0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Coming straight to the key point, a high-profile Committee of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) on October 5 recommended a slew of measures, including increasing the number of directors on boards of listed companies, the appointment of at least one woman independent director, and a higher frequency of board meetings to enhance corporate governance standards at India Inc. It is widely anticipated that this panel will usher in the much needed corporate governance overhaul. But right now it would be premature to guess how effective it will be in ushering corporate governance overhaul. Uday Kotak who is the head of SEBI’s panel on corporate governance presented the report to SEBI Chairman Ajay Tyagi on October 5.
SEBI Panel Pushes For Corporate Governance Overhaul

                                           While craving for my esteemed readers exclusive indulgence, let me inform them that the 25-member panel on corporate governance, headed by Uday Kotak who is Vice Chairman and Managing Director of Kotak Mahindra Bank has also called for separating the roles of chairman and managing director and creating a formal framework for sharing sensitive information between the board and entities not part of the board. Pushing strongly for greater transparency, the panel said that sound corporate governance helped companies generate “significantly greater returns”, compared to companies, which exhibited poor corporate governance standards. It further said that well-governed companies could command a premium between 10 and 40 percent over not-so-well-governed companies.
                                          For my esteemed readers exclusive indulgence, let me also inform them that the panel headed by eminent banker Uday Kotak also suggested the government assess an “independent holding structure” for public sector undertakings (PSUs). The panel in its 178-page report submitted to SEBI said that, “The government should consider consolidating its ownership and monitoring PSUs into independent holding entity structures by April 1, 2020.” I am sure that the government will seriously consider this recommendation as well as other recommendations.
                                         Let me hasten to add here that the move, the panel said, would help remove conflicts between the government and the regulator. The panel also said that an autonomous environment would enhance the shareholder value and act in the best interests of all stakeholders noting several public sector undertakings (PSUs) were trading at a sharp discount to their private peers. It is thus incumbent that an autonomous environment should be created soon so that it can help in more ways than one.
                                               To put things in perspective, while suggesting a major overhaul of corporate governance norms for listed companies, the Kotak panel rightly recommended limiting chairmanship to only non-executive directors and appointing at least one woman as independent directors. Presently, we see that 637 companies (38.1%) don’t have a single independent woman director. This is certainly most concerning!
                                           It also must be added here that the panel has recommended that the requirement to have at least one woman director should exclude promoter’s relative to be truly independent. M Damodaran who is former Chairman of SEBI says that, “My view has always been that there should be at least two women directors on the board, with at least one being independent… There is nothing wrong with a promoter’s relative being one of the women directors since no such question is raised when the promoter’s son or nephew is appointed to the board.” While the proposal for only non-executive director being allowed to be made chairman would eventually lead to a split in the posts of chairman and managing director, the panel also suggested increasing the minimum board strength to six members and the number of board meetings to five in a year. Earlier the minimum number of board members were three and minimum number of board meetings were four.
                                           As things stand, the current rules require that there must be one woman on board, irrespective of her being on board, irrespective of her being an independent or executive director. They also call for having at least half of board members as independent directors, up from one-third currently. The suggestions assume immense significance when considered in the backdrop of alleged corporate governance-related issues at Tata Group and Infosys and the ugly slugfest that broke out between those persons who are in the helm now and those who were earlier in the helm which even saw many heads rolling!
                                          Simply put, the panel also suggested a minimum remuneration of Rs 5 lakh per annum for independent directors and a sitting fee of Rs 20,000 – 50,000 for each board meet. It also sought to make it mandatory to seek public shareholders approval for annual remuneration of executive directors from promoter family if the amount exceeds Rs 5 crore or 2.5 percent of the company’s net profit. No doubt, this would check arbitrary actions and act as a safeguard against misuse of money.
                                          Briefly stated, in case of more than one such director, the same condition would apply for aggregate annual remuneration exceeding 5 percent of the net profit. The approval of shareholders will be required every year in which the annual remuneration payable to a single non-executive director exceeds 50 percent of the total annual remuneration payable to all non-executive directors. The companies would be required to disclose the list of competencies/expertise that its board members actually possess. This will ensure increased accountability and compliance with rules which will undoubtedly be good for the system. Besides, public shareholders nod would be mandatory for non-executive directors over 75 years of age. 972 non-executive directorship positions occupied by directors who are more than 75 years of age.  
