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VVIP chopper scam: Singapore responds to CBI’s query on AgustaWestland

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Authorities in Singapore seem to have finally responded to queries which the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had sent through official routes, seeking information related to the infamous AgustaWestland scam. The recent development comes a day after former Air Force Chief SP Tyagi, an accused in the scam, was granted bail by a city court.The CBI now claims that the information it received from Singapore will aid its investigators to further the probe.The probe agency had sent eight Letters Rogatory (LRs), which are judicial requests, since 2013 and had received “partial information” from six countries. Two of the eight countries have not even sent partial information even after the probe agency registered an official FIR in March 2013.During its investigation, that will enter its fourth year in March next year, CBI sent LRs to Italy, Tunisia, UAE, Singapore, Mauritius, British Virgin Island, UAE and Switzerland. Excluding Singapore and UAE, six countries had sent a “partial execution report” which means that if the probe agency had sent 10 questions seeking information related to the AgustaWestland deal, only some of the queries received a response. Officials on Thursday, however, confirmed that Singapore had responded to the LR. “The new information is currently being examined by CBI and further action will be based on the probe findings,” a CBI official told DNA.In a major setback to CBI, a Delhi sessions court granted bail to former Air Force chief SP Tyagi on Tuesday. “During the arguments, the CBI failed to state as to how much cash was paid to the accused and when it was paid,” Special CBI Judge Arvind Kumar had noted.The CBI made its first arrests in the case on December 9 when it took into custody Tyagi, his cousin Sanjeev Tyagi and advocate Gautam Khaitan in the case related to procurement of 12 AW VVIP choppers from UK-based firm during the UPA-2 regime. According to the FIR, the CBI contended that in 2005, the former air chief abused his official position to change the consistent stand of the Indian Air Force (IAF) on the service ceiling of the VVIP choppers from 6000 metres to 4500 metres.

Maharashtra govt to shut down liquor shops on national, state highways

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Maharashtra government will implement the Supreme Court’s verdict of December 15 that directed all the states to shut down all liquor shops and vends on national and state highways.State Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar cited the rising number of deaths in road accidents in the state while stating that the liquor shops on state and national highways will be closed. “Maximum number of deaths due to road accidents were due to drunken driving. The SC verdict effectively means that 12,967 liquor shops in the state that fall within the 500 meter radius will have to shut down after March 31, 2017,” he said.Asked about the contention of the liquor lobby about revenue loss, Mungantiwar said, “anyway they are not in the business of selling holy water.”The minister also said that the Maharashtra government was prepared to incur the loss in its revenue and will implement the order of the apex court. “Out of the total 16,856 deaths in 2015-16, 13,212 deaths were road accident deaths and again out of that maximum of them were due to drunken driving,” Mungantiwar claimed.Meanwhile, officials said due to demonetization, the department anticipates a 4.88% decline in revenue between December 1 to 20.As per State Excise departments data, the department had fixed the revenue income out of liquor for 2016 at Rs 15,343.96 crore.The department had posted a revenue income of Rs 1,024.57 crore in November 2015, whereas the revenue income in November this year was Rs 1,027.35 crore, a rise of 0.27 per cent, shows the data. As per the data, between December 1 to December 20, 2015, the department posted a revenue income of Rs 670.25 crore, while the revenue for the same corresponding period this December stands at Rs 637.57 crore, a deficit of 4.88 per cent.Out of the total 12,967 liquor shops that will face closure after March 31, 2017, Pune district has maximum of 3,932 establishments, officials said. Of these 2,499 are in Nagpur, 2,225 in Kolhapur, , 2,224 in Aurangabad, 1,480 in Konkan region and 1,347 in Nashik district, they said.There are a total of 24,572 country liquor, wine shops, permit rooms, clubs, beer shops, beer and wine serving outlets in the state, said officials.According to them, the government has also directed its Superintendents of State Excise not to approve One Day temporary licenses (FL-4) to clubs that come within the radius of 500 meters from the boundaries of national, state highways and service roads.

Demonetisation ordinance passed: Holding old notes a criminal offence post 31 March

The Cabinet today cleared promulgation of an ordinance to penalise persons holding demonetised Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes after 31 March, when the deadline to deposit these notes at the RBI window ends.

As per the ordinance named the Specified Bank Notes Cessation of Liabilities Ordinance, holding these notes after 31 March deadline would be a criminal offence.

According to government sources cited by CNBC-TV18, those who hold old notes after 31 March is likely to face 4-year jail term and also those who transact in old notes is likely to face a penalty of Rs 5,000.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The ordinance will extinguish the liability of the government and RBI towards the promise to pay the bearer of these notes their value because of a statutory requirement.

In 1978 a similar ordinance was issued to end the government’s liability after Rs 1,000, Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000 notes were demonetised by the Janata Party government under Morarji Desai.

A PTI report citing sources in the government said the ordinance is being brought as it was found to be necessary to prevent future litigations against the government for junking Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.

Seeking to prevent harassment and any ambiguity, a proviso would be added to ensure that certain category of people can still deposit the old notes in RBI branches between 31 December and 31 March next, said the report.

The government had, while announcing the demonetisation of the old currency on 8 November, allowed holders to either exchange them or deposit in bank and post office accounts.

While the facility to exchange the old notes has since been withdrawn, depositors have time till Friday to deposit the holding in their accounts.

With PTI

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 13:04 IST

US woman’s gangrape: Accused to be produced before Patiala House Court

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The four accused and arrested in connection with the alleged gang rape of a US national in a five-star hotel, will be produced before the Patiala House Court on Tuesday.The Delhi Police yesterday arrested a tour guide, driver, tourist bus helper and a hotel worker. “On December 3, the Delhi police registered a case in connection with the gangrape. The complainant was kind enough to come down to Delhi, got her statement recorded before police and court and helped in collecting evidence,” said Deependra Pathak, Joint Commissioner of Police, South West District.The lady in her complaint said she had arrived in Delhi on a tourist visa in March this year and was staying at the hotel when the crime took place.Reports suggest that the tourist guide during her stay arrived at the hotel along with four friends one day. The men shared a few drinks in the lady’s room following which they allegedly took turns to rape her.The woman, who went back to the US traumatised by the incident, had gone into depression.

Domestic carriers not operating from T3 has hit airport Metro

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Domestic low-cost carriers not operating from Terminal 3 has been a “setback” for the Airport Express Line of Delhi Metro, DMRC chief Mangu Singh has said.Although the premium corridor has scripted a turnaround of sorts with daily ridership touching a high of 50,000 in August this year, Singh suggested that the numbers could have been more had things panned out as per plan.When the 23-km-long corridor was being contemplated, it was planned that complete flight operations, including domestic, will be from T3, he said, but “we do not know” why authorities decided to continue with Terminal 1. “This is really a setback because we believe that passengers of domestic carriers use public transport. T3 people mostly travel in their own vehicles. However, we are running a feeder service between the two terminals and that has helped to some extent,” Singh said.At the planning stage, it was also envisaged that property development would be a major source of revenue for the corridor but low ridership was coming in its way, which prompted metro to slash fares, he said. The idea was that when footfall increases property development will follow, Singh said.Fares were cut by up to 50% in September last year to popularise the relatively expensive line that connects New Delhi Railway Station to T3. The maximum fare has been reduced to Rs 60 from Rs 180 while the minimum is Rs 10 against Rs 50 in 2013.As metro already had a robust system in place, operating the Airport corridor was not much of a challenge when it took over the operations from a private concessionaire in July 2013. “We had one big advantage because we were already operating a system. There were many things that we could simply absorb. Control centre was shifted here, similarly maintenance staff was shared. We could bring in a lot of efficiency as per operational and maintenance cost is concerned,” he said.As per official data, the average daily ridership figure of July, 2013, was 10,069. It subsequently rose to around 12,000 in March 2014 and further to 19,466 a year later.On August 28, 2015, more than 32,000 people had taken the corridor, also known as Orange Line and a year later it recorded the highest-ever ridership of 50,000.

Maha govt tells Bombay HC it will fill up AG post by Dec 30

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Putting an end to the controversy surrounding the appointment of a new Advocate General, the Maharashtra Government told the Bombay High Court that it would fill up the coveted post by December 30.The post of Advocate General has been lying vacant since March this year after Srihari Aney resigned as AG. In his place, Rohit Deo was appointed as acting AG and he continues to represent the government in high court in this capacity.Deo today informed a division bench of Justice Abhay Oka that the state government would take a decision on the appointment of AG by December 30. Taking the statement of Government on record, the bench deferred it to January 9 next year a petition filed by Congress MLC Sanjay Dutt seeking appointment of a new Advocate General. The High Court had pulled up the state government early this month for its failure to appoint the Advocate General and had set a deadline of December 23 for the state to inform when it would fill up the coveted post. Today, the government said it would fill up this post by December 30 this year.Neeraj Dhote, legal adviser and joint secretary, law and judiciary department, had filed an affidavit on December 8 assuring the court that “the state would appoint AG in accordance with the provisions contained in Article 165 of the Constitution of India, by the end of December 2016.” The bench had earlier remarked “it is high time that the government appointed a new Advocate General to represent the state. Many constitutional and statutory functions (of the government) are suffering due to the non-appointment of AG and it affects the cause of justice as well as the public.” Seeking a direction to the Maharashtra government to appoint a regular Advocate General in place of the current acting Advocate General, Dutt’s petition submitted that the post of ‘acting Advocate General’ was unconstitutional. It demanded that the appointment of Advocate General should be made only as per the provisions of Article 165 of the Constitution.Dutt clarified that he was not questioning the integrity and professional capability of acting Deo, but said he wanted a direction to the state government to follow the constitutional provisions.Deo was functioning as an acting AG since March, while under the Constitution no post of ‘acting AG’ exists, he submitted.Dutt had also raised the issue in the state Legislature earlier, the petition said.Deo was appointed as acting AG after previous Advocate General Srihari Aney was forced to resign. Aney’s open support for separate Vidarbha had incurred him the wrath of political parties, including the ruling ally Shiv Sena, which are opposed to the idea of statehood for the region.

Delhi HC allows Ajay Chautala to attend son Dushyant’s marriage functions

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>INLD leader Ajay Chautala, who is serving a 10-year jail term in a teachers’ recruitment scam case, was today allowed by the Delhi High Court to attend the marriage function of his son and MP Dushyant Chautala.The leader, who was on parole since November 28 and was restrained from moving out of the national capital, has sought modification of the order, saying he be allowed to attend his son’s ‘roka’ ceremony at Sirsa in Haryana on December 25. The application came up for hearing before Justice Vipin Sanghi who allowed the leader’s plea to attend two ceremonies to be held at different locations in Sirsa and Gurgaon.Advocate Amit Sahni, appearing for the convict, said the ‘ring’ ceremony was scheduled on January 3 next year and sought permission to the petitioner to leave the territory of Delhi to “enable him to attend and perform the customs on both the dates”.Allowing the plea, the court asked the leader to surrender before the jail authorities on January 5 next year, the date already fixed. On November 28, the court had granted a month’s parole to Ajay for maintaining “social ties” but restrained him from taking part in political activities. The court had restricted Ajay’s movement while directing him not to leave Delhi without permission from the authorities concerned.The Supreme Court on August 3 last year had dismissed the appeals of Ajay and his father O P Chautala challenging the high court’s verdict upholding their conviction and sentence of 10 years awarded by a trial court in the junior basic trained (JBT) teachers recruitment scam case.The high court had on March 5, 2015, upheld the 10-year jail term awarded to Chautalas and three others, saying, “The overwhelming evidence showed the shocking and spine-chilling state of affairs in the country.”The father-son duo and 53 others, including two IAS officers, were among 55 persons convicted on January 16, 2013 by the trial court for illegally recruiting 3,206 JBT teachers in Haryana in 2000.

India tests ‘Nirbhay’ cruise missile, outcome not known yet

Balasore (Odisha): India on Wednesday conducted the flight test of indigenously-designed and developed long range subsonic cruise missile ‘Nirbhay’ from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur in Odisha.

However, there was no official word immediately about the outcome of the test flight.

The sophisticated missile with a strike range of 1,000 km was test launched from a specially-designed launcher around noon from the launch complex-3 of the ITR near here, defence sources said.

Powered by a solid rocket motor booster, ‘Nirbhay’ missile with a turbo-fan engine is guided by a highly advanced inertial navigation system.

The DRDO logo. Image Credit: drdo.gov.in

The DRDO logo. Image Credit: drdo.gov.in

After the missile achieves designated altitude and velocity the booster motor is separated and the torfan engine automatically switches on taking over further propulsion, a Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) scientist associated with this project said.

He said that mid-way in its flight, missile’s wing opens up by the commands generated by the sophisticated on board computer for stabilising the flight path.

The missile was tracked with the help of ground based radars and it’s health parameters were monitored by indigenous telemetry stations by team of professionals from DRDO’s ITR and LRDE (Electronics & Radar Development Establishment).

The maiden test flight of Nirbhay held on 12 March 2013 had to be terminated mid way for safety reasons due to malfunction of a component, sources said.

However, the second launch on 17 October 2014 was successful.

The next trial conducted on 16 October 2015, had to be aborted after 700 seconds of its launch. All these trials were conducted from same defence base.

First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 20:27 IST

Sheroes to get honoured for selfless service

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In an attempt to recognise the efforts of women who have chosen unconventional life paths for the betterment of society, Stop Acid Attack (SAA) has decided to confer upon them an award named ‘Sheroes Samman’.“We are planning to give ‘Sheroes Samman’ award to women who have broken the stereotype and are engaged in unconventional jobs, such as driving a bus or an auto, or those who have been educating other women in rural areas,” said Ashish Shukla, one of the founding members of the SAA campaign.The name of the award has been derived from name of a chain of cafes — ‘Sheroes Hangout’ — opened in various parts of Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Udaipur to rehabilitate acid attack survivors from across the country. The group has called for nationwide nominations and the final results will be declared in March next year.“We will choose the women by taking into account suggestions and entries online. We are still working on the list. The results will be declared in March 2017,” Ashish said.Razi Sultan, winner of the United Nations (UN) Malala Award, has already been shortlisted. The rest of the names are still being discussed.“We launched the award last year, but this time, we are doing it at a larger scale and on a bigger platform. We have invited entries and are also sending invitations to a lot of ‘Sheroes’ ourselves,” Ashish added.Last year, Vineeta Arora had won the award for her selfless work to better the lives of street dogs. Having grown up witnessing the discrimination between pet and stray dogs, and the cruel treatment meted out to the latter, the Gulmohar Park resident had decided to become the voice of the defenceless creatures while she was still in college.At the time, she used to write articles to spread awareness regarding several issues, including treatment of injured dogs, among people.Then she started feeding and treating stray dogs by getting associated with various NGOs, shelter homes and pet houses. She, however, faced strong resistance from local people. “Many people picked fights with me while I was feeding the dogs and the cows. At least in case of cows, religious factors cropped in, but no one cared about the dogs,” Vineeta said.The journey became even more difficult after she got married. “In the initial years of marriage, I could not work for these dogs as my in-laws raised objections. I could not keep dogs at home as well,” she said.But gradually, the opposition fell away.Vineeta’s hardwork finally paid off when she started her own shelter home in Agra in 2014, with the help of her husband. “I started the shelter home Caspers’ in the memory of my pet dog, who lost his life in a road accident. The home was registered as an NGO two years after its inception,” she said.Over 45 dogs have been adopted from Caspers’ till now. It is also home to 43 dogs, and care is provided to injured, paralysed and abandoned dogs.“We have proper rules and guidelines while giving the dogs for adoption. The team from our NGO goes to the owner’s house before the adoption. An inspection is carried out after the adoption as well. If dog is found chained, it is brought back,” Vineeta said.

