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13,000 beer bars in Maharashtra to close down from May 1

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>After the Supreme Court’s (SC) judgment of banning liquor shops within 500 metres of state and national highways, in Maharashtra, 13,000 beer bars will be shut down from May 1.According to a Maharashtra excise department circular, the government will not give permission to open liquor shops adjoining state and national highways. “The earlier permissions for liquor shops at highways will be valid up to May 2017. After that, there will not be any renewal of liquor shops. This order will also be applicable for the liquor shops whose adjoining road goes through villages, towns and districts,” stated the circular. The copy of the circular is with DNA.The circular also reads that the advertisements which contains liquor signs and pictures will not be permitted to be displayed along state and national highways. “If there are any such advertisements, they have to be removed immediately. People should not see any liquor shop near the highways. Liquor shops will not be permitted within 500 metres of service road of highways. Besides, one day permits will not be given to hold parties and functions,” stated the circular.Senior government officials said that the apex court has said that more than revenue, the life of the person is most important. “Maharashtra annually earns over Rs 20,000 crore from the sale of liquor. More than 50 per cent revenue is generated from highways only. We may lose Rs 10,000 crore if the SC order is implemented in totality,” said a senior government official.Arrive Safe, an NGO had filed the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in SC with the aim of ending drunk driving. In its December 15 order, the SC gave the judgment that no liquor shops on national or state highways from April 1and existing licences of liquor shops won’t be renewed after April 1.”We will lose our livelihood with the implementation of this apex court order. The 60 per cent wine and other licences will get affected. We are trying to explore the legal remedy,” said Dilip Giyanani, Chairperson of the Maharashtra Wine Merchant Association.

J&K HC orders release of hardline Hurriyat leader Masarat Alam Bhat

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Jammu and Kashmir High Court has ordered release of senior hardline Hurriyat Conference leader Masarat Alam Bhat who has been in preventive custody under the Public Safety Act since April 2015. Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar, while allowing Bhat’s plea challenging the latest of the detention orders under Public Safety Act, held his detention illegal on several grounds. “By issuance of writ of certiorari, order of detention bearing No. 85/DMB/PSA/2016 dated 1.9.2016, passed by the (deputy commissioner Baramulla) is quashed with a further direction to the (government) to release Alam forthwith from preventive custody,” the court said in its order.Bhat has been booked under PSA several times since April 2015 and the latest order in the series was issued by District Magistrate Baramulla. According to the order, Bhat was accused of making the ongoing agitation “successful” while in custody of the state authorities. The order was passed on the basis of Bhat’s meeting on August 11 this year with four persons who visited him at District Jail, Baramulla. The persons had requested authorities to allow them meet one Assadullah Parray, who is allegedly affiliated with Hurriyat Conference led by Syed Ali Geelani. The authorities claimed that instead of meeting Parray, they met Bhat, who allegedly advised them to activate the workers for a more visible and prominent role in the turmoil. A case was registered against Bhat at police station Baramulla on August 30, two days before the detention order under PSA against Alam was passed by the deputy commissioner.”Even otherwise, record would show statements of four police personnel, who were posted at Sub Jail Baramulla, have been recorded.Their statements would show that Assadullah Parray was lodged in Barrack No.7, whereas (Bhat) was lodged in Barrac No.8.”The allegation in the FIR and statements of all these police personnel would, prima facie, show that all the police authorities, posted at Sub Jail Baramulla, have failed to discharge their duties in accordance with law because it was within the competence and authority of these police personnel to ensure that the visitors would meet Parray, for meeting with whom they had sought permission and not (Alam),” the court observed.The court also rendered the detention order illegal for the reason that the bail application of Bhat had been rejected by a court and he continued to languish in state custody. The detaining authority, in this situation, could not assume that there is every likelihood of (Bhat) being released on bail. The Court said, “democratic society not only swears but lives by democratic values and principles. Even in the face of extreme provocations, the laws of the land are to be implemented. Laws possess unique quality, in as much as, they, even at times, protect those who break them. Thus, they prove to be better than many human beings”. Bhat was released after four-and-half years of detention soon after the PDP-BJP government took charge in March last year. However, he was re-arrested on April 17, 2015 and detained under the PSA for alleged anti-national activities during a rally to welcome Geelani home from Delhi.

Delhi Gangrape: US national identifies three out of four accused

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The US national, allegedly raped by five men at a five-star hotel earlier this year, identified three of the four arrested accused in a test identification parade, police said. The test identification parade was conducted at Tihar jail and the US national managed to identify the tour guide, driver and cleaner while she couldn’t confirm the identity of the hotel staffer, he said. The US national arrived here a few days ago to join the probe and recorded her statement in front of a judicial magistrate where she reiterated that she was raped by five persons in the five-star hotel in Connaught Place.She flew back to the US this evening. She has assured police that she would come down to India in case they needed her again for the probe. Police have told her that they would be filing a charge-sheet in the case soon, sources said.The four men, who were arrested yesterday for allegedly raping her in April, were today sent to two-day judicial custody by a city court.They were sent to Tihar Jail after Delhi Police moved an application seeking their judicial custody.The Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) had issued a notice to Delhi Police asking it why the Rape Crisis Cell of the women’s panel was not informed when the victim’s statement was recorded.Earlier, the complainant had said she was not “satisfied” with the probe and was ready to come to India to identify the accused.The woman had alleged that she was raped by the men for two days and also threatened with dire consequences if she reported the matter to anybody.She had also stated that the accused had made a video of the act and threatened to make it public if she reported the matter to anyone. She had also told the police that the accused had c aimed to have sexually assaulted a couple of other female tourists as well. A team of psychologists and psychiatrists had assisted the woman in recalling the details of the incident. The team is also working with the police in their investigation to tie up loose ends.

Jessica Lall case: AAP government to take a call on Manu Sharma’s parole

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Delhi High Court on Monday asked the AAP government to decide in three days the parole plea of Manu Sharma, undergoing life term for killing model Jessica Lall in 1999. “The government of National Capital Territory of Delhi is directed to dispose of the application/representation of the petitioner (Sharma) within three days from the date of receipt of this order,” Justice Pratibha Rani said.The court said the order passed by the government should be communicated immediately to the petitioner and his counsel through the jail superintendent. The direction came on plea by Sharma, who sought three months’ parole to enable him appear for LLB second semester exams from December 31, attend his Personal Contact Programme and re-establish social ties.Advocate Amit Sahni, appearing for Sharma, said three month was required as the convict has to appear before the Registrar in Chandigarh on January 19 next year for registration of his marriage. Sahni said the government has not yet taken any decision on the application since October this year.Additional Standing Counsel Sanjay Lao, appearing for the government, then said the application filed by the petitioner seeking parole shall be disposed of expeditiously. The court noted that the parole application was sent to the competent authority only on December 7, which has not yet been decided.The convict, who has been given parole six times since September 2009, has completed a post-graduate diploma in Human Rights and is now pursuing a Bachelor’s in Law course from Annamalai University, Chennai.Sharma, son of former Union Minister Venod Sharma, was awarded life imprisonment by the high court in December 2006 for killing Jessica Lall in 1999. The trial court had acquitted him, but the Delhi High Court had reversed it and the Supreme Court had upheld the life sentence in April 2010. Lall was shot dead by Sharma after she had refused to serve him liquor at the Tamarind Court restaurant owned by socialite Bina Ramani at Qutub Colonnade in South Delhi’s Mehrauli on the night of April 30, 1999.

Launch of Agni-5 a great technological, military achievement: DRDO

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Defence and Research Development Organisation (DRDO) on Monday said the launch of intercontinental surface-to-surface nuclear capable ballistic missile Agni-5 is a major achievement for India both in terms of technology and military might.Former DRDO spokesperson Ravi Gupta said that with this missile capabilities, current advisories will not dare to attack India with any nuclear weapon. “It is a bold statement of India strength for peace. We are a peaceful country and we want to work for establishing peace in the region. I believe peace is possible when you are strong. So, this a major quantum jam in the deterrent capability of India and with this missile capabilities I am sure that the current advisories will not dare to attack India with any nuclear weapon,” he said.He said missile that has been launched till now was to test India’s testing capabilities but the real equipped with nuclear will be launched if India is under attack. “India has a declared policy of no frosty use and I hope that we never have to use it. That is only possible if we have this kind of capabilities”. the accuracy of the missile is very high when we launched this for the first time on April 19, 2012 it was a dawn of a new era of technology,” he added.Unlike other missiles of Agni series, ‘Agni-5’ is the most advanced having some new technologies incorporated with it in terms of navigation and guidance, warhead and engine.The indigenously-developed surface-to-surface missile, Agni-5, is capable of striking a target more than 5,000 km. It is about 17-metre long, two-metre wide and has launch weight of around 50 tonnes.The missile can carry a nuclear warhead of more than one tonne. It is the fourth developmental and second canisterised trial of the long range missile.While the first test was conducted on April 19, 2012, the second test was carried out on September 15, 2013, and the third on January 31, 2015 from the same base.

Bribery case: Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat not to appear before CBI today

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat who was summoned by the CBI on Monday in the alleged sting CD case will not appear before the investigation agency.The Uttarakhand High Court had set aside the Chief Minister’s plea seeking a stay on his appearance before the CBI.Rawat had made an oral plea before the bench to allow him for the time being, not to make an appearance before the CBI as a petition challenging the justification of the CBI probe into the alleged sting CD is already pending before the court.Setting aside the plea, the court decided that the next date of hearing would be January 7 as fixed earlier.The CBI had summoned Rawat earlier on December 23.It had registered the preliminary inquiry on April 29 to probe the video purportedly showing Rawat offering bribes to rebel Congress MLAs in exchange for their support in the assembly floor test.Rawat had dismissed the video as being faked after it was released by rebel Congress MLAs but later admitted that he was in the clip.The CBI had earlier summoned the chief minister on May 9, 2016 but he had sought more time.After Rawat’s victory in the floor test, the state cabinet on May 15 withdrew the notification recommending a CBI probe and decided to set up a special investigation team to go into the case.

CBI summons Uttarakhand CM Rawat in sting CD case

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has summoned Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat in connection to its probe into a sting operation that purportedly showed the senior leader offering bribes to rebel Congress MLAs. The sting allegedly showed Rawat asking the rebel Congress MLAs to support him during the floor test that took place in May this year.The CBI on Friday said that its investigators had summoned Rawat to appear at the agency headquarters at the national capital on December 26. Confirming the development, a senior CBI official told DNA, “Investigators wanted to examine Mr Rawat in connection to the allegations of bribery made against him in April, 2016.” Rawat had been questioned by the CBI on one previous occasion on on May 9, 2016. Sources told DNA that during the previous session of questioning, Rawat had asked for more time to respond to queries made by the CBI.The case relates to an alleged sting operation carried out in April 2016 wherein Rawat is purportedly heard offering bribes to rebel Congress MLAs in exchange for their support in the assembly floor test.Rawat had dismissed the video as being fake after it was released by rebel Congress MLAs but later admitted that he was in the clip. The probe agency however filed a preliminary enquiry during which the CBI verifies the facts in the complaint received by it.The agency usually only ‘requests’ a person ‘to join the probe’ and does not summon him, carry out searches or make any arrests. If verification of facts shows need of further probe, it may register an FIR or else close the PE.The state cabinet, after Rawat’s victory in the floor test, withheld the notification recommending the CBI probe. Responding to the recommendation the probe agency had said that there was no ground for its withdrawal and it was ‘not legally tenable’ and rejected the state cabinets decision.

Two-day GST Council meet to end today: Key points over the vexed dual control issue

The two-day GST Council meet that began on Thursday (22 December) and will continue today would take forward the discussion on the remaining 7 chapters of the model GST law.

The council headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, which is meeting for the seventh time so far, will also take up the dual control issue and try to iron out differences on the vexed issue of jurisdiction over assessees in the new indirect tax regime.

Consensus has so far eluded on the model GST law in the previous meetings of the all-powerful GST Council. The subsequent GST legislations — CGST, IGST and compensation law — could not be introduced in the Winter session of Parliament that ended last week, and this has threatened the April 2017 rollout target of the GST.

Experts now say that implementation of GST should be postponed by three months to July next year as industry would need time to prepare their IT infrastructure.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Although, the Centre plans to implement the GST from 1 April, due to Constitutional compulsion the GST now could be rolled out by 16 September next year as the existing indirect taxes will come to an end, and it would not be possible for either Centre or the states to collect indirect taxes.

Day one of the two-day Council meet ended on Thursday with no discussion on dual control but discussed the GST bills.

However, Friday’s meeting will be important as the integrated GST Bill will discuss the contentious issue over the dual control of assessees. Besides this, the three GST bills – Central GST (cGST), Integrated GST and State Compensation Law – need to be approved by the Council before they can be tabled in the Parliament.

Failure to get a consensus on the issue would make it impossible for the government to implement the ambitious indirect tax reform from its target date of 1 April 2017, said a report in the Mint.

Already, finance minister Arun Jaitley has been emphasising that the luxury of time is not available for the GST implementation for the reason that if 1 April 2017, is the first possible day it can be implemented, then the last date also is constitutionally defined as 16 September, 2017.
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“So the discretion as to when to implement is only five months and 16 days and that’s why we don’t have the luxury of time because after five months, the curtains will come down on the old taxation powers,” Jaitley had said earlier.

The dual control has been a sticking point between the Centre and the states, which has so far delayed consensus amongst the council members.

Here are the key points over this vexed issue.

1) The government wants to weigh on the pros and cons on the issues of cross empowerment to ensure single interface under GST, which will subsume excise, service tax, VAT and other local levies.

2) Dual control pertains to the issue of administration of transactions above Rs 1.5 crore. At the September meeting, it was decided that states would have exclusive jurisdiction over transactions below Rs 1.5 crore. For transactions above this amount, it was decided that a mechanism would be worked out to ensure that the same transaction would not be subject to dual audit/inspection by the centre and the state. This has resulted in tug of war between the Centre and states and has become a contentious issue.

3) State governments of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu and Kerala want exclusive control over small taxpayers below Rs 1.5 crore threshold. While the Centre has agreed to forego control on goods, but it is not yielding on services.

4) The GST council also arrived at an option of two proposals– horizontal division and vertical division to overcome the issue. a) Horizontal Division means tax payers would be divided both for administrative and audit purposes based on a cut off turnover. Those with a turnover over Rs 1.5 crore would be administered both by the Centre and states, while those with below Rs 1.5 crore would be administered solely by the state. b) The Vertical Division based on ratios assigns tax payers to a tax administration, Centre or state, for a period of 3 years for all purposes including audit. Tax payers could be divided in a ratio which would balance the interest of the Centre and the state, both with respect to revenue and spread of numbers.

5) The Centre, however, feels that horizontal division would be lopsided as 93 percent of Service Tax assessees and 85 percent of the VAT tax payers have a turnover below Rs 1.5 crore.

6) Last month, GST Council had failed to reach any conclusion on the dual control issue as states objected to non-availability of updated data on assessees of service tax, excise and VAT.

7) The updated figures shared by the Centre with the states shows the likely taxpayer base in GST would be 107 lakh, of which states account for 67 percent (71.7 lakh) and Centre is estimated to account for 33 percent (35.3 lakh). There are around 81.4 lakh VAT dealers, out of which active dealers are 66.5 lakh. For service tax, there are 38 lakh assessees, out of which 26 lakh are active assessees, while there are around 4,00,000 assessees for excise. Around 4,00,000 taxpayers are common to the Centre and the states, The Indian Express report said.