                                      As it turned out, the capital markets regulator SEBI has sought public comments till November 4 on the panel’s recommendations which runs into 178 pages and covers a plethora of issues. The panel has suggested at least half of board members to be independent directors at listed companies, while all directors must attend at least half of board meets. Presently, a board needs to have at least a third of its directors as independent.
                                           What is of immense significance is that the panel also called for a better compensation for independent directors in order to balance the “risk-reward” and make it attractive for “competent people” to become independent directors. It also called for exclusive meetings of independent directors. It suggested for new disclosure norms, where listed entities would have to give detailed reasons for resignation of an independent director. This without doubt would strengthen the position of independent director.
                                      As of now, according to the figures obtained by Prime Database, till date 851 independent directors would resign from various companies. Going ahead, many companies may even find it hard to find independent directors. In the last two years, many independent directors have been resigning from companies they feel could land them in trouble.
                    It is laudable that the panel recommended to disclose detailed reasons for resignation of independent directors while earlier there were no such specific rules. This will ensure that independent directors before quitting would lay bare the stark truth of all what was going wrong due to which he/she had to resign! So no one can take them for granted. We all know fully well how in the aftermath of Cyrus Mistry’s ouster as Chairman of Tata sons, Nusli Wadia – an independent director on the boards of three listed Tata companies had asked SEBI to inquire into unpublished material and price sensitive information shared by the companies with Tata trustees and Tata sons. Wadia showed how an independent director can assert himself and work without getting influenced by anyone!
                           Also, interestingly enough,  where chairperson is not independent, the panel recommended that independent director should be the lead while earlier there was no such provision. Now, independent directors could face more scrutiny which will ensure that they work more transparently and sincerely. It is also laudable that the panel has proposed a minimum remuneration in the case of independent directors depending on the size of the economy.
                              It has also proposed more powers to independent directors. The chairperson of a listed company will be a non-executive director to ensure that s/he is independent of the management. An independent director cannot be in more than eight listed companies and a managing director can hold the post of an independent director in only three listed firms. The minimum sitting fees of independent directors has been halved from the current Rs 1 lakh per meeting stipulated by Companies Act, 2013 to Rs 50,000 for the top 100 companies by market capitalization. Detailed reasons would need to be furnished when an independent director resigns. This is to ensure that they remain independent of the company management.

                                       More importantly, every board meeting would require the presence of an independent director. The committee has recommended that the number of independent directors on a company board be increased from 33% to 50%. This would ensure that undue patronage and arbitrary actions are checked firmly.
                                      Most importantly, the panel has proposed that directors attend at least half the total board meetings held in a financial year. If they failed to do so, they would require shareholder’s nod for continuing. This would certainly compel them to be on their toes and not take things for granted.
                                No less important is the recommendation to increase the number of meetings to five a year. The fifth meeting would discuss among other things, whether the company has a succession plan in place. This issue cropped up most recently after the recent boardroom battles at the Tata group and Infosys Ltd. Other issues that would be discussed in the proposed fifth meeting include adherence to governance standards, board evaluation and strategies for the company.         

                                         Truth be told, the panel which submitted so many of its landmark recommendations was set up by SEBI in June 2017 with a view to enhancing the standards of corporate governance of listed entities in India. The committee consisted of officials from the government, industry, professional bodies, stock exchanges, academicians, lawyers and proxy advisors. The panel was asked to submit its reportwithin four months which it did on October 5.
                                        Truly speaking, the terms of reference of the committee were to make recommendations to SEBI on various issues including ensuring independence in spirit of independent directors and their active participation in functioning of the company. Besides, the suggestions are aimed at improving safeguards and disclosures pertaining to related party transactions. They also cover issues in accounting and auditing practices by listed companies and seek to improve effectiveness of board evaluation practices. The report also seeks to address issues faced by investors on voting and participation in general meetings, and disclosure and transparency related issues. 
                          Needless to say, the panel also suggested that all listed entities which have public shareholding of 40 percent or  more at the beginning of a fiscal year should ensure that the chairperson should be a non-executive director from April 1, 2020, while chairperson should be a non-executive director for all the listed companies from April 1, 2022. It is commendable that it also recommended that the top 100 companies by market capitalisation should webcast their shareholder meeting. It also suggested that the minimum number of audit committee meetings be increased to five every year from the present four.
