The Mizo National Front led State Government of Mizoram failed to resolve the Bru crisis despite signing the Peace Accord with the Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF) in Aizawl on 26 April 2005. Not a single Bru internally displaced persons (IDPs) sheltered in Tripura since their expulsion from Mizoram in 1997 was able to return.
The security forces were responsible for human rights abuses, including violation of the right to life and torture. On 15 April 2006, a Chakma tribal identified as Gubalya Chakma was killed and six other Chakma villagers identified as Juddo Moni Chakma, Satyo Priyo Chakma, Lakkhi Kumar Chakma, Vijoy Kanti Chakma, Gyana Baran Chakma, Shanti Baran Chakma (12 years) and Eganya Chakma were injured in indiscriminate firing and beating by the Border Security Force (BSF) personnel at Bulongsury village under Tlabung Sub-Division in Lunglei district. The deceased was hit by bullets on the head from backside and at the chest from side while trying to flee from the spot which contradicted the BSF's claim that he was killed in self-defence. The BSF personnel also claimed that they were conducting search operation against infiltrators and there was an armed encounter. But on-the-spot investigations by Chakma civil society groups found that there was no infiltration or encounter as claimed by the BSF. Neither were the BSF personnel on patrol duty. According to the Mizoram Chakma NGO's Coordination Committee, the incident took place at around 9 pm on 15 April 2006. A Chakma Buddhist monk, Venerable Gyano Tisso Bhikkhu, was going to deliver religious sermon at Bulongsury village accompanied by a devotee. Two BSF personnel - U.S. Mehta, Assistant Commandant and his driver from Khojoisury camp were traveling in a Gypsy (MZ -02-3331) when they intercepted Venerable Gyano Tisso Bhikkhu. Both the BSF personnel were heavily drunk and they manhandled the monk and asked unnecessary questions like whether he was a Bangladeshi citizen, whether he ate beef, and tried to tear his holy robes. As the Buddhist monk and his devotee shouted for help, many Chakma villagers came for rescue and gheraoed the BSF jeep. They then called Village Council President (VCP) of Bulongsury village to settle the dispute. Before the arrival of the VCP, a group of BSF personnel from Khojoisury camp reached the spot and begun indiscriminate lathi charge upon the villagers without asking any question and opened fire indiscriminately on the unarmed villagers. The injured victims were admitted at Lunglei Civil Hospital.
On 28 March 2006, Congress legislator from Saitual constituency, R Lalzirliana stated in the State Assembly that the police beat up several students who were organizing a road blockade on the Aizawl-Thenzawl-Buangpui road to show their disappointment over delay of the road construction which was a World Bank project on the morning of 28 March 2006. Mr Lalzirliana informed the State Assembly that the police did not spare even the girls. The police took 51 students including four girls into preventive detention. All of them were released on the same day following an agreement between student leaders and the district administration.
The State Government failed to curb vigilante violence. The members of the Young Mizo Association (YMA) took law into their hands and created terror under the garb of controlling drugs and alcohol.
Though women generally enjoyed freedom in the society, they were subjected to sexual abuse and domestic violence. The Mizo women were discriminated under the archaic Mizo customary laws drafted in 1927.
The AOGs operating in Mizoram such as Bru Liberation Front of Mizoram (BLFM) and Hmar People's Convention (Democratic) (HPC-D) were allegedly responsible for abductions and extortion.
The State Government failed to separate judiciary from the executive. On 10 November 2006, Mizoram Government reportedly decided to withdraw its plan to separate the judiciary.
The State Government of Mizoram failed to implement the Peace Accord of 26 April 2005 signed with BNLF. On 18 October 2006, Home Minister Tawnluia informed the State Assembly that a total of 195 former BNLF cadres and their family members were resettled in five villages of Tuipuibari, Damparengpui, Pathiangtlang, Tumpanguli and Nghalimlui in Mamit district. However, the State Government showed no political will to repatriate the Bru IDPs from Tripura as per the Peace Accord.