With PTI inputs

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 12:56 IST

Sheena Bora murder case: Peter was part of conspiracy from start, says CBI

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>CBI on Tuesday told a court in Mumbai that former media baron Peter Mukerjea, accused in the Sheena Bora murder case, did not come to Mumbai with his wife Indrani in April 2012, because he feared it would show his complicity.The court is hearing arguments on framing of charges in Sheena murder case.Prosecutors Bharat Badami and Kavita Patil said Indrani came to Mumbai on April 23, 2012, a day before murder.Peter came three days later, because he feared he would be arrested if the murder ever came to light and it was seen that he was with Indrani at the time.Indrani was informing Peter about every step taken by her in the meantime, Badami said.After Sheena got engaged with Rahul, Peter’s son from first wife Shabnam Singh, only Shabnam and Sheena’s father Siddharth Das blessed the couple but not Peter, the prosecutor said, because “Peter was unhappy about this relationship”.Indrani spoke to Peter on phone even from a spot she identified for disposal of Sheena’s body, which “cannot be a coincidence”, Badami said, adding that “He (Peter) was part and parcel of the conspiracy”.The prosecutor said for two years before the murder Indrani and Sheena were not on talking terms. But on the day of the murder, Indrani invited her to dinner.Peter told his house help (after the murder) that “Indrani has separated Sheena and Rahul”, which “discloses that Peter had full knowledge of murder,” said Badami.Peter never lodged any missing person complaint after Sheena disappeared, the prosecutor said.By killing Sheena, her daughter from relationship with Siddharth Das, Indrani ensured that she did not face any embarrassment due to Rahul marrying Sheena, and all the properties would go to Vidhie (Indrani’s daughter with former husband and co-accused Sanjeev Khanna), Badami said.CBI on Tuesday finished its arguments. Defence is likely to begin their arguments on Thursday.

Killings in Indian police custody go unpunished, says rights group | Reuters

By Anuradha Nagaraj

CHENNAI, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Senthil Kumar’s mother saw him being dragged off by policemen on charges of extortion. Standing outside the Vadamadurai police station in Tamil Nadu, she heard him scream for mercy. The next day she was told her son was dead.”He didn’t die, he was killed,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, recalling the events of April 2010.”And I know the name of every policeman who did it.”Kumar is one of the 591 people who have died in police custody in India since 2010, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Monday, calling for the strict implementation of existing laws on arrest and detention.Citing government data, the report said 97 people died in police custody in 2015 alone, and there was not a single known case in the past five years in which a police official had been convicted for a custodial death.”In almost all cases, the police passes off these deaths as suicide or a heart attack,” said Jayshree Bajoria, author of HRW’s report.”And the brotherhood kicks in to shield the guilty, who are their own colleagues. The entire system collaborates to protect the guilty policemen instead of taking action against them.”

K S Dhatwalia, spokesman for the Ministry of Home Affairs in New Delhi, the government department responsible for police, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Monday the ministry would “look into the report and take necessary action”. The report examines investigations into 17 deaths in custody between 2009 and 2015. In each case, the police did not follow proper arrest procedures, making the suspect more vulnerable to abuse, Bajoria said.Leonard Valdaris trusted the policemen who wanted to talk to his son about a theft in the neighbourhood in April 2014.But when he walked into the Wadala railway police station in Mumbai the next day, the report said, his son was “crying bitterly” and told him the police had beaten him all night and would kill him.

Three days later, Agnelo Valdaris, 25, died, HRW said.”When I saw my son in the hospital, there everything changed,” Valdaris was quoted as saying in the report. “There I saw the reality. He had been beaten black and blue with a belt.”Forms of torture recorded in the report include severe beatings with boots and belts and sometimes suspending people from their wrists. Autopsy reports examined by HRW show injuries consistent with blunt force trauma.

India has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and signed the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.According to the Indian Code of Criminal Procedure policemen are expected to prepare a memo of arrest with the date and time of arrest, ensure a medical examination is carried out on the accused, inform the family of the arrest and present the suspect before a magistrate within 24 hours.According to government records, in 67 of the 97 deaths in custody in 2015, police failed to present the suspect before a magistrate or the suspect died within 24 hours of arrest.”If police follow the rules designed to deter torture and mistreatment, deaths in custody could be prevented,” said Meenakshi Ganguly of Human Rights Watch.”India can only boast of rule of law when those charged with enforcing it are held accountable.” (Reporting by Anuradha Nagaraj, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

First Published On : Dec 19, 2016 19:44 IST

VVIP chopper scam: Italy’s top court orders retrial of ex-Finmeccanica executives

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Italy’s highest court on Friday ordered a re-trial of former top executives at defence group Leonardo Finmeccanica over allegations of bribery in a 2010 contract to provide a dozen helicopters to the Indian government.In April a Milan appeals court sentenced former Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi to four and a half years in prison for corruption and falsifying invoices, overturning a previous lower court ruling.Bruno Spagnolini, former head of the group’s helicopter unit AgustaWestland, was sentenced to four years in jail over the €560 million ($585 million) contract. The case went to the highest court after the two executives launched an appeal. Both executives will now have to be tried again in front of Milan’s appeals court.Last week India’s federal police arrested the former head of the air force SP Tyagi, 71, who was at the centre of allegations of impropriety in the order of 12 helicopters meant to fly senior Indian politicians. The deal was cancelled in 2014 after Orsi was arrested on suspicion of paying bribes to secure the deal.AgustaWestland opposed India’s decision to cancel the order and the contract is currently suspended and the subject of international arbitration in Paris.The case against Finmeccanica itself was dropped by prosecutors back in 2014 while AgustaWestland agreed on a €7.5 million settlement with the court the same year.

SC downs shutters on liquor stores along highways

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a move to curb the menace of drunken driving, the Supreme Court banned liquor shops along national and state highways on Thursday. Stressing the importance and the need to improve road safety, a bench led by Chief Justice of India T S Thakur further ordered that no liquor shops can operate or been seen within 500 metres of the highways.Liquor shops that are functional have been allowed to operate till April 1, 2017, however, licenses will be not be renewed or issued post March 31, 2017. The bench has ordered the chief secretaries of all the states to chalk out a plan to enforce the ban in consultation with excise and municipal officials.The SC gave this directive in response to a PIL filed by the NGO Arrive Safe. According to the NGO, around 1.42 lakh people were killed in road accidents, a majority of which were caused by drunk driving. The NGO claimed that the easy availability of liquor along highways was one of the main reasons for the road accidents.While reserving its order on December 7, the apex court had then expressed its concern over the fatalities reported every year in road mishaps, and indicated that it may direct the closure of liquor vends on national and state highways across the nation. The bench had also stated that it would direct the removal of the signages indicating their location. This move, the bench said was for the safety and security of the commuters on the highways who got “distracted” by seeing the shops and causing accidents.Expressed his unhappiness at the states’ inaction to curb the rising number of shops, Justice Thakur said, “We would not like any vends on national highways, state highways, advertisements, or signage about the availability of liquor shops. We will direct all highway authorities to remove all sign boards. It should be absolutely free from any distraction or attractions. It should not be visible. Visibility is the first temptation.”The bench pointed out that instead of curbing the number of shops, states had increased the number of licenses issued. Lashing out at the Central government for not doing anything concrete for the last 10 years, the court said it was forced to “step in.”The ban order came when the apex court was hearing petitions challenging various high court orders that disapproved the sale of liquor on highways. However, not all states were in the favour of the ban. Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab were in the forefront of voicing their opposition to the ban.The court heavily came down on the Punjab government for seeking relaxation and permitting liquor shops near highways if they are “elevated” ones and the vends are under or near it. “Look at the number of licences you (Punjab) have given. Because the liquor lobby is so powerful, everyone is happy. The excise department is happy, the excise minister is happy and the state government is also happy that they are making money. If a person dies due to this, you give Rs one or 1.5 lakh. That is it. You should take a stand which is helpful for the society,” the bench had said.The court also criticised Punjab for defending the interest of the liquor lobby saying, “You are acting like a mouthpiece for the liquor lobby by defending the policy.” The advocate representing Punjab appealed to the bench that also comprised of the CJI along with Justices D Y Chandrachud and L Nageshwar Rao, that the ban should be made effective from April 1, 2017 to avoid a loss of Rs. 1,000 crore to the exchequer.To the Jammu and Kashmir government, the apex court had said “You can start a door delivery of liquor,” in response to their argument that if the vends are away from the highway, people would have problems accessing them due to the terrains.Dry states (and union territories) in IndiaGujaratBiharNagalandLakhswadeepKerela (partial ban)State Actions against AlcoholRecently deceased Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha shut down 500 liquor stores on May 23, the first day of her fourth term as Chief Minister.In Bihar, the government issued a notification where those consuming alcohol could be jailed for up to seven years and fined by Rs 1 lakh to Rs 10 lakh, two days after the Patna High Court quashed its order on banning alcohol consumption.

DMK, AIADMK in catch 22 over leadership issue

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Both the AIADMK and the DMK are in a piquant situation — have to amend the party constitution to elevate Sasikala and Karunanidhi’s son Stalin respectively for them to play a larger and key role. Senior AIADMK leaders including Chief Minister o Panneerselvam and his cabinet colleagues (most of whom double up as secretaries of the party’s district units) have urged Jayalalithaa’s aide V K Sasikala to take over the post of general secretary hitherto held by Jayalalithaa.In the last three days, they have met Sasikala often to press their demand so as to keep the party together. Panneerselvam has even given a statement asking her to lead the party as it required ‘military Discipline” and she knew the nuances of political moves to counter the opposition.A problem which the party has to surmount is the Constitution — Section 30 (5) of the AIADMK Rules and Regulations stipulates : Those who want to contest for the post of office beaers of the organisation should have been member of the party for five years without any break’. In December 2011, Sasikala and her close relatives as also her husband M Natarajan, were expelled from the AIADMK by Jayalalithaa. Sasikala was also asked to leave the Poe’s Garden residence of Jayalalithaa. It was only in April 2012 that Jayalalithaa took Sasikala back into the Garden.Though the date of her re-admission into the party is not known, it is possible that this too must have been in April 2012. Since it is only a little over four years since the re-entry of Sasikala, technically she cannot be considered for any post. Therefore, when the party general Council meets in April as is likely, it would have to amend the Constitution to reduce this period from five to four years or the Executive Committee can pass a resolution, making out a special case for Sasikala and get it ratified by the General Council later. Similarly, an amendment would be required to create a new post for Sasikala in case she opts for a post like Joint General Secretary or Additional General Secretary.Sasikala has so far not given any indication to the party leaders about her response to their request. Perhaps, all the district units and general Council members may be asked to sign a memorandum containing their request to Sasikala — for her to be sure of near–unanimous support, and to ensure it is a smooth affair. Meanwhile, the main opposition DMK is also grappling with legal and technical issues to elevate Stalin. While Stalin’s supporters have been urging his father to make him party President so as to inject some energy into the party, Karunanidhi seems to be reluctant to part with his own post . Karunanidhi realises that the moment he gives up the post of president, he would get sidelined. At the same time, he needs to give more importance to Stalin in order to get work done and to build the party.Those close to Karunanidhi have suggested that the post of a Working President be created for Stalin, which would ensure that Karunanidhi remains the President, even while meeting Stalin supporters half-way.The DMK has convened a meeting of its General Council on December 20. Although the agenda is not known, the elevation of Stalin is on the cards. The party needs the General Council to adopt a resolution and amend the Constitution to pave the way for Stalin. The AIADMK and the DMK are running on a parallel track these last few months. The leaders of both parties were hospitalized one after the other. Both parties are also facing the need to find new leadership. While AIADMK lost its leader, Karunanidhi needs rest.

J-K govt aid for Burhan’s kin will generate more sympathisers in Valley: Defence expert

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Criticising the Mehbooba Mufti government for announcing an ex-gratia payment to Burhan Wani’s brother Khalid Wani, in the next of kin killed in militancy-related incidents in the Valley, defence expert Colonel Sunil Deshpande has said the government’s decision would only encourage terrorists to generate more sympathisers and give boost to terrorism in the valley.”Khalid Wani, the brother of Burhan Wani, was killed in action and he was a supporter of terrorists. It was proved that he was working for the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and the civilian authorities announced the list of the supporters who were working for terrorists, and he was ranked ninth on the list. It is incorrect on the part of the government to give money to Khalid Wani,” said Deshpande.Deshpande further said, “Khalid Wani was not an innocent person. He was a known sympathiser and, after his death, a payment of Rs. 4 lakhs is absolutely incorrect on the part of Mufti government. This money is given to those who are killed in action. This will help terrorists to create more sympathisers in the valley and it will give a boost to terrorist activity in the valley.”The government yesterday cleared ex-gratia payments to the next of kin of 17 persons, including Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani’s brother, killed in militancy-related incidents in the valley.The government has given one week’s time for filing of any objection before formal orders are issued.According to a notification issued on Monday by the deputy commissioner of Pulwama, ex-gratia relief under rules were cleared by the district-level screening-cum-consultative committee (DLSCC) in favour of next of kin of those persons who died in militancy-related incidents.As per report, the ex-gratia relief entitles a victim’s family to a payment of Rs. four lakh or employment for a member of the family.Burhan had left home at the age of 15 in October 2010 to join the Hizb-ul- Mujahideen, while his brother Khalid lived in Tral in Pulwama with his family.Twenty five-year-old Khalid was pursuing a Masters in political science from IGNOU, reportedly told his mother on the afternoon of April 13, 2015 that he was going for a picnic. However, his body was found in the nearby jungle hours later.

Goodbye April GST: Missing the deadline is better for all in demonetisation season

It is now fairly certain that the 1 April roll out of the grand indirect tax reform, Goods and Services Tax (GST), isn’t happening. The plan is comfortably put on the backburner at least till September, when the time given by the constitutional amendment will automatically expire for GST roll out, meaning that the new regime will have to kick in by then.

There are two clear reasons why GST isn’t happening now as planned. One, till now, there is no consensus on the contentious issue of dual taxation between the centre and state governments. States, especially the likes of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, are hell-bent on their demand that control of companies with annual turnover of less than Rs 1.5 crore should rest with them. A data goof up by the centre has worsened the relation (read here ). Centre isn’t too comfortable with the idea of giving up too much to states.

This was evident when the GST council met on Sunday. With no consensus in sight on the crucial issue, GST is unthinkable for 1 April since two important supportive legislations, central GST and integrated GST, is yet to pass the House test. The current session gets over on 16 December and there is no time to pacify the states and opposition by then. The next likely meeting of GST is planned for end-December.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The second reason is the change in political climate post demonetisation. Though states wouldn’t flag the political displeasure on demonetisation for slowing the GST bandwagon (as it would be seen as a regressive step), the hardening of resistance by states like Kerala on the revenue sharing issue is because of the adverse impact of the demonetisation. Demonetisation has triggered political and economic impacts in different states in different ways. This has also, states allege, gone against the centre’s promise of cooperative federalism . States like Kerala are in a sort of political crisis with the key sector of cooperative banks (a big employer and key institutions for low-income groups/ farmers) being hit hard. There are enough evidences around to believe that services, manufacturing too would have taken hit in the demonetisation resulted cash-crunch.

The hard-won political consensus on GST by finance minister, Arun Jaitley, is now on shaky grounds due to the ongoing tussle between the Narendra Modi-government and key opposition parties on the demonetisation issue. The opposition parties have been harping on prime minister’s persistent reluctance to speak on the issue in the House and use that a reason to take the House business to a standstill. The Modi-government too, so far, has not been able to justify the the demonetisation exercise with hard evidence. With no immediate monetary gains in sight, recovering black money—the originally highlighted objective of the operation—looking a tall order and ‘cashless economy’ turning the only savings grace, the Modi-government will have a tough time explaining the opposition, the negative economic impact and the prolonging pain to common man. This is an uncomfortable situation for the government.

But, in the post-demonetisation scenario, it is good both for the centre and the state to have a late GST, rather than facing another mammoth implementation challenge. In the post demonetisation days, the Indian economy is already having a tough time in manufacturing, services sector and even on discretionary consumer spending—all of these has taken a hit. Auto sales numbers and November PMI data offer enough evidence of the near-term growth impact. The Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) fiscal year 2017 growth downward revision (from 7.6 percent to 7.1 percent) , which doesn’t even take into effect the demonetisation impact fully , adds to the worries.