                            Be it noted, the panel also recommended the adoption of a transparent framework for exchanging unpublished price-sensitive information (UPSI) with promoters or any significant entity not part of the board. It called for the creation of special agreements enabling the management to share any UPSI with designated persons. Under the current framework, such information can be shared with members only if they are part of the decision-making process.  
                                    It is a no-brainer that this issue had assumed immense significance during the no-holds-barred tussle at Tata sons between their erstwhile chairman Ratan Tata and Cyrus Mistry and the latter had to quit under unrelenting pressure exerted  on him by the former. Panel member Keki Mistry who is Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer HDFC said that, “These measures would bring clarity and create a pathway where promoters can access sensitive information, subject to certain restrictions.”   
                                         It must be brought out here that addressing the issue of high royalty payments by domestically listed multi-national companies (MNCs) to their parents, the panel recommended that payments amounting to over 5 percent of the revenues would require the approval of public shareholders. It also recommended high frequent disclosures of related party transactions (RPTs), often a bone of contention between public shareholders and promoters. 
                              Of course, it called for the presence of at least one independent director at every board meeting. Also, it sought disclosure of the expertise of the directors being appointed and capping the maximum number of directorships to seven by April 2020. It further suggested the separation of the roles of the chairperson and the CEO and managing director for listed entities, with public shareholding over more than 40 percent by April 2020 and extend it to all companies by April 2022. The move could impact companies like Reliance Industries where Mukesh Ambani holds the post of both Chairman and MD. Same is the case with Pawan Munjal at India’s largest motorcycle maker Hero MotorCorp and RD Shroff at the country’s largest agrochemicals producer United Phosphorus. Of the 50 companies on the benchmark Nifty, at least 12, including Reliance Industries, ONGC and Wipro, have the same person occupying both posts.     
                                             To be sure, the Kotak panel also made several proposals for effective functioning of board committees which includes audit, remuneration and stakeholder relationship committee. It also advised setting up of information technology committee to focus on digital and technological developments. It also recommended that SEBI should have clear powers to act against auditors under securities law. For government companies, the panel has recommended that the company law board has final say on the appointment of independent directors and not the nodal ministry.
                                           In a bid to improve transparency among group entities, the panel suggested revising the definition of a “material subsidiary”. It said an entity will be termed as a material subsidiary if its income or net worth exceeds 10 percent, up from the current 20 percent, of the consolidated income or networth respectively of the listed entity. This also apply to unlisted foreign subsidiaries.
                                          Going forward, the panel stipulates that the maximum number of directorships held by a person will be capped at 8 by April 1, 2019 and 7 by April 1, 2020. It also stipulates that the auditor shall have the right to independently obtain external opinions from experts. It recommended that for listed entities in India, the auditor of the holding company should be made responsible for the audit opinion of all material unlisted subsidiaries.  
                                     Let me bring out here that the panel has recommended that chartered accountants apex body ICAI (Institute of Chartered Accountants of India) should have powers to punish audit firms and impose a fine of up to Rs 1 crore on erring auditors. This would go a long way in deterring them from erring intentionally.  Presently, the ICAI can only impose a maximum of Rs 5 lakh fine on its members for violations.
                                               Let me also bring out here that it also stated categorically that, “On the audit firm – punishment or impose penalties of up to Rs 5 crore in case of repeated violations (that is where the number of violations exceed three). Besides, it has suggested that the institute should make increased disclosure about actions taken against members which would ensure more transparency and act as a deterrent. Another suggestion is for the institute to have a separate team for enforcement pertaining to listed entities in order to reduce the turnaround time for disciplinary proceedings.
                                       It cannot be lost on us that the panel proposed stricter rules and disclosures for related-party transactions. It stated that, “All material related-party transactions shall require approval of the shareholders through resolution and no related parties shall vote to approve such resolutions whether the entity is a related party to the particular transaction or not.” It also said that, “All entities falling under the definition of related parties shall not vote to approve the relevant transaction irrespective of whether the entity is a party to the particular transaction or not.”  
                                     It also has to be borne in mind that the panel suggested companies should disclose in the annual report key financial ratios or sector-specific equivalent ratios. It also proposed the release of consolidated results every quarter and cash-flow statements every six months.
