The meeting was usually attended by all the DMK leaders and volunteers. As the new press censor rules did not permit the media to release the names of those who were arrested under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA), Karunanidhi found a novel way to do this. He made a note of all those partymen who did not come to the Anna Memorial to pay homage, as they most probably had been arrested, and published the list.
By May 1976, censorship had become more stringent, and even the mention of Annadurai’s name was not permitted by the authorities. Karunanidhi wrote a series critically assessing the Emergency and got it printed as a pamphlet in a friend’s press. He also got another notice printed that he would launch an‘Arappor’ (A peaceful struggle) on June 2, which would start with a procession from Anna Salai and end with a fast in front of the censor’s office. On the appointed day, he started marching from near the U.S. Consul General’s office towards the Anna statue, distributing the ‘Arappor’ pamphlet. This walk, of less than 3 kilometres, not only attracted the attention of the people but also galvanised the party cadres who had not been arrested, to assemble in the heart of the city. According to Selvam, though the police arrested the participants and the struggle came to an end in four hours, that defiance remains the lone public protest against the Emergency in India.
But Karunanidhi’s biggest journalistic defiance was the publication of a cartoon panel. Chellappan, one of the finest cartoonists of Tamil Nadu, created a panel called ‘Metamorphosis’, featuring Indira Gandhi slowly being transformed into Hitler. While this cartoon was republished in the magazineNewsweek, the government did not permit any of Chellappan’s cartoons to appear till the revocation of the Emergency.
Excerpted with permission from Penguin Random House
The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), with a strength of 3.5 lakh, is headless following the previous incumbent Dr. A.P. Maheshwari’s superannuation on February 28, 2021. The Special Director General, Kuldiep Singh, is holding charge until a regular officer is appointed.
Saddled with additional duties
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has been without a head since February 3 when R.K. Shukla retired on completion of his two-year term. Until a Director is selected after due procedure and clearance by a committee headed by the Prime Minister, the Additional Director, Praveen Sinha, will hold the fort. Common Cause, an NGO, has since filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court seeking the appointment of a regular CBI Director through the high-powered selection committee of the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of India and the Leader of the Opposition.
Consequent to his taking over as Director General of the Border Security Force (BSF) in August last year, Rakesh Asthana should have been relieved of his charge of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) that he had been heading prior to his appointment to the BSF. But for reasons best known to the powers that be, the Gujarat cadre officer continues to hold additional charge of the NCB. The BSF is the second largest force in the country after the CRPF. It is unfair to saddle him with additional charge of another organisation when the force he is heading is constantly at loggerheads with the Pakistan Army and militants along the borders and is even combating militants in Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast.
The elite National Security Guard too is without a regular Director General for nearly six months. After the retirement of the previous incumbent, the Director General of the Indo Tibetan Border Police, Surjeet Singh Deswal, took over the reins of this specialised outfit. This force comprising personnel from the Army and the Central Armed Police Forces comes into action in times of crisis such as during the Mumbai attacks of 2008. It is also entrusted with the responsibility of providing security to certain high-risk personalities.
The lone research and training organisation for the police forces of the country, the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D), too, is functioning without a regular Director General. The former incumbent, V.S.K. Kaumudi, has been the Special Secretary (Internal Security) in the Ministry of Home Affairs since August last year. He continues to hold the additional charge of the BPR&D.
What can be done
The fact that so many Central forces are without regular heads speaks of the kind of importance attached to these organisations. Though they play a pivotal role in maintaining internal security, there doesn’t seem to be much seriousness in posting the right kind of officers with not only the required skill and experience but also the time. This has an adverse impact on the efficiency of these forces. Officers holding provisional charge shy away from taking major policy decisions and prefer to leave such matters to the next person in charge.
There must be several aspirants to these top posts. But they have to wait for the final orders for months on end. Since most appointees to the top posts are at the fag end of their service, they are left with just a few months or a year or so to head these organisations. There is little they can do within their short tenures.
The government of the day could consider announcing the next chief of these organisations at least three months in advance with a minimum tenure of two years or till superannuation, whichever is later. Preferably, those considered for these posts should be from among the officers who have served in these organisations earlier. A panel of officers cleared by the Union Public Service Commission could be always kept ready and the officers for the top posts could be chosen from this panel. This will go a long way in speeding up decisions and enhancing the efficiency of these forces.
M.P. Nathanael is Inspector General of Police (Retd), CRPF
Nearly all major Indian cities have a brush with destructive but often preventable accidental fires each year, leaving in their wake lost lives and destroyed property. The blaze in the Eastern Railway headquarters in Kolkata on the evening of March 8, which killed at least nine people, is particularly egregious because it took place in a modern multi-storeyed special building. What the preliminary account of the fire and its aftermath suggests is a textbook case of poor attention to fire safety basics and, possibly, the absence of robust fire mitigation technologies. Whatever the sequence of events, the unfortunate incident in the central part of a vibrant city has taken the lives of a group of first responders, including four firefighters, a police officer and some railway staff. Apparently anxious to intervene, a group of personnel lost sight of their own safety and tried to speed up to the top floor of the building in a lift, perishing in the fire and smoke. The computerised booking system of the railway was paralysed. It has been a difficult start to the new year for Kolkata, with an inferno in the Baghbazar area destroying a vast slum, triggering violent protests. A return to normality will obviously take a lot of remedial work, although prioritising fire safety will have to wait for the frenetic election campaign there to end.