To end black money in political funding, Modi govt must do more than blame old law

On Saturday, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley embarked on a spree of damage control mode by issuing a statement on the Narendra Modi government’s stance on political funding and black money. Political parties have not been granted any exemption after demonetisation and the introduction of Taxation Laws (Second Amendment) Act, 2016 which came into force on 15 December, said Jaitley.

He added: “Income and donations of political parties fall under the purview of Section 13A of the Income Tax Act 1961 and there is no change in its provisions. In this era of instant outrage, a 35-year-old law is presented as a new law being passed by the NDA Government.”

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

This statement came in response to media reports and a political storm brewing among certain Opposition parties after the revenue secretary Hasmukh Adhia said, “If it is a deposit in the account of political parties, they are exempt. But if it is deposited in any individual account, in anyone’s account, that information will definitely come on our radar.” Adhia’s statement drew immediate media and political attention in the context of the ongoing demonetisation exercise. The plan, originally announced on 8 November gives time to deposit old, invalidated Rs 500, Rs 1,000 currency notes in banks till 30 December (in bank branches) and 31 March (at Reserve Bank of India counters).

Going by Adhia’s statement, political parties could have deposited any amount without paying taxes or facing any investigations. Hence, the possibility opens up for tax cheats to approach a registered political party to make their loot legit with an understanding that the money will be returned at a later date — with a cut going into the pocket of the agent (in this case, the political party).

Under the current rules, no political outfit needs to show the source of funds for cash donations under Rs 20,000. Hence, parties have a logical opportunity to show a majority of their deposits under this category by creating thousands of backdated receipts and can, thus, launder black money with no questions asked. Typically, political parties do not even keep receipts for donations.

According to an analysis of political funding by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) in the past few years, around 75 percent of such funding in India remains opaque and falls in the anonymous donation category.

Here, we have a serious problem.

Political parties have a clear option to print backdated receipts and launder black money. This is a major hole in the implementation of demonetisation, one of the main goals of which is to unearth the black money in the system. What the finance minister clarified in his carefully-worded statement on Saturday is absolutely true to every word. Exemption to political parties is not a law that was created by the Modi government. This is a law that has been in existence for a while.

But, there are few things of which the government has to take note:

First, whether the law is old or new, the fact is that political parties presently enjoy a big loophole to make their black money white openly. They do enjoy immunity from paying tax and tax scrutiny/prosecution if these outfits show that money came through small donations. This is what Adhia probably meant and what the finance minister reiterated in his statement when he said that the income and donations of political parties “fall in the purview of Section 13A of the Income Tax Act of 1961” and that “there is no change in its provisions”.

The question is given that the Modi government has waged an all-out attack on black money, shouldn’t it have plugged this loop hole before demonetising 86 percent of the currency in circulation, risking serious economic and social repercussions? The government managed to amend the income tax law for individuals, why didn’t it expand the purview for political parties? The demand of the Election Commission, seeking an amendment of laws to allow exemption from tax only to parties that win seats in elections and ban anonymous contributions of Rs 2,000 and above to parties, should be an eye opener to the Modi government and prompt it to ponder over the holes in the black money war plan.

Second, it is true that under Section 13A of the I-T Act, political parties have to submit audited accounts, income and expenditure details, and balance sheets as Jaitley says in the clarification. The finance minister also says that following demonetisation, no political party can accept donations in Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes since they were rendered illegal tender. Any party doing so would be in violation of the law. “Just like anyone else, political parties can also deposit their cash held in the old currency in banks till 30 December, provided they can satisfactorily explain the source of income and their books of accounts reflect the entries prior to 8 November,” he said.

Here, isn’t Jaitley himself giving a clue to political parties how to deal with their black money — that parties can still take invalidated higher denomination currency notes (including those from black money hoarders for a decent cut) and make thousands of backdated receipts to show the funds arrived before the cut-off date?

If the parties choose to act as conduits of ill-gotten wealth, isn’t it almost impossible for the government and taxman to track down the tax cheats?

Third, at a time when the Modi government is aggressively pushing for electronic transactions (cashless), why is the government silent on making political funding can’t be made cashless including that of the ruling party? According to PTI, there are 1,866 registered political parties in India as on August, 2015, including six national parties. Many of them haven’t even contested elections. There has been a rush for registration of political parties, with as many as 239 new outfits enrolling themselves with the Election Commission between March 2014 and July this year, taking their number to 1,866.

According to data compiled by the EC, in the last Lok Sabha election in 2014, 464 political parties had fielded candidates. The present figure could be much more than 1,866 since 2015, many more parties would have joined the club. Political parties get massive donations from individuals and institutions. They need funds for those who contest elections from their parties and spend substantial funds on administrative, functional expenses. There are no official records for most of these transactions. The possibility of crooks launching political parties solely with the aim of laundering funds is high.

Four, what prevents the government from asking banks details of deposits done by political parties in the months prior to demonetisation (remember the sharp surge in bank deposits between July and September) and after 8 November, including those of the BJP and thereby, setting an example? Asking party members to hand over details of bank deposits to party president alone wouldn’t suffice if clean transparency is the goal. Given the radical nature of the demonetisation exercise and considering that banning 86 percent currency in one go isn’t a conventional step, the government shouldn’t hesitate in going the whole hog to attack all sources of black money. Unarguably, the most critical part of the black money battle is tackling political funding, which is missing here.

Jaitley’s clarification that the I-T Act that protects politicians is an old law and the Modi government had nothing to do with it is not a valid argument

It was the responsibility of this government to plug the necessary loop holes before attempting a big gamble to hunt tax cheats, who have been looting the country. The government should have foreseen that crooks will think far ahead and use one of the 1866 political parties as black money laundering machines to make a mockery of the system. If that happens, isn’t the pain and trauma forced up on the common man who has, by far, stood by the Modi government on this move going in vain?

When it comes to political funding and black money, the Modi govt could surely do much more than blaming an old law and hoping tax cheats will follow the rules of the game.

First Published On : Dec 19, 2016 11:53 IST

Afghan migrants taken to hospital as Croatia arrests Bulgarians over trafficking | Reuters

BELGRADE Dozens of migrants, mainly from Afghanistan, have been taken to hospital in Croatia after police stopped a van carrying 67 people, and arrested two Bulgarian citizens suspected of human trafficking, the police said. The van, with British licence plates, was halted on the highway between the Serbian and Slovenian borders on Saturday evening during routine traffic control, according to the police. Forty-two migrants were taken immediately to hospital and some were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning, health minister Milan Kujundzic was quoted by the Hina news agency as saying. He said two of the 42 were boys aged 10 to 12, while the others were between 15 and 20. “Some of them were unconscious, some vomited when they were found,” Kujundzic said. “They were in serious condition, dehydrated and apparently have not eaten for five days.”

Some 650,000 people passed through Croatia from September 2015 to March this year on the so-called Balkan route used by migrants, mainly from Syria, heading towards western Europe, especially Germany.The route was largely shut down in March after a series of border closures.

Many migrants have turned to smugglers to help them cross borders illegally.

Austrian police found 71 dead migrants locked into a lorry in August 2015, and many officials fear another similar disaster. (Reporting by Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Andrew Bolton)

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

First Published On : Dec 18, 2016 19:24 IST

India can avoid tag of being accident capital of the world: Supreme Court

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The year 2014 alone witnessed 2.37 lakh road accidents on national and state highways across the country which had left at least 85,462 people dead and 2.59 lakh injured.These were the sensational findings in official statistics placed before the Supreme Court, which noted that as per 2009 data, India had reported the highest number of road accident fatalities in the world which clearly indicated that a road accident occurred every four minutes.India can avoid the tag of being the “accident capital of the world”, was how the apex court reacted on scanning the figures of vehicular deaths over the past several years while stressing on the need for “proper enforcement” of law preventing drunken driving.
ALSO READ Accident deaths: Tamil Nadu roads get dubious reputeThe apex court said proper enforcement of law was needed for a nation like India, which is on the cusp of economic development, to protect precious human lives from road mishaps specially due to drunken driving.The remarks were made by the top court in its December 15 judgement by which it ordered a ban on all liquor shops on national and state highways across the country while making it clear that licenses of the existing shops will not be renewed after March 31 next year.
ALSO READ India loses Rs 4 lakh crore annually due to road accidents: UN study”Human life is precious. As the road network expands in India, road infrastructure being an integral part of economic development, accidents profoundly impact on the life of common citizen. For a nation on the cusp of economic development, India can well avoid the tag of being the accident capital of the world,” a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur said.The bench, also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao, took note of the statistics placed before it by the government agencies, according to which total number of persons killed in road accidents on the national highways was 48,768 in 2012 which shot up to 51,204 in 2015.
ALSO READ Health Ministry to review emergency road accident careIn 2014, there were 1.24 lakh accident cases resulting in 46,110 deaths and 1.35 lakh persons injured in mishaps on the national highways while on state highways, the figure was 1.13 lakh accidents in which 1.24 lakh people were injured and 39,352 had been killed.”The expressways witnessed 4,208 accident cases, 4,229 injured and 1,802 deaths. Figures are also available of the distribution of road accidents by causes during 2014. 1.38 lakh persons were injured in road accidents involving dangerous or careless driving and 42,127 deaths occurred.”Injuries caused in accidents due to over-speeding stood at 1.81 lakh while there were 48,654 deaths. 7,307 accident cases involving driving under the influence of drugs/alcohol were registered resulting in 7,398 injuries and 2,591 deaths,” the bench noted in its order.The apex court further said that on December 1, 2011, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, in an advisory issued to Chief Secretaries of all the States and Union Territories, had noted that India had reported the highest number of road accident fatalities in the world and data of 2009 indicated that a road accident occurred every four minutes.It said that in the advisory, it was said that drunken driving was a “leading cause” of road accidents as 27,152 road accidents was caused under the influence of alcohol in 2009.The bench said that in another advisory of March 18, 2013, the ministry had stated that in 2011, 1.42 lakh people were killed in 4.9 lakhs road accidents and 24,655 accidents were caused due to drunken driving resulting in 10,553 deaths and injuries to 21,148 persons.Referring to another advisory of May 2014, the apex court said that in 2012, 1.38 lakh people were killed in 4.9 lakh road accidents out of which 23,979 accidents were caused due to drunken driving resulting in 7835 deaths and injuries to 23,403 persons.The bench observed that availability of liquor along the highways is an “opportunity to consume” and there are alarming statistics on the occurrence of road accidents which have claimed human lives and caused debility and injury.”The figures which are available on the record indicate that the occurrence of a large number of road accidents is neither a phenomenon confined to national highways nor is prevalence of road accidents, including fatalities, confined only to the national highways.”Both the national highways and state highways share a common experience of an unacceptably high number of road accidents, the prevalence injuries and fatalities; drunken driving being one of the major causes,” it said.The bench observed that highways and expressways provides seamless connectivity and unheralded opportunities for growth of trade and industry and for the movement of goods, persons and capital and are the backbone of the freedom of trade and commerce guaranteed by Article 301 of the Constitution.”Our highways are dotted with sign boards warning of the dangers of combining speed and alcohol. Together, they constitute a heady cocktail. The availability of liquor along the highways is an opportunity to consume.”Easy access to liquor shops allows for drivers of vehicles to partake in alcohol, in callous disregard to their own safety and the safety of others,” the apex court said.The bench also said it was conscious that policy to discontinue liquor vends on national highways may not eliminate drunken driving completely.”The law on preventing drunken driving also requires proper enforcement,” it said, adding, “The existence of liquor vends; advertisements and sign boards drawing attention to the availability of liquor coupled with the arduous drives particularly in heavy vehicles makes it abundantly necessary to enforce the policy of the Union government to safeguard human life”.The apex court passed a slew of directions, including that all states and union territories shall forthwith cease and desist from granting licences for the sale of liquor along national and state highways and all signages indicating availability of liquor shall be prohibited on the highways.It said that no liquor shop shall be visible and directly accessible from the highways and it should be situated within a distance of 500 metres of the outer edge of the national or state highway or of the service lane.”All States and Union territories are mandated to strictly enforce the above directions. The Chief Secretaries and Directors General of Police shall within one month chalk out a plan for enforcement in consultation with the state revenue and home departments,” it said.

Tax tribunal rejects Virbhadra Singh’s appeal; HP CM alleges political vendetta

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> In a setback to Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) has dismissed the appeal filed by him against the order of the Income Tax department, which had sought fresh assessment of his tax returns related to the financial year of 2009-10 to 2011-12.The veteran Congress leader termed the development as “politically motivated” and said that he would contest the orders and file an appeal in the High Court or in the Supreme court, if the need arose. “The Income tax Tribunal had been set up by Union Finance minister Arun Jaitley and in spite of four judges in the tribunal, two special judges were sent from Delhi to hear my case, thus the matter is politically motivated,” Singh alleged.The order was passed by the Chandigarh bench of ITAT chaired by Judicial Member I C Sudhir and Accountant Member R S Syal on December 8. “We fail to comprehend as to how the assessment order accepting the genuineness of carrying out the agricultural operations and earning a huge income in such circumstances can be considered as an order made after proper inquiry, as has been canvassed by the assessee.”It is a case of a patent non-application of mind by the assessing officer (AO) to the facts, which were loudly calling for in-depth investigation. In our considered opinion, the Commissioner of Income Tax (CIT) was fully justified in setting aside the assessment order and directing the AO to frame a fresh assessment,” said the order. “We have elaborately dealt with such issues in our order of Virbhadra Singh (HUF), which mutatis mutandis apply to the assessee also. In the result, all the appeals are dismissed,” it said.The Himachal Chief Minister and his LIC agent Anand Chauhan had filed appeal against the order of the Income Tax department for reopening his tax returns. As per the brief facts of the case, the assessee had filed original return of income on July 29, 2010 declaring total income of Rs 44,67,584 plus agricultural income of Rs 15 lakhs. The assessee filed revised return on March 2, 2012 declaring total income of Rs 44,67,584 plus agricultural income of Rs 2,80,92,500. Assessment in this case was completed on March 28, 2013.The CIT, on perusal of records, observed that the assessment was completed in a routine and casual manner without making any effective inquiry. After entertaining objections and replies from the assessee, the CIT came to hold that the assessing officer passed an erroneous order prejudicial to the interests of the revenue, inter alia, on the ground that the revision of return was wrongly accepted, accounting principles were wrongly considered and accepted in as much as the agricultural income was not declared on the basis of mercantile system of accounting.The income tax department had contended that assessee had invested Rs 3,84,92,500 in LIC policies, whereas additional income declared in the revised return was only Rs 2,65,92,500. So, AO had further failed to enquire from the assessee about the source of Rs 1.19 crores invested in LIC policies over and above the additional income declared in the revised return, the department had said. The CIT had then directed the assessing officer to frame a fresh assessment in accordance with the law and after making due inquiries.

