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September 16, 1997


Gujral did not meet Ratan Tata; Dogra remanded in 14 days judicial custody

An official government spokesman in New Delhi on Tuesday denied reports in a section of the media that Ratan Tata, chairman of the Tata group of industries, had met Prime Minister I K Gujral in New Delhi on Monday.

There was no such meeting, the spokesman added. Newsreports had claimed that the meeting occurred in connection with the alleged payments by Tata Tea to the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom.

Meanwhile, arrested Tata Tea General Manager S S Dogra was on Tuesday remanded in judicial custody for 14 days by a lower court for his alleged links with ULFA.

Dogra, who was arrested on Monday, was produced before the chief judicial magistrate of the Kamrup district.

The magistrate rejected the bail petition on the ground that the charges brought against Dogra were of a serious nature and investigation was on.

However, the court asked the jail doctor to examine the Tata Tea executive on whose behalf a medical report of ill-health was submitted along with the bail petition.

The order of the lower court will be challenged in the Guwahati high court on Wednesday, Tata Tea Deputy General Manager Bolin Bardoloi said. Dogra was later moved to the Guwahati district jail under tight security.

Earlier, pleading on behalf of the Tata Tea senior executive, senior counsel Jatin Choudhury argued that there was no justification in booking Dogra under Sections 121 and 121A of the Indian Penal Code since he was cooperating with the investigation.

Choudhury also argued that even if the allegations levelled by the police were true, then he should be booked for harbouring militants, which was a bailable offence. Senior counsel submitted a medical report of the Tata Tea executive who has been under medication.

However, the public prosecutor opposed the bail petition saying that the charges were of a serious nature and he was knowingly ''watering the growth of a plant which will eventually cause trouble for the state.''

Dogra was arrested for allegedly waging and abetting a war against the state, charges which could attract the maximum penalty of death.

The police were now awaiting the return of the second Tata Tea executive, Brojen Gogoi, who is abroad and expected to surrender before the authorities any time, said a Tata Tea source.

Both of them were involved in directly helping and financing the medical treatment of top ULFA leader Pranati Deka at Jaslok Hospital in Bombay. Pranati delivered a baby, the cost of which was borne by Tata Tea.

Investigating police officials belive that both Dogra and Dr Gogoi were aware of the identity of the militant leader. In fact, Dr Gogoi accompanied Deka to Bombay.

Dogra and Tata Tea Executive Director S N Kidwai were interrogated by the police on September 11 and 12. Tata Tea Managing Director R K Krishna Kumar was also interrogated on September 14.


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