The most optimistic expert assessments (except from the government) of the economy returning to normal cash conditions are March. In such a scenario, the immediate disruptions GST roll out by April will have a double whammy effect on the economy. September sounds more realistic. Also, the industry isn’t ready for an early GST roll out, especially in the aftermath of demonetisation shock. What does a delayed GST means to the investor? It is not a surprise, said D K Joshi, chief economist at Crisil rating agency, Indian subsidiary of Standard and Poor’s. “Anyway, we were of the view that April roll out lacks the necessary preparedness. Right now the focus should be on the roll out of demonetisation,” Joshi said. But yet again, how soon the government can contain the impact of the demonetisation cash crunch is critical, before the Modi-government can even think of readying to welcome the GST juggernaut. For now, it’s a goodbye to April GST and the delay is good news to all in demonetisation days.

First Published On : Dec 12, 2016 11:59 IST

DNA Morning Must Reads: Latest on Cyclone Vardah, GST, ‘Raees’ release & more

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Cyclone Vardah: Tamil Nadu announces holiday for schools in 4 districts, Andhra Pradesh braces for impactSevere cyclonic storm ‘Vardah’ will make a landfall between north Tamil Nadu and south Andhra Pradesh on Monday with both the coastal states putting in place a number of measures to deal with it and TN announcing holiday for all educational institutions in four districts. Read moreDemonetization leaves a trust deficit, consensus eludes GSTWith the trust between the government and the Opposition parties at a low ebb, thanks to feud over demonetization, the crucial Goods and Services Tax (GST) seems to be headed for a delay, that could well see it missing the April 1, 2017 deadline. Read moreAmerican connection in Indian Islamic State modulesAn emerging American link has come to light in the investigation of the Islamic State inspired terror cases with the National Investigation Agency (NIA) identifying a key recruiter. Read moreCyrus Mistry misled us to become chairman: TataTata Sons on Sunday said the committee that selected Cyrus Mistry as chairman was misled in its choice by Mistry’s statements and commitments for the Tata Group. Read more’Raees’: Pak actress Mahira Khan won’t promote film, Shah Rukh Khan tells MNS chief Raj ThackerayBollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan on Sunday met Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray at his residence in Mumbai. The meeting, that took place in the evening, assumes significance as Khan’s upcoming film Raees, which features Pakistani actress Mahira Khan, is scheduled for a release next month, party sources said. Read details

Parties rush for alliance in Uttar Pradesh

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>With elections to the Uttar Pradesh (UP) Assembly set for February, political parties are now scrambling for alliances and selection of candidates. On Saturday, the Election Commission had shot down the Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s game plan to force the Assembly elections in April by hurriedly getting declared the school examinations in February and March.While the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has given a cold shoulder to any proposal for a tie-up, the Congress and the Samajwadi Party (SP) are in the final stages for finalising nitty-gritty of an alliance. Sources in both the parties said that despite a lengthy meeting between Congress poll strategist Prashant Kishor and SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav early this week, the number and choice of seats leaving for potential partners was still an issue. They said that Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal (United) chief Nitish Kumar was brokering a deal between the two parties, after he successfully sailed the Grand Alliance in Bihar to victory last year.Earlier talks between the Congress and the SP had failed as the Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi didn’t want to contest less than 100-120 seats out of the total of 403. But the SP was not willing to part more than 50 seats. In the SP, Akhilesh has been a strong votary of an alliance, but he was also keen to push elections to April, in order to delink polls in his state with other poll bound states like Punjab, Goa, Manipur and Uttarakhand and also to negotiate an alliance threadbare. But the EC exercising its powers cancelled the Class X and XII Board exams fixed by the UP Secondary Education Board from February 16 and directed it to declare the new schedule only after a prior approval of the state’s chief electoral officer (CEO). The EC’s decision, therefore, indicates that it is all set to hold the Assembly elections in February in all five states.

Peter Mukerjea seeks laptop in prison to write autobiography

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former media baron Peter Mukerjea, arrested in Sheena Bora murder case with his wife Indrani, on Friday filed an application in the CBI court in Mumbai seeking permission to use a laptop in the prison so he could write his autobiography.”I want to write an autobiography and for that I want a laptop without Internet in the jail,” Peter told the special CBI court judge H S Mahajan during the hearing on Friday. In a handwritten application, Peter also said he was finding it very difficult to write in long-hand.If allowed, he would work on the laptop for four hours a day and afterwards hand it back to jail authorities, the application said. “(I am) 61 years old and suffering from occasional memory fatigue and laptop will be of great help to aid in continuing the work without locating details during the writing and scripting process,” Peter said in the application.He also applied for permission to go to Bangalore to attend the wedding of his niece.CBI is likely to file its reply to his applications on December 14. The court is likely to hear arguments on framing of charges in the Sheena Bora murder case on December 19.Interestingly, the court had at the last hearing granted the prime accused in the case Indrani Mukerjea’s application seeking permission to deposit some demonetized currency notes in the bank (through someone outside the jail).Indrani, her former driver Shyam Rai (who has turned approver in the case) and her former husband Sanjeev Khanna are accused of killing her daughter Sheena inside a car in April 2012. Peter is accused of being party to the conspiracy.

US woman rape case: Victim in touch with police, may come to India to join probe

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Delhi Police is in touch with a US woman who was allegedly raped by a group of men at a five-star hotel here in April and she may come to India to join the probe.The woman had alleged that she was raped by the men for two days. They also threatened her with dire consequences if she reported the matter to anybody.”After the incident, the woman went back to the US without informing about the incident even to those accompanying her in the trip. Initially, she approached an NGO which sent an email about the incident to Delhi Police and on Sunday she mailed her complaint to police.”We are in touch with her and we are trying to convince her to come to India. She might come here but no date has been fixed for her visit,” said an officer privy to the probe.Police suspected that the accused had targeted a couple of other women tourists, a source said.Teams have been formed to nab the accused, one of whom is a hotel employee and his relative, the source said, adding that the accused even shot a video of the act and threatened her with making the clip public if she filed a complaint.

‘No journalist to be prosecuted in Murthal gang-rape case’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Reacting to the charges put forward by amicus curiae Anupam Gupta before the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Saturday, Additional Advocate General Pawan Girdhar has said there is no direction to prosecute any journalist with regard to the Murthal gang-rape case.Gupta appealed that the Delhi-based journalist, who filed a report on alleged cases of gang-rape in Murthal, Haryana, during the Jat agitation earlier this year should be prosecuted for producing false and fabricated evidence of the alleged victim.”There is no direction to prosecute any journalist. There is no variation at all and we have submitted all the details before the court as and when required,” he said.”Definitely we are going to file a response to clear any kind of variation that which has been pointed out by learned amicus curiae before the honourable court. We will file a response to clarify the same,” he added.At least 30 people were killed and over 320 injured in the nine-day long Jat agitation for reservation in February this year. There were reports that women had been dragged out to the fields and raped during the violence that ensued.The Haryana Government had initially denied the reports of rape, but admitted in April that there could be a possibility of the same.The SIT report earlier said that no victim of the alleged mass gang-rape or molestation had come forward to lodge a complaint.The High Court, taking suo motu notice of reports in the media about the gang-rapes, had asked the Haryana government and police to submit a status report and appointed lawyer Anupam Gupta as amicus curiae.

Jaya Bachchan, Mary Kom among others greet PM in RS

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose absence in Parliament is always fodder for Opposition protests, today remained seated in the Rajya Sabha even during a 15-minute adjournment.Members from various political parties, including some from the opposition, were seen going to his seat to greet him or chat with him.The prime minister stayed in the house, as did members from the government as well as the Opposition.Film star-turned-Samajwadi Party lawmaker Jaya Bachchan was seen walking up to the PM and exchanging pleasantries. She was followed by members of Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK and a Left MP.Renowned boxer Mary Kom, who was nominated to parliament in April this year, was also seen in a discussion with PM Modi.The PM was seen smiling and talking to all those who approached him.Later, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad commented: “The PM sat in the house even after lunch but they are not interested in a discussion.”

Al Qaeda plot: NIA arrests 2 more sympathisers

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Carrying out with its probe in the blasts outside court premises in South India since April this year, NIA arrested two more persons on Tuesday for allegedly being involved in the conspiracy to carry out bomb explosions by a group sympathising with terror outfit al-Qaeda.With today’s arrest, the number of people arrested in the case has gone upto five.The NIA, along with police forces from Tamil Nadu and Telangana, had arrested three persons yesterday for the five bomb blast cases in court premises of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka since April. Among the arrests effected today was Mohammed Ayub Ali, who had been detained last night. Ali (25) of Madurai, who works as a public liaison officer for a hearing aid company, was placed under arrest today, NIA spokesman said.The other person arrested was Shamsudeen, 25, a resident of Madurai after his name cropped up during interrogation of others arrested by the NIA. The cases relate to blasts inside a vehicle at a parking place at district court complex, in Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh on April 7; in a parking area of CJM Court Complex at Kollam in Kerala on June 15; inside court complex at Mysuru on August 1, in Nellore of Andhra Pradesh on September 12 and inside a toilet complex of judicial court, Malappuram in Kerala on November 1.The NIA had arrested Abbas Ali, Suleiman and Samsum Karim Raja, all residents of Tamil Nadu. The NIA spokesman had claimed that the arrested accused “during sustained interrogation confessed to their involvement in these blasts.”Ali, a school dropout, was working as a painter and also ran a library in the name ‘Darul Ilm’ at Madurai. Raja is a Commerce graduate and runs a chicken broiler shop at Kannimara Koil street in Madurai. Suleiman was working in a software firm. He was the main leader of the terrorist group which was influenced by the ideology of Osama bin Laden.The group had claimed responsibility for these blasts and circulated pamphlets, pen drives and CDs in the name of “The Base Movement”, translation of the word al Qaeda.

Centre makes it mandatory for vehicles to have speed warning from April 2018

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Centre has made it mandatory for all automobile manufacturers to provide speed warning and safety belt reminder systems in new vehicles from April 1, 2018, as part of its road safety improvement plans. A notification to this effect has been issued recently by the ministry of road, transport and highways.Senior officials from the ministry said the speed-alert system will warn the driver through an audio alert if the vehicle speed exceeds 80 km per hour, there would be a continuous audio alert if the vehicle speed exceeds 100 km per hour.The draft rules in the amendment to the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989, also make it mandatory for vehicle manufacturers to install a safety-belt reminder –a system for alerting the driver and the co-passenger for not putting on the safety belt and a ‘manual over-ride’ or central locking system which allows the motor vehicle occupant to open the door from inside using door release lever.The rules also make compulsory for vehicle manufacturers to install vehicle reverse gear sensors in vehicles manufactured on and after April 1, 2018, for assisting safe parking and reverse movement of the vehicles.They state that for new category of M1 motor vehicles, manufactured on or after October 1, 2017, and the existing models manufactured on and after October 1, 2018, should be equipped with a frontal airbag system. An airbag system comprises sensors, diagnostics and air bags module which inflates a bag in instances of crashes and prevents the driver and the passenger of the vehicle from striking against a steering wheel or the window.Car assessmentIndia ranks among the highest in road accidents with five lakh road accidents annually, in which around 1.46 lakh people are killed and three lakh are injured. Among other factors, vehicles manufactured without adequate safety features contribute to the number of deaths on roads.The ministry is also planning to set up the Bharat National Car Assessment Programme (NCAP), which will be rating vehicles based on safety features.The government has also set up a deadline of October 2017 new cars to clear the minimum frontal (64 km per hour) and side crash tests (50 km per hour) and pedestrian protection tests.

Indian Railways, IRCTC include transgender as third gender

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Indian Railways and IRCTC have included “transgender as third gender” in the option alongside male and female in ticket reservation and cancellation forms.The decision which was taken on a representation made by a lawyer will include the facility for reservations and cancellations, both online as well offline.The Delhi-based lawyer had made the representation after the Delhi High Court in February had asked him to approach the Railway Ministry while disposing of his petition.The ministry in its circular referred to the direction of the apex court of April 2014, which had said that hijras, eunuchs, apart from binary gender, be treated as third gender for protecting their rights.”Supreme Court (in the judgement) has directed that Hijras, Eunuchs, apart from binary gender, be treated as third gender for the purpose of safeguarding their rights under Part III of our Constitution and the laws made by the parliament and the State Legislature.”It has, therefore, been decided to include the third gender/transgender option alongside male/female in reservation cancellation requisition form. This information will be captured by the system and tickets to transgender will be issued on full fare,” the circular stated.Advocate Jamshed Ansari in his PIL before the high court had alleged violation of Article 14, 15, 19 and 21 of the Constitution by Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), by non-inclusion of “transgender/third gender” as a gender option in its forms.He had also sought compliance of the apex court judgment in which it directed the Centre and the state governments to recognise transgender as the third sex, and to provide them with the benefits accorded to socially and economically backward classes. He had further demanded special coaches and reserved seats for the transgender community in all trains, for their “care and protection”.On which the bench headed by Chief Justice G Rohini had asked the ministry to look into the averments made in the writ petition.

Indian Railways, IRCTC include transgender as third gender in ticket forms

New Delhi: Indian Railways and IRCTC have included “transgender as third gender” in the option alongside male and female in ticket reservation and cancellation forms.

The decision which was taken on a representation made by a lawyer will include the facility for reservations and cancellations, both online as well offline.

The Delhi-based lawyer had made the representation after the Delhi High Court in February had asked him to approach the Railway Ministry while disposing of his petition.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

The ministry in its circular referred to the direction of the apex court of April 2014, which had said that hijras, eunuchs, apart from binary gender, be treated as third gender for protecting their rights.

“Supreme Court (in the judgement) has directed that Hijras, Eunuchs, apart from binary gender, be treated as third gender for the purpose of safeguarding their rights under Part III of our Constitution and the laws made by the parliament and the State Legislature.

“It has, therefore, been decided to include the third gender/transgender option alongside male/female in reservation /cancellation requisition form. This information will be captured by the system and tickets to transgender will be issued on full fare,” the circular stated.

Advocate Jamshed Ansari in his PIL before the high court had alleged violation of Article 14, 15, 19 and 21 of the Constitution by Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), by non-inclusion of “transgender/third gender” as a gender option in its forms.

He had also sought compliance of the apex court judgment in which it directed the Centre and the state governments to recognise transgender as the third sex, and to provide them with the benefits accorded to socially and economically backward classes.

He had further demanded special coaches and reserved seats for the transgender community in all trains, for their “care and protection”.

On which the bench headed by Chief Justice G Rohini had asked the ministry to look into the averments made in the writ petition.

First Published On : Nov 27, 2016 10:32 IST

Black money rampant in educational institution, real estate: Govt

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Tax department has unearthed Rs 32,000 crore through searches in last three fiscals and found that use of black money is rampant in sectors like real estate and educational institutions, government said today.”The data indicates that the main sectors in which black money is rampant include real estate, finance, trading, manufacturing, educational institutes and services,” Minister of State for Finance Santosh Kumar Gangwar said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha. During 2015-16, the I-T Department conducted 445 searches which discovered undisclosed income of Rs 11,066 crore. Total assets seized were Rs 712.68 crore.Also 545 searches conducted in 2014-15 have led to admission of undisclosed income worth Rs 10,288 crore. Total assets seized amounted to Rs 761.70 crore.Besides, 569 searches in 2013-14 saw admission of undisclosed income of Rs 10,791.63 crore and asset seizure of Rs 807.84 crore. This takes the total undisclosed income which was admitted during searches to Rs 32,146 crore. Analysis of the searches by the Income Tax department during the last three financial years indicates that the persons searched were involved in multiple activities in varied sectors, Gangwar said.He said the government has taken several measures to effectively tackle the issue of black money. These include prohibition of acceptance of payment/advance of Rs 20,000 or more in cash, enactment of benami transaction law and mandatory quoting of PAN for transaction above Rs 2 lakh.In reply to another question in the Lok Sabha, Gangwar said that between April and October, the Enforcement Directorate registered 109 cases under FEMA involving Hawala transactions. During 2015-16, 138 such cases were registered under FEMA, while in 2014-15 it was 104 and in 2013-14 it was 75. “The above cases may include a few cases relating to illegal activities and terrorism also,” Gangwar said.