PM Garib Kalyan Yojana providing chance to turn black money into white begins today

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>President Pranab Mukherjee’s assent to the Taxation Laws (Second Amendment) Bill 2016, the Act which has provisions to levy total tax, penalty and surcharge of 50% on the amount deposited post demonetization, comes into force on Saturday.Under the scheme, the money collected from taxes and penalty on undisclosed incomes can be deposited in the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojna (PMGKY) account from December 17 to March 31.The declarations will be kept confidential and people can also give information about black money on this email ID. The money generated from disclosure of unaccounted cash under the Act – which has higher taxes and stiffer penalty of up to 85% in respect of those found to be involved in conversion of black money into white – will be used for welfare scheme, said Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia here yesterday.Announcing the scheme here at a press conference, Adhia said unaccounted cash can be disclosed under PMGKY that comes with 50% tax and penalty and will be there from December 17 to March 31.”We want people to join PM Garib Kalyan Yojana, as they contribute to welfare of the people through this scheme. The declarations under new black money disclosure scheme will be kept confidential. People can give information about conversion of black money into white to the government through email address created to get such info,” said the Revenue Secretary.Stating that the Financial Intelligence Unit is analysing and monitoring deposit information, he said, “The government doesn’t want the inspector-raj to affect people, but the people should understand that all information about their deposits is with the department.” He, however, said mere depositing black money won’t make it white unless tax is paid on it.Meanwhile, Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) Chairman Sushil Chandra said, “We have conducted searches and seizures in about 291 cases, carried out surveys in 295 cases. We have also issued around 3,000 notices on the basis of deposits in bank accounts and have, so far, seized cash of more than Rs 316 crore, of which new currency is above Rs 80 crore, jewellery 76 crore, total seizure Rs. 393 crores.”He said, 2600 crore rupees of undisclosed income has been admitted by the taxpayers post – demonetization.The Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha last month as a Money Bill without discussion. Later, the Bill was sent to the Rajya Sabha, but it could not take up the legislation following the deadlock between the government and the opposition.Since it was a Money Bill, it is deemed to be passed if it is not returned by the Upper House to the Lok Sabha within 14 days.

House disrupted: What will I show to the students visiting Parliament? says Javadekar

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Wh Expressing displeasure over the ongoing Parliament logjam, Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar on Thursday wondered what he will he will show to the students of Kendriya Vidyala during their visit to the House. Javadekar was present at an event to mark the foundation day of the Kendriya Vidyalaya schools.Criticising the opposition for not letting the parliament function, he said, “Where is the Parliament functioning?” even as he expressed concern over the impact it would make on the school children, who visit Parliament to watch the proceedings. “I wonder what should I show to the school children from Kendriya Vidyalayas who will come to watch the proceedings. Should I show them what kind of ‘hungama’ is going on in the Parliament. They come having learnt lessons of discipline but would go back getting learning indiscipline,” Javadekar said.”People choose a government after five years and in a Democracy, people’s mandate is above all. And in this way, if the Parliament does not work, this is undemocratic and an insult to the mandate,” he said.”I think gradually the people’s opinion will create pressure on these people that this won’t do. Everyone has to work and in Parliament you should give your opinion, that is democracy. You should oppose, that too is democracy. But this is no way to not let function an elected government. And my pain is what should I show to the KV students,” Javadekar added.The HRD minister also anounced of a National Conference in education to be held in March and said those who have come up with new innovations and experiments will be felicitated. There will be discussions so that we share best practices, he said.

Ban sale of liquor on all National, State Highways from 1 April: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered a ban on all liquor shops on national as well as state highways across the country and made it clear that licenses of existing shops will not be renewed after 31 March next year.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur also directed that all signages indicating presence of liquor vends will be prohibited on national and state highways.

The bench also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao said the existing licenses of liquor shops across the highways will not be renewed after 31 March, 2017.

Last week, the apex court had expressed concern over 1.5 lakh fatalities every year in road mishaps, saying it may direct closure of liquor vends on national and state highways across the nation, besides removal of the signages indicating their location.

The apex court, while reserving verdict on 7 December on a batch of pleas seeking a direction to amend excise laws to ensure that no liquor is sold alongside highways, came down heavily on the Punjab government for seeking relaxation and permitting liquor shops near highways if they are “elevated” ones and the vend 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.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Reminding the state government of its constitutional obligation to prohibit liquor sale, the bench had asked the state to do something for general public considering that nearly 1.5 lakh people were dying every year.

The bench had also expressed unhappiness over alleged inaction by various states in removing liquor shops alongside roads which give rise to drunken driving and consequential fatalities.

It had said that revenue generation cannot be a “valid reason” for a state or a Union territory to give licence for liquor shops on highways and the authorities should adopt a positive attitude to remove the menace.

The bench had also rapped the Centre for not doing anything concrete for the last 10 years forcing the court to “step in”.

Earlier, the court had sought a response from the Centre, states and Union territories on the pleas seeking a direction to amend excise laws to ensure that no liquor is sold alongside highways.

Several pleas have been filed on the issue including the one which referred to the 2015 report of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and said almost five lakh accidents occurred last year in India, killing 1,46,000 people and leaving thrice the number injured.

It was alleged that despite recommendation of a committee to ban of sale of alcohol on state and national highways, states like Andhra Pradesh and Telangana were sticking to their prevailing excise policies under which licences were being issued to liquor shops along the highways.

“An analysis of road accident data 2015 reveals that around 1,374 accidents and 400 deaths take place every day on Indian roads, resulting in 57 accidents and loss of 17 lives on an average every hour.

“India being a signatory to the Brasilia Declaration, it is imperative that policy guidelines are framed to control road accidents. Also, the excise policies of Indian states and Union territories should be amended to conform to the spirit of Article 47 r/w Article 21 of the Constitution of India,” one of the pleas had said.

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 13:00 IST

SC refuses to quash parliamentary resolution against Markandey Katju over his remarks on Gandhi, Bose

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed the plea of former apex court judge Justice Markandey Katju seeking quashing of a resolution passed by Parliament condemning his remarks made in a blog on Mahatma Gandhi and Subhash Chandra Bose.

A bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur said the plea is being dismissed on merit.

The bench also comprising Justices PC Ghose and UU Lalit rejected preliminary objections that the plea was not maintainable.

Justice Lalit, who pronounced the judgement on behalf of the bench, said, “We have held that the plea is maintainable. We have dismissed the plea on merit”.

Justice Katju had on 29 June last year moved the apex court seeking quashing of resolutions passed against him by both Houses of Parliament for calling Mahatama Gandhi and Subhash C Bose as British and Japanese “agents” respectively.

File photo of Markandey Katju. PTI

File photo of Markandey Katju. PTI

The former judge, in his Facebook post, had said both Houses of Parliament condemned him for his statements “calling Gandhi a British agent, and Subhas Chandra Bose a Japanese agent” without even giving him a hearing.

A former chairperson of Press Council of India, Justice Katju had sought quashing of resolutions passed against him by Lok Sabha on 12 March and Rajya Sabha on 11 March.

He had also sought a direction to Lok Sabha Speaker and Chairman of Rajya Sabha that he be heard personally or through his duly designated lawyer(s).

His plea had alleged that both Houses of Parliament lacked “competence” to condemn him.

“Because, Parliament lacks the competence and authority to pass the impugned resolutions condemning the act of the petitioner, who is a private person.”

“They (LS and RS) are not competent to take cognizance of expressions of free speech of a private person like petitioner as power under Rule 171 of Lok Sabha Rules provides that the resolution must relate to act of Government. Thus Impugned Resolution does not fulfill the jurisdictional requirement and necessary jurisdictional facts are lacking,” it said.

The plea also referred to the reasons behind the alleged posts against Gandhi and Bose.

“That, the post in respect of Gandhiji in short made the point that by constantly using religious symbolism in politics for several decades, Gandhiji, in effect furthered the British Policy of Divide and Rule by alienating the Muslim population of the Indian sub-continent away from the national movement.”

“That, the post in respect of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, in short made the point that through his actions knowingly or unknowingly, he ended up perpetuating Japanese imperial interest in the Indian sub-continent,” the plea stated.

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 12:53 IST

Supreme court orders ban on liquor shops on State & National Highways across country

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Concerned over 1.5 lakh fatalities every year in road mishaps, the Supreme Court on Thursday ordered ban on liquor sales on state and national highways across the country.Supreme court bench headed by Chief Justice of India TS Thakur directed the order on a batch of pleas seeking a direction to amend excise laws to ensure that no liquor is sold alongside highways.However, the court said that the liquor shops can operate till the period they were having their licenses. “All existing licences of liquor shops on highways will not be renewed after March 31, 2017,” the court said.The court also said that all signages indicating presence of liquor shops will be prohibited on national and state highwaysEarlier, the court also rapped the Centre for not doing anything concrete leading it to “step in”. It has been alleged that despite the recommendation of a committee to ban the sale of alcohol on state and national highway, states like Andhra Pradesh and Telangana were sticking to their prevailing excise policies under which licences were being issued to liquor shops along the highways.”An analysis of road accident data 2015 reveals that around 1,374 accidents and 400 deaths take place every day on Indian roads, resulting in 57 accidents and loss of 17 lives on an average every hour.”India being a signatory to the Brasilia Declaration, it is imperative that policy guidelines are framed to control road accidents. Also, the excise policies of Indian states and Union territories should be amended to conform to the spirit of Article 47 r/w Article 21 of the Constitution of India,” one of the pleas had said.

Bombay High Court dismisses Chhagan Bhujbal’s bail plea

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Bombay High Court on Tuesday dismissed former Maharashtra minister Chhagan Bhujbal’s petition seeking bail and challenging his arrest under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.”We are dismissing the petition. A detailed order will be given later,” said a division bench of justices Ranjit More and Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi.Bhujbal, who is in judicial custody on charges of money laundering since March this year, had sought bail from the Bombay High Court on medical grounds saying his arrest by Enforcement Directorate (ED) was not as per the procedures established by law.The NCP leader had filed a Habeas Corpus petition seeking bail, saying his “arrest” was illegal.On December 5, Bhujbal’s lawyer Vikram Chaudhary had argued that his client should be enlarged on bail since he was not well and undergoing treatment in a hospital here.
ALSO READ Chhagan Bhujbal refuses angiography testThe lawyer had said that the lower court rejected Bhujbal’s bail on medical grounds twice. He, however, has not sought regular bail from the trial court.Chaudhary had argued that ED had not provided the grounds of arrest to Bhujbal, in keeping with the provisions of section 19 of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
ALSO READ MPs, MLAs visited Chhagan Bhujbal in hospital: EDHence, his arrest was illegal and he should be granted bail, the lawyer had said.Bhujbal was arrested on March 14 this year by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with the Maharashtra Sadan scam and Kalina land case in which he and his relatives were alleged to have received kickbacks.
ALSO READ Money laundering case: ED attaches Rs 90 crore assets against Chhagan BhujbalAfter his arrest, he had approached the high court challenging the constitutional validity of sections 19 and 45 of the PMLA.Section 19 of PMLA empowers the ED to arrest an accused based on evidence gathered by the agency against the individual, while section 45 deals with bail of the accused.However, Bhujbal withdrew his petition and filed a fresh plea in the form of a Habeas Corpus petition challenging his arrest and seeking bail.Habeas Corpus is a recourse in law whereby a person can report an unlawful detention or arrest.Earlier, on November 22, the ED had opposed Bhujbal’s bail saying he had filed the Habeas Corpus petition too late, since he was in custody for nearly eight months.Why did he not file such a plea earlier? Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, appearing for ED, had then argued.

Shift to cashless after demonetisation: RBI not for cut in debit card charge

The RBI is not in favour of cutting debit card charges aggressively, a proposal the government has made to the regulator, as it thinks such a move will impact the banks’ businesses negatively, according to a report in The Economic Times.

The proposal to reduce the charges was made by the government in various meetings and video conferences it held with the RBI officials and bankers.

ReutersReuters

Reuters

The move is aimed at smooth transition into cashless economy after the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes.

The government has already waived the charges until 31 December this year. The government now wants to either cut the charges more aggressively until 31 March 2017 or just do away with them completely.

According to R Gandhi, one of the deputy governors at the RBI, the move is likely to render business unsustainable for the banks.

The charges mentioned here is the merchant discount rate , which the central bank had capped at 0.75 percent for transaction values up to Rs 2,000 and at 1 percent for transaction values above Rs 2000. MDR is the merchant fees for debit card transactions.

Card payments are indeed a complex process for banks. A simple grahic below (source RBI concept paper) explains how the transaction flow in a four-part model card networks.

transaction-flowtransaction-flow

“When a customer makes a transaction using cards at a merchant establishment, banks are the ones which incur a cost to process the transaction. MDR helps them compensate for this. That is the reason why the banks are not very happy about extending the MDR waiver,” explains Kalpesh Mehta, partner, Deloitte India.

An earlier report in The Economic Times had said that bankers see Rs 1000 crore loss if the government forces them to waive off the charges or extend the present waiver beyond 30 December.

“The government is in a hurry. Banks are requesting the government not to sacrifice commercial considerations,” a payments industry official has been quoted as saying in the ET report.

It seems the banks will have to make a few sacrifices as India transitions to the cashless mode.

First Published On : Dec 12, 2016 14:26 IST

FCRA: Are political parties unique organisations, and thus above the law?