                                        It is noteworthy that the panel proposes to put in place a common stewardship code that might compel Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) and top mutual funds (MFs) to play a more active role in this regard. Sai Venkateshwaran who is partner and head of accounting advisory services at consultancy KPMG India says that, “The (proposed) code will make it a formal mandate for institutional investors to play a stewardship role, rather than remain silent spectators with respect to the affairs of their investee companies”. Several countries such as the UK, Japan and Malaysia have prescribed detailed Stewardship Codes to be followed by institutional investors voluntarily. These include principles which require that institutional investors have comprehensive policies on –
1.  Discharge of their stewardship responsibilities;
2.  Management of conflicts of interest in fulfilling stewardship responsibilities;
3.  Monitoring of investee companies;
4.  Intervention in investee companies;
5.  Collaboration with other institutional investors;
6.  Voting and disclosure of voting activity;
7.  Periodical reporting on their stewardship activities.
                                    It is also noteworthy that the panel has also recommended that the market regulator, SEBI, will have the right to pull up auditors for any lapse in corporate governance norms and penalize them. In the past, we saw how some of India’s top auditors, including some from the Big Four firms, were found clearing annual reports despite companies being accused of corporate governance violations as the case of United Spirits. This recommendation would undoubtedly make sure that auditors, who are seldom taken to task by their self-regulated body, do a thorough job while certifying accounts as not doing so would land them in a deep trouble.
                             Be it noted, the panel has proposed a formal framework for listed companies to share unpublished price sensitive information with promoters and large shareholders as this issue hit the headlines with the recent boardroom battles at Tata Group and Infosys. The Infosys Board had criticized its founder Narayana Murthy of inappropriate interference. The panel now entails that a listed entity may enter into the agreement in relation to providing access to material information, including unpublished price sensitive information, to the promoter or someone with more than 25% shares.
                                     It also makes it clear that is the duty of the promoters and large shareholders to maintain strict confidentiality of all material information, under the terms of agreement. Safeguards to be put in place in respect of procedures of communication and procurement of information. The promoters and large shareholders will have to provide an undertaking that it will use the information received in accordance to the securities laws and access of information does not undermine the independence and autonomy of the board of directors of the listed entity in any manner.
                               It must be noted here that the listed entity shall have the right to unilaterally terminate the agreement with the consent of majority of directors of the listed entity representing three-fourths in number, provided that the counterparty on the board of directors of the listed entity shall abstain from such voting. The panel also said that the business reality in India is that a majority of the listed entities are controlled by a single promoter where the lines of control, influence and information flow do not necessarily follow the formal and distinct corporate structure. The listed entity shall have the right to withhold communication and access to material information in case the board of directors determines that it is not in the interests of the listed entity or there is a conflict of interest in it sharing the material information with the promoter or there has been a breach of the agreement by the promoter.
                                   It is quite troubling to see that even though currently there are no provisions to grant leniency by SEBI but the panel has proposed to provide powers to the Central Government based on recommendations by SEBI to grant immunity both from prosecution and imposition of penalty under the SEBI Act and the SCRA for the alleged violation subject to certain conditions. One only hopes that this is reviewed and even if not changed is not misused to favour wrongdoers.
                                  It is also proposed that the top 100 companies by market cap would hold annual general meetings (AGMs) within five months and the same may be extended to other entities in a phased manner. Over time, this timeline would be reduced to four months. Presently, companies hold AGM within six months from the end of the financial year.
                                    Strictly speaking, the panel also recommended that enhanced disclosure requirements related to abrupt resignation of independent directors and auditors should be put in place. It stated that, “The audit committee should also review the utilisation of funds of the listed entity infused into unlisted subsidiaries, including foreign subsidiaries”. It added that, “The requirement be applicable in instances where the total amount of loans/advances/investment from the holding company to the subsidiary exceeds Rs 100 crore or 10% of the asset size of the subsidiary, whichever is lower.” The recommendation assume significance in the wake of SEBI’s January order barring Vijay Mallya and six other entities from the securities market after a probe found that funds were diverted from United Spirits to group companies, including Kingfisher Airlines. It rightly proposed that audit committees must monitor flows to unlisted units.

                                              All said and done, it needs no rocket scientist or Einstein to conclude that the panel led by Uday Kotak has really submitted laudable recommendations. We have discussed here just few of them. There may be a few shortcomings but overall it seems to be a very good and carefully drafted report in which about 25 experts have tried to bring in the best. So it would not be proper to just dismiss it as yet another report! It still remains to be seen how many recommendations are finally accepted by the SEBI. But it is certainly a watershed moment which promises many changes for the better in corporate governance if they are finally accepted!
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh. 
