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MEA no to 4 judges for foreign trips, warns two of host’s PoK ties

Author: Shyamlal Yadav
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: June 4, 2012
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/mea-no-to-4-judges-for-foreign-trips-warns-two-of-hosts-pok-ties/957536/0

At least four judges have been denied “political clearance” by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) for visits abroad in the past two years. They are Madhya Pradesh Lokayukta Justice P P Naolekar, Delhi Lokayukta Justice Manmohan Sarin, former Press Council of India chairman Justice G N Ray and Mumbai Metropolitan Magistrate Swati A Chauhan.

While Ray has retired, Sarin and Naolekar are still in their posts. Refusing them permission, the MEA also asked Naolekar and Uttar Pradesh Lokayukta Justice Narendra Kishore Mehrotra to “resign” and “disassociate” themselves from the Asian Ombudsman Association (AOA).

The AOA was the host organisation for Sarin and Naolekar’s proposed trips to Tokyo. Incidentally, while Naolekar was denied permission, Mehrotra, by his own admission, attended the same conference without seeking clearance from the MEA.

Naolekar wanted to visit Tokyo to participate in the 12th AOA Conference on December 5-8. MEA files reveal that Justice Sarin also wanted to attend the same conference but permission was turned down “from the political angle”.

According to MEA notings dated April 20, 2011, obtained through RTI, this was the justification for the denial: “The AOA was set up in 1996 at the initiative of Pakistan with the support of China. Its Secretariat is located in Islamabad in the Pakistan Federal Ombudsman Secretariat. The website of the Association indicates that the Ombudsman of the so-called ‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir’ is a founding member of the Association...”

The MEA made out a strong case for declining permission, stating: “The Ministry came to the conclusion that participation of our dignitaries in associations/forums which recognise the so-called ‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir’ as an independent entity or bestow on it any form of recognition would run counter to India’s interests and would also go against the spirit of Parliament Resolution of February 22, 1994. The Lokayuktas of MP and UP were asked to resign from the Ombudsman Association and disassociate themselves from the Association.”

Justice Mehrotra, who attended the same conference for which Naolekar was denied permission, said: “I did not resign from the AOA because the MEA did not show me any relevant order. The same MEA had permitted me to attend the AOA conference in Manila in 2010 and in Bangkok in 2009. In 2011, I attended it without getting permission from MEA. I got approval from the UP government for that.”

Naolekar could not be contacted for comments since he is on vacation.

Justice Sarin protested against the denial of permission and wrote a letter to Minister of External Affairs S M Krishna and Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai on November 9 for “consideration that a proper perspective in such matters would be to enhance Indian participation, being the largest democratic country in the region”. But Mathai conveyed to him that revision of the MEA order was not possible. In fact, what reflects the confusion in the MEA is that in 2010, Sarin was permitted to attend the AOA conference in Manila but he could not due to personal reasons.

Justice Ray, on the other hand, wanted to visit North Cyprus to attend the Executive Committee Meeting of the World Associations of Press Councils on March 26-29, 2010. But MEA said “India does not recognise the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus. The proposed visit may complicate India’s relations with Cyprus.” Thus, the MEA denied political clearance to Justice Ray.

Swati A Chauhan, Metropolitan Magistrate of Special Court of Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, Mumbai, was declined permission to visit Washington to receive the “2011 Trafficking in Person Hero” award in June. Though the Bombay High Court had granted her permission, the MEA put its foot down, saying government officials recognised by the US government for their work had also been declined clearance to receive awards at public events.


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