The past year-and-a-half or so has seen several instances of very prompt action having been taken against some civil society organisations (CSOs) based on suspicions and allegations of violations of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA). On the other hand, now we have a situation where a high court has held two organisations — which for all practical purposes, can be considered to be CSOs because these are neither government nor corporate business organisations — actually guilty of having violated the FCRA as far back as 28 March, 2014, and actually “directed” the Union of India to “take action as contemplated by law… within a period of six months”.

But, all the Ministry of Home Affairs — the administering authority for implementing FCRA and which took very prompt and stern action against other CSOs — did, as far as is known as a result of an RTI application, was (a) to write a letter to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs asking for “names of companies falling under the category of ‘foreign source’, who have donated to political parties, namely, Indian National Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party, during the years 2006-7, 2007-8, 2008-09 and 2009-10 and 2010-11,” and (b) forward the response of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs to the Election Commission of India.

If it sounds strange and mysterious, read on.

Having discovered that the BJP and the Congress had accepted donations from an electoral trust which, on removing the ‘corporate veil’ twice, was found to be actually controlled by a company registered in a foreign country, a CSO and a retired secretary to the Government of India, filed a public interest litigation in the Delhi High Court requesting that action under FCRA be taken against these two political parties since political parties are expressly banned from accepting donations from foreign sources by the FCRA. It was in response to this petition that the Delhi High Court pronounced its judgment on March 28, 2016, mentioned in the opening paragraph above.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Not having taken action commensurate with the offence, and after the two political parties had filed appeals in the Supreme Court, against the high court’s decision, the government of the day attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, to amend the FCRA to get the two parties off the hook. This has been described in this column earlier.

It was during the hearings of those appeals in the Supreme Court on 22 and 29 November that the lawyers appearing for the BJP and the Congress to withdraw their appeals against the High Court order. It was widely reported in the media that the senior counsel appearing for the BJP and the Congress said that their clients had obtained clarifications from the government in the light of the amendment made in 2010 to the FCRA. The parties did not intend to pursue their appeals in view of the government’s assurance, …It was further reported that “Under the 2010 amendment, the government had relaxed the norms for political parties for receiving donations from foreign companies wanting to discharge their corporate social responsibility.”

Let us look at the “amendments made in 2010 to the FCRA”.

The FCRA was first enacted in 1976. It came to be known as FCRA 1976. In 2010, it was replaced by a new Act the preamble to which said “An Act to consolidate the law to regulate the acceptance and utilisation of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality by certain individuals or associations or companies and to prohibit acceptance and utilisation of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality for any activities detrimental to the national interest and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.” The Act passed in 2010 came to known as FCRA 2010.

The “amendments made in 2010 to the FCRA” referred to by the “senior counsel appearing for the BJP and the Congress” seems to be a misunderstanding or loose description. An exact rendition would most likely be amendments made “to the FCR Act of 2010 in 2016. There are two reasons for saying so. It is better to present them in the reverse chronological order.

The FCRA 2010 was amended as part of the Finance Bill 2016, surreptitiously, according to some commentators, and this amendment reads as follows:

“In the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act 2010, in section 2, in sub section(1), in clause (j), in sub-clause(vi), the following proviso shall be inserted with effect from 26 September, 2010, namely:

‘Provided that where the nominal value of share capital is within the limits specified for foreign investments under the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999, or the rules and regulations made thereunder, then, notwithstanding the nominal value of the share capital of a company being more than one half of such value at the time of making the contribution, such company shall not be deemed a foreign source’.”

The second reason explains why amendment of FCRA 2010 was considered so critical that it was made part of the Finance Bill 2016. A key paragraph of the Delhi High Court judgment of March 2014 says, “The interpretation of the term “foreign source” as defined under Section 2(1)(e) of the Act lies at the heart of the present controversy and begs for judicial consideration” (italics added).

It needs to be pointed out that Section 2(1)(e) of the 1976 Act became Section 2(1)(j) of the 2010 Act when the FCRA was revised in 2010, and that both these sections are identical. The reason for amending only one clause of this section is that it is this particular clause that qualifies Vedanta, Sterlite, and Sesa as “foreign sources” according to the Delhi High Court judgment.

It is important to note that what the “amendment” done in 2016 to the 2010 Act changes is “section 2, in sub section(1), in clause (j), in sub-clause(vi)” of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act 2010. This is important because of what the very second paragraph of the Delhi High Court judgment of 28 March, 2014, which was challenged by the two parties, says. This is reproduced below:

“Since the writ petition drew attention to donations made to politicalparties for the period up to the year 2009, we record at the outset that ourconcern is not with the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 which has come into force on September 26, 2010. Our discussion of the legalposition would be with respect to the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act,1976.”

The sagacity of the Delhi High Court judges has to be admired that they clarified this issue right in the beginning of the judgment, in 2014 itself when further amendment of the FCRA 2010 possibly could not have been predicted.

It should not be necessary to point this out to anyone that since FCRA 2010 did not exist in 2009 when the donations in question were made and accepted, the law in existence at the time of performance of the illegal action would apply and that was, and remains, FCRA 1976. Would it not be outrageous if an offence committed in 1980, for example, were to be tried under a law which came into force only in 2012? It is unbelievable that the senior lawyers representing the two parties had not read or were not conscious of the implications of the second paragraph of the Delhi High Court order that they were challenging. Why they chose to argue this way remains a mystery but it seems plausible that this may well have been the reason for withdrawal of the appeals.

It should not be hard to imagine what would have been the response of the home ministry if a CSO had been held guilty of having violated the FCRA. This is what shows that political parties, although neither government nor business organisations, are not being treated at par with other, mortal, CSOs, since no action is taken against them even after a high court has found them unambiguously guilty of having committed an offence against the law of the land.

Now that the high court judgment has, in a way, been reaffirmed, all eyes are on the home ministry to see what action does it take and when. A former secretary to the Government of India has already written to the home ministry to de-register the two parties.

Whether political parties are actually covered by the law of the land, like other CSOs, should be known soon.

First Published On : Dec 12, 2016 08:11 IST

Vijay Mallya’s Twitter & e-mail accounts hacked, personal details leaked

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Vijay Mallya’s Twitter account was hacked on Friday morning by a group that identified itself as the ‘Legion’. Mallya’s Twitter and e-mail accounts were reportedly hacked and some of his personal and financial details, including passwords, addresses and phone number, were posted online.The hackers have threatened to expose more financial details of Mallya in coming days. Hours before the tweets posted by the hackers, Mallya has written:Mallya, whose defunct Kingfisher Airlines owes more than Rs 9,000 crore to various banks, had left India on March 2.On December 2, a special anti-money laundering court confirmed an attachment of assets order worth Rs 1,411 crore issued by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) against United Breweries Holdings Ltd (UBHL) and others in connection with its money laundering probe against the liquor baron and others. This is one of the largest attachment of assets made by ED in a PMLA case till now.The agency had registered a money laundering case against him and others based on an FIR registered last year by the CBI.

Pak says statement attributed to Sartaz Aziz on Kulbhushan Yadav ‘absolutely incorrect’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Pakistan Foreign Ministry on Wednesday said that the statement attributed to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on alleged Indian spy Kulbhushan Yadav is ‘absolutely incorrect’.This comes after reports in the Pakistani media quoted Aziz saying that Islamabad does not have enough or conclusive evidence against Yadav. “In response to a media query regarding the Adviser to the Prime Minister”s statement in the full Senate Chamber pertaining to Kulbhushan Yadav, the arrested Indian Intelligence agency RAW”s operative, the Spokesperson said that the statement attributed to the Adviser is absolutely incorrect,” said the statement. It added that Aziz had instead said that the investigations regarding the network of Yadav are ongoing and the dossier shall be completed upon conclusion.”There is irrefutable proof against Kulbhushan Yadav, who had also made a public confession in March this year,” it said adding that, “The Adviser also condemned the continued Indian interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan and urged the international community to take immediate notice.” Yadav was arrested by the Pakistan authorities during a raid in Balochistan in March this year.According to the Pakistan Government, Yadav has admitted that he had been directing various activities in Karachi and Balochistan at the behest of RAW since 2013. He also confessed of playing a role in deteriorating law and order situation in Karachi. The Indian government, on the other hand, has issued at least five to six note verbales to the Pakistan foreign ministry to get consular access to Yadav, but Islamabad has till now showed no signs of allowing it.Pakistan has claimed that Yadav is a commander-rank officer with the Indian Navy, while India maintains that he retired from the Navy in 2002 and has had nothing to do with the Indian government when he was arrested from Balochistan. India has denied that Yadav is a spy and maintains that he is a businessman.

Tata Steel makes commitment to secure Port Talbot future

A commitment to secure jobs and production at Port Talbot and other steelworks across the UK is announced by Tata Steel.

Nirbhaya case: No evidence to show conspiracy among accused, Amicus Curiae to SC

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The hearing in the infamous December 16 gangrape-cum-murder case in Supreme Court on Saturday saw a lawyer contending that the conviction of the accused was based on a wrong assumptions as the police had failed to show that there was a “conspiratorial relationship” among each one of them.A three-judge bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra heard the matter on Saturday, even though it was a holiday, and recorded the submission of Amicus Curiae and senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, who was appointed to assist the apex court in the case. “Thus, what is to be considered in this case by this court is to ascertain the ‘foreseeability’ with regard to the offence of murder by all the accused in the course of their alleged plan of merry-making. “The prosecution story lacks in evidence to show that the petitioners/accused were in conspiratorial relationship with each member, which would have made them to reasonably foresee the plan of merry-making turning into an offense of murder,” Hegde submitted.A 23-year-old paramedic, named by the media as Nirbhaya, was brutally assaulted and gangraped by six persons in a moving bus in South Delhi and thrown out of the vehicle with her male friend on the night of December 16, 2012. She had died in a Singapore hospital on December 29. Hegde said there must be a meeting of minds resulting in the ultimate decision taken by conspirators regarding the commission of offence and the prosecution has to show that the circumstances give rise to a conclusive or irresistible inference of an agreement between two or more persons.”A few bits here and a few bits there on which the prosecution relies, cannot be held to be adequate for connecting the accused with the commission of the crime of criminal conspiracy,” he argued.The senior lawyer further said the Delhi High Court did not go into the question of whether the prosecution has discharged its burden to prove the existence of a criminal conspiracy at all. The apex court had appointed senior advocates Hegde and Raju Ramachandran as amicus curiae to assist the court in the matter.While Ramachandran would assist the court in the appeals of convicts Mukesh and Pawan, Hegde would assist in appeals of other two convicts, Vinay Sharma and Akshay Kumar Singh. Hegde said the trial court was correct in holding that the accused had a common object of “merry making” which in the course led to the rape of the girl but no evidence suggested that there was a common object to murder the victims.The senior advocate said the only evidence with regard to murder is that the victim’s friend had stated in his testimony that he had heard one of the accused saying “mar gayee, mar gayee (she is dead, she is dead)”. “This can be read only as an ex-facto statement of fact that the girl has died. It cannot be read as exhortation to kill the girl,” he said, adding that another evidence was that the accused tried to crush the victim and her friend under the wheels of bus.”It is the prosecution’s own case that the accused had first taken the victims to the back door of the bus. It was only when they were unable to open the backdoor that they threw the victims out of the front door. “The same establishes the absence of a conspiracy to murder the victims by crushing them under the bus. If the same were the case, the victims would have been taken to the front gate in the first instant,” Hegde said.The senior advocate said the death of the victim has been attributed to internal injuries caused due to the insertion of the rod and the lack of evidence with respect to the common object to cause death of any of the victims or the prosecutrix, weakens the prosecution’s case on conspiracy. He said the ability of the police to arrest accused Vinay and Pawan, two days after the incident after being “mere pointed out” by another accused Ram Singh, arrested a day before, “does not inspire confidence”.The hearing remained inconclusive and the bench posted the matter for December 5. On April 4, the court had commenced final arguments on the plea of Mukesh and Pawan. The four convicts in the case had approached the apex court against Delhi High Court’s March 13, 2014 verdict which had observed that their offence fell in the rarest of rare category and upheld the death sentence awarded to them by the trial court.The prime accused, Ram Singh, was found dead in a cell in Tihar Jail in March 2013 and proceedings against him were abated. On August 31, 2013, another accused, a juvenile at the time of the crime, was convicted and sentenced to three years in a reformation home. He was released from observation home in December last year.

Sushma Swaraj assures action in ‘gangrape’ of US national; says guilty won’t be spared

New Delhi: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Saturday said those guilty of an alleged gangrape of an American woman in March this year at a luxury hotel in the national capital won’t be spared and has asked Delhi Police to register a case.

However, a case was yet to be filed even as the woman had, in an email written to Delhi Police, said that she was raped by five men at a Connaught Place five-star hotel during her visit to India.

Taking cognizance of media reports about the alleged rape, Sushma Swaraj in a series of tweets said she spoke to Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung and Indian Ambassador in US Navtej Sarna about the matter.

“I have seen the media reports about gang rape of an American tourist in Delhi in March this year,” she said.

She said she told Jung that “police should register a case and bring the guilty to book.

“I have also asked the Indian Ambassador in the US to contact the victim and assure her that we will not spare the guilty,” Sushma Swaraj added.

Delhi Police had earlier received an e-mail complaint from the woman about the alleged gangrape.

The woman has said she had hired a tourist guide who, she alleged, was one of the rapists.

Police sources told IANS that they were investigating the allegations and have questioned some employees of the hotel. “A case will be registered soon on the basis of the victim’s statement,” a police officer said.

First Published On : Dec 3, 2016 15:46 IST

ICSE, ICS Examination 2017 time table declared

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination has declared the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE) Board Examination, and Indian School Certificate (ISC) Board Examination timetable for 2017.The ICSE Grade 10 examination will begin on February 27, 2017 and end on March 31, 2017.While, the ISC Class 12 board examination will begin on February 6 (with its practical examination) and get over on April 5, 2017.Most of the ICSE schools will begin their prelim examinations from this month to prepare students for the board examination.Last year the 10th class board examination began on February 29, 2016, it went on till March 31, 2016.Candidates can check a proper schedule of the examinaton on the CISCE site. Here’s the ICSE and ISC link for the time table. Best of Luck!

Demonetisation: Why the cash crunch may not end anytime soon

“For us, 33000 ATMs are currently dispensing cash. More will come up as day proceeds. You need to talk to RBI (Sic),” said SBI chairman, Arundhati Bhattacharya on Wednesday, when asked how long the cash-shortage will last in ATMs and how well the banking system is ready to face the week when salaries get credited to employee accounts and people rush to ATMs/ branches to draw money.