0
0
At the very outset, let me begin by first and foremost pointing out that it is strictly ensured in all the 26 districts of West UP every Saturday that no lawyer does any work in protest against Centre not setting up even a single bench of high court in any of the 26 districts of West UP even though Justice Jaswant Singh Commission headed by former Supreme Court Judge Jaswant Singh and appointed by former PM late Mrs Indira Gandhi had recommended the setting up of 3 benches at Dehradun, Nainital and Agra. More intriguingly, on its recommendations benches were set up at Aurangabad on its recommendations as also at Jalpaiguri in West Bengal and Madurai in Tamil Nadu! To protest this third rated treatment meted out to West UP, it was decided to observe strike every Saturday henceforth!

     Needless to say, this has been happening regularly since May 1981. It has been more than 36 years and even now it is very strictly ensured by the office bearers of every Bar in West UP that no lawyer undertakes any work on this day! Interestingly enough, most of the lawyers themselves voluntarily join the protest strikes and keep shouting slogans demanding high court bench in West UP! It is most shocking that West UP with more than 9 crore population and so many districts numbering about 26 have not been considered fit enough to be given a bench and even Justice Jaswant Commission recommendations on it have been disregarded.
                                          Let me hasten to add here that the lawyers of West UP are fully determined that this shall continue uninterrupted till a high court bench is set up in West UP! Not just this, many times in last few years it has been noticed that lawyers even announce strike on Wednesday even though it is not as strictly as the one on Saturday and it happens on few occasions when it is decided by the Central Action Committee constituted to pursue the sacred demand for setting up a high court bench in West UP!
                                       To put things in perspective, it was way back in 2001 that the lawyers of West UP went on strike demanding high court bench not for one month or for two months or for three months or for four months or for five months or for six months but for more than six months and finally broke the strike after getting assurances from Centre of looking seriously into it. Yet nothing happened. Only the striking lawyers of West UP know for themselves that how they stayed hungry with no work agitating wholeheartedly for a high court bench yet got nothing! Former UP CM Dr Sampoornanand had recommended a high court bench at Meerut in 1955 but Centre refused! Another former UP CM Mayawati had even recommended West UP to be created as a separate state to be named ‘Harit Pradesh’ but again nothing happened! Former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee had himself raised the demand of setting up a high court bench in West UP right inside Parliament way back in 1986 but as PM could not do much because he was not in full majority!
                            But what about the present PM Narendra Modi? He currently enjoys majority in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. BJP President Amit Shah had himself assured lawyers of West UP more than a year back that a high court bench would be soon set up in West UP. Even Rajnath Singh who is Union home Minister had given similar categorical assurances but to no avail! Just recently Dr Satyapal Singh who has been made Union Minister too vocally said recently that high court benches must be set up at Meerut, Agra and Gorakhpur. Apart from him there are many other Union Ministers who have all time and again raised their voice in support of the age old demand for a high court bench in West UP!
                          Let me be direct in asking: Why Allahabad High Court which last year completed 150 years of existence and which is Asia’s biggest court has just one high court bench and that too just 150-200 km away from Allahabad at Lucknow created way back in 1948 and why even as 2018 is about to start do we have no bench either in West UP or in Bundelkhand or at Gorakhpur from where UP CM Yogi Adityanath hails and who himself demanded a bench as MP way back in 1998? Why many other capitals like Bhopal which is capital of MP, Bhubaneshwar which is capital of Odisha, Thiruvananthapuram which is capital of Kerala, Dehradun which is capital of Odisha and many others have neither high court nor bench but Lucknow was chosen for bench and the deserving areas like the hilly areas which now for Uttarakhand and from where people had to travel more than 1000 km had no bench and same is the case with 26 districts of West UP as also with Bundelkhand and Gorakhpur? Why states like Karnataka, Maharashtra, Assam etc which stand nowhere in terms of number of pending cases and crime as compared to UP and West UP have 3 high court benches apart from high court itself? 
                   Simply put, it is West UP where maximum riots, maximum killings, maximum crime take place yet it has no bench as both high court at Allahabad and a single bench at Lucknow created way back in 1948 are both in Eastern UP and that too just about 150-200 km away from each other!  Misbauddin Siddiqui who is the President of the Meerut District Bar Association lamented, “The problem is that the Allahabad High Court has the highest number of pending cases. The pressure is huge. Allahabad is very far from Western UP. It is around 800 km from Saharanpur. Eight other high courts are closer to Western UP, and interestingly Lahore High Court in Pakistan is closer than Allahabad High Court. The cost of travelling to Allahabad, and then staying there is huge for poor people. That is why we have been demanding a high court bench. Successive governments have denied us this.”  