Cash strapped tipplers choose country liquor over IMFL, as demonetisation hits alcohol hard

The central government’s decision to demonetise higher-value currency notes has had an unlikely victim; sale of alcohol has been hit badly in the state of Maharashtra. Indian made foreign liquor (IMFL) sales have dropped by 30 percent in the last two weeks, while sale and consumption of country liquor has gone up by 10 percent.

IMFL sales have dropped by over 30 percent since the demonetisation announcement. PTI representational imageIMFL sales have dropped by over 30 percent since the demonetisation announcement. PTI representational image

IMFL sales have dropped by over 30 percent since the demonetisation announcement. PTI representational image

State excise commissioner V Radha confirmed to Firstpost about there being a drop in the sale of IMFL. However, he added, revenues have still gone up over the April-October period. Rs 7,022 crore was collected in revenue from alcohol sale for the period between April and October 2016, while the figure for the corresponding period of 2015 was Rs 6,799 crores, she added. The annual revenue for 2015-16 was Rs 12,500 crore, and the target before March 2017 will be Rs 15,000 crore, Radha said.

“In the last six months, we have seized goods worth Rs 19.83 crore, an increase of 21.56 percent compared to last year. Not only this, but we’ve also arrested 9,469 people in the six months between April and October for dealing with sale of illegal liquor, as against 7,303 people in the corresponding period for last year,” Radha added.

The revenue department, which collects data on a monthly basis, has analysed the information in the two weeks since 8 November, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made his announcement. It has discovered a 30 percent drop in sales of IMFL, but has noticed country liquor sales have gone up by 10 percent.

“There is a cash crunch currently, since notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 aren’t being used. People are saving money because of this, and are buying more country liquor as against IMFL. Sales of country liquor have gone up,” confirmed state excise minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule.

The state government had already banned 850 country liquor stalls selling toddy or palm wine across Maharashtra. The state contributes about 20 percent of the country’s IMFL consumption, and over 2,000 wine shops sell IMFL across Maharashtra. IMFL sales contribute to 45 percent of the state’s alcohol consumption, while country liquor contributes 35 percent.

We already banned 850 Tadi (Toddy or Palm Wine) shops in state, which is result that increased in the sale of Country liquor, he added. Maharashtra is around 20 percent contributor of IMFL of Country and more than 2000 shops of IMFL. IMFL sales in Maharashtra amount to 45 percent, while Country liquor contributes 35 percent, Bawankule said.

The state excise department has also changed laws allowing storing and stocking alcohol at home. From the previous limit of 12 bottles of alcohol every month, it has now gone down to only two bottles at home. Social activist Anna Hazare, who has long been campaigning for alcohol prohibition, along with women’s rights groups and NGOs, had made this demand. The state government officials have released a toll free number — 18008333333, and and a WhatsApp number — 8422001133, for complaints or information about sale and consumption of illegal alcohol.

First Published On : Nov 23, 2016 16:43 IST

Kashmir conflict: New sturdier fence might be the answer to mounting infiltration problems

A fence of ‘an absolutely new design’ is being built along the Line of Control (LoC) at the edge of the Kashmir Valley. Fifty kilometres of this new fence has been built this year. The Army is confident that it will be more effective than the fences that have been built since 2003-04 according to Lt Gen DS Hooda, the Commander-in-Chief of the Northern Command. It has been redesigned to withstand the pressures of weather as well as the wiles of infiltrators and other enemy tactics.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

So far, the fence has been a white elephant with barbs. One, it collapses under the weight of tons of snow every year. Two, it costs the earth to build, rebuild and maintain. Three, it doesn’t seem to have made very much difference to stemming infiltration. Since it came down every winter and was rebuilt every summer, the construction of the fence has been something of a continuing process — a very costly one. That should have been predictable when the idea was conceived. For most parts of the LoC get up to ten metres (30 feet) of snow every winter — more than enough to push those fences into the ground. Since they could only be rebuilt when the snow melted after April, reconstruction generally continued until September every year.

Multi-layered fence

The current fences consist of barbed wire strands and coils. The strands are strung along high iron girders. A few of those strands are electrified. The coils are lower but far more forbidding, since there are barbs all over their bunched strands. At most places along the LoC, the fence is actually a series of two or three fences, placed some distance apart. The calculation is that invaders who get past one fence might get caught or held up at the next one. Even the first fence is well within the Indian side of the LoC. Construction and repair right at the LoC would be fraught with danger, since Pakistani bunkers and machans could open fire at any point. Work on the new fence has gone well this year in both Baramulla and Kupwara districts, despite the army’s preoccupation with external and internal strife. The army brass are confident that the entire length of about 300 kilometres would be covered over the next two summers.

The new fence has stronger supports and includes cement grouting to help hold firm. The engineering challenge is huge, in light of heavy snowfall every winter. The sheer weight of the snow brings down the wire strands and girders. To be sure, even the old fences do look forbidding. But it has become obvious over the past couple of years that their effectiveness is limited. Large numbers of militants are reported to have crossed over during the past couple of years. The army estimates that a hundred militants got through during the first ten months of this year, three times more than the entire year 2015.

First real test

This is the first time the fences have faced a real test since they were built — from 2003-04. The mobilization of troops right along the international borders in Punjab and Rajasthan, by India and then by Pakistan too, throughout 2002 had forced Pakistan to severely curtail infiltration. The two armies had been in eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation following the attack on Parliament House in December 2001. After the armies were pulled back, Prime Minister AB Vajpayee reached out to make peace with Pakistan in April 2003. Pakistan responded at the end of that year and a potentially historic breakthrough was agreed at Saarc’s Islamabad summit in January 2004. As peace talks made tremendous headway over the next couple of years, the militancy which had begun in 1988 petered out around 2006. Already, fighting in those last years had been limited largely to those who had already been in the field by the end of the 1990s; not much infiltration was attempted after the end of 2001.

Ineffective, and too late

When there was massive infiltration, throughout the 1990s, there was no fence. Thousands of Kashmiris crossed both ways in peak months such as April 1990. The proportion of Pakistani and other foreign militants expanded from December 1992 on, until it was more or less a proxy war during the decade from 1996 to 2006, with Kashmiri militants playing largely supportive roles. The current militancy began around 2009, when police atrocities, administrative unresponsiveness, religious radicalization, and a well-orchestrated `narrative’ caused a few Kashmiri boys of the generation born during the earlier round of militancy to go underground.

These generally ‘snatched’ a weapon from a police or paramilitary soldier, but did not cross the LoC for training. For example, the internet-based star, Hizb-ul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, never apparently crossed the LoC. Nor did he or his young Kashmiri comrades do much as militants, compared with those who have infiltrated from Pakistan to join them. Even three years ago, the army brass and New Delhi’s high profile ‘strategic thinkers’ were oblivious to new infiltration. They insisted there was none. Meanwhile, the ineffective fence kept coming down annually, and getting rebuilt; large amounts were happily spent. Now that infiltration has become far too obvious to miss, let’s hope the new design is effective — and thus worth the huge cost and effort.

First Published On : Nov 20, 2016 17:12 IST

NDA issues ‘report card’ on one-year of Nitish govt, calls it ‘big failure’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> The BJP-led NDA on Saturday released a ‘report card’ on the completion of one year of the Nitish Kumar government in Bihar and said the dispensation has proved to be a big “failure” on all fronts, especially so on law and order.Releasing the ‘report card’ titled ‘Ek Saal, Bura Haal’, senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi launched a scathing attack on the maha-gathbandhan government saying it has been in news for “all wrong reasons” in the past one year. “The situation in Bihar has become worse in just one year… We (NDA leaders) have come out with a report card one day in advance, so that the Chief Minister can answer our questions,” Modi told reporters here.The Nitish-led government, in which Lalu Prasad’s RJD and the Congress are allies, completes a year in office tomorrow and it would also present its report card showcasing its achievements. The practice of presenting report cards every year was started by Nitish Kumar in 2006 after he became Chief Minister in November 2005. The Chief Minister should present a report card of one year and not of 11 years as BJP was also the part of the government for around seven-and-half-year when the government earned laurels globally, while now this state government has earned name for all wrong reasons in the past one year, Sushil said.Union minister and LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan, Union Minister of State and RLSP chief Upendra Kushwaha, Hindustani Awam Morcha(S) president and former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi and other senior BJP leaders including state BJP chief Mangal Pandey were also present on the occasion. Sushil Modi said had the Opposition not objected and raised the issues of bail granted to Shahabuddin, Raj Ballabh Yadav and Rocky Yadav, the state government would not have gone to the Supreme Court against them. “Why is agriculture, health, education and industries missing from the CM’s ‘Nischay’?” he asked, while seeking answers to what happened to the Rs 1.52 lakh crore ‘agriculture roadmap’, ‘Mission Manav Vikas’, ‘Mahadalit Vikas Mission’ and ‘Vision Document 2025′.Sushil also termed Kumar’s students’ credit card scheme a repackaging of the Centre’s scheme. Alleging that criminals have dominated the entire one year of the grand alliance government and the Chief Minister seemed helpless, the senior BJP leader said it was evident from the crime figures, which have “increased” after prohibition came into effect. Quoting figures from the website of the police department, he claimed the number of kidnappings for ransom has gone upto three in August this year from one in April this year. Similarly, rape incidents have increased to 103 in August 2016 from 61 in April.The number of murders have gone up to 228 in August from 192 in April, Sushil said, adding incidents of riots have increased to 1,017 in August from 809 in April. Taking potshots at the grand alliance government, Ramvilas Paswan said development has taken a back seat while cold warwas on among the allies. “The CM should issue a white paper on the numbers of Dalit and Mahadalit families and how many of them have got three decimals of land,” he said while predicting that the Nitish Kumar-government would fall in two-and-half years.Giving “negative marks” to the Nitish government, former CM Manjhi said, “The government did nothing in one year. Going by its performance, it will not even get a zero mark. It may even get negative marking.”

Demonetisation: Signs of deep freeze in Mumbai realty as stamp duty, registrations fall by 35%

After the government announced the decision to ban high value currencies of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes on 8 November midnight, stamp duty collection on real estate deals in cities such as Mumbai, Thane, Pune and Nashik has witnessed about 35 percent decline, signalling a deep-freeze in the market.

Officials estimate the daily loss on this count at almost Rs 3 crore. There are 503 registrar offices in the state.

ReutersReuters

Reuters

According to N Ramaswamy, inspector general of controller of stamp and registration, about 5,300 documents used to come for registration on a daily basis. This had come down to around 3,500 after the announcement, a decline of 35 percent. This includes sale of property, land and leave and license agreements.

“From 1 November to 8 November, we collected Rs 64 crore. After the demonetisation, the collection dropped to Rs 42 crore. Our daily collection used to be Rs 8 crore. Now it is just Rs 5 crore,” he said over the phone from Pune.

The stated reason for the demonetisation measures as explained by prime minister Narendra Modi on 8 November is to curb black money, fake currency and terror financing. And real estate is one of the markets where black money use has been rampant. Market observers have already predicted up to 20 percent decline in realty business as demonetisation impact plays out completely. The resale market, where the black money plays a bigger role than primary market, is likely to see a sharper fall in prices, they said.

According to market sources, the white-black ratio in Mumbai and Thane markets is 60: 40 or 70 : 30. What this means is 60 percent of the deal money is paid through cheque, DD or RTGS and 40 percent as hard cash. The stamp duty and registration fee are paid only on the white payment. With the demonetisation measures closing down on black money generation, the real estate market is feeling the pinch.

However, Ramaswamy said since 99 percent of stamp duty and registration transactions are done online nowadays, the registration officials have no headache of dealing with old notes.

Stamp duty accounts for 5 percent and registration fee forms 1 percent of the total property cost in Maharashtra.

According to Ramaswamy, last financial year the state had earned Rs 21,767 crore. This year from April to October 2016 the amount stood at Rs 11,438 crore.

Out of total revenue, Mumbai accounts for 35 percent, Thane 15 percent, Pune 20 percent and Nashik 10 percent.

“Though we are witnessing a decline in registration income, we hope to match last year’s figure by year end,” said Ramasawamy.

In Mumbai there are two main registration offices, one at BKC and another at city collector office.

“Earlier there used to be 8 to 10 enquiries daily for registration. But for the last 10 days, there have been hardly any,”an employee working with the city office said.

According to this employee, the resale market is bearing the huge brunt. “If the situation continues, it is unlikely that we will match last year’s figure,” the employee said.

First Published On : Nov 18, 2016 19:07 IST

GST portal goes live, software almost ready: GSTN Chairman Navin Kumar

New Delhi: A new and simpler portal for the incoming Goods and Services Tax regime went live today that will enable easy filing of returns and tax payments through credit/debit cards and other modes.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

As much as 60 per cent of the software needed to run GST is ready and GSTN – the company building the gigantic infrastructure and IT backbone for it, made the www.gst.gov.in portal live for migrating existing tax payers.

It will test the software for integrating a welter of state and central levies before the ‘one market, one rate’ tax model comes into being from April next year.

GSTN Chairman Navin Kumar said migrating more than 65 lakh VAT payers, about 20 lakh service tax payers and about 3-4 lakh central excise duty payers to a new portal has started. A provisional identification number, called GSTIN for the assesses who have moved to the new portal is being generated, Kumar told PTI.

New registrations under GST will start from April 2017. On the new portal, businessmen and traders who currently have to file separate returns for array of indirect taxes like excise duty, service tax and VAT, will file a single monthly return and pay tax online through various payment cards, including credit and debit, he said.

GSTN is building a network that will not just integrate the assessees paying service tax, excise and other local levies, but will also help in building the IT backbone for online registration, refund, return filing and tax payment.

“Because we started work in November 2015, today we are in a happy position that 60 per cent of the software development has been completed; 40 per cent is balance and
that work is going on,” Kumar said.

The GSTN is building four data centres spread across Delhi and Bengaluru to ensure that the data is safe, secure and to ensure data recovery, whenever required.

Kumar said GSTN has started importing hardware and by December all equipment would be ready and testing would start.

“About 80 lakh tax payers will be migrated from the existing to GST regime. That migration we are starting now. We will generate a PAN-based provisional ID for each tax payer. By December, all the hardware equipment will be ready. Then, the software will be put on the data centre and then the testing will start,” he said.

Under the GST regime, taxes can be paid using debit, credit cards as well as through NEFT/RTGS transfers.

GST Council decides on 4-tier tax structure of 5-28%

New Delhi: A 4-tier GST tax structure of 5, 12, 18 and 28 percent, with lower rates for essential items and the highest for luxury and de-merits goods that would also attract an additional cess, was decided by the all-powerful GST Council today.

Finance minister Arun JaitleyFinance minister Arun Jaitley

Finance minister Arun Jaitley

With a view to keeping inflation under check, essential items including food, which presently constitute roughly half of the consumer inflation basket, will be taxed at zero rate.

The lowest rate of 5 percent would be for common use items while there would be two standard rates of 12 and 18 percent under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime targetted to be rolled out from April 1, 2017.

Announcing the decisions arrived at the first day of the two-day GST Council meeting, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said highest tax slab will be applicable to items which are currently taxed at 30-31 percent (excise duty plus VAT).

Luxury cars, tobacco and aerated drinks would also be levied with an additional cess on top of the highest tax rate.

The collection from this cess as well as that of the clean energy cess would create a revenue pool which would be used for compensating states for any loss of revenue during the first five years of implementation of GST.

The cess, he said, would be lapsable after five years.

Jaitley said about Rs 50,000 crore would be needed to compensate states for loss of revenue from rollout of GST, which is to subsume a host of central and state taxes like excise duty, service tax and VAT, in the first year.

The 4-tier tax structure agreed to has slight modification to the 6, 12, 18 and 26 percent slab that were under discussion at the GST Council last month.