Every instance of fire brings to the fore the problem of adopting an incremental approach to safety. The building blocks of safety rely as much on modern technologies, as on preparedness, although Indian cities give short shrift to both. Official certifications that are not worth the paper they are printed on substitute for actual enforcement. Using the Kolkata railway building as a test case, the Centre should report on whether it met the fire safety norms prescribed in the National Building Codes. For instance, smoke alarms and sprinkler systems are an inexpensive early warning and intervention measure, but are not universally adopted. The recent tragedy also presents an occasion to review the progress of the Model Bill of 2019 to Provide for the Maintenance of Fire and Emergency Services of a State, which aimed at modernisation. Considering that the death toll from accidental fires, as per NCRB data for 2019, stands at a staggering 10,915, there is every reason to make a fire safety upgrade for public buildings a mission mode plan. Bringing such structures under the purview of public liability insurance, paid for by the respective departments, will provide enough incentive for their occupants to incorporate safety in all planning, and involve third party audits. Equally, drills for offices and multi-storeyed residential buildings will eliminate uncertainty and confusion among people on what must be done when disaster actually strikes. Safety favours only those who are prepared.
Among the Big Three in men’s tennis, Novak Djokovic has been the least appreciated by fans and followers. If Roger Federer’s wizardry has elevated the sport to unseen levels aesthetically, Rafael Nadal’s rugged artistry has stretched it to athletic extremes. Djokovic’s elastic genius has straddled the space in between and has at times been offset by his on-court demeanour and grinding style of play. But on Monday, when the 33-year-old embarked upon a record 311th week at the top of the ATP singles rankings, going past Federer, Djokovic served yet another reminder of his enduring greatness. The run is not as much about his longevity as it is about his utter domination of the decade gone by. Federer first reached the top in 2004 and Nadal in 2008. But since the time the Serb first scaled the peak — on July 4, 2011 — the celebrated duo has occupied pole position for just 132 weeks (Nadal 107, Federer 25). All but one of Djokovic’s 18 Grand Slam titles have come in the 10-year span starting with the 2011 Australian Open. Federer accumulated four during the same period, and Nadal 11, of which eight were at the French Open. Remarkably, Djokovic has overcome Federer or Nadal in 13 of the 18 Slams he has won and it will come as no surprise if Djokovic emerges with the most Majors, going past Federer’s and Nadal’s all-time record tally of 20.
Beyond statistics, a case can be made for Djokovic to be the most complete player of this era. His game, built on fleet-footed movement, a flat stroke, depth off both wings and a solid serve, is just about perfect for modern-day all-court tennis. Over the years, this combination has been chiselled to perfection, making him the pre-eminent force not just on the hard courts at Melbourne and New York, where he has a combined 12 crowns, but even on the hallowed grass at Wimbledon, where he has triumphed in five of the last nine editions, Federer’s grass-court majesty notwithstanding. Djokovic may not have replicated the same level of success against Nadal on clay — as the 2020 Roland Garros defeat showed — but he has been the Spaniard’s greatest challenger. “At a technical level, when Djokovic has been at the top of his game, I’ve been up against an invincible player,” Nadal once acknowledged. There have been blips; between his first two Majors (2008-2011) Djokovic’s game stagnated, and for two years after winning the 2016 French Open, he was in wilderness. But both times he returned to vintage form: ruthless and untouchable. Recently, Djokovic had seemed slightly tetchy and nervous against the ‘Next Gen’ players Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev. But as the comprehensive victory over the latter in the 2021 Australian Open final showed, Djokovic’s mask of invincibility is far from cracking.
London, March 8: While the abortiveness of the Conference is regretted in England, a feeling of relief amounting to satisfaction is apparent, in Paris, where the sincerity of Germany’s desire to meet the reparations obligations has always been suspected. It is commonly agreed in England that the Allies extended to Germany every opportunity, and by unofficial discussions during the past few days have come up to the scratch, but that German stubbornness prevailed. London papers cordially endorse the action determined on by the Allies and dwell on the blundering German diplomacy and the impudent and cynical speech of Simons and notably on his demand that Upper Silesia which before the war was preponderantly Polish should be German without reference to a plebiscite. Simons’ final rejoinder to Mr. Lloyd George is regarded as indicating that additional counter-proposals will be submitted without delay in order to terminate the new occupations, but it is generally felt that the only propositions which can be discussed will be the unquestioned acceptance of the Paris decisions with modifications regarding the method of discharge.
East Pakistan judges, from the region’s Chief Justice down, yesterday [March 8] refused to swear in Lt. Gen. Tikka Khan, President Yahya Khan’s new choice for Military Governor, as the de facto Awami League regime of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman tried to consolidate its hold on Bengal. President Yahya Khan may visit Dacca to-morrow, apparently to find a way to avoid a head-on collision with the Sheikh and to establish a dialogue with him.
According to the Awami League sources, the Chief Justice Mr. B. A. Siddiqui refused to administer the traditional oath to the Governor designated by the President on Saturday. Failure to take oath officially left Gen. Khan as Governor-designate and Martial Law Administrator. The military would not comment on his status. The Central Government has ceased to function here, according to a highly placed civil servant. Postal services operated normally. Commercial banks under Sheikh Mujibur Rehman’s directives, opened for three hours to-day to honour pay cheques. Private citizens were not allowed to withdraw more than 1,500 rupees.