A file image of people standing at an ATM queue. ReutersA file image of people standing at an ATM queue. Reuters

A file image of people standing at an ATM queue. Reuters

Presently, SBI has about 49,000 ATMs. If 33,000 ATMs are dispensing money, that means about 67 percent of the ATMs of the country’s largest lender (by assets) are dispensing money. Let’s assume that rest of the banks too have managed to fill in cash in at least 50-60 percent of their teller machines. Things must have improved. But, then you can’t fool your eyes. A good number of the 2 lakh ATMs in the banking system continue to remain cash-starved even after three weeks of demonetisation announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and there are still stories of pain in daily lives.

Even after 21 days, there are still no visible signs of pain easing significantly, especially in rural areas if one goes by reports (read here, here, here and here)

The problem of Rs 500 notes

Both the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the government have been assuring the public that there is enough cash in the banking system and there is no need to panic. Then why do we still see continuing cash shortage on the ground?

The reason is simple. There isn’t enough lower denomination notes (Rs 500 and below) to go around. The government mints have been aggressively printing Rs 2,000 notes, whereas the printing of Rs 500 notes, which is more handy to the common man for daily transactions, is a scarce item. Bhattacharya too attributed to the continuing cash crunch to the shortage of Rs 500 notes.

“The current availability is more of higher denomination notes. People want lower denomination notes, especially Rs 500. It takes time to change printing queues. Initially printing was concentrated on Rs 2,000 so as to provide bulk,” Bhattacharya said.

How long more should it take before banking system gets enough Rs 500 notes? “Talk to RBI,” Bhattacharya replied. The RBI has not provided any details about the printing of Rs 500 notes. A detailed questionnaire sent to the spokesperson of the central bank on the details of cash shortage remained answered till the time of writing this copy.

The 50-day promise

On 13 November, PM Modi had sought 50 days from the public to tide over the hardships post the demonetisation. But, can the PM keep his promise? At this stage, it looks doubtful. Most bankers, economists and financial sector experts said that the cash crunch could last at least until March (three more months beyond what the PM sought) for things to return to normal. A recent report in the Quint, says that the printing of the new Rs 500 note has come to a near-halt at the government’s Nashik and Dewas mints.

The report, which quoted RBI sources, attributes a series of errors on the new Rs 500 notes and the low printing capacity of Nashik and Dewas presses as the reason that promoted the RBI and the government to call off printing of Rs 500 notes. Firstpost hasn’t verified this information independently. But, if indeed this report is true, we are looking at even more delay for the Rs 500 notes coming in sufficient numbers to the rescue of common man. But one need to wait and watch how the scenario unfolds.

“The situation is pretty bad. It shall take 5-6 six months before we reach normalcy,” former RBI deputy governor KC Chakrabarty told Firstpost.

Indeed, the government’s hurry to print the stock of Rs 500 notes and the lack of preparedness while doing so was evident when two versions of Rs 500 notes appeared in the public. There were printing errors on certain features like the shadow of Mahatma Gandhi’s picture, placement of the national emblem, colour shade and border size. This shows noting but lack of preparedness by the central bank as far as Rs 500 notes are concerned.

Salary rush and hoarding

In the coming days, the scenario could turn even tougher for banks given that salaries will get credited to employee accounts and to draw this money, there could be long queues before ATMs and bank branches.

Evidently, there isn’t enough lower denomination notes to go around, which means some of the state governments will find it tough to give salaries. One example is Kerala government, which has already written to the RBI citing the lack of availability of currency to give salaries. The state has sought about Rs 1,200 crore worth notes to give salaries and pensions from the RBI, according to reports in local newspapers.

What will likely add to the pain is the hoarding tendency of people till the time cash withdrawal limits stay. As of now, there is a weekly withdrawal limit of Rs 24,000 at branches and Rs 2,500 daily limits at ATMs. Even Jan Dhan account withdrawals have been capped at Rs 10,000 a month, as a temporary measure. All this would mean that the public who draw cash at ATMs and bank branches would be hesitant to spend it except for basic necessities. When the speed of the circulation of the money is slow, that will add to an artificial cash shortage. That is even the money printed out of mints wouldn’t return to the system fast.

This, in other words means, banks will struggle to fill up their ATMs and permit higher withdrawals. Even now, most banks are seeking the KYC details of their own customers who come to the counter to withdraw money, to ensure the person is the account holder and the need is genuine. But, beyond a point, banker at the counter cannot keep doing this. Until the government presses churn out sufficient number of cash units into the system, the RBI would not be in a position to remove withdrawal restrictions for public. More withdrawal restrictions, such the current one on Jan Dhan accounts, signal danger to the common man and tell him the problem persists and he needs to be cautious with the cash in hand.

For now, the most optimistic assessments show the cash situation to turn normal only by March at the earliest, that is if the four government printing presses work in full capacity in three shifts. Until the time Rs 500 notes are available in plenty, there is an issue. The Rs 2,000 notes repel the average user as there is no change out there. One should hope that the RBI and the government prove these predictions wrong.

First Published On : Nov 30, 2016 13:59 IST

After being stuck for 8 months on a terrace in UAE, Indian gets Rs 10 lakh from philanthropist

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> An Indian philanthropist from Oman has given Rs 10 lakh to a jobless compatriot who has been living on the terrace of a building in the UAE for more than eight months without proper food, media report said today.Sajeev Rajan, an electrician in his early forties, belongs to Kollam in Kerala where his wife, two children and ageing parents live. Indian philanthropist from Kerala Dr K T Mohammed Rabeeh Rabeeullah, chairman and managing director of a healthcare conglomerate, came from Muscat and handed over 5,000 dirham (Rs 93,272) to Rajan for immediate relief. He also promised to transfer Rs 10 lakh to his bank account in India, Khaleej Times quoted Rajan’s friend Biju as saying.He was left with no other option but to live on the terrace of a building in Ajman city because his employer had refused to return his passport after settling his dues, the paper said. His company officials visited the Indian consulate and agreed to return his passport at the earliest. The Indian mission in the UAE and social workers have come forward with moral and material support for the man.”It is a big relief for me because my pocket is empty. I have not received any money for the past eight months and my travel back home seemed impossible,” Rajan said.He spent 236 days on the terrace because he does not have a job or money to get a bed space, the report said. He has been surviving with the generosity of some construction workers and shop owners, it said.”My contract ended on March 11 and I wanted to go home. Working for 900 dirham (Rs 16,761) per month did not meet my expectations,” he said.Ranjan alleged that his employer was not ready to relieve him from work and send him back home after clearing his gratuity and leave salary.On March 21, Ranjan was forced to vacate the company accommodation in Ajman. “The employer from Punjab, India, promises to return my passport in front of officials who mediate for my release, but once he leaves their office, he refuses to hand it over to me,” he was quoted as saying by the paper.After his plight was highlighted by the paper, several people came forward with offers to buy air tickets, give him a job among others, the report added.

More LHB coaches may up overhaul problem at workshops

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The accident of the Indore-Patna Express near Kanpur that killed over 150 passengers on board has brought the focus firmly back on the need to have safer Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB)coaches for Indian trains. However, the truth on the ground is that the LHB coaches can be overhauled only at a select few railway workshops which in turn creates delays due to long waiting lists at these workshops. As of now, these coaches can be overhauled only at Western Railway’s Lower Parel workshop in Mumbai, Liluah Workshop in Howrah, West Bengal and Jagadhri Workshop in Yamunanagar, Haryana. Plans are afoot to build facilities for LHB overhaul at Lalguda Workshop in Secunderabad in Telengana and Dibrugarh workshop in Assam.For example, the LHB coaches of Central Railway can be overhauled as per a railway rule at the Lower Parel workshop of Western Railway. The workshop has a capacity of overhauling 42 LHB coaches per month but there is a waiting list because WR has its own fleet of LHB coaches and also because it has to repair coaches of West Central Railway. Things came to a head two times last year due to a couple of derailments. On May 3, several LHB coaches of the CST-Ernakulam Duronto were damaged after a derailment at Madgaon. On September 12, another derailment, this time of the Mumbai-Secunderabad Duronto, left LHB coaches of the train damaged. In both cases it took over six months before the coaches could get a look-in at WR’s Parel workshop.CR’s request to the railway ministry to allow it to upgrade its own Parel Workshop to overhaul LHB coaches made way back in May is expected to come in only by February next year, said officials. Meanwhile, as preliminary work the Parel workshop has overhauled three coaches in the past two months. However, officials agreed that the crunch will only increase at CR because it plans to increase its LHB coaches from the 220-odd to 450 by the end of March 2017. It is a problem that is haunting most railway zones that have LHB coaches. The railways added 1,248 LHB coaches in the financial year that ended in March 2016. This year the numbers could exceed 1,600 coaches.THE LHB SAGAThe Railways makes about 450 LHB coaches against an annual requirement of 595. To meet the demand and speed up conversion, the Railways is augmenting facilities at its Rail Coach Factory in Kapurthala. It has spent Rs252 crore to make a 300 coaches per year facility at Integral Coach Factory Chennai. The Modern Coach Factory has been commissioned at Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh with a capacity of 1,000 coaches per annum. A new 400 coaches per year factory is on the anvil at Palakkad in Kerala and another 500 coach facility in Kolar Karnataka.

Demonetisation gold pot: Will it all end up as an ‘accounting adjustment’ for RBI?

The demonetization exercise has led to a barrage of conjectures on the sums of money that will be involved and their possible allocation by the end of December. The magic number is around Rs 14 lakh crore, which is the amount that was in Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 in circulation as of March 2016. As these notes have been taken out of the system, the guesswork is as to how this would be dispersed.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

There are three alternatives here. The first is where the money goes into deposits with banks as savings accounts and probably gets converted into time deposits to the extent that there are no corresponding withdrawals. The second is cash is exchanged for new notes which come back into the system directly, while the last is currency that remains with the holders which is not disclosed and would be the ‘perfect black money’ that the government has been targeting.

The RBI’s latest data on this exercise reveals that as of 18 November, Rs 5.44 lakh crore has been tracked with Rs 5.11 lakh crore going into deposits in cash and another Rs 0.33 lakh crore being exchanged under the one-time scheme permitted by the central bank. Another Rs 1 lakh crore has been withdrawn from the deposits put in giving a ratio of about 15 percent.

How will things pan out in the next 40 days or so is anyone’s guess. Some argue that there will be acceleration in such deposits as the time period moves on, while others view that all those trying to channel their money through dubious means have been checkmated and hence the flows will slow down. The government has officially mentioned that it hopes to get in Rs 10 lakh crore of deposits, and assuming that the ratio of currency to deposits of 20 percent holds good, currency held could be in the region of Rs 2 lakh crore, and the balance Rs 2 lakh crore would get impounded.

Now, banks will be the biggest beneficiaries with deposits coming in large quantities leading to surplus liquidity in the system. Two implications from this outcome are that deposit rates will come down which has already been witnessed and the other is that bank lending rates should reduce. As savings deposits rate are fixed, they would necessarily lower the term deposits rates. This will be good for industry as there has been a clamor for lending rates to be lowered. In fact, the Reserve Bank of India can tarry for a while in lowering the repo rate as banks on their own volition would be lowering rates under the pressure of surplus liquidity. But will this help?

One cannot be sure as one large section of borrowers, i.e. small industry is grappling with liquidity issues with business levels coming down by 50-80 percent due to the currency crunch. Production activity as well as services has come down significantly which may not put them in a position to borrow funds at a time when business is uncertain. This will be so for the third quarter for certain and probably also for Q4 to an extent. The shortage of currency in the market has already put pressure on the farm sector and SMEs which operate fully in cash. Services like transport and hospitality have witnessed irrevocable decline in business as any shortfall in this period will not be made up unlike demand for manufactured goods, which can pick up later when conditions normalize.

Further, consumer spending has come down as there is a cash margin that has to be paid when buying on credit. Also in situations where the cash system is not normal, there is a tendency to become cautious when spending. Therefore, these industries would also witness lower demand leading to less funding requirement. In fact, interestingly, the most vibrant form of credit is mortgages which will witness a setback as households will defer purchases of dwellings leading to decline in home loans. Hence, it will be a mixed bag for banks which may have to deploy the funds in the GSec market.

Will the government gain? It is expected that the IT department will scrutinize closely the Rs 5-10 lakh of deposits that come in which would be liable for taxation. To the extent that the holders cannot defend the source of such money, there would be a tax-cum-penalty imposed. Assuming 10 percent comes under this net and is fined say 50 percent, there could be a gain in tax revenue of around Rs 50,000 crore which will supplement well the money procured from the income declaration scheme of around Rs 30,000 crore. While this will be a one-time effect, the broader gain will be in the coming years, where tax compliance improves dramatically and given that the GST is to be introduced in the next year, the efficacy of the latter will get enhanced.

What about the impounded money? Assuming that Rs 2 lakh crore of currency cannot be declared and does not flow into the banking system as deposits for evident fear of being questioned, the notes have to be burnt or destroyed as it would be paper with no value. This would be the final tally of the black money that has been unearthed even while being concealed as the identity of the persons will never be known.

The disappearance of money from the system will be an accounting positive for the RBI where liabilities come down. However, the positive impact on the government would be only to the extent that the government has issued debt on a fractional basis to the RBI for issuance of currency. To the extent this comes dow n, there would be a benefit on the interest payments of the government and hence fiscal balances. Otherwise, it would be more of an accounting adjustment that will not lead to any financial benefits in concrete terms.

Therefore, the next few weeks will witness considerable volatility where spending and borrowing will be under the lens and the sooner the structures are in place to deliver currency and make ATMs operational, the quicker it will be for the recovery to kick in.

(The author is Chief Economist, CARE ratings. Views are personal)

First Published On : Nov 23, 2016 07:39 IST

1 lakh schoolkids will compete to save energy

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In an effort to make students understand the importance of energy conservation, the government launched a mass awareness programme on Tuesday. Under the programme, as many as one lakh students will compete to save the maximum amount of energy at home. The children will be asked to maintain a monthly energy consumption record at home, with the help of electricity bills, till March 2017. Parents and teachers will sign these records each month, following which prizes and certificates will be given to those whose homes consumed the least number of energy units.The children will also be encouraged to share any innovative efforts or ideas they implemented to cut back on power bills.“The project has a dual objective of sustainability and conservation of the planet. Our aim is to save 24 crore units of electricity per year with the help of school children and their families. The competition costs Rs 10 per student and would lead to saving 10-30 units of electricity per student,” said Liz King, MD, Mott MacDonald.Students will be given tips to save energy, including turning off the lights and fans when not in use, using full load in washing machines, and using LED Lights, solar water heaters, ACs with temperature control, solar inverters and solar lamps.In the past as well, the government has undertaken such initiatives to engage children in awareness programmes, such as tree plantation and cleanliness drives.