                                   Briefly stated, in 2014-15 the lawyers of West UP went on strike for 3-4 months demanding high court bench in West UP and even boycotted Lok Adalats and demonstrated outside courts throughout the night! For how long? Why can’t a high court bench be set up in West UP? Why this raw discrimination? Why people of West UP are compelled to travel so far about 700-800 km away all the way to Allahabad to attend court hearings and waste so much of time and money for no valid reason! It is to protest this that lawyers of West UP keep holding meetings, demonstrations, protests, padyatras but still Centre is not budging!
                                    Can anyone tell me: Why for just 4 and 8 districts of Karnataka at Dharwad and Gulbarga 2 more high court benches were straightaway approved in 2012 with one being already at Hubli but for West UP for 26 districts which is more than double the number for which 2 more benches were approved in Karnataka not even a single bench was approved even though the senior lawyers of West UP were repeatedly assured by all PM ranging from late Mrs Indira Gandhi, late Rajiv Gandhi among others? Karnataka has not more than 2 lakh pending cases and has just about more than 1 lakh pending cases yet 3 high court benches but for UP which has not 1 lakh or 2 lakh or 3 lakh or 4 lakh or 5 lakh or 6 lakh or 7 lakh or 8 lakh or 9 lakh or 10 lakh but more than 10 lakh cases pending and here too more than half the cases are from West UP still no high court bench! Why?
                                       As if this is not enough, even former UN Secretary General Ban ki Moon had slammed UP as “rape and crime capital of India” still why UP has least high court benches and West UP has none? Why Allahabad High Court is oldest high court in whole of Asia completing 150 years last year and also the biggest court yet it has just one high court bench very near to Allahabad in Lucknow? Why when a high court bench could be set up so near to Allahabad in Lucknow way back in 1948 can no high court bench be set up in West UP for more than 9 crore people staying here 70 years later in 2018?
                                Truth be told, the population of West UP is more than all States except UP itself of which it is a part, Maharashtra and Bihar and here too areawise West UP with 98,000 square km is more than Bihar’s 94,000 square km! Still why it has no bench leave alone making it a separate state and giving it a high court itself as happened with Uttaranchal which at time of creation had just 88 lakh population and about 12 to 13 districts? Why our policymakers, PM and others in Centre are maintaining a deafening silence on it? They must come clear on it and spell out their stand! Deafening silence will just not do! No way!
                                  Let me also be direct in asking: How long will lawyers of West UP keep striking every Saturday? How long will lawyers of West UP keep holding meetings, calling for West UP Bandh, holding protests on national highways, blocking rail route, roads etc just to highlight their age old demand of setting up a high court bench in West UP? How long will it take for the Law Minister of UP Brijesh Pathak to fulfil his 3 month old assurance to lawyers in Meerut that a high court bench in West UP will be created soon?
                                    Let me bring out here that I have been keenly noticing that the lawyers of West UP time and again, month after month, year after year keep holding meetings under the banner of Central Action Committee formed to pursue the legitimate struggle for creating a high court bench in West UP and vowing to take extreme steps like going on strike for months as they did for six months in 2001, for many weeks as they did in 2009-10, for 3-4 months in 2014-15 and ended only after getting firm assurances but ultimately only got nothing. They keep meeting CM, PM and others but all this till now has led to nowhere! They have even resorted to blocking national highways, stopping trains but again no result!
                                     How long will woman keep getting gangraped as happened just recently in Muzaffarnagar in West UP and keep going so far to Allahabad to get justice as there is no bench of high court in West UP which is a much bigger punishment for them? Just for how long? Why can’t our Prime Minister be more sensitive? Bench can do for West UP what even bullet train cannot do and at a very less cost still why no initiative is being taken in this regard?
                                     How long will women be subjected to rape, gangrape, face acid throwing incidents etc yet travel so far to Allahabad to get justice which is a double punishment for them? West UP and in fact whole of UP needs more high court benches and not more temples or anti-Romeo squads or anything else in which UP CM Yogi Adityanath seems more interested! He himself as MP had vociferously demanded a high court bench for Gorakhpur in 1998 raising it inside Parliament but now he has power and Centre too belongs to his own party BJP thus removing all glitches then still why no action since last more than 6 months?