The structure to agreed is a compromise to accommodate demand for highest tax rate of 40 percent by states like Kerala.

While the Centre proposed to levy a 4 percent GST on gold, a final decision was put off, Jaitley said.

S&P’s decision to hold India rating for 2 yrs hits Modi govt where it hurts the most

In a major set back for the Narendra Modi government, which came to power promising a quick turnaround of economy and jobs, global ratings agency on Wednesday said it is retaining its rating for the country at BBB-, with stable outlook, depsite the government’s best of efforts urging the company to revise upwards the ratings. This is the lowest investment grade rating.

What came as a bigger shock was S&P’s assertion that the rating for the country is unlikely to change for two years.

ReutersReuters

Reuters

The government has reacted with anger. Department of economic affairs secretary Shaktikantha Das at a press conference said the rating agency should do introspection for not upgrading India despite unparalleled reforms anywhere in world. He also said there is disconnect between investors’ thinking and rating agencies and also promised to continue taking measures necessary to strengthen the economy, boost GDP growth and create jobs.

Here are the key facts of the development:

What did the rating agency say?

1) A rating constraint is India’s low GDP per capita, which we estimate at
US$1,700 in 2016.

2) We believe domestic supply-side factors will increasingly bind economic performance, and the government has little ability to undertake countercyclical fiscal policy given its current debt burden.

3) This debt load and India’s overall weak public finances are additional rating
constraints.

4) The country’s fiscal challenges reflect both revenue underperformance and constraints on expenditure.

5) Although we expect the administration to pursue medium-term fiscal consolidation, we foresee that planned revenues may not fully materialize and subsidy cuts may be delayed.

6) The stable outlook balances India’s sound external position and inclusive policymaking tradition against the vulnerabilities stemming from its low per capita income and weak public finances.

7) But the rater has also given credit for the government’s efforts. It said the NDA government has made progress in building consensus on a passage of laws to address long-standing impediments to the country’s growth. These include comprehensive tax reforms through the likely introduction in the first half of 2017 of a goods and services tax to replace complex and distortive indirect taxes. Other measures include strengthening the business climate (such as through simplifying regulations and improving contract enforcement and trade), boosting labour market flexibility, and reforming the energy sector.

8) Despite all this, the agency has said that it does not “expect to change our rating on India this year or next, based on our current set of forecasts”.

What did the government say?

Talking to reporters after S&P Global Ratings’ issued the statement, economic affairs secretary Shaktikanta Das said: “If the rating has not been improved, it’s a matter which doesn’t bother us so much. It’s a question which calls for an introspection among those who do the rating.”

According to him, global investors feel India is highly “under-rated”. “There is a disconnect, therefore, between what the investors are thinking of, what they have in their mind, and (what) the rating agencies are concluding. I think somewhere there is a disconnect,” he said.

“If you compare the various factors which the report itself talk about, is there any other economy that equals this? So with all this, if there is no improvement, I think it’s a matter for the rating agency itself to put a question to itself and perhaps undertake a kind of introspection,” Das said.

Why is the government worried?

The rater’s assertion that it will not raise the rating has hit the govenrment where it hurts the most.

In every international forum possible prime minister Narendra Modi has marketed India as the most investor friendly country. Listing out his acheivements, he has insisted that he has turned around the country’s processes. A rating upgrade would have supported his arguments.

Apart from this, a fairly large amount critics still believe the prime minister has done nothing much to improve the economy. The schemes that he has launched are just a rehash of the one the UPA-2 had rolled out, they say. They feel the government is doing a fine job of managing the headlines. Had an upgrade come now, it would have served to shut the mouths of these ‘naysayers’.

Also, S&P’s statement closely follows Moody’s, which also made somewhat similar staments about the country in September. “We have a positive outlook on India. On balance, the risk is on the upside. We are continuously monitoring the rating. We see pressure building up in 1-2 years and any tangible change could bring about a change in rating,” Moody’s Sovereign Group Senior V-P Marie Diron had said. Moody’s has a ‘Baa3’ rating with a positive outlook for India.

It is to be noted that both the raters had accorded the low ratings during the UPA regime because of the then prevailing policy paralysis and global situation. while Moody’s accorded the Baa3 rating in August 2011, S&P’s low investment grade rating came in April 2012. The only change they have made in the last 4-5 years is in the outlook. While S&P changed the outlook to stable in September 2014, Moody’s did it in April 2015.

It definitely pricks the NDA government that despite pitching for an upgrade many times with the raters, they have not obliged and the rating continues to be the one that the country got under the UPA. Unless the rating changes, Modi cannot claim a complete break from UPA’s past. And this indeed is painful and explains the shocked reaction from the government.

However, with S&P ruling out any upgrade for two more years, the NDA government seems to be running out of luck on this count.

With inputs from Kishor Kadam

GST Council to discuss tax rates, dual control in crucial meet on Thursday

New Delhi: With barely a fortnight left for Parliament’s Winter Session, the GST Council will begin its crucial 2-day meeting on Thursday to decide on tax rate including the levy of cess and sort out the vexed issue of jurisdiction over assessees.

At the meeting, to be chaired by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, the Centre is likely to press its proposal for 4-tier tax structure of 8, 12, 18 and 26 per cent, the peak rate being for FMCG and consumer durables.

Meanwhile, Minister of State for Finance Arjun Ram Meghwal told PTI that there had been “minor” differences over the issue of cess but expressed confidence that it will be resolved.

He said: “Our effort is to decide on all matters through consensus. We want everyone to come around on all issues… There may be times when Tamil Nadu or Kerala or West Bengal or Uttar Pradesh have said something different but we will get them around.

“We are confident that the GST will be rollout from 1 April, 2017…all issues would be sorted out before that.”

A file photo of Arun Jaitley. PTIA file photo of Arun Jaitley. PTI

A file photo of Arun Jaitley. PTI

The Centre has also proposed to levy additional cess on demerit goods like tobacco, aerated drinks and polluting items to create a Rs 50,000 crore fund to compensate the states for revenue loss.

The proposal, which was discussed at the last meeting, could not be adopted by the Council because of opposition by some states.

The meeting beginning tomorrow will have to sort out the issues concerning tax rate to enable Parliament to approve the Central GST (CGST) and Integrated GST (IGST) legislations in the winter session beginning 16 November and pave way for roll out of the new tax regime from April next year.

Some central officials say it is “unfortunate” that states are opposing the cess despite assurances for compensating revenue loss for initial five years.

At the last meeting, the Council agreed on keeping base year for calculating the revenue of a state at 2015-16, and considering a secular growth rate of 14 per cent for calculating the likely revenue of each state in the first five years of implementation of GST.

States getting lower revenue than this would be compensated by the Centre.

As some states preferred a higher tax slab over cess, Jaitley contented that the cost of funding compensation through an additional tax would be “exorbitantly high and almost unbearable”.

Differences arose between the Centre and states at the last meeting on dual control, with states demanding control over 11 lakh service tax assessees and the Centre proposing to do away states having exclusive control over all dealers up to an annual revenue threshold of Rs 1.5 crore — an issue which was settled in the first meeting of the GST Council.

West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra has said that the Centre has withheld information relating to the number of service tax assessees. He said while the Centre has disclosed 11 lakh tax payer, the actual number of service tax assessees is estimated at 30.5 lakh.

The Centre is expected to have a tough task of building consensus with states on these vexed issues. The GST Council, chaired by Union Finance Minister, has representatives from all the states.

Under the proposed 4-slab structure, the items which are currently taxed between 3-9 per cent will fall in the 6 per cent bracket; those in 9-15 per cent range will come under 12 per cent rate.

Those products which are currently taxed between 15-21 per cent will attract 18 per cent levy while those above 21 per cent will be taxed at the peak rate of 26 per cent.

Saradha scam: Trinamool MP Kunal Ghosh’s interim bail extended

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday extended till December 23 the interim bail given to Rajya Sabha MP Kunal Ghosh, an accused in the multi-crore Saradha scam.A division bench comprising justices Ashim Kumar Roy and M M Banerjee extended bail to Ghosh, who was granted interim bail by this court on October five. The division bench had granted interim bail till November 11 to Ghosh, suspended by Trinamool Congress for alleged anti-party activities, after more than two years in custody following his arrest by CBI. Ghosh, who headed the Saradha Group’s media business, was released on a bail bond of Rs two lakh, which were to be of two sureties of Rs one lakh each.The bench had directed that Ghosh would not leave the jurisdiction of Narkeldanga Police Station in the metropolis except for attending court proceedings or meeting the investigating officers. It had further directed Ghosh to meet the investigating officer once a week and if necessary, CBI shall have liberty to call him to its office for the purpose of investigation. Ghosh’s counsel claimed that he had been in custody for over two years and 10 months counting his total days in custody since his arrest by West Bengal Police in connection with other related cases of Saradha scam.He has been charged under IPC Sections 409 (criminal breach of trust by merchant or agent), 406 (criminal breach of trust), 420 (cheating) and 120B (conspiracy), besides relevant sections of the Prize Chits and Money Circulation Act, 1978. Ghosh, a former editor of a vernacular daily, had become the CEO of Saradha Media, an arm of the Saradha Group owned by Sudipta Sen.Ghosh was arrested on November 23, 2013 by Bidhannagar Police after the Saradha scam broke out in April that year. He was suspended by the Trinamool Congress in September, 2013, which had given him the Rajya Sabha ticket, for anti-party activities after he had started making allegations of involvement of some party leaders in the scam. He was elected to the Rajya Sabha in April, 2012. P

GST Council to discuss tax rates, dual control tomorrow

New Delhi: With barely a fortnight left for Parliament’s Winter Session, the GST Council will begin its crucial 2-day meeting tomorrow to decide on tax rate including the levy of cess and sort out the vexed issue of jurisdiction over assessees.

At the meeting, to be chaired by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, the Centre is likely to press its proposal for 4-tier tax structure of 8, 12, 18 and 26 percent, the peak rate being for FMCG and consumer durables.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Meanwhile, Minister of State for Finance Arjun Ram Meghwal told PTI that there had been “minor” differences over the issue of cess but expressed confidence that it will be resolved.

He said: “Our effort is to decide on all matters through consensus. We want everyone to come around on all issues… There may be times when Tamil Nadu or Kerala or West Bengal or Uttar Pradesh have said something different but we will get them around.

“We are confident that the GST will be rollout from April 1, 2017…all issues would be sorted out before that.”

The Centre has also proposed to levy additional cess on demerit goods like tobacco, aerated drinks and polluting items to create a Rs 50,000 crore fund to compensate the states for revenue loss.

The proposal, which was discussed at the last meeting, could not be adopted by the Council because of opposition by some states.

The meeting beginning tomorrow will have to sort out the issues concerning tax rate to enable Parliament to approve the Central GST (CGST) and Integrated GST (IGST) legislations in the winter session beginning November 16 and pave way for roll out of the new tax regime from April next year.

Some central officials say it is “unfortunate” that states are opposing the cess despite assurances for compensating revenue loss for initial five years.

At the last meeting, the Council agreed on keeping base year for calculating the revenue of a state at 2015-16, and considering a secular growth rate of 14 percent for calculating the likely revenue of each state in the first five years of implementation of GST.

States getting lower revenue than this would be compensated by the Centre.

As some states preferred a higher tax slab over cess, Jaitley contented that the cost of funding compensation through an additional tax would be “exorbitantly high and almost unbearable”.

Differences arose between the Centre and states at the last meeting on dual control, with states demanding control over 11 lakh service tax assessees and the Centre proposing to do away states having exclusive control over all dealers up to an annual revenue threshold of Rs 1.5 crore — an issue which was settled in the first meeting of the GST Council.

West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra has said that the Centre has withheld information relating to the number of service tax assessees. He said while the Centre has disclosed 11 lakh tax payer, the actual number of service tax assessees is estimated at 30.5 lakh.

The Centre is expected to have a tough task of building consensus with states on these vexed issues. The GST Council, chaired by Union Finance Minister, has representatives from all the states.

Under the proposed 4-slab structure, the items which are currently taxed between 3-9 percent will fall in the 6 percent bracket; those in 9-15 percent range will come under 12 percent rate.

Those products which are currently taxed between 15-21 percent will attract 18 percent levy while those above 21 percent will be taxed at the peak rate of 26 percent.

SC notice to UP govt on plea against summoning Kejriwal, Vishwas

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court on Thursday sought response from Uttar Pradesh government on a plea of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and AAP leader Kumar Vishwas challenging the summons issued to them by a lower court in connection with a criminal case.A bench headed by Justice J S Kehar issued notice to UP government and also granted exemption to Kejriwal and Vishwas from personal appearance.The AAP leaders had approached the apex court against the October 24 verdict of Allahabad High Court dismissing their pleas against summons issued by a trial court in Sultanpur on October 7.During the last Lok Sabha elections, an FIR was lodged by the assistant election officer on April 20, 2014, against Kejriwal and Vishwas under sections including 143 (punishment for unlawful assembly), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 341 (wrongful restraint),353, 171G (false statement in connection with an election) of IPC.The petitioners had challenged the summons in Allahabad High Court on grounds including that they had all the requisite permissions for a rally and there was no prohibitory order in force at the time of alleged offence.They had also told the court that the local administration and police had filed “frivolous” complaints against them to cause impediments in their election campaign in Gauriganj area of Amethi district.The charge sheet was filed on April 13, 2016 and on October 7, the court of additional chief judicial magistrate, Sultanpur, issued summons against them.