In January 2006, the State Government announced its decision to repatriate the Bru IDPs from the six relief camps in Tripura and identified five villages for resettlement of about 1,700 Bru IDP families in the first phase of repatriation. As per the Government's plans, Tuipuibari, Dampa, Rengpui and Tuirum villages would accommodate about 500 families each while the rest IDPs would be settled in Thaidawr and Tumpuang Lui villages. The State Government also instructed the authorities of three more villages - Bunghmun, Rengdil and Zamuang to prepare the groundwork to accommodate another 1,300 families in the next phase. This policy of the State Government came under severe criticism from several influential organizations of the State including Young Mizo Association, Mizo Zirlai Pawl, Mizo Upa Pawl and Mizo Hmeichhe Insuihkhawm Pawl on the ground that this would cause demographic imbalances.
On 31 January 2006, Chief Minister Zoramthanga stated that no Bru IDP would be repatriated from Tripura camps unless the BLFM, a breakway faction of BNLF, formally laid down arms, and he reiterated this on a number of times. On 27 March 2006, the Chief Minister said it was difficult to differentiate between the members of BLFM and civilian Bru IDPs living in Tripura camps. This further complicated the issue of resettlement of the Brus.
On 23 October 2006, 809 alleged BLFM cadres reportedly surrendered at Naisingpara in Tripura. But the surrender had been riddled with controversies. While Tripura Police claimed the “surrender” was staged-managed by the Mizoram Government and that many of the surrendered cadres were actually inmates of the relief camps, the Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP), the apex body of the Mizo students, demanded verification of the particulars of the surrendered Brus.
Brus continued to face serious human rights violations. On 16 March 2006, two Bru villagers identified as Jabandaa Reang and Luirangjoy Reang were reportedly kidnapped by Mizoram Armed Police (MAP) personnel from Fuldangsai area under Vangmun police station in North Tripura district, bordering Mizoram. Officer-in-Charge of Vangmun police station, Ajoy Debbarma confirmed that Mizoram Police had taken away two villagers from the area without prior information of the Tripura Police. On the other hand, Mizoram Police identified the two youth as Muanpuia and his elder brother Jeevendro and claimed that they were arrested from inside the territory of Mizoram on the charges of issuing an extortion letter to Dolendra, the Village Council President of Thaidawr village in Mizoram on 6 March 2006. On 21 March 2006, the State Government ordered an inquiry into the matter by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) branch of the Mizoram Police.
On 18 March 2006, MAP personnel allegedly killed a Bru youth identified as Jaingba Reang in an alleged encounter at Dhalaicherra under Kanuman police station in North Tripura district on the Mizoram-Tripura border. The MAP claimed that the deceased was a member of BNLF. But the Brus alleged that MAP personnel opened fire at a group of innocent Bru youths who had gone to catch fish in the area. While Jaingba Reang was killed in the firing, four others managed to flee. The Mizoram Bru Displaced People's Forum demanded a probe into the killing.
The condition of the Bru IDPs was deplorable. Children were deprived of education. There were several unwed minor mothers in the relief camps. Since most of the tube wells, water tanks and ring wells in the relief camps went out of order and were not renovated, the women were forced to walk many kilometres to collect water from streams and hilly water falls.
On 18 March 2006, personnel of Indian Reserve Battalion (Mizo battalion) reportedly opened fire at Bru women from Hamcapara relief camp when they went to collect water from Lungai river on the Tripura-Mizoram border. However, no one was injured in the firing.
In a letter dated 25 September 2006 to the Central Young Mizo Association (CYMA) President, JH Zoremthanga, the United States-based Chin Human Rights Organisation (CHRO) accused the CYMA of issuing directives to all local branches to take measures to evict “foreigners and illegal migrants” from Mizoram, and accused the Lunglei YMA of carrying out eviction drive in Lunglei areas between 17 and 23 September 2006. But Lunglei YMA President S Laldingliana claimed that the YMA had carried out such operation only on 17 September 2006 in collaboration with the Mizoram Police under the instruction of the State Government. Central YMA President, JH Zoremthanga also stated that it was the State Government which had taken measures to drive out illegal migrants from the State. Mr JH Zoremthanga termed the Chin refugees as “economic migrants” rather than “political refugees.” According to Mr JH Zoremthanga, there were around 80,000 Myamarese Chins in Mizoram but only around 40 of them were registered as refugees.