                         In hindsight, people of all religions are united in West UP in demanding a high court bench here and unitedly they agitate which is an eye-opener for our leaders who always keep raking irrelevant issues which makes no difference to people’s lives and it makes me most happy to see the unity cutting across religious lines or community lines or gender lines or any other lines! But what comes as a biggest dampener is no action by Centre who earlier had vouched that if its party came to power in UP and Centre both then a high court bench will definitely be created in West UP! Nothing on earth can be more shocking!
                                Truly speaking, even eminent jurist Soli J Sorabjee had said that Centre can create a high court bench on its own in West UP without any recommendation either from the Chief Justice or State Government in this behalf still we see that Centre is taking no action! BN Krishnamani who was an eminent former Supreme Court Bar Association Chairman too had said that, “Only by the creation of a high court bench in West UP will the people get speedy and effective justice”. Whom is Centre trying to appease? Is it not emulating the previous governments? It is high time and it must now fulfil its responsibility and also its age old promises to the people of West UP that a high court bench in West UP would be created soon!
                                Last but not the least: Why eminent criminal lawyer, former President of Meerut Bar and present member of Bar Council of UP – Anil Kumar Bakshi proudly points out that he is among the few lawyers who have been to jail because of his active participation in the holy struggle for creating a high court bench in West UP? Why Justice BP Singh (retd) of Allahabad High Court too feels strongly that a high court bench must be set up in West UP? Why many senior and eminent lawyers of Allahabad High Court itself too feel that a high court bench must be set up in West UP? This is only because it is certainly one of the most holy struggle and this alone explains that why lawyers here are ready to go to any extent to ensure that a high court bench is created here and have braved police sticks and all barriers with the greatest of courage! Going on strike for months and months is easier said than done and only lawyers of West UP best understand that how much hardship they have faced to ensure that the sacred agitation for a high court bench in West UP continue uninterrupted! But the billion dollar question that arises here is: For how long will Centre continue ignoring the clear writing on the wall? Even Kapil Sibal as Union Law Minister had wanted a high court bench for West UP to be set up at Meerut as was disclosed by none other than another former Union Minister RPN Singh but former UP CM Akhilesh Yadav he alleged put a cropper in this and therefore nothing materialized! But now there are no excuses as it is BJP and BJP alone which is in power both in UP and Centre! Now only action is needed by setting up a high court bench here! BJP must act now!  
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh. 
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Let me begin at the very beginning by stating most emphatically that I fully support what the Samajwadi Party patron Mulayam Singh Yadav said that the Army should be given full freedom to deal with the situation prevailing in Kashmir. There can be no two opinions about it. No sane person will ever dispute this!
                                                  Truth be told, the former Defence Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav while interacting with journalists very rightly said that, “The Army should be given permission to deal with the situation there and maintain peace and at the same time deal with separatists strictly.” It needs no rocket scientist to conclude that the Kashmir Valley has witnessed a spurt of attacks by militants and protests by civilians against security forces. We all saw recently how Lieutenant Umar Fayyaz was brutally murdered while he was on leave in South Kashmir and had gone to attend the wedding of his cousin sister from where he was taken at gun point. Now another soldier of BSF Mohammad Ramzan Parray too has been brutally murdered and many of his family soldiers have been wounded in a cowardly attack by terrorists! But still Centre is refusing to arm them with weapons by which they can defend themselves and their family? Parray was shot dead and 4 of his relatives were injured including one women relative.  has been brutally murdered and many of his family soldiers have been wounded in a cowardly attack by terrorists!
                                           How long will Centre tolerate killings of our security forces? How long will Centre not deal with separatists strictly? How long will Centre provide security to separatists who hate India and love Pakistan and how long will separatists rejoice when a DSP Mohammad Ayub who was deployed for security of separatists like Mirwaiz Umar Farooq would be brutally killed after stoning him and stripping him naked by those very people for whose security he was deployed there? How long will Centre bear all the expenses of separatists leaders in Kashmir who always work against our national interests and how long will Centre deploy soldiers for their security? How long will Centre not throw such separatists behind bars for spreading venom among the masses?
                                            How long will Centre not give a free hand to Army to deal with stone pelters in the way they should ideally be dealt with? How long will Centre allow police to order inquiry against brave soldiers of Army like Major Ranjan Gogoi who to save his men from being lynched just tied one stone pelter to the bonnet of his vehicle so that the stone pelters don’t throw stones at the vehicle in which they were moving? How long will soldiers of Army suffer humiliation in silence by getting beaten by crowd instigated by separatists?