The Monsoon conundrum

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In April this year, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) announced that India would see above-average rainfall, claiming the monsoons would be six per cent above normal. The announcement came as a relief to farmers, small town workers, city-dwellers, and even politicians as several parts of India, including interior Maharashtra, had witnessed back-to-back droughts that resulted in high inflation and farmers committing suicide over burgeoning debt. By the end of September, when the monsoon officially ended—even though Mumbaikars could be forgiven for thinking it would never en­d—the actual numbers were a far cry from the IMD’s original projections. Instead of the, well, sunny projection of 106 per cent of the LPA, the actual rainfall came in at 97 per cent, missing the below-normal classification by the proverbial whisker. The LPA is defined as the average of the rainfall received during a 50-year period between 1951 and 2000, which comes to about 890 mm. A normal monsoon is one when rainfall is between 96 per cent and 104 per cent of the LPA. An “above normal” monsoon occurs when rainfall remains between 104 percent and 110 per cent of the LPA.This isn’t the first time that the IMD has got its numbers wrong. According to figures provided by the department, it has got its April forecast of the ‘rainfall range’ wrong 70 per cent of the time. There have been a few years—such as in 2010—when despite a prediction of below-normal showers, rainfall was above normal, with many regions experiencing devastating floods.However, VK Rajeev, Director of IMD (Mumbai) says it is unfair to claim that the IMD miscalculates, as the LPA has a plus-minus factor that one needs to take into consideration when the department predicts the monsoon for the year. But even accounting for the +/- 4 per cent that the IMD had accounted for, the final average comes in well short of the IMD’s projections. According to Rudresh Kumar Sugam, Senior Programme Lead, Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), New Delhi, although 80 per cent of India’s monsoon is between June and September, there is unequal spatial distribution. “This could easily observed by the fact that the Brahmaputra and Barak basin, with only 7.3 per cent of the geographical area and 4.2 per cent of the country’s population, have 31 per cent of the annual water resources,” he said.The effect on agricultureSugam adds that for a vulnerable agricultural sector, climate change that includes frequent droughts and high-intensity floods have added to complications.According to a paper published by researchers at Stanford University that analyses 60 years of Indian monsoon trends, the frequency of dry spells and the intensity of wet spells has only increased. In addition, the paper said that the period between 1981 and 2011 had more than twice as many years with three or more dry spells as compared to the period between 1951 and 1980. The dry spell frequency, according to the paper, shows an increase of 27 per cent.A CEEW report suggests that if global carbon emissions continue to remain high, flooding in the Ganga basin could be six times more frequent, becoming a 1 in 5 year event over the course of the century. According to an article published by the India Food Security Portal in August, several parts of the country, including Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, witnessed flooding due to flooding in the river.While several parts of India faced flooding, several states like Gujarat, Kerala, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh and Odisha have witnessed deficient rains, with the deficit as high as 49 per cent in Gujarat as of August 2016. CEEW’s research also finds that climate change will result in significant economic losses for Indian agriculture. Production losses in rice, wheat and maize alone could go up to $208 billion in 2050, rising to $366 billion in 2100 respectively. “Also, coastal regions, which depend a lot on fisheries, are among the most vulnerable areas. Several other issues such as a shift in the cropping system, new pest attacks, loss of crop diversity, among others, could arise if there is significant temporal and spatial variation in temperatures and monsoons,” said Sugam.The way forwardFifty years ago, when Dr MS Swaminathan launched the Green Revolution in India, the intensive use of fertilisers, pesticides, improved seeds, and mechanisation ensured food security with record output each year. However, the interventions have had major impact on soil and water. Now, across the country, there are several individuals—both urban and rural—who are trying to rethink farming methods and focusing on how to ensure high productivity without compromising on the quality of water and soil available.Thirty-two-year-old Kshitij Ruia, who has a 35-acre farm at Palghar, on the outskirts of Mumbai, says that when he purchased the plot of land one-and-a-half years ago, it was considered by many as varkas zameen, or barren land, where cultivation is not possible. “We took it as a challenge to convert the land and after consulting with experts, we employed organic techniques including using cow dung and vermicomposting and went ahead with mixed farming,” he says.Since then, the water table has risen from 12 feet to 7 feet, thanks to the methods used by Ruia and his team. “I’d recommend that we go organic because of the quality of produce,” he said. While Ruia may be one of few individuals who employ vermicomposting as a technique, several media reports suggest that only rich farmers use organic techniques and that poorer farmers still prefer using chemicals. Ruia, who attributes his going all-organic as the main reason for his farm’s success story, does not discount that mixed farming has helped as well. Mixed farming, although a technique not employed across the country, has been used in several states. According to a paper titled ‘The Economics of Mixed Farming in Kerala’, for mixed farming to be an ideal system is to diversify the economic activities in an interdependent and integrated manner at the micro level with the available resources. “An ideal mixed farm ensures recycling of residues, optimum resource use, and higher employment. It also minimises risk and uncertainties and provides for stable farm income,” the paper states. Despite the drought and the below-par rainfall faced this year, Sugam is still hopeful. “The second Green Revolution needs to focus on drought-resistant crops, information-based action, lower water footprint, retention of soil carbon and increased crop diversity,” he says. Then there are little nuggets of local ingenuity and enterprise that could also show the way. In 1975, for example, the year that Emergency was imposed across the country, a revolution of sorts took place in a small village called Ralegan Siddhi in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district. The village is located in the ‘rain shadow area’ of India, meaning it receives, on an average, only 35 days of rain a year. In the 70s, most of the people living in this agricultural village were below poverty level. When social activist Anna Hazare—who achieved fame later with his anti-corruption movement—returned to his village that year, he brought the locals together and undertook a project to construct nala bunds, embankments constructed across streams for checking the pace of runoff, increasing water percolation, and improving soil moisture regime.While the story is often held up as a shining example of water management, more than 40 years later drought and food security remains a serious issue in India.If we are able to implement even half of the suggestions, then Ralegaon Siddhi will be just one of many villages in India to have a success story.

Sushma Swaraj admitted to AIIMS for ‘routine’ check-up

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> xternal Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was today admitted to the AIIMS for a “routine” medical check-up, hospital authorities said.”The minister (Swaraj) was admitted this evening, but it is for her regular check-up. She will leave AIIMS tomorrow,” a senior official at the hospital said. “She has been coming here and today she was examined by a team of doctors,” he said. The 64-year-old BJP leader was admitted to AIIMS in April as well after she had complained of chest congestion.

‘Indian ISIS operative Subahani Haja Moideen knew Paris bombing accused’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Subahani Haja Moideen, an Indian alleged to be an ISIS operative, knew the terrorists who carried out the attack inside a theatre in Paris last November killing over 100 people but has feigned ignorance about the deadly plot, it has emerged from investigations.Moideen was arrested from Tamil Nadu in a crackdown by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) with the help of central security agencies and other state police, foiling designs of ISIS operatives to target few judges of Kerala and foreign tourists visiting the coastal state.The accused, picked up from Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu, was radicalised and recruited in ISIS through social media platforms and he had left India for Istanbul from Chennai in April last year on the pretext of performing ‘Umrah’, official sources said.
ALSO READ Man who fought for IS in Iraq held: Here is Subahani Haja Moideen’s tryst with ISISAfter reaching Istanbul, he crossed over along with other people who hailed from Pakistan and Afghanistan to Iraqi territory under control of ISIS.That is the period during which Moideen claimed that he had met Paris bombers including Abdelhamid Abaaoud and Salah Abdeslam, the sources said.
ALSO READ Iraqi forces kill 48 ISIS militants in Kirkuk as group defends last major stronghold MosulWhile Abaaoud was killed in retaliatory fire during the Paris theatre attack in November last year, Abdelslam is in the custody of French police.Moideen had returned to India in November and he said he came to know about the Paris attack through news and remembered his meetings with the accused in ISIS controlled Iraq and Syria, the sources said.
ALSO READ Islamic State seizes 550 families as human shields in Mosul: UNThe NIA has informed the French security officials and contacted its Embassy here, the sources said, adding this was done in case it would lend any help in their investigation.They said that French officials could question him as well after getting the requisite court order.According to the multi-country investigation into the French terror strikes, the accused involved in the gruesome killings were in ISIS-controlled areas at the same time when Moideen was there.31-year-old Moideen was in Iraq from April 8, 2015 from where he was taken to Mosul and underwent detailed ‘religious training’ followed by combat training which included a course in automated weapons. After this, he was deputed to fight war for almost two weeks.During the war, he told interrogators that he was paid US $100 per month as an allowance by ISIS besides accommodation and food.However, he told interrogators that he could not withstand the violence and war misery in Mosul and decided to leave especially after he saw two of his friends getting charred.He was jailed by ISIS and produced before an Islamic judge who sent him to Syria. He claimed that he was allowed to cross over to Turkey from where he contacted his family with the help of the Indian consulate at Istanbul.He arrived in Mumbai after a gap of six months in September last year on an emergency certificate and returned to his ancestral place where he was staying with his wife. He later managed to get a job at a jewellery shop at Kadayanallur in Tamil Nadu.

GST play: Your chicken, spice, oil prices may become dearer, but cheaper TV, ACs on the cards

New Delhi: The proposed 4-tier GST structure may hit the common man as it is likely to result in higher taxes on various items including kitchen staples such as edible oils, spices and chicken.

The prices of certain consumer durables like televisions, air conditioners, fridges and washing machines may however become cheaper with decrease in taxes.

ReutersReuters

Reuters

The government plans to roll out the new indirect tax regime, Goods and Services Tax (GST), from April 1, 2017. In its meeting with states this week, the Centre has proposed a four slab GST rate structure.

The lowest rate proposed is 6 percent, with two standard rates of 12 and 18 percent. The peak rate, which will mostly apply to FMCG and consumer durables, will be 26 percent.

Besides, a cess is also likely to be levied on demerit or sin goods and polluting items.

According to the Centre’s estimates on impact of the 4-slab rate structure on CPI inflation, items like chicken and coconut oil which currently suffer a tax incidence of 4 percent will be taxed at 6 percent under the GST regime.

Similarly, the tax burden on refined oil, mustard oil and groundnut oil will go up from 5 percent to 6 percent.

Other kitchen staples too will be taxed at 6 percent as against 3 percent in case of turmeric and jeera, 5 percent in case of dhania, black pepper and oil seeds.

TVs, air conditioners, washing machines, inverters, refrigerators, electric fans and cooking appliances may become cheaper with the incidence of taxes on them declining from 29 percent to 26 percent post implementation of the GST.

Perfumes, shaving cream, powder, hair oil, shampoo, soap, and other toiletry items will become cheaper as they too presently are taxed at 29per cent.

Gas stove, gas burner, mosquito repellent and insecticide may, however, become expensive as they are currently taxed at 25 percent, lower than the proposed peak rate of 26 percent under GST.

Under the proposed 4-slab structure, the items which are currently taxed between 3-9 percent will fall in the 6 percent bracket; those in 9-15 percent range will come under 12 percent rate.

Those products which are currently taxed between 15-21 percent would attract 18 percent levy, while those above 21 percent would be taxed at the peak rate of 26 percent.

The GST Council, which has Union Finance Minister and his state counterparts, will decide on tax rates next month.

Saying that the four tier rate structure was designed in a way that neither the exchequer lose revenue nor does the common man’s tax liability increase significantly, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said: “the effort will be to fit the
goods in the closest tax bracket under GST”.

Delhi court dismisses fake degree complaint against Smriti Irani, says it was filed to ‘harrass’ her

New Delhi: In a relief to Smriti Irani, a Delhi court on Tuesday dismissed a complaint against her for allegedly giving false information on her educational qualification to the Election Commission, saying it was filed to “needlessly harass” her as she was a union minister.

Metropolitan Magistrate Harvinder Singh said there was a “great delay of around 11 years” in filing the complaint as it rejected the plea to summon her as an accused. “Therefore, prayer for summoning the proposed accused (Irani) is hearby declined,” the court said while pronouncing the order.

In his complaint, freelance writer Ahmer Khan had alleged that Irani, now Textiles Minister, had deliberately given discrepant information about her educational qualifications in affidavits filed before the Election Commission in 2004, 2011 and 2014 and not given any clarification, despite concerns raised on the issue. He had urged the court to take cognisance of the offences alleged in the plea under Section 125A of the RPA and “summon the accused person, Smriti Z Irani, for trial”.

“After conducting trial hold the accused guilty, convict and sentence the accused person in accordance with law, in the interest of justice to the complainant and also the public at large”, he had prayed.

File photo of Smriti Irani. PTI

File photo of Smriti Irani. PTI

The complainant had earlier claimed in court that in her affidavit for April 2004 Lok Sabha polls, Irani had said she completed her BA in 1996 from DU(School of Correspondence), whereas in another affidavit of 11 July, 2011 to contest Rajya Sabha election from Gujarat, she had said her highest educational qualification was BCom Part I from the School of Correspondence, DU. In the affidavit filed for nomination of 16 April, 2014 Lok Sabha polls from Amethi constituency in Uttar Pradesh, Irani said she had completed Bachelor of Commerce Part-I from School of Open Learning, DU. A poll panel official had earlier told the court that the documents filed by Irani regarding her academic qualification while filing nominations were not traceable. However, the information on this was available on its website, he had said.

The court, while declining the prayer, said the original evidence was already lost due to passage of several years and the court needed to be “relieved of the burden of adjudicating such inconsequential claim or case”. It said the fate of the case could be foreseen as inevitable failure as original evidence was lost due to the “great delay” and the complainant may not have even bothered to file the plea if Irani was not a central minister.

“So, where the original evidence has already been lost due to passage of number of years, the secondary evidence available will probably be not able to withstand the test of judicial scrutiny, there is great great delay of around 11 years in filing of the complaint…The said delay could not be condoned as complainant is not an aggrieved person, the complaint does not appear to have been filed for vindication of majesty of justice and maintenance of law and order, the complaint appears to have been filed to needlessly harass the proposed accused,” the magistrate said.

Section 125A of RPA deals with penalty for filing false affidavit and entails a jail term of up to six months or fine or both. The court said the alleged offence under the IPC entailed a maximum punishment of three years for which the limitation for filing the complaint was three years under the CrPC.

The court had on 20 November last year allowed the complainant’s plea seeking direction to the officials of EC and DU to bring the records of Irani’s qualifications after he said he was unable to place them before the court. In pursuance to the court’s earlier direction, Delhi University had also submitted that the documents pertaining to Irani’s BA course in 1996, as purportedly mentioned by her in an affidavit filed during 2004 Lok Sabha elections, were yet to be found.

Khan had alleged that Irani had knowingly furnished misleading information about her qualifications and that a candidate, deliberately giving incorrect details, could be punished under provisions of the IPC and under section 125A of the Representation of the People Act (RPA).

Supreme Court dignifies Justice Katju’s Facebook post with a debate: Was it necessary?

Justice Markandey Katju’s reasons for criticising the Supreme Court (SC) judgment in the Soumya rape case may have been legitimate, but is the SC right in engaging with him by inviting him for a debate?

In the last few months, Justice Katju has attacked the Chief Justice of India (CJI), made casteist jokes, mocked Biharis and offended the people of Odisha in his Facebook posts, ending them all with an exclamatory “Hari Om“.

He had to recently apologise for a post he shared on Facebook and on his personal blogpost, ridiculing the people of Odisha. He wrote in the post: “I was asked to write about the Oriyas (Odias). What is there to write about these poor chaps? Ever since they got a thrashing at the hands of Ashoka in the battle of Kalinga they have been a dejected lot. Now all they have with them are a lot of pots (Patras), big pots (Mahapatras) and supposedly intelligent kings (Patnaiks). And of course they have Lord Jaggannath, to whom they pray every day for revenge on the abominable Biharis.

File photo of Justice Markandey Katju. PTIFile photo of Justice Markandey Katju. PTI

File photo of Justice Markandey Katju. PTI

Katju, a retired SC judge, is a passionate Facebook user. His posts in a day put together are enough to fill the edit page of a national daily. Given his standing, the views expressed by him on the social networking website often make the news, which he then happily and unfailingly shares.

You can understand when a retired judge, at leisure, engages with the world through Facebook – more often than not to put forward his unsolicited views on every issue under the sun. What is perplexing is the fact that the highest court of the land is dignifying his criticism of a judgment by inviting him for a debate.

Under normal circumstances, a common man expressing his or her unabashed criticism of a judgment that has already been decided, following due process and the procedure established by law, would have amounted to contempt of court.

Justice Katju’s criticism has, however, attracted a summon for a debate instead.

According to a PTI report,”In an unprecedented order, the Supreme Court on Monday summoned Justice Katju to appear in person before it to point out the ‘fundamental flaws’, as claimed by him in the Soumya rape case,”

“He (Justice Katju) is a respected gentleman. We request him to come in person and debate his Facebook post criticising the judgment. Let him come to the court and let’s debate over the fundamental flaws in our verdict,” a bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice UU Lalit said after issuing a notice to Justice Katju, the PTI report stated.

But, in spite of many of his posts that fall in the ‘just joking’ category, the fact remains that his legal expertise and acumen cannot be questioned and it cannot be denied that he must have had valid doubts and reasons for questioning the apex court’s judgment.

For example, he has raised some extremely important points in his post, which reads, “In acquitting the accused on the murder charge the Court held that there is no evidence that the accused had any intention of causing the death of Soumya and so could not be convicted under section 302 IPC. The Court held that it is possible that after being assaulted on the head four or five times and then being raped, Soumya might herself have jumped off the train on which she was travelling. However, the Court found the accused guilty of rape under section 376 and also guilty of some other provisions of the IPC.”

And he also states reasons for finding the assertions flawed, “Section 300 states that it is a case of murder (for which capital punishment can be imposed under section 302) even if there was no intention to kill, if the accused inflicts a wound sufficient to cause the death of a person in the ordinary course of nature.”

Therefore, the pertinent question to be asked here is whether it was desirable for the Supreme Court to hold a debate on a judgment duly decided by the Lordships just because Justice Katju found it flawed.

In the last few months, on more than one occasion, CJI TS Thakur has talked about the huge pendency that the courts, including the SC, is grappling with.

Earlier this month, CJI Thakur made an important appeal when he urged the ministry of law and justice to devise a mechanism to relieve the judicial system of the “avoidable burden” that arises out of the “sheer apathy, indifference or incapacity” of the government and its departments to take certain decisions.

As reported by PTI, the Chief Justice also asked the government to set up a panel, comprising of former judges, to decide on whether or not to fight a case against any citizen when the issue could be resolved outside the court.