On 20 April 2006, Isaac L Hmar alias Isaac L Intoate, Information Secretary of the Hmar Inpui and research scholar of the Manipur University, was found dead on the outskirts of Aizawl after he went missing from Ramhlun Venglai locality in Aizawl on 18 April 2006. Armed opposition group Hmar National Army accused it rival HPC-D of murdering Isaac Hmar. However, the Mizoram Police could not solve the murder case by the end of 2006.
On 17 January 2006, BLFM allegedly demanded Rs 50,000 as “tax” from Bungthuam High School headmaster Lalfelkima at Bungthuam in western Mizoram on the border with Tripura. Extortion notices were also allegedly received by teachers posted in adjoining villages such as Thinghlun, Luimawi and Hriphaw.
On 16 September 2006, Mizoram Police revealed that extortion cases increased by 44.44 per cent during 2006 in comparison to 2005. In November 2006, the court of the Additional District Magistrate (judicial) in Aizawl held that the Mizo National Front government paid Rs 60 lakhs as ransom money to Hmar armed opposition group during its previous term to secure release of kidnapped persons.
Although women are generally respected in the Mizo society, the overall condition of the women remained deplorable. Mizoram witnessed a sharp increase in cases of rape during 2006. According to official figures, 60 rape cases were reported during 2006 as of 26 November 2006 as against 34 cases during January- December 2005. However, majority of rape cases went unreported.
On 13 June 2006, Aizawl Post reported that a study on “Violence Against Women and Related Issues in Mizoram” conducted by Aizawl-based Human Rights & Law Network revealed that the girls in the State suffered most sexual abuse at the hands of the teachers. This revelation came under scathing attacks from the Mizoram Teachers' Association which decided to move court against the report. The State Child Welfare Committee also confirmed that rape of minors by minors was on the rise in the State.
On 29 January 2006, a seven-year-old girl was allegedly raped by one Lallawmawma at Champhai Electric locality's cemetary. The police arrested the accused who reportedly confessed the crime on 3 February 2006.
On 21 February 2006, a man identified as Lalthlanmawia allegedly raped his 14-year-old step-daughter at Rahsi locality in Lunglei. The accused was arrested.
On 15 July 2006, a handicapped woman was allegedly raped by J.C. Pachhunga, an employed at the office of Deputy Commissioner of Lunglei. The rapist was reportedly the father-in-law of the brother of Sports Minister Z.H. Ropuia. Although the father of the victim stated that she had been raped in his presence, he refused to testify against the rapist before the police resulting in the release of the accused on bail on 17 July 2006.
On 5 September 2006, a 10-year-old mentally disturbed girl was allegedly raped by one Malsawmkima at Lengpui. The accused was arrested. On 9 September 2006, the police arrested Joseph Lalrinliana for raping a minor girl at Lengpui.
Minors were illegally kept in police lock-up. On 16 October 2006, a 17-year-old boy was arrested by the police on a complaint by the owner of a parking at Khatla in Aizawl. The police reportedly obtained a remand order from a magistrate and kept the boy for three nights at the police lock-up where he was allegedly tortured to extract a confession. On the fourth day, the boy was produced before magistrate Sylvie Zo Ralte who ordered release of the boy.
Children were also abused by the security forces. On 4 June 2006, two girls were allegedly molested by an army jawan near Army Medical Corps camp at Thuampui locality in Aizawl. Major General EJ Kochekkan, General Officer Commanding 57th Mountain Division assured setting up of a court of inquiry and appropriate action against the accused.
The Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection) Amendment Act 2006 probihibits identification of juvenile, except when deemed by the authorities to be necessary, by the mention of his address, school attended etc in news media. However, the local media, both print and electronic media, showed insensitivity while reporting about juvenile delinquents by disclosing details about them. On 8 September 2006, a joint meeting of the State Juvenile Justice Board and the State Child Welfare Committee decided to increase the fine of identifying juvenile delinquents by the media to Rs 25,000 from Rs 1,000.
Although no specific figures were available, child labour and child abuse were rampant. Incidence of sexual and physical torture on minors had been rising alarmingly in the State for the past a few years. But most of the cases of child abuse were not reported to the police or the State Child Welfare Committee due to fear of social ostracism. Hundreds of minors work in tea stalls, sell tobacco products, work in vehicle repairing workshops and stone quarries in different parts of the State. Many minors identified themselves as adults to escape prosecution under the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 2006.