Judges appointment row: Govt refuses to share draft MoP with Parliament panel for now

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Government has refused to share immediately a copy of the draft memorandum of procedure, a document to guide appointment of judges to higher judiciary, with a Parliamentary committee examining vacancies in the Supreme Court and high courts,saying it is a work in progress. The Committee has been informed that the document will be shared at an “appropriate time”.The department-related Standing Committee on Law and Personnel had asked the Department of Justice to share a copy of the draft MoP it has handed over to the Supreme Court collegium for its approval. The committee is examining the issue of inordinate delay in filling up vacancies in and the HCs. But in its response, the Department of Justice said, “Since the MoP — one dealing with appointment of SC judges and the other with HC — are still under finalisation in consultation with the Chief Justice of India as per the SC order dated December 16, 2015, it is work in progress.”Therefore, it is submitted that the draft MoP will be shared with the Parliamentary Committee at the appropriate time.”The government had handed over a revised MoP to the CJI on August 3 after the SC collegium objected to certain government proposals including the latter’s right to reject a candidate for judgeship and setting up a scrutiny panel to evaluate applications. In the revised draft, the government has reiterated that it should have the power to reject any name recommended by the Collegium on grounds of national security and public interest.In May, the Collegium had unanimously rejected the clause saying it amounted to interference in the functioning of the judiciary.While in the initial March draft, the government had refused to grant authority to the Collegium to send the same name again after it had been rejected, the new one says the government will inform the collegium about the reasons for rejecting its recommendation.As the government and the judiciary try to finalise the MoP, the Supreme Court has observed that justice delivery system is collapsing. The apex court has sent out a stern message to the Centre over non-execution of the collegium decision to transfer and appoint chief justices and judges in high courts, saying the logjam will not be tolerated and the court will intervene to make it accountable.

Central panel recommends cap on surge pricing for Ola, Uber

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Dynamic pricing, commonly dreaded as “surge” pricing in taxis can be allowed for taxi aggregators such as Uber and Ola within a specified range, a central government panel has recommended.Officials from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways said that dynamic pricing is important, but the same can’t be used to exploit people. “The guidelines will recommend allowing dynamic pricing but will put a cap on the maximum fare which can be charged,” a senior official said.The Union cabinet had, in August, decided to bring all app-based taxi services, under the regulatory framework which will allow state governments to fix a fare cap and check arbitrary charging.The panel, headed by highways secretary Sanjay Mitra, has also proposed waiving off the current cap on the number of taxis plying in the city.It also recommends allowing taxi aggregators to operate deluxe taxis, which will have a higher fare, sources said.The recommendations, which are likely to come out next week, will not be binding upon the state governments which may come out with their own set of rules. Karnataka, Delhi, and Maharashtra had framed rules for taxi aggregators.Uber had then taken the governments of Karnataka and Delhi to the high court over the rules, which had directed that the company should not charge surge from customers in Delhi and Bengaluru.The Delhi High Court in August banned surge pricing by taxi aggregators in the national capital region from August 22 and asked them to comply with the price caps notified by the Delhi government.Karnataka had, in March, cracked down on surge pricing by Ola and Uber, the practice of imposing a surcharge on fares when demand is high.A senior official said the ministry will largely support taxis, since they would reduce the number of personal cars on roads, thereby reducing the load on existing infrastructure.The guidelines will also state that the cabs should be compliant with the fuel requirement and measures for the safety and security of women commuting in the taxis.

Ex-Teri chief RK Pachauri allowed to travel abroad again

New Delhi: A Delhi court on Saturday once again granted permission to former Teri chief RK Pachauri, accused in a sexual harassment case, to travel abroad.

Pachauri, currently on bail, was allowed to travel to Dominican Republic from 22 November to 5 December by Metropolitan Magistrate Shivani Chauhan, after he moved an application.

The court allowed the application, filed through Pachauri’s counsel Ashish Dixit, noting that the probe was complete and charge sheet has already been filed in the case.

A file image of ex-Teri chief RK Pachauri. IBNLive

A file image of ex-Teri chief RK Pachauri. IBNLive

“The investigation is complete and charge sheet has already been filed. The accused has been granted permission to travel abroad on several earlier occasions and has complied with the directions given by the court.

“In these circumstances, the accused is permitted to travel as per his itinerary… subject to furnishing a local surety of Rs 2 lakh to the satisfaction of this court,” the court said and directed him to give an undertaking that he shall appear in court in person or through counsel and not dispute his identity at a later stage.

It also asked him to file a copy of his travel tickets and intimate the court after his return or any changes in his travel itinerary.

The court had on 11 July granted regular bail to Pachauri and allowed him to travel abroad after he appeared in pursuance to summons.

Pachauri has been allowed by the court to travel over a dozen times to various countries including USA, UK, China, Japan, France, Kazakhstan, Bolivia, Kuwait, Mexico, Somalia and Saudi Arabia, during pendency of probe and proceedings.

The former Teri chief was summoned as accused by the court after it took cognisance of the charge sheet filed against him for allegedly sexually harassing an ex-colleague.

The court, while taking cognisance of the charge sheet, had said there was sufficient material to proceed against him under sections 354A (sexual harassment), 354B (assault against woman with intent to disrobe), 354D (stalking), 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult modesty of woman) and 341 (wrongful confinement) of the IPC.

The charge sheet, filed by Delhi Police on 1 March last year, had arrayed 23 prosecution witnesses, many of whom are present and former employees of The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri). Pachauri was granted an anticipatory bail in the case on 21 March last year and an FIR lodged against him on 13 February last year.

First Published On : Nov 19, 2016 16:24 IST

10 get capital punishment, 3 life term in Senari massacre

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>More than 17 years after 34 upper-caste Bhumihar men were butchered in an attack on Senari village by Maoists, a Jehanabad court awarded capital punishment to 10 convicts while sentencing three others to life term on Tuesday. The punishment of two absconders has been reserved by the court, a government lawyer said.According to the prosecution, hundreds of outlawed Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) (now CPI-Maoists) members had attacked Senari village under Karpi police station of Arwal district, then Jehanabad, on the evening of March 18, 1999, and held the villagers captive for hours. What followed was the death of at least 34 upper-caste men, who were pulled outside their houses, lined up near a village temple and their throats were slit by the alleged Maoists.An FIR was lodged on the information provided by Chintamani Devi, whose husband and son were among the 34 men killed in the bloodbath. The police filed a chargesheet in this connection in 2002 against 74 persons. However, a number of accused remained absconders or died during the trial.On October 27 this year, the court of Additional District Judge-III Ranjit Kumar Singh convicted 15 people in connection with the massacre while acquitting 23 others for lack of evidence. It led the victim families to question how only 15 men could have slaughtered 34, sources said.The convicts sentenced to death include Dwarka Paswan, Gorai Paswan, Uma Paswan, Kariman Paswan, Gopal Saw, Budhan Yadav, Butai Yadav, Satendra Das, Lallan Pasi and Bachchesh Singh. While pronouncing the quantum of punishment, the court also imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh each on the three convicts – Vinay Paswan, Arvind Yadav and Munneshwar Yadav – who have been awarded life term.The Arwal district administration has stepped up security at the village after the pronouncement of the much-awaited verdict on Tuesday.

BSF constable dismissed from service for remaining absent, Bombay HC doesn’t grant relief

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Bombay High Court has refused to grant relief to a BSF constable who was dismissed from service as he had unauthorisedly remained absent from duty for several days in 2011-2012. “Even one day unauthorised absence of a constable of BSF must be regarded as serious… We are therefore of the opinion that there is no need to intervene in the matter,” a division bench said while dismissing the petition filed by aggrieved constable Deepak Jadhav.”The very nature of duties attached to the petitioner as a security constable requires his presence and attention at the field. If his personal affairs compel him to stay away from duties, definitely the authorities, which have to maintain the discipline, have every reason to take harsh decision,” the bench observed.The constable had availed leave from November 2 to 20, 2011. Thereafter he did not report for duty and only on March 4, 2012, he joined duty after overstaying for 102 days. Later, he remained absent without seeking leave or permission from March 19 onwards. An order was passed on June 26, 2012, dismissing him from service. He then challenged the decision.The impugned order indicated that within a period of 90 days from the date of dismissal, the constable can make an application for reinstatement. However, no such application was made within the specified period. Later, Jadhav made an application and it was decided on merits by the authorities who rejected his plea for reinstatement on the basis of his past record and unauthorised absence from duty.”At this stage, we fail to understand which order the petitioner intends to challenge by amending the writ petition. The latest order is nothing but reaffirming the dismissal order of June 26, 2012. As a matter of fact, we notice from the prayer in the petition that he has already challenged the latest order dated February 6, 2014,” said the bench.

War on black money – Modi govt putting cumbersome burden on nation: Congress

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Congress Party appeared not to be in tune with Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government’s move announcing the scrapping of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes and alleged that the ruling dispensation at the Centre was putting cumbersome burden on the people.Addressing the media here, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala wondered whether the country’s banking sector was ready to tackle such a situation. “Modiji has withdrawn the Rs 1,000 note on one hand and he has introduced a Rs. 2,000 note on the other side. Does it not defeat his own argument? What is the point of cancelling large denomination notes and replacing them with even larger denominations? Those who hoard black money will now be able to stash even more money,” he said.Surjewala stated that the Congress has always supported any step against black money and will continue to do so. Surjewala further said, “What happens to those who are going to buy necessary articles for marriages including jewellery, clothes etc? Are you not putting cumbersome burden on them by putting a limit on how much money can be withdrawn?”The Congress leader also expressed his concern over the problems which the farmers would face post this move. “The farmer is buying fertiliser, seeds and going to market today and needs lot of money for the inputs he has to get. The paddy crop has already been cut, it’s in the market,” he said.Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his address to the nation, explained the move as the government’s attack on black money.These notes can be exchanged for lower denomination notes at post offices and banks from November 10 till the end of March 2017.The Prime Minister also added that all banks will remain closed for public work tomorrow. “Terror strikes at the innocent. Who funds these terrorists? Across the border, our enemy uses fake currency and dodgy funds to sponsor terror – this has been proven repeatedly. The process of cash circulation is directly related to corruption in our country impacting the lower classes of our society. From midnight November 8 today, Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes are no longer legal tender,” Prime Minister Modi said.”You have 50 days (From November 10 to December 30) to deposit notes of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 in any bank or post office. Respite for people for the initial 72 hours. The government hospitals will accept old Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes till November 11 midnight,” he added.Prime Minister Modi said notes of Rs. 2000 and Rs. 500 will be circulated soon.

War on black money: Ramdev lauds ‘honest’ PM

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>After Prime Minister Narendra Modi stunned everyone with his decision to scrap Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes in a bid to control black money and corruption, yoga guru Baba Ramdev applauded the former’s decision and said it is a proud moment for all. “I would like to congratulate Prime Minister Modi for making such a good decision on black money. It is appreciable that India has such an honest and patriotic Prime Minister,” Ramdev said.He further insisted that with this act, corruption would be controlled. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his address to the nation, explained the move as the government’s attack on black money. These notes can be exchanged for lower denomination notes at post offices and banks from November 10 till the end of March 2017.The Prime Minister also added that all banks will remain closed for public work tomorrow. “Terror strikes at the innocent. Who funds these terrorists? Across the border, our enemy uses fake currency and dodgy funds to sponsor terror – this has been proven repeatedly. The process of cash circulation is directly related to corruption in our country impacting the lower classes of our society. From midnight November 8 today, Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes are no longer legal tender,” Prime Minister Modi said.”You have 50 days (From November 10 to December 30) to deposit notes of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 in any bank or post office. Respite for people for the initial 72 hours. The government hospitals will accept old Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes till November 11 midnight,” he added. Prime Minister Modi said notes of Rs. 2000 and Rs. 500 will be circulated soon. The Prime Minister further said ATMs will not work on November 9 and in some places on November 10.

Theresa May says migration curbs won’t damage trade

Theresa May insists the UK can increase international trade while curbing immigration after Brexit.

ITBP, Chinese army in face-off along LAC in Leh’s Demchok

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Indian and Chinese troops are reportedly engaged in a face-off along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Leh’s Demchok area since noon on Wednesday, reported the Hindu.The Chinese army has refused to go back and have come close to the Indian ‘side’ of the LAC, said the officer The report said that some civilian project is going on in the border areas and China has objected to it.“They came on Wednesday afternoon and stayed till the night. They returned and came back this morning again. It’s an eyeball-to-eyeball situation there,” said the official.In March this year, Chinese People Liberation Army (PLA) troops entered almost 6 km deep inside Indian territory near the Pangong lake area. The recent development comes less than a week after PM Modi celebrated Diwali with ITBP personnel at one of the remotest border posts in Uttarakhand.

Maratha community decides to launch their own political front in Maharashtra

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Taking cue from the Hardik Patel-led Patidar reservation movement, the Maratha community that has been protesting through silent marches across Maharashtra have decided to a float political front. The name of this new party will be Sambhaji Brigade, which has until recently been a Maratha-oriented social outfit and were instrumental in handling the Maratha Revolutionary March protests that created a furore in the state and national political circle. The Sambhaji Brigade is the youth organisation of the Maratha Seva Sangh.The Maratha Revolutionary March started by demanding justice for 13-year-old Maratha girl from Kopardi who was brutally raped and murdered.The other long pending demands of the group include – reservations for the community in the employment and education sectors, review of the Prevention of Atrocities Act and the implementation of Dr Swaminathan report to get the fair prices to farmer products.According to Sambhaji Brigade president Manoj Akare, the group has been in the social field for last 25 years. “Social work is helping us bring in reforms but we need political power to fulfil our promises. Although we registered the Sambhaji Brigade as a political party a few days ago an election symbol has not yet been allotted to us. We have adopted the progressive thinkers’ ideology. We will adore and implement the ideology of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Shahu Maharaj, Mahatma Phule, Dr B R Ambedkar,” Akare said.He added that the foremost agenda of theparty is to provide educated for everyone, make villages liquor free and provide fair rates to farmers products. “There are many youth who were nurtured in the Sambhaji Brigade but a lack of opportunity forced most of them to leave and join other political fronts. They are bound and loyal to their affiliated political fronts and as such are unable to address the community’s issues and implement a farmer oriented agenda in their respective parties. We want to uplift the deprived section through our political work. Now, many Maratha youths will get the opportunity to contest the polls and work for the community. We are also planning to contest the upcoming local body elections,” Akare told DNA.Another leader of Sambhaji Brigade said that once they get the success in Maharashtra, they will make alliances at the national level with other community fronts including the Patels and the Jats.This is not the organisation’s first foray into active politics. Some year ago, the Maratha Seva Sangh had started the Shiv Rajya Party. However, before making any political presence, the front vanished in the crowded political market.Akare said that they had studied the old model and decided to overcome any tactical lacuane. “In the past, people working for the Sambhaji Brigade were unready to contest under a different banner. This time we will not face that issue. The Maratha Seva Sangh will work as an ideological front for the Sambhaji Brigade; something along the lines of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-Bharatiya Janata Party for us. We wish to give the strong and credible option to the people. There may be several political outfits but most of them had failed to resolve the issues of the people. Farmers are still committing suicides and the government has issued no acceptable rates for their produce. We have decided to address all these issues,” said Akare.A former Sambhaji Brigade leader, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that it is wrong step to convert a social front into a political one.”No party can survive on the basis of one caste. We need to take other castes and creeds along with if we are to survive,” he said adding that that the parent organisation Maratha Seva Sangh will self-destruct one of the msot successful movements of recent vintage.”It is wrong to find the answer to every question in politics. There are many things we can do socially. Besides, I think it is too early to launch the political front. At this critical juncture, the Sambhaji Brigade will mostly damage the Shiv Sena’s traditional electorate and will help the BJP and other parties make inroads,” he observed.Some commentators say that a new party would play spoilsport on the regional political arena, which is presently crowded with four major parties and one minor player.”What votes would the Sambhaji Brigade get in such a crowded political scenario? Besides, Sambhaji Brigade has no workers’ network,” one observer said.