“I would request the law minister to devise some mechanism to relieve our judicial system of avoidable burden that comes on us, not because we are not ready to share that burden but because of the sheer apathy or indifference or the incapacity of the government to deal with a situation to take a decision,” the Chief Justice said.

The appeal was important given the huge pendency that the judiciary is grappling with. According to an Indiaspend report, published in Firstpost in April, more than 20 million cases are pending in the Indian districts courts; two-thirds are criminal cases and one in 10 have been pending for more than 10 years.

The Indian Express reported that according to statistics provided by the Supreme Court’s E-Committee on pending cases in district courts, there are more than 2.18 crore cases pending in district courts across the country. In 12 states, more than 5 lakh cases are pending for disposal.

The report further stated that data, as of 30 April, highlights the glaring problem of the huge pendency across states and Union territories. Over 2.18 crore cases remain pending, of which more than 22.5 lakh cases have failed to be decided in the last 10 years – 10.3 percent of the total pendency.

It also stated that, “Around 38.3 lakh cases are pending for more than five years but less than 10 years – 17.5 percent of the total number of cases. Therefore, more than one-fourth of cases pending across district courts in the country are pending for at least five years. And 29.5 per cent of total cases, or 64.5 lakh cases, have been pending for more than two years.”

Justice Katju, like any other citizen, has the right to comment upon the Soumya case judgment without attacking the legal sanctity attached to the courts. It is an expression of free speech. But there is no convincing enough reason for why any court should spare any amount of its precious time in engaging with such a criticism, unless it involves some pertinent constitutional questions.

People registered for India’s Aadhaar program surpasses one billion

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The number of people registered for India’s Aadhaar Program operated by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which is the largest system of its kind in the world, surpassed one billion this April. NEC Corporation provides a large-scale biometrics identification system that utilizes fingerprints, face images, and iris images for this national identification system. UIDAI is promoting the Aadhaar Program to gather and manage the names, addresses and biometric information of people in India in an effort to create a society in which the entire nation can enjoy equal access to public and financial services. Once a person registers for the system, he or she will receive an individual 12-digit number (ID). Public organizations and banks will use these numbers to identify people when they apply to receive social security benefits or open bank accounts. NEC’s large-scale biometrics identification system uses three types of biometric information fingerprints, face images, and iris images’ to prevent people from being registered twice. This system can handle more than one million registrations per day by checking the registered biometric information for more than one billion people and comparing it to the biometric information of people seeking to register. “It is important to make sure that the same ID is not issued twice in order to maintain a highly reliable national identification system,” said, Noritaka Taguma, General Manager,Transportation and City Infrastructure Division, NEC Corporation. Taguma added, “NEC’s biometrics identification system helps to stop people from pretending to be others, while simplifying procedures by checking the information of people seeking to register for the Aadhaar Program with greater accuracy and efficiency.” NEC’s fingerprint and face identification technologies ranked first (*2) in the benchmark tests conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the United States. In addition, NEC also adjusted the identification algorithms for the biometric system for the Aadhaar Program in an effort to improve its identification accuracy.

Food Security Act to be implemented in Kerala in 2017: Govt

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A pilot project to supply ration food articles at the doorstep as part of implementing the Food Security Act would be launched in Kerala on November 1. Initially, the scheme would be launched at Kollam in the next month, a release from the State Food Minister P Thilothaman’s office said.The government plans to implement the scheme to supply ration food articles at doorsteps across the state by April 2017, the release said. The draft list of beneficiaries would be published by October 20 and ‘file list’ was expected to be ready by January next, it said.The new ration cards would be distributed by February and the process is planned to be completed by March, the release said.

Maharashtra: 271 dead, 377 houses damaged due to heavy rains, hailstorms in the state since April

Mumbai: Heavy rains and hailstorms in Maharashtra have claimed lives of 271 people since April this year, with 377 houses in the state completely damaged and 16,477 houses partially damaged.

The rains also claimed 1,417 small domestic animals and 1,593 large cattle like cows, bulls and buffalos, according to state minister Dileep Kamble.

The figures are compiled for the period from 1 April, 2016 till date, which includes deaths due to heavy rains, hailstorm and other natural calamities.

Representational image.  AFP

Representational image. AFP

“Aurangabad revenue division comprising eight districts is the worst hit in the current year as 70 people died there resulting from natural calamities. Amravati division is on the second number with 66 people losing their lives to such disasters.

“There are a total of six revenue divisions in the state – namely Konkan, Pune, Nashik, Aurangabad, Amravati and Nagpur,” Kamble said.

In Aurangabad, 208 small and 433 major cattle have died so far, while 31 houses have damaged completely and 4,214 got damaged partially.

The Amravati division reported loss of 25 small and 135 major cattle with 49 houses getting damaged completely and 4,223 houses damaged partially, said an official from state revenue and relief department.

Nashik division, which has reported the third largest human casualty (61 deaths) in the current year, also lost 1,008 small animals while 389 major cattle died due to hailstorm and heavy rains.

As many as 241 houses were completely damaged in Nashik, while 1,363 houses are partially damaged. About 33 people died due to similar causes in Pune division, where 23 small cattle and 572 major cattle have died.

The number of completely and partially damaged houses is 27 and 3,466 respectively.

As many as 31 people have died in Nagpur division from April to October this year, where 61 small and 50 major cattle have died. Heavy showers damaged 18 houses completely; while 2,297 of them were destroyed partially.

The least affected division in the state is Konkan, which is known for heavy rainfall during the monsoons. People here are aware of heavy rains and adapted to situations like floods; hence the deaths from the division are less, an official from relief and rehabilitation stated.

The Konkan division has reported deaths of 10 people, while 35 small and 14 large cattle have died so far. The number of completely and partially damaged houses is 11 and
814 respectively, said the official.

Delhi HC says ‘spoilt honeymoon’ and cruelty to in-laws a ground for divorce

New Delhi: A spoilt honeymoon and subjecting the husband and his family to “worst kind of mental cruelty” by levelling false accusations, have been held as grounds for divorce in a case by the Delhi High Court.

The High Court has dubbed the case as an “exception” in which “the marriage could not take off right from inception” between the couple who were in the age group of 30 plus at the time of marriage and were “quite mature”.

While allowing dissolution of their 12-year-old wedlock, it noted that the husband and wife returned with “bitter memories and a spoiled honeymoon” in which she had resisted consummation of marriage and later subjected him and his family to mental cruelty by levelling false accusations.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

The remarks were made in the judgement by a bench of Justices Pradeep Nandrajog and Pratibha Rani, which dismissed the plea of a woman who had challenged the verdict of a trial court allowing the man’s petition seeking dissolution of their marriage on grounds of cruelty.

“The respondent/husband was able to establish that during their honeymoon not only consummation of marriage was resisted by her, even thereafter causing embarrassment and humiliation accusations have been made against him and his entire family,” the bench noted in its judgement.

The bench said the conduct of the woman was such that it was not possible for the man to bear such kind of cruelty.

“It is a marriage which could not take off right from inception as the worst kind of mental cruelty was faced by the husband during his honeymoon and thereafter. All his efforts to save the marriage by arranging various meetings, visiting the parental home of the wife…could not save this marriage,” the bench said.

The high court noted that the marriage was solemnised in January 2004 and the woman had left matrimonial home in April 2004 and thereafter a case was lodged by her against the man and his family members.

It noted that the man tried to reconcile the marriage but as she was not agreeable, he filed a divorce petition before a trial court which was contested by the woman.

“Before applying for dissolution of marriage on the ground of cruelty, the husband has shown exceptional patience in dealing with the problem in spite of facing humiliation and scandalous allegations being made against him and his family members,” the bench said.

It also observed that accusations levelled by the woman against her husband and in-laws were not substantiated by any oral or documentary evidence.

“In the case of arranged marriages where both the spouses are in the age group of 30 plus, honeymoon period is the best time to know, understand and come close to each other. This case is an exception in the sense that just a day after the marriage the parties left for their honeymoon to Shimla and returned with bitter memories and a spoiled honeymoon,” the court observed.

IIT Kanpur’s placement drive to begin from December

Popular companies like Facebook, Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, many Indian firms and Public Sector Undertakings can be expected to join the recruitment drive. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The first round of the placement drive of IIT Kanpur’s 2016-17 academic session will begin in Kanpur from December 1 to December 22. Around 1,200 students have registered for the first round of the placement drive, university officials said.According to the placement cell sources, the first round will see around 300 foreign and Indian companies and Public Sector Undertakings in the placement drive. The second phase will take place between February to April 2017, they said.Popular companies like Facebook, Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, many Indian firms and Public Sector Undertakings (PSU) can be expected to join the recruitment drive, the administration said. The registered students are being given tips to brush up their communication and interview skills. IIT Kanpur’s placement drive for the previous academic session of 2015-2016 saw 90 per cent placement rate, officials added.

Bihar liquor ban: Govt moves SC against Patna HC’s order; new policy also challenged

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A day after launching a new policy on liquor with harsher provisions, the Bihar government on Monday moved Supreme court against the Patna High Court order quashing the state government’s April 5 order on prohibition, describing it as ultra vires of Constitution.The unfazed state government took the step of approaching Supreme Court, after it came out with a new law banning liquor with more harsh provisions like the arrest of all adults in the event of recovery of the contraband in their house on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti.The government notified the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016 to ensure that the ban on sale and consumption of alcohol including Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) as well spiced and domestic liquor continued in the state.However, the new policy of the state government has also been challenged. ANI reported that the new liquor policy of the Bihar government was being challenged in the High Court by a former professor of Patna University who has filed an RTI.CM Nitish Kumar had on Sunday said that the new liquor law would be a real tribute to the Father of the Nation when the state is readying to observe the centenary celebration of Gandhiji’s Champaran Satyagraha against British rule from the state in early 2017. The new liquor law came into force in Bihar barely two days after the Patna High Court had on Friday quashed its April 5 notification.

Prashant Bhushan, Yogendra Yadav form ‘Swaraj India’ party

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Former Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav on Sunday announced the formation of a new political party called Swaraj India.In April last year, the AAP expelled senior leaders Bhushan and Yadav for allegedly indulging in anti-party activities. The decision to sack them from the party was taken by the AAP?s National Disciplinary Committee (NDC).The duo co-founded then Swaraj Abhiyan, a socio-political body, to ‘take forward the anti-corruption movement.’Earlier, on Jul 31, addressing the concluding session of a two-day Abhiyan national convention here, Yadav had announced the launching of the new political party by October 2 to provide an “alternative political vehicle”. Later, a committee was formed to look into the details of the new political party.Yadav had said, “We were never secretive about going political. A decision to launch a political party was taken with nearly 93 per cent of the delegates at the convention overwhelmingly supporting it. Yadav, however, had clarified that Swaraj Abhiyan will continue to exist even after the new political party is launched and the two will function independently.It had parried questions on whether the new party will contest the Assembly elections in five states, including Punjab, which are going to polls next year. Yadav and Bhushan were sacked from Aam Aadmi Party in April last year for “anti-party” activities. They had hit out at AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal questioning his “supremo style of working” and “lack of transparency” in the party.

Bihar: CM Nitish Kumar issues new liquor law with harsher provisions

Patna: Two days after the Patna High Court quashed its order on prohibition, Bihar government on Gandhi Jayanti on came out with a new law banning liquor with more harsh provisions like arrest of all adults in the event of recovery of the contraband in their house.

The government notified the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016 to ensure that the ban on sale and consumption of alcohol including Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) as well spiced and domestic liquor continued in the state.

At a special Cabinet convened today, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and other members of his Cabinet took a pledge that the government would continue with prohibition which is “ushering positive social change” in the state.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. AFP

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. AFP

Besides retaining many provisions of the previous one, the new liquor law has some more stringent provisions including enhancing duration of imprisonment, hiking amount of fine, arrest of all adults in case of recovery of liquor bottle from a house and collective fine on a place in case of habitual violation of prohibition.

Principal Secretary (Cabinet Secretariat) Brajesh Mehrotra usually briefs media about Cabinet decisions, but today the Chief Minister himself took the mike and answered all queries.

The CM told reporters that the new liquor law, brought into force from today, would be a real tribute to the Father of the Nation when the state is readying to observe the centenary celebration of Gandhiji’s Champaran Satyagraha against British rule from the state in early 2017.

The new liquor law came into force in Bihar barely two days after the Patna High Court had on Friday quashed its 5 April notification describing it as ultra vires of Constitution.

The new Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016 after approval from both Houses of state Legislatures on 4 August, got the consent of Governor Ram Nath Kovind on 7 September last.

The CM told reporters that after receiving the approval from Governor, the state Cabinet had in its meeting on 14 September last gave it a nod for notification from 2 October.

Principal Additional Advocate General Lalit Kishore who had attended a high level meeting convened by the CM hours after the HC order on Friday which had quashed its 5 April notification describing it as ultra vires of Constitution, made it clear that the Division Bench of Chief Justice Iqbal Ahmad Ansari and Justice Navnati Prasad Singh had quashed the April 5 notification on prohibition and did not say anything about the Amended Excise Act.

India’s Bihar alcohol ban struck down

A court strikes down a ban on sale and consumption of alcohol in India’s eastern state of Bihar.

Bihar CM Nitish Kumar asks over 40 lakh JD(U) workers to propagate prohibition

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday roped in more than 40 lakh JD(U) workers to counter “falsehood” spread against prohibition by some “affected intellectuals deprived of quota of 1-2 peg.””A few intellectuals deprived of their quota of 1-2 peg are spreading falsehood regarding liquor ban in Bihar,” Kumar said at the one-day JD(U) state council meeting. Kumar appealed to party workers to counter the falsehood by vociferously speaking in favour of alcohol ban.”In democracy power of speaking matters a lot…move your lips more strongly in favour of prohibition and other programmes of “sushashan” which should become voice of the nation,” the CM said.Kumar, who is National President of JD(U) asked state party leadership to take out “prabhat pheri” and hold “sankalp sabha” on Gandhi Jayanti to promote “jan chetna” (peoples awareness) in favour of prohibition and “seven resolves”. He also called for organising shivir (camp) and orientation programmes for more than 1.5 lakh active JD(U) workers for the same.Newly re-elected Bihar JD(U) President Basisthan Narayan Singh promptly responded to CM’s call and announced the programmes for workers on October 2. Besides Singh, senior party leader Sharad Yadav and a host of state ministers, Members of Parliament, State Legislature and senior party office bearers were in attendance.In the beginning of his speech, Kumar pointed to some media reports which claimed that there were negligible takers of CM’s offer of providing Sudha dairy outlets in place of closed liquor shops to protect livelihood of those employed there and said, “If they did not come to grab the offer what is my fault?””If anybody is really interested to make a reality check of prohibition visit any village in the state and see how happy the women and family are feeling,” he said highlighting merits of April 5 decision to declare Bihar a dry state.Kumar has been facing criticism from opposition and also sections of civil society dubbing it as “talibani and draconian” in some media reports and discussions on TV channels on making liquor law more stringent by incorporating provisions of arrest of all adult members of a family in case of recovery of liquor from a home and community penalty against habitual violators of prohibition.Amended Liquor law will be notified from October 2, he said. Kumar talked in detail about programmes of “sushashan” brought by the grand secular alliance government out of his “seven resolves” which has been adopted by the coalition ministry as policy of governance for the next five years and appealed to JD(U) workers to propagate them among people.Kumar exhorted more than 40 lakh JD(U) workers to make people aware of benefits of programmes like drinking water and electricity to every household, student credit card and monthly allowance to students for hunting jobs.Former national president of JD(U) Sharad Yadav praised implementation of prohibition and exhorted party workers to work towards effective implementation of liquor law.”Nitish Kumar has implemented prohibition in the state which is not only in the interest of the state but is also in the interest of the party,” Yadav said. The more the prohibition gains ground it would help party in expanding its base, he said.Yadav made scathing attack on the NDA government and said Narendra Modi government is claiming that the GDP growth rate is 7.5 per cent but the fact is that middle class is the worst victim of its policies.Stating that Modi government was opposed to FDI in retail, Yadav said that Modi government has forgotten all its promises and now it has opened its doors for FDI in retail. Nitish Kumar said he was following “gatbandhan dharma” in true spirit and consulted leadership of partner parties RJD and Congress before any policy decision be it prohibition or those of seven resolves.He also said emphatically that “rule of law” prevailed in the state and asked party workers to be cautious against “rumour mongers” efforts to create tension in society particularly during coming festival time.JD(U) state council ratified Basistha Narayan Singh’s re-election as state chief at today’s function.