Corporal punishment in schools was rampant. On 27 April 2006, a 12-year-old VI student was beaten up by the teacher in the Centenary School at Dawrpui in Aizawl. The victim's uncle, Joseph Lalzarliana filed a complaint with the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) on 28 April 2006 follwing which the CWC conducted a probe into the incident which revealed that the school was practising corporal punishment. The CWC issued a notice to the school authorities.
Particular religious beliefs also prevented children from attending schools. On 6 February 2006, Child Welfare Committee warned legal action against Lalruali, a cult leader, if she did not send the children of the members of the cult to school within one month. At least 14 children whose parents belong to Lalruali's cult at Melriat village, about 8 km from Aizawl had been prohibited from attending school and were engaged as workers. The members of the cult were also prohibited from joining any government programme or with any NGO or enlisting their names in the voters' list. It was also reported that another religious group who called themselves “Zero” at New Ralvawng village in Lunglei district prohibited their children from attending schools and abstained from enrolling for any government programme on religious grounds.
On 12 February 2006, several journalists were attacked by a mob when they were covering a mob violence in which one person was reportedly killed and several houses were set on fire at Phunchawng locality on the outskirts of Aizawl. The mob snatched away still and video cameras from the journalists and destroyed them. According to reporter-cameraman Thartea of Skylinks cable TV, the police personnel on duty did nothing to stop attack on the media persons by the mob. Mizoram Journalists Asssociation strongly criticized the attack on the journalists who were doing their duty. Several dailies left their editorials blank in protest against attack on the media by the mob.
The State Government sought to paint existence of a harmonious heterogeneous society in Mizoram. During a two-day visit from 22-23 January 2006, a two-member team of National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities reportedly found the condition of the minorities “exemplary” in the State. The findings of the Commission were however merely derived from the briefings given by Mizoram Chief Secretary, Haukhum Hauzel and other government officials at Aizawl, and hence these findings were far from the reality. The members of the Commission acted like “armchair intellectuals”.
Opposing the findings of the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities, Mizoram's leading English daily The Newslink in its editorial “Not exemplary” of 25 January 2006 wrote – “The reality of the situation is that the majority mostly forces itself on the minorities. Other religions besides Christianity are barely tolerated while other communities are looked upon with a jaundice eye.”
The Hindus and the Muslims were prime targets of the non-state actors during communal conflicts. The Buddhist Chakmas faced regular discrimination and hardships “because of their religion in Christian dominated Mizo society”. The apathy of the State Government and the hate campaign by the non-state actors against the Brus were well-known.
There was no freedom of expression against injustice by the majority towards the minority people. Writing about the rights of the minority communities could bring threats to life. The Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP), the apex body of the Mizo students, asked Kamalanagar College principal, Prof K.P. Nath to leave Mizoram before 7 September 2006 forcing him to flee on 6 September 2006 after the annual magazine of Kamalanagar College at Kamalanagar (Chawngte), headquarters of the Chakma Autonomous District Council published two articles which allegedly hurt the feelings of the Mizos. The two articles were related to the sufferings of the Buddhist Chakmas in the State and questioning the very existence of God. While condemning the action of the MZP, the Mizoram College Principals Council stated it did a careful study of magazine but found nothing unconstitutional in the articles.
Several community-based NGOs in Champhai town including the Champhai branch of YMA asked the cable TV operators to stop telecast of the Hindi language serial “Kasauti Zindagi Ki”. A movement against this particular Hindi serial was started in Aizawl by the Mizo NGOs in 2005. The MZP even prevented an event management organisation from inviting one actor of “Kasauti Zindagi Ki” serial in Peace Fest 2006 to mark 20 years of peace in the State in April 2006.
The government of India had been erecting fencing along its 4096.7 km-long border with Bangladesh running through five Indian States of West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram in order to stop infiltration, smuggling and other alleged anti-India activities from across the border. As of 31 December 2006, 79.82 km out of 318 km-long stretch in Mizoram sector had been fenced, according to Ministry of Home Affairs. The fencing was sounding a death-knell for the Chakma tribals living in the border villages in Mizoram. About 5,790 families comprising of 35,438 persons from 49 border villages, who are already living in acute poverty, illiteracy, joblessness and deprivation, would be displaced.
Once constructed, the fencing will open a Pandora's box for the Chakma tribals. First, this would create massive displacement thereby creating a refugee-like situation. There would be acute crisis for shelter, food, drinking water and other basic amenities. Second, the displaced populace would lose access to four rivers, Thega, Karnaphuli, Harina and Sajek, which form the natural boundary between the two countries, as these would fall outside the border fencing. For the tribal Chakmas, these rivers are inevitable for survival. The villagers draw water for drinking, washing and other purposes from these rivers, and use them for transportation, communication and to conduct business, as there are no roads in these parts of remote border areas. The river banks are fertile and are used for cultivation of vegetables and other cash crops that provide means of sustenance for the economically frail tribal villagers. River banks are also used to cremate the deads. Third, along with their homestead lands and other personal properties, the displaced persons will lose community assets such as places of worship, school buildings, health sub-centres, community halls, market places, play grounds and other government office buildings. In short, the India-Bangladesh border fencing will totally break the economic base of the affected Chakmas, and this could lead to many other problems.
Yet, the Chakmas had initially agreed to allow the fencing because it was understood to be erected to protect the nation. But the case soon turned out to be different. The villagers began to protest when their lands were arbitrarily taken away.
Blatant violations of MHA guidelines
In a memorandum submitted to the Union Home Minister, Mr Shivraj Patil on 4 April 2006, the Indo-Bangladesh Border Fencing Affected Families Resettlement Demand Committee (IBBFARDCOM) of Mizoram pointed out how the four construction companies – National Building Construction Corporation Ltd (NBCC), National Projects Construction Corporation Ltd (NPCC), Engineering Projects (India) Limited and Border Roads Organization (BRO) have been blatantly violating the guidelines of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). The MHA in its letters of release of funds clearly stated that each of the four contractors “shall be responsible for liaisoning with the State Government/local authorities for acquisition of land and getting forest/environment clearance for carrying out the fencing & related works” (clause 3. vi) and “shall finalize the alignment of the fencing in joint consultation with BSF (Border Security Force) & DM (District Magistrate) of the area where the fencing is proposed” (clause 3. vii). But the four companies started the project works in their respective portions without acquisition of land as per law and finalization of alignment in joint consultation with the BSF and the DM or local authorities. IBBFARDCOM urged the MHA to immediately stop the fencing project in Mizoram sector until “acquisition of lands is finalized as per land acquisition laws” and the affected families are “fully and properly rehabilitated”. The Chakmas also demanded a complete “Resettlement Plan” and full implementation of the objectives of the Border Area Development Programme (BADP) of the Government of India in the India-Bangladesh border areas.
But their pleas fell on the deaf ears of the authorities.
On 21 April 2006, the State Government constituted a “State Level Co-ordination Committee on Border Fencing” to ensure that the victims received proper compensation and rehabilitation. But the Co-ordination Committee did not include any Chakma representative. This reflects the extent of apathy on the part of the authorities towards the plight of the border-fencing victims. The Central Government had been dragging its feet on their welfare, including providing rehabilitation.
In Mizoram, judiciary was not separated from the executive. On 20 June 2005, Governor of Mizoram, Mr AR Koli announced separation of the judiciary from the executive in the State and the State government also notified the draft Mizoram Judicial Service Rules on 1 August 2005. Yet, independent judiciary is yet to see the light of the day in Mizoram. There is absolutely no political will to make the judiciary independent of the executive.
One of the other main reasons for the failure was disagreement between the Mizoram Government and the Gauhati High Court over the draft Mizoram Judicial Services Rules. While the Gauhati High Court refused to accept the draft Rules prepared by the Mizoram Government and published in Mizoram Gazette extraordinary issue No. 167 of 1 August 2005, the Mizoram Government rejected the High Court's draft Rules of 2002 on the ground that there were several drawbacks in it. The High Court asked the Mizoram Government to draft new Rules in consultation with the Mizoram Public Service Commission, and the new draft Rules was submitted to the Gauhati High Court on 11 August 2006 but the High Court again rejected the new draft Rules citing non-conformity with Constitutional requirements and asked the State government to notify the 2002 draft Rules prepared by the High Court.