Chhattisgarh govt to suspend 8 cops indicted for setting houses ablaze in anti-Naxal operation

Raipur: Chhattisgarh government on Wednesday directed to suspend eight police personnel who were indicted by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for setting houses ablaze in Tadmetla area of south Bastar during an anti-Naxal operation in 2011.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

“The DGP has issued directives for taking action of suspension and line attach as per the rules against the then eight special police officers (SPOs — now turned assistant constables) of Dantewada and Sukma districts who have been charge sheeted by CBI in connection with Tadmetla incident,” an official statement said.

A letter in this regard has been issued to the superintendent of police of both, it said.

The statement was released late Wednesday evening.

According to a senior police official, CBI had filed its report in special CBI court in Raipur in the state capital last week in which it has charged SPOs with arson and causing grievous hurt for allegedly setting ablaze 160 houses of villagers during the anti-Naxalite operation in Sukma district (erstwhile Dantewada district) in March, 2011.

In another development, the state government has ordered a probe into the protest staged by assistant constables in Bastar on 24 October during which they burnt the effigies of some social activists and political leaders.

“Taking cognisance of the complaint that some police personnel and government employees burnt the effigies of the people associated with social organisations, an administrative enquiry has been ordered into it,” the release said.

Bastar division commissioner has been assigned to probe this incident.

Assistant constables (auxiliary personnel), many in uniform, had staged protest on the streets in Bastar region, shouting slogans and burning the effigies of activists and political leaders.

During protest they said they were “angry” because they risk their lives every day to fight Naxals, but they had to face “allegations due to the naxal sympathisers”.

UP, Punjab and three other states likely to go to polls in February- March next year

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Uttar Pradesh, which is set to witness game-changer elections, and four other states will go to polls simultaneously, most likely in February-March next, commencing shortly after the presentation of the Union Budget on February one.While it will be a single-day polling in Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur, Uttar Pradesh is likely to have as many as seven phases, sources in the Election Commission said.The BJP, which had swept the Lok Sabha elections more than two years ago, winning 70 of the 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh, is seeking to make a comeback by wresting power after 15 years from the ruling SP. The BSP is expected to give a stiff challenge to both of them. In Punjab, after two successive terms, the ruling SAD-BJP combine is facing a tough battle from Congress on the one hand and a fledgeling AAP on the other. Uttarakhand, where the ruling Congress staged a sensational comeback this year following a legal battle, is fighting anti-incumbency and facing challenge from the BJP.Goa, where the ruling BJP is seeking a fresh term, is pitted against Congress and AAP. In Manipur, the Congress is seeking to retain power. As a matter of abundant precaution, the government approached the Commission for clearing its proposal to present the Union Budget in Lok Sabha on February one and avoid criticism of violating the model code of conduct that will come into force the day elections are announced.Sources said that the Commission had no objection to the budget exercise being carried on because of the fact that it would cover the entire country and was not specific to the poll-bound states.It has also been conveyed to the government that caution should be exercised so that overtly populist measures are not included in the budget aimed at voters in these states. The Commission is working on a schedule for the polls which should be completed by the middle of March so that new assemblies in these states could be constituted well in time before the expiry of their tenure.It is working out the requirements about security forces with the Centre and the states concerned for ensuring that the polls are free and fair.Nearly a lakh of state police and central armed police force personnel may be deployed to ensure that the electoral exercise is smooth and free from violence and malpractices like booth capturing. Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi had recently said, “We are trying to assess the requirement of security forces, climate and exam schedule — all these inputs are being taken into consideration. Only then we will be able to say whether they will be staggered or multi-phase.” While the term of the Uttar Pradesh assembly ends on May 27, 2017, those of Goa, Manipur and Punjab end on March 18.The Uttarakhand Assembly’s term ends on March 27.

National-level Kabaddi player Rohit Kumar arrested after wife’s suicide

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>National-level kabaddi player who also represents a franchise in the Pro-Kabaddi League, was on Friday arrested in connection with the suicide of his wife Lalita, who had accused in-laws of “mental and physical harassment,” reported ANI.Earlier this week, 27-year-old Lalita allegedly committed suicide and her body was found hanging at her home in Delhi’s Nangloi area.She had married Rohit Kumar, who represents Bengaluru Bulls in the Pro-Kabaddi League, on March 16. It was a love marriage and her second marriage. Her father-in-law used to taunt her about getting married for the second time, police had said.In a long video message and a suicide note, Lalita has accused her in-laws and husband of “mental and physical harassment” over several issues, including dowry and her past.She alleged that on October 15, Rohit told her that if she goes away from his life, he would be very happy. He dropped her halfway to her home and left, she alleged.The 26-year-old kabaddi player got into the Naval Forces in 2009 through the sports quota and was posted in Mumbai.

RBI to cut rates in early 2017, aided by tame inflation: Reuters poll | Reuters

RBI to cut rates in early 2017, aided by tame inflation: Reuters poll | Reuters

Updated: Oct 18, 2016 20:59 IST

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By Krishna Eluri
| BENGALURU

BENGALURU The Reserve Bank of India is expected to take advantage of expectations that inflation will remain low in the near-term and cut interest rates again early next year with an aim to boost already-solid growth a little bit more, a Reuters poll found. New RBI Governor Urjit Patel and his six-member Monetary Policy Committee used the same rationale for their surprise 25 basis point (bps) cut to 6.25 percent earlier this month, the lowest since November 2010.Inflation cooled to a 13-month low of 4.31 percent in September and the latest Reuters poll of economists expect it to average 4.8 percent in the January-March quarter of 2017, just under the RBI’s near-term target.”The significant run-up in CPI inflation between April and July was mainly driven by food prices. But thanks to normal rains, it could reverse quickly, taking inflation to well below (the) RBI’s early-2017 target of 5 percent,” wrote Pranjul Bhandari, chief economist for India at HSBC.

Since the start of 2015, the RBI has chopped 175 bps from its key repo rate. But after the next expected cut to 6.0 percent, the central bank is forecast to hold rates steady for the rest of the 12-month survey horizon.A further rate cut would help the Indian government in its efforts to boost economic growth to above 8 percent.

It was last measured at 7.1 percent in the March-June quarter, one of the strongest rates in the world but still not fast enough to create enough new jobs to absorb all the one million people who join the workforce every month.The poll forecast gross domestic product would grow 7.7 percent in the fiscal year to end-March 2017 and 7.8 percent in the following year, slightly more than the International Monetary Fund’s latest projection of 7.6 percent for both years.

HSBC’s Bhandari, who is forecasting 7.3 percent growth for next year, wrote: “…higher urban consumption supported by government wage hikes, sufficient banking sector liquidity and robust FDI inflows are likely to keep growth buoyant.”India’s government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has introduced a raft of new economic policies since coming into power two years ago, most importantly a goods and services tax bill that will replace multiple federal and state levies and transform the economy into a common market. (Polling by Shaloo Shrivastava and Khushboo Mittal; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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

Air India’s maiden operational profit: Why PM Modi shouldn’t pat himself on the back yet

Air India has reported a modest operating profit of Rs 105 crore during the previous financial year ending 2015-16. This is the first time in a decade that the airline has used the word “profit” while reporting annual results and also the first time since the two erstwhile airlines were merged to form the present entity. The operational profit also comes two years ahead of the target as per Air India’s turnaround plan under which it will receive about Rs 30,000 crore in dole from the government.

For all the firsts associated with this operational profit, it is a significant milestone for the ailing national carrier. In fact, Air India’s feat found a mention in Prime Minister Modi’s Independence Day speech this year. But the PM must not be in a hurry to pat himself on the back just yet.

PTIPTI

PTI

First, this is operational profit and the airline returned a significant net loss during the year under review – in fact, with Rs 3,587 crore, this comes to about Rs 10 crore net loss every single day. Secondly, lower fuel prices served as one of the main reasons for this happy state of affairs. If these begin to rise, a modest operational profit will quickly evaporate.

Civil Aviation minister A Gajapathi Raju had earlier informed Lok Sabha in the Budget Session that the airline could turn in an operational profit of Rs 8 crore in the last fiscal. However, this figure has now improved to Rs 105 crore, against an operational loss of Rs 2,636 crore during 2014-15. Earnings before Interest, Depreciation Tax and Amortisation improved to Rs 3,587 crore from Rs 1,436 crore during 14-15.

Air India’s total revenues stood at Rs 20,526 crore against Rs 20,613 crore in 2014-15. The airline carried 18 million passengers during 2015-16, a growth of 6.6 percent. Sources also indicated that the net loss after interest stood at Rs 3,837 crore for FY16 against Rs 5,859 crore in the previous year. And herein lies the crux of all that is wrong with cheering the operational profit that Air India has declared proudly.

Besides, as per this story in the Economic Times, the airline has again missed the target for a modest operational profit for the first quarter of the current fiscal and posted a loss.

Here are five reasons to show why the first full year of operational profit is a significant milestone but the airline is not out of the woods yet:

Fuel saved the blushes: As per the data given in Parliament during the Monsoon Session, Air India saved close to 9 percent or about Rs 720 crore on fuel costs alone in 2015-16. As per results declared last week, the operating cost per ASKM (available seat kilometer) came down from Rs 4.59 in 2014-15 to Rs 3.88 in 2015-16 or by 15.5 percent due to decline in fuel prices. Fuel expenses may have accounted for about 30 percent of the airline’s total expenses during the fiscal.

So, not many cost initiatives, but savings from benign global crude prices saved it the blushes in 2015-16. This means when global crude prices do begin to rise, Air India’s operating profit will also get squeezed significantly unless it takes a giant stride in improving other operational parameters. The airline flew at least a million more revenue passengers last fiscal at 18 million versus 16.88 million in 2014-15.

Losses pile up: According to data provided in the Parliament, Air India’s losses stood at Rs 5,490.16 crore, Rs 6,279.6 crore and Rs 5,859.91 crore in 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15, respectively. For FY16, the net loss was close to Rs 4,000 crore. While fuel accounts for the single largest cost head, employee expenses also account for close to 10 percent of total costs.

In other words, 10 paise out of every rupee spent by AI is used to pay employee salaries. This, when the airline has already hived off two subsidiaries – one for ground handling and another for engineering – and also halved the total manpower. Besides this, the airline is also on a hiring spree too, taking in more cabin and cockpit crew.

Debt worries remain: Air India accounts for the largest share of Indian airlines’ total debt pile. The airline was sitting on borrowings of over Rs 51,000 crore till March 31, 2015. MoS Aviation Mahesh Sharma said in Parliament in March that Air India’s total debt burden of Rs 51,367.07 crore includes Rs 22,574.09 crore outstanding on account of aircraft loans.

As per the Turnaround Plan (TAP), the equity infusion by the Government into Air India also includes Rs 18,929 crore for the repayment of the government-guaranteed loans/interests till FY 2020-21. Air India’s interest bill alone for FY16 is estimated to be around Rs 3,700 crore! Since government is the owner of Air India, the airline seems to have a perpetual cushion to fall back on, something no private airline can boast of.

So a modest operating profit is good news but provides little relief on the airline’s actual financials. Now, among the desperate measures Air India is working upon to reduce the debt is an offer of equity to lenders, something it has already asked SBI Caps to explore. The question is, why would any lender want a minority equity in a the government-owned airline in lieu of bringing in funds to retire debt, when the airline continues to bleed?

Privatisation: This government has blown hot and cold over any move to consider offloading the white elephant called Air India. Sources tell us there is stiff opposition from the top management of the airline over any such move. This can only spell disaster for the airline, which has been guzzling public money at an alarming rate. This piece shows why Chairman and MD Ashwani Lohani thinks selling off Air India is a bad idea and instead the airline should be allowed to operate in a “level playing field”.

Last year, the independent directors on the board of the airline had met minister Raju to convince him about the need to privatise Air India. In March this year, the heavy industries ministry had created a flutter by classifying Air India as “sick”, reviving a discussion on whether the government should get Air India off its hands as its financial situation is not improving despite continuous equity support.

At that time, airline officials had said that there has been some talk of initiating the process of privatisation by starting with two businesses which were earlier spun off from the airline – engineering and ground handling. They had said then that Air India Express could also be considered under this scheme.

A proposal to recommend privatisation of Air India has been discussed informally at several board meetings of the airline – a subject usually taken by its independent directors – but no formal resolution has been drafted in this regard. Now that AI is operationally profitable, time is ripe for at least a discussion over privatisation.

Image problem: Air India suffers from an image problem due to service standards, frequent delays and engineering issues. According to DGCA data for August, Air India continued to have top ranking in the complaints’ register among scheduled national airlines with 31,682 passengers affected due to various issues like denied boarding, delays and cancelled flights on the domestic sector.

Though the airline has less than half the share of the domestic market compared to IndiGo, the number of people affected due to flight delays was almost five times that of IndiGo passengers similarly affected. For its operational performance and therefore revenues to improve, these image issues need to be settled.

Denying sex to husband for long period is ground for divorce: Delhi High Court

New Delhi: Denying sex to husband for a long time without any justification amounts to mental cruelty and is a ground for divorce, Delhi High Court has said. The verdict came on a petition by a husband seeking divorce, complaining that his wife had subjected him to mental cruelty by not allowing him to have physical relations for four-and-a-half-years though she was not suffering from any physical disability.