GST Council to hold its first meeting today

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Goods and Service Tax (GST) Council will on Thursday hold its first meeting here in the national capital.The council will decide on long pending issues of threshold limit for applicability of the tax as well as the limit for dual control between Centre and states. Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will chair the meeting.The GST is a single indirect tax which will subsume most of the central and state taxes such as VAT, excise duty, service tax and central sales tax.The two-day meet of the GST Council is likely to iron out issues between the Centre and states for rolling out the new indirect tax regime from April 1, 2017.It will take up the discussion on issues of dual control and threshold with states demanding that the legal and administrative power for imposing tax on entities with turnover of up to Rs. 1.5 crore.The Centre has proposed that small traders, having annual turnover of up to 20 to 25 lakh rupees, could be exempted from the GST, but states have demanded that the limit be kept at 10 lakh rupees.The GST, which is considered as the biggest tax reform since Independence, will do away with the indirect taxes and usher in one tax for the entire country. The bill was unanimously passed by the Parliament last month and over 18 states have ratified the bill.Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on September 14 held a meeting to review the preparedness for the rollout of the GST. The meeting was attended by Jaitley, both the Ministers of State for Finance, senior officers from the Prime Minister’s office and the Finance Ministry.In order to ensure that there is no slippage on date of implementation of GST from April 1, 2017, the Prime Minister reviewed the progress made on various steps needed for the rollout of GST relating to preparation of Model GST laws and rules to be framed, establishment of IT infrastructure for both Centre and States, training of officers of Central and State Governments and outreach for awareness of trade and industry.He directed that all steps must be completed well before April 1, 2017.

Separate Railway Budget scrapped: How will it impact fiscal management and what is the political fallout?

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved three significant proposals related to the country’s fiscal management by merging the separate Railway Budget with the General Union Budget, ending distinction between Plan and Non-Plan funds and also to complete all budgetary processes by March 31, by advancing Budget session of Parliament.Even though there was consensus on completing budgetary processes early, to allow all tax proposals to get effective by April 1, it was decided to fix the date of Budget session for 2017, as per the schedule of assembly elections. “In principle the proposal was approved, but for 2017, we will have to take the calendar of assembly elections into consideration,” said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, soon after the meeting. The meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had been insisting on ending past conventions to streamline the processes of budget making.The Cabinet’s decision to end the 92-year-old practice of presenting a separate Railway Budget will impact fiscal management. Now the Finance Minister will present it as part of the General Budget. FM Arun Jaitley said the practice of a separate Railway Budget was started in 1924, since the Railway expenditures used to be more than the General Budget. But now, many other ministries like the Defence, parts of the Union Budget have more expenditure than the Railways. Also, if the expenditure entailed on projects coming under the public-private partnership (PPP) model is added to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, its Budget also adds up to more than that of the Railways.The political fallout of the new arrangement will be that the Railway Minister’s political stature will diminish and the hot race to occupy Rail Bhawan will end up. In 2004, when the UPA-I took over, two of its stalwarts Ram Vilas Paswan and RJD leader Lalu Prasad Yadav fell apart, as both were vying for the Railways portfolio. The portfolio ultimately went to heavy weight Yadav. It has been observed that instead of priorities, the funds and resources were being allocated for political reasons. Officials here believe this practice will end with the merger of the budgets. Immediately after the decision, chief minister of Bihar and former Railway Minister Nitish Kumar said the move will affect the Railway’s autonomy. “Merging rail budget and general budget won’t do any good, it will lose its autonomy.”According to the government, the move will come as a relief to the Railways, which, until now, has been reeling under an additional burden of Rs 40,000 crore from higher salaries, following implementation of the 7th Pay Commission. It also has to bear close to Rs 35,000 crore of subsidy burden. The Railways will get rid of the annual dividend of Rs 10,000 crore it has to pay for gross budgetary support from the government. The government used to hand over Rs 2.27 lakh crore to the Railways every year, which now ceases to be a liability.Both, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu and Finance Minster Arun Jaitley were at pains to explain that the step has been taken only for presenting a common budget and will in no way affect the financial autonomy of the Railways.Earlier, Niti Ayog in a 20-page note sent to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) had also argued in favour of doing away with the Railway budget. The note, titled ‘Dispensing with the Rail Budget’ and jointly authored by Aayog member and economist Bibek Debroy and Kishore Desai, Officer on Special Duty, argues that the exercise had failed to be of use to the sector and had become a “mechanism to announce popular measures”.“The Railway Budget became a mechanism to announce popular measures, new trains, new routes, new rolling-stock manufacturing factories etc., with no concomitant focus on addressing Railways’ structural requirements, implementation of the ‘grand’ announcements, or funding needs,” states the note.The Cabinet also approved a proposal to remove the existing Plan and non-Plan expenditure classifications from future Budgets. “We will be switching to a more globally relevant system of classifying spending as revenue expenditure and capital expenditure,” said an official. All the administrative spending will come under revenue expenditure while capital spending and grants for creation of capital assets will be classified under the same broad category.“In the backdrop of the abolition of the Planning Commission and setting up of the NITI Aayog, the classification of expenditure as Plan and non-Plan had lost its relevance. If the accounting of expenditure is classified broadly under revenue and capital, I think this is where the expenditure is focused,” an official said. In 2011, an experts’ committee headed by C Rangarajan had proposed that the distinction between Plan and non-Plan expenditure be abolished for both the Centre and the states.In another proposal, a cabinet note had proposed to hold the budget session of Parliament early from January 27 (Friday) and present the union budget on February 1 instead of the past practice of it coming only on the last day of February. Jaitley said the proposal was approved in principle, but for 2017 will be linked to the schedule of assembly elections for want of availability of MPs who will be busy in campaigning. This will help budget proposals and fund flow to states start right from April 1. Since the full budget gets approved by May, some proposals are rolled out by September.A tentative calendar has been drawn up to have the recess from February 17 to March 20 to enable the department-wise standing committees of MPs deliberate on the budget proposals. Both the Houses will sit up to February 17, a Friday, and then assemble on March 20. The government contemplates to get the budget passed in March itself to put an end to the practice of the vote-on-account for four months for the financial business in the new financial year that begins on April 1.

Supreme Court to resume hearing of Mumbai dance bars case

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court will on Wednesday resume hearing of the Mumbai dance bars case, where the bar owners have challenged the stringent norms regulating bars, while the Maharashtra government is justifying the need for these restrictions to ensure the safety and dignity of women working in these establishments.The apex court had on August 30 issued a notice to the Maharashtra Government over a new law for dance bar licences, while asking the BJP-led state government to reply within six months.Dance bar owners have objected to the restriction of maintaining a 1-km distance from any religious or educational structure claiming it was not possible in big cities. They claimed that another curb of shutting down the bars before 11.30 p m is discriminatory in the time when the central government was promoting round-the-clock business by commercial establishments.Maharashtra Government’s counsel Shekhar Nafade had, however, said they would fight the objections at the next hearing as the government had every right to frame rules in the interest of society.The apex court had in May directed the Maharashtra Government to grant licenses to eight dance bars within two days and asked them to give an undertaking that they would not engage employees with criminal antecedents near the dance area.The Dance Bar Regulation Bill, that was unanimously passed by the Assembly on April 13, among other things, prohibits serving liquor in performance areas and mandates that the premises must shut by 11:30 pm. It also imposes heavy penalties on dance bar owners and customers for not following these rules.The apex court had on 2 March rejected certain suggestions like providing live CCTV footage to police of performances in the dance bars and asked the state government to grant licences to owners within 10 days after they comply with the modified guidelines.

Cabinet to consider Budget presentation on February 1

New Delhi – Breaking from tradition, the general budget of the union government is likely to be presented on February 1 instead of the last day of the month, as part of an overhaul that would also scrap the practice of a separate railway budget.

The proposal for advancing of the budget and the merger of the railway budget with it will be considered on Wednesday at a meeting of the union Cabinet to be chaired by prime minister Narendra Modi, who has been pushing for it.

PTIPTI

PTI

The cabinet will also consider the proposal for doing away with the distinction between plan and non-plan expenditure.

According to the proposal, the entire Budget-making exercise will be advanced by 3-4 weeks so as to complete the legislative part of financial business before 1 April, the start of a financial year.

Sources said the government plans to convene the Budget Session of Parliament before 25 January 2017, present the pre-Budget Economic Survey a day or two before the finance minister reads out the Budget on 1 February.

Towards that end, the advance estimates for GDP will now be made on 7 January instead of 7 February and mid-year review of expenditure by various ministries is proposed to be completed by November 15.

The idea, sources said, is to get the Budget passed by Parliament along with Appropriation Bill and the Finance Bill before 24 March as this would ensure implementation of the Budget proposals from April 1.

According to the proposal moved by the ministry of finance, Parliament would take a three-week break — from February 10/15 to March 10/15 to complete ministerial or departmental scrutiny by various parliamentary committees.

Once the rail and general Budgets are merged and the date of presentation is advanced, there will be no requirement of separate Appropriation Bills as well as Vote on Account, as is the current practice.

Even after the separate railway budget is scrapped and its proposals clubbed in the general Budget, the Railways would continue to maintain its distinct entity status as a departmentally-run commercial undertaking as at present.

Also, the Railways would be allowed to retain its functional autonomy with delegation of financial power rules to continue as is the case now, sources said.

After the merger, the Railways would not have to pay dividend to the central government and its capital at charge would stand to be wiped off.

Like for other departments, the ministry of finance will provide gross budgetary support to the Railways for incurring its capital expenditure.

As regards removing the Plan and non-Plan classification of accounts, it has already been announced by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his Budget for 2016-17.

According to the proposal, to ensure better targeting of benefits, all concessional railway passes provided to various categories of concessionaires will be linked to Aadhar number.

Also, the Railway Convention Committee, which reviews the rate of dividend payable by the railways to the government, will be disbanded. Currently, the panel also suggests the level of appropriation to various funds of the railways such as depreciation reserve funds, development fund and pension
fund.

Sources said advancement of presentation of the budget by a month and completion of budget related legislative business before March 31 would pave the way for early completion of budget cycle and enable ministries and departments to ensure better planning and execution of schemes from the beginning of the financial year.

Accordingly, the budget calendar would be advanced by about 3 weeks from the current schedule of it starting from the last week of October.

Pre-budget consultations with various stakeholders are proposed to be completed by December 25. Ministries and departments would be asked to present their detailed Demand for Grants to Parliament by February 7, 2017.

After the merger of railway budget with the general budget, one single Appropriation Bill will be presented to Parliament for consideration and voting on or before 24 March 2017.

With the rollout of the goods and services tax (GST), the changes in excise and service tax, which are normally proposed in the general budget, would shift to the GST Council and hence, there would be less onerous Finance Bill for Parliament to debate, sources said.

Railways to colour-code dustbins for cleaner stations

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The railways has decided to colour-code its dustbins so as to separate wet and dry waste at the station itself. Railway stations, thanks to the 2.3 crore people who use them on a daily basis, are a huge source of waste, said officials.In a statement, the railways said in order to carry out efficient disposal of waste, it has decided to provide separate dustbins for collection of biodegradable (wet) and non-biodegradable (dry) waste on platforms and all passenger interface areas in A1 and A category stations, apart from the vending stalls.”There will be two different colours – green for bio-degradable wet garbage and black or non-biodegradable dry garbage. The zonal railways will ensure the provision of separate dustbins for segregated collection of garbage at all A1 category stations immediately, followed by A category stations on or before December 31,” said an official.Railway staff will also be trained to ensure this separation, said officials. “This includes vending stalls and pantry staff. A standard operating procedure is already in place for them and its implementation will be made stricter,” said the official.The officials, however, said the biggest factor for the success of this initiative continued to be the passengers themselves. “We can do all we like but if passengers don’t help us, then we are in a bit of a problem. While a small percentage of passengers have started throwing waste in dustbins on platforms, several of them don’t. The choking of railway culverts is a painful reminder that a lot of us are still not using dustbins enough,” said an official.New Solid Waste Management RulesUnder the revised Solid Waste Management Rules, announced in April this year, the government has extended the rules beyond municipal areas and will extend them to urban agglomerations, census towns, notified industrial townships, areas under the control of Indian Railways, airports, airbase, port and harbour, defence establishments, special economic zones, state and central government organisations and places of pilgrimage, religious and historical importance.That’s a lot of waste!Total waste generated annually across India: 62 million tonsPlastic waste: 5.6 million tonsBio-medical waste: 0.17 million tonsHazardous waste: 7.9 million tonsE-waste: 15 lakh ton

Madhya Pradesh serves ‘royal’ dinner to SC judges, forgets its drought and Vyapam stain

Madhya Pradesh, a state that almost always figures at the bottom of the country’s Human Development Index table, used lakhs of rupees out of the taxpayers’ pockets to provide ‘royal’ hospitality to the Supreme Court judges – including the Chief Justice of India (CJI) – in an event in April; by hosting a gala dinner in fine silver, and by bestowing expensive gifts upon the judges and their spouses.

That’s rather rich for a state already bearing the stigma of the Vyapam scam – a professional examination board scam in which impersonators were caught appearing on behalf of students for a hefty fee, all with the collusion of the officials of the examination board.

Vyapam scam and drought are affecting MP. Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan. AFPVyapam scam and drought are affecting MP. Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan. AFP

Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan. AFP

A response to a RTI query revealed that expenses worth more than a whopping Rs 8 lakh were incurred in just one evening to host a ‘royal’ (officially traditional) dinner of 240 VVIP guests — mostly judges and their families, including CJI TS Thakur, on 14 April in Bhopal.

The dinner was hosted by the state government on the occasion of a four-day programme — ‘Retreat of the judges of the Supreme Court’ – organised at the National Judicial Academy in Bhopal, which was inaugurated by President Pranab Mukherjee.

A copy of the information sought under the RTI, accessed by Firstpost, shows that the principal secretary to Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan issued an official note stating that, “keeping with the stature of the event, the dinner should be served in silver crockery.”

According to protocol, traditionally for any lunch or dinner hosted by the state government, the arrangements are made by the MP State Tourism Development Corporation Limited (MPSTDC).

But instead, the official note mentioned that, “since such arrangement are not available with the MPSTDC, the contract should be given to a reputed private caterer from Indore, through competitive bidding.”

The response to the RTI query, made by Bhopal-based activist Ajay Dubey, shows that besides the CJI and the judges of the Supreme Court, the list of invitees (state guests) included SC registrar and additional registrar, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Lokayukta of MP PP Naolekar, among other ministers and bureaucrats.

As per the copies of the bills procured through the RTI, about Rs 3.37 lakh was paid for food, Rs 3.57 lakh towards catering and silver crockery, and more than Rs 1 lakh towards 46 pieces of gift items.

Documents by Firstpost

“We’re not questioning the dinner hosted by the MP government but the arbitrary manner in which it was done. Our democracy is based on the principle of equality, but in this case, the Supreme Court judges and other guests were treated as royalty. What is the logic behind serving a government dinner on silver crockery, when there are scams like Vyapam and a part of the state is reeling from drought. Lakhs of rupees, which is the taxpayers’ money, was spent on silver crockery and gifts,” Dubey told Firstpost.

“As per the judicial ethics, the members of judiciary are not supposed to accept gifts. I don’t think the SC judges had asked for this kind of treatment or even liked it,” added Dubey, also a member of Transparency International, an anti-corruption watchdog.

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