                                                  How long will soldiers of Army be stopped from capturing these Pakistani supporters and throwing them into Pakistan where their heart lies? How long will Pakistanis be treated as Indians? How long will these Pakistani supporters be allowed to kill our soldiers?
                                             How long will our soldiers be taught by Centre to do nothing when hit by stones by Pakistani supporters? How long will our soldiers be taught not to open fire even if their life is at threat? How long will Centre value the lives of Pakistanis living in India more than the lives of our brave soldiers and order them to display maximum restraint? For how long?
                                       For how long will Centre order our soldiers of Army to do nothing when separatists leaders like Syed Ali Shah Geelani and others come out in the street and order people to attack Army? For how long will Centre order our soldiers of Army to respect the human rights of Pakistanis who want to destroy India? For how long will Centre keep chanting the old third rated dialogue that, “We have to act as per world pressure”.
                                       Why is no world pressure applied on Pakistan to stop proxy war against India? Why is no world pressure applied to arrest all top terror leaders like Syed Salaluddin whom America has just recently declared a terrorist, Hafiz Saeed, Masood Azhar and many others who are all enjoying life in Pakistan and why are they not hanged for killing so many innocent people? Why only India comes under world pressure and gladly invites Pakistani invader like General Pervez Musharraf who masterminded Kargil war in which we officially lost more than 600 soldiers and who himself paid Rs 1 lakh as prize to dreaded Al Qaeda terror leader Iliyas Kashmiri way back in 2000 when he presented him with a severed head of an Indian soldier – Bhausaheb Maruti Talekar on 27 February 2000 and started weeping in joy as was reported in most English dailies?    
                                             Why former DGP of UP – Vikram Singh said in a news channel recently that those stone pelters who throw stone at Army must be treated like terrorists and neutralized by our brave soldiers by showing no mercy towards them? Why Centre is allowing stone pelters to become a part of Pakistani gang and openly throw stones at our soldiers when they are engaged in gun battle with terrorists? Why Centre is itself becoming a protective shield for them? What message is Centre sending?
                                           Why Centre is not giving a free hand to our brave soldiers to mercilessly deal with stone pelters as demanded by Mulayam Singh Yadav  who openly says that in his tenure as Defence Minister no Kashmiri had the guts to attack Indian soldiers or pelt stones or indulge in any kind of anti-national activity? Why Centre fails to appreciate that this has a very demoralizing impact on our brave soldiers when they are asked not to retaliate hardly even inspite of being provoked which is now fast becoming a fashion in Kashmir? Why Centre keeps trusting Pakistan and invite ISI agents as we saw after Pathankot terror attack in which we lost a Major and many soldiers?
                                                Why is Centre not withdrawing Most Favoured Nation status to Pakistan which we granted way back in 1996 and which they never granted us as demanded by Shashi Tharoor, Subramanium Swamy and many others? Why is Centre not declaring Pakistan a terror sponsor country as demanded by Rajeev Chandrashekhar who is MP from Bangalore and name it “Aatankistaan” as demanded by Maulana Mehmood Madani who is a former Rajya Sabha MP? Why Centre just keeps requesting other nations to act against Pakistan but does nothing itself to hurt Pakistan and just rejoices after carrying out one surgical strike which tantamount to nothing as Army is not given a free hand to deal with stone pelters in the most ruthless fashion and it is our brave soldiers who are facing the maximum onslaught?
                                                      Why Centre is not giving a free hand to Army to rein in anti-India crowd in Kashmir and why instead Centre expects Army to display maximum restraint by simply doing nothing or offering resistance just for name sake? Is Centre not spoiling these stone pelters and encouraging them to act more fiercely by not allowing Army a free run in crushing them? Why Centre has allowed these stone pelters and brazen supporters of Pakistan to openly indulge in anti-national acts and restrained Army from acting tough against them? What message is Centre sending? Is Centre not encouraging them to always make it a habit and after gathering in group start pelting stones at soldiers of Army which has become a trend also most unfortunately? Should we be proud of this? Centre must strictly adhere to the sagacious advice which Mulayam Singh Yadav is giving of giving full freedom to Army to deal with those who attack our soldiers as it suits our national interests in best possible manner without wasting any more time further! Will Centre do?   
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.   
0