On 10 November 2006, Mizoram Government reportedly decided to withdraw its plan to separate the judiciary. The decision was severely criticized from across the spectrum of society. On 22 November 2006, counsel for the State Government of Mizoram, K.N. Madhusoodhanan sent a letter to Mizoram Government saying that the Supreme Court had directed the Mizoram Government to complete the process of separation of judiciary and submit compliance affidavits by 15 December 2006.
On 12 December 2006, the Government of Mizoram published the Mizoram Judicial Service Rules, 2006 in the Gazette of Mizoram after the Guahati High Court had approved it. But the State Government failed to separate judiciary from the executive by the end of 2006.
There were 4,893 cases pending before the District and Subordinate Courts in the State as of 30 September 2006.
. Brutality slur on Mizo cops, The Telegraph, 29 March 2006
. Separation abeyance attracts criticisms, Newslink, 18 November 2006, http://www.newslink.in/2006/11/18/separation-abeyance-attracts-criticisms
. Brus lay down arms, The Newslink, 25 July 2005
. BNLF cadres resettled, The Assam Tribune, 20 October 2006
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. Hmar youth murdered at Mizoram, The Sangaiexpress, 22 April 2006
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. Bru insurgents still collecting taxes, The Newslink, 23 January 2006
. Extortion cases on the rise in Mizoram, The Sentinel, 17 September 2006
. Ransoms paid by govt., says court, The Newslink, 3 December 2006
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. Rape incidents on the rise, Newslink, 27 November 2006, http://www.newslink.in/2006/11/27/rape-incidents-on-the-rise
. Rape problem, Newslink, 29 November 2006
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. Teachers vow to move court, Newslink, 11 July 2006, http://www.newslink.in/2006/07/11/news-briefs
. Rapes among minors, Newslink, 4 September 2006
. 7-year old raped, Newslink, 4 February 2006
. Man held for raping stepdaughter, Newslink, 27 February 2006
. Father refuses to testify in daughter's rape, Newslink, 25 July 2006
. Another case of rape of minor, Newslink, Aizawl, 7 September 2006
. Another rape of minor in Lengpui, Newslink, 12 September 2006
. Torture slur on Aizawl cops, The Telegraph, 24 October 2006
. Maj Gen assures appropriate action on molestation case, The Newslink, 7 June 2006
. Rs 25,000 fine for identifying juvenile delinquents, The Newslink, 11 September 2006
. Child labour a menace in Mizoram, The Sentinel, 27 November 2006
. Wielding stick lands school in trouble, Newslink, 17 June 2006
. Child WC gives warning to cult leader, Newslink, Aizawl, 7 February 2006
. No arrests in mob violence, The Newslink, 14 February 2006
. Media wants strong govt action on Phunchaawng incident, The Newslink, 15 February 2006
. More condemnations on press attack, The Newslink, 15 February 2006
. Minorities commission finds Mizoram exemplary, Newslink, 24 January 2006
. Available at http://www.newslink.in/2006/01/25/not-exemplary
. Not exemplary, Newslink, 25 January 2006, available at http://www.newslink.in/2006/01/25/not-exemplary
. Slips away, Newslink, 9 September 2006, http://www.newslink.in/2006/09/09/news-briefs
. College magazine burned in protest, Newslink, 19 August 2006
. Principals to the rescue, Newslink, 11 September 2006, http://www.newslink.in/2006/09/11/news-briefs
. Champhai NGOs wants Hindi serial stopped, The Newslink, 7 November 2006
. State Govt/High Court directed to complete judiciary separation by Dec 15, Newslink, 30 November 2006
. Judiciary separation kept in abeyance, Newslink, 15 November 2006, http://www.newslink.in/2006/11/16/judiciary-separation-kept-in-abeyance
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. Rules gazetted, Newslink, 21 December 2006, http://www.newslink.in/2006/12/21/news-briefs
. Court News, October - December 2006, Supreme Court of India