AFPAFP

Delhi High Court. AFP

While allowing the husband’s appeal, the high court granted a decree of divorce to him noting that the wife in a trial court had not specifically denied the allegation. “In view the foregoing discussion, we are of the considered view that the husband has fully established that he was subjected to mental cruelty by the wife by denying sex to him for a long period despite living under the same roof, without any justification and though she was not suffering from any physical disability,” a bench of Justices Pradeep Nandrajog and Pratibha Rani said.

The husband had challenged a trial court order of March dismissing his divorce petition on the ground that the instances of cruelty pleaded and proved by him did not satisfy the standard of cruelty as per the provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. The high court noted in its verdict that the wife had initially appeared before the trial court which subsequently proceeded against her ex-parte as she stopped appearing thereafter, even though she was served with the notice.

The husband had told the high court that their marriage was solemnised on 26 November, 2001 in Haryana and they had two sons aged 10 and 9 years, at the time of filing of the plea in trial court in 2013. The man claimed that he and his family members were subjected to mental cruelty by his wife as she was not doing household work. When her conduct became unbearable, his parents asked them to live in a separate accommodation in another portion of the same house, he said.

He also claimed his wife had not permitted him to have physical relations for last four-and-a-half-year. In her written statement filed before the trial court, the wife had initially contested the divorce plea filed by the husband while denying all allegations. In its judgement, the bench referred to the settled legal position that “denial of sex to a spouse itself amounts to causing mental cruelty”. “The appeal being well founded deserves to be allowed,” it said, adding “we grant a decree of divorce in favour of the husband on the ground of cruelty by dissolving his marriage with the wife that had been solemnised”.

Indian banks’ bad loans mountain grows, risks delaying clean-up, cost spiral

Mumbai – Stressed loans in India’s banking sector crossed $138 billion in June, central bank data reviewed by Reuters shows, an increase of nearly 15 percent in just six months that suggests a state clean-up effort will take longer and cost more than expected.

Fixing the mountain of bad debt weighing down India’s banks is vital for Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s government to revive weak credit and investment growth and put a faltering recovery in Asia’s third largest economy on a firmer footing.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has set a March deadline for banks to fully reveal problem loans on their books. When lenders disclose bad loans, they need to take writedowns that hit their bottom line and eat into equity.

The latest data obtained by Reuters through a right-to-information request showed stressed loans rose to Rs 9.22 lakh crore ($138.5 billion) as at end-June, from Rs 8.06 lakh crore ($121 billion) in December.

AFPAFP

AFP

The end-December $121 billion figure has been cited by the government and bankers as the peak of stressed assets in the banking sector.

Stressed assets include both non-performing loans (NPLs) – defined as those that have not been serviced for 90 or more days – and restructured or rolled over loans, where banks have eased interest rates or the repayment period.

India’s nearly two dozen state banks, which dominate the sector and account for 88 percent of the bad loans, already need $27 billion in new equity capital by March 2019 to meet tougher global banking rules known as “Basel III”.

BALANCE SHEET CLEAN-UP

The surge in stressed loans will mean banks need even more cash to shore up their balance sheets – funds that will have to come from the government as their ability to raise money through stock or bond sales is constrained by low profits and poor valuations.

State-run lenders accounted for about $122 billion of the total stressed loans as of June, while private sector lenders had $14 billion, according to RBI data. Local operations of foreign banks had about $2.3 billion in stressed loans.

Bankers have previously said that, while the number of non-performing NPLs kept rising after an asset quality review ordered by the RBI earlier this year, the overall number of stressed loans was not going up – instead, loans earlier restructured were falling into the NPL category.

The numbers obtained by Reuters, however, show the overall number of stressed assets continuing to rise.

“The impression we have is that the numbers are certainly going to go up,” said Saswata Guha, a director at Fitch Ratings, which estimates Indian banks’ total capital requirement to be as much as $90 billion through March 2019, with state banks accounting for the bulk of it.

Guha estimated NPLs in the current financial year would rise by 35 to 40 percent. For the state banks it would be much higher, he said.

“The pressure of provisioning is going to be very, very significant,” Guha said. “I won’t be surprised if some of the banks continue to report losses in the coming quarters.”

Most analysts reckon the struggling state-run lenders will need far more than the $10 billion the government plans to inject into them over a four-year period to March 2019.

The government has yet to specifically say if it will raise the cash injection, but Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has said the administration was solidly behind the banks.

As focus on cleaning up banks has intensified, credit growth has fallen to two-decade lows, threatening economic expansion and investment.

Economic growth slowed to 7.1 percent in the April-to-June quarter, below the 8 percent level seen as necessary to maintain full employment and challenging Modi’s pledge to create 250 million jobs over the next decade.

MORE PAIN TO COME?

NPLs as part of the stressed loans total jumped to about $101 billion, from $65 billion in December.

Adding to the banks’ woes, the data shows another Rs 1.93 lakh crore ($29 billion) worth of loans as of June that were not yet classified as “stressed” but on which borrowers are more than 60 days behind on interest or principal payments, putting those at high risk of becoming NPLs.

The RBI and the government have announced new schemes to tackle stressed assets, albeit with little success yet.

A debt-for-equity swap scheme unveiled by the RBI has found few takers, although a host of foreign investors have this year announced investments in Indian distressed debt after an easing of regulations by the government.

India’s newly appointed RBI Governor Urjit Patel has said the regulator will deal with the bad loans situation with “with firmness but also with pragmatism”.

Patel’s predecessor Raghuram Rajan, who had ordered the asset quality review and called for a “deep surgery” of the bad loans, had been criticised by some that the excessive focus on clean-up was choking credit growth.

Delhi N-leak: Clamour for safety regulator grows

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A suspected radioactive leak reported on Sunday—in the cargo area of Delhi’s international airport Terminal 3, from a shipment—has once again lent voice to the clamour to adopt legislation to put in place a nuclear safety regulator. A bill in this regard was introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2011, but has since lapsed with its dissolution.Even though an inter-Ministerial group last year gave its nod to introduce the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority (NSRA) Bill in order to set up a Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority to replace the existing Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB); the bill seems to have gone into hibernation. This is despite the government, during the last two parliament sessions, hurriedly adopting amendments to other bills relating to the commercial use of nuclear energy. The proposed legislation will provide a statutory basis to nuclear safety regulation and strengthen nuclear and radiation safety regulations in the country.In 2016 alone, the AERB had raided two medical diagnostic centres in Nashik in Maharashtra and in Jammu, fearing that they were using nuclear material without safeguards. In another incident, in March 2016, Unit-I of KASP nuclear power reactor in Gujarat had to be shut down following a leakage in its coolant system. Currently, India has 21 functional reactors, six under construction and 35 are proposed, including the 12 to be developed with Russia.Former union minister and Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, who had raised the issue of putting the legislation on the backburner, said the communication received by the government as late as last July, suggested to him that a fresh Bill was under examination and being processed.A demand for a robust and autonomous body to oversee security issues related to civil nuclear establishments had emerged in 2011 after the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan. Nuclear analyst at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) Aniruddh Mohan quoted a March 2015 report of the Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS), a peer review service of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), lamenting at the lack of institutional independence of India’s civil nuclear regulator, the AERB. The report urged: “The Government should embed the AERB’s regulatory independence in law, separated from other entities having responsibilities or interests that could unduly influence its decision-making.” The draft report also recommended that India’s AERB should, “Promulgate a national policy and strategy for safety, and a radioactive waste management strategy as a statement of the Government’s intent.”According to the provision of the Bill, as approved by an Inter-Ministerial Group, the NSRA will be answerable directly to the Parliament, through the PMO. The proposed system will also seek to establish a Council of Nuclear Safety (CNS), headed by the prime minister, to oversee and review policies on nuclear safety, say officials, requesting anonymity. Investigators who probed the Fukushima nuclear accident had concluded that the disaster was man-made and the problem was rooted in Japan’s nuclear safety regulatory body.To avoid a similar incident in India, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had tabled the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority Bill in Parliament in to create NSRA. But the Bill was then sent to a standing committee which suggested changes, and with the change in government in 2014, the Bill lapsed.According to a National Progress Report submitted at the Nuclear Security Summit early this year, India is setting up a facility for the production of medical grade Mo-99 by the uranium fission route using LEU targets for use in hospitals, to avoid the recurrence of incidents like the one at the Delhi Airport on Sunday.Government officials here said for the purpose of safety, a network of 23 Emergency Response Centres have been created. Along with this, a dedicated cyber security architecture has been deployed, with sophisticated products and services like Secure Network Access System (SNAS) to add to the safety of nuclear plants and to avoid material falling into the wrong hands.

Marathas plan silent march in Nagpur on 25 October, Kunbis excluded

Nagpur: A “silent march” will be taken out in the city on 25 October 25 as part of state-wide mobilisation by Marathas for their demands like reservation in jobs and education, but the Kunbis, a dominant community in Vidarbha region, have been excluded from the agitation.

With cracks seem to be developing between the two factions of the community, the Sakal Maratha Samaj, which is organising the silent march in the city, has excluded the Kunbis from the protest.

On 25 October, the march will start from Reshimbagh and trek through Cotton Market, Tekdi Road and Sitabuldi to reach Kasturchand Park. From there, it will proceed to the district collector’s office with young girls carrying a memorandum of demands.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

It will be a silent march and follow all norms like being non-political and maintaining cleanliness that the community is adhering to in different cities, the organisers told reporters here last evening.

According to sources, the clubbing and naming the banner as Maratha-Kunbi Samaj March is apparently the point of discord between the two factions.

There is one section of Marathas (essentially the warrior clan) which has nothing to do with the Kunbi community having agriculture as occupation, they said.

The Maratha-Kunbi is a mix typical to Vidarbha region where the two seem to have assimilated.

Over six decades ago, this happened with the initiatives of stalwarts like late Panjabrao Deshmukh, the Agriculture Minister in the then Jawahralal Nehru Cabinet, allowing ‘roti-beti‘ (exchanging food and allowing marriages) relations between the two.

The descendants of the warrior community, tracing back to Chhatrapati Shivaji, want to assert their lineage and maintain separate identity, the sources said.

So far, the Maratha-Kunbi Samaj, that has overwhelming presence of members of Maratha Vidya Prasarak Mandal and Maratha Sewa Samiti, has been dominating the morcha scene.

It had earlier planned the march on 16 October, but later claimed that the state-level coordination committee instructed it to defer it till December when the winter session of the Legislature commences here, to put pressure on the state government, the sources added.

China once again blocks UN ban on Masood Azhar citing ‘different views’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>China on Saturday defended its second technical hold to prevent a UN ban on Pakistan-based JeM chief Masood Azhar saying there were “different views” on India’s application and that Beijing’s move will allow more time for the “relevant parties” to have consultations. Reacting to India’s criticism that its second hold on attempts to ban Azhar sends a dangerous message, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said that the listing application member states submitted to the 1267 Committee of UN “must comply” with specific requirements of relevant resolutions of UN Security Council (UNSC). Though China is the lone member among the 15-member UNSC to oppose the ban on Azhar, Beijing claims that “different views” existed about India’s application against Azhar.”There are still different views on India’s listing application made this March. The technical hold on it will allow more time for the Committee to deliberate on the matter and for relevant parties to have further consultations,” the ministry said in a written reply to PTI to a question seeking its response to India’s strong criticism. The reference to “further consultations” apparently referred to direct consultations between India and Pakistan over the issue.China had put the first technical hold six months ago on India’s application following Azhar’s alleged involvement in the Pathankot terrorist attack. China had extended the second technical hold valid for three months during this week despite several consultations between New Delhi and Beijing at various levels. It is expected to figure again during the expected meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the BRICS summit to be held in Goa from October 15-16.While opposing the ban against Azhar, the Chinese Foreign Ministry however said “China firmly supports combating all forms of terrorism, stronger international cooperation against terrorism, and supports the central and coordinating role of the UN in international counter-terrorism cooperation”. It said, China always maintains that on the listing matter, the 1267 Committee should stick to the principles of objectivity, impartiality and professionalism, base its judgments on solid evidence and decide upon consensus among the members of the Security Council.Without naming China, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said on October 6 that only one country had put the technical hold, blocking the ban by another three months, and criticised the completely “non-transparent and anonymous” manner of designating individuals by the UN Sanctions Committee.India has been highlighting the cross-border terror threat emanating from Pakistan and tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad are on the rise since last month’s Uri attack in Jammu and Kashmir which killed 19 Indian soldiers.

Lt Governor Najeeb Jung refers Delhi Waqf Board matter to CBI

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Lt Governor Najeeb Jung on Friday dissolved the Delhi Waqf Board, which was “superseded” by the Arvind Kejriwal government last year, after two of its members resigned alleging corruption and referred the matter to CBI for a probe, setting the stage for another round of confrontation between the AAP dispensation and the Centre. The LG reconstituted the board, quashing all appointments made by its incumbent Chairman and Okhla MLA Amanatullah Khan.Jung has directed Divisional Commissioner A Anbarasu to set up a committee to review the legality and propriety of all decisions and action taken by the Board after its constitution in March and submit a report within a month.”In view of the deliberate and persistent acts of illegality, violation of rules, allegations of corruption, possibility of malafide etc, the whole matter related to the Delhi Waqf Board is referred to the CBI for investigation,” the LG office said in a statement.Two members of the Board had earlier resigned alleging “corruption” and “irregularities in appointments” during Khan’s tenure. The Okhla MLA had, however, denied the charges.”Revenue Department’s notification dated October 8, 2015 superseding the Delhi Waqf Board and dated March 11, 2015 reconstituting the Delhi Waqf Board and orders of services department dated April 28, 2016 appointing Mehboob Alam as CEO are declared illegal and void ab initio for not having obtained the approval of the competent authority and are revoked immediately,” the statement added.SM Ali, Special Secretary (Environment and Forests), has been given the additional charge of Chief Executive Officer of the Board till further orders. Since the term of the Board, constituted in 2011, was to expire in December 2016 and five out of seven members have already resigned, no purpose is served in reviving the Board and therefore, the body is superseded under Section 99 of the Act till the expiry of its term, it said. It said Secretary (Revenue) as per Section 99(2) of the Waqf Act will exercise all powers and duties of the Board, till it is reconstituted.

Bihar: Rape victim expresses fear over accused MLA’s release, state govt opposes bail

Patna: The minor girl, the victim in the alleged rape case in which suspended RJD MLA Raj Ballabh Yadav was released on bail recently, has expressed concern for her and her family’s safety even as the Bihar government on Wednesday appealed against the bail order in the Supreