Patil evades query on ‘instructions to West Bengal’


New Delhi : Home Minister Shivraj Patil, who has said the central government has sent instructions to the West Bengal government to ensure peace in Nandigram, Thursday evaded a direct reply when asked if the directives were written or verbal.

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“Any document exchanged between the centre and the governor or the centre and the state is a privileged document,” Patil told the Rajya Sabha during a discussion on the situation in Nandigram, a cluster of villages that has seen repeated violence this year.

He was replying to a query from Ram Jethamalani who said: “If there is a document on the basis of which decisions have been taken then the minister cannot keep it from the house pleading privilege.”

Jethmalani asked whether the minister had issued directions under Article 355 of the constitution or simply spoken to West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya.

When Jethmalani persisted with his queries on the instructions despite Deputy Chairman K. Rahman Khan supporting Patil’s contention, the minister again rose and said, “Whether I advised (Bhattacharya) on phone or in writing is not important.”

During a discussion on Nandigram in the Lok Sabha Wednesday, Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani had asked the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government to warn the state government under Article 355.

Article 355 enjoins on the union government to secure every state of the union from external or internal dangers and ensure governance in conformity with the constitution.

He also called for invoking Article 356 and dismissing the Left Front government if it still failed to heed to its warnings.

In reply, Patil had said: “We have already done what Advani said.” The home minister said the central government had issued instructions to the state on the lines of Article 355.

He said the state government was directed to ensure that “no one goes around on motorcycles threatening anyone and that adequate compensation is given to all the victims”, especially to rape victims.

Patil said the central government had asked the state that people be allowed to return to their houses and live peacefully. “If any other help is required from the centre, we are willing to help as much as is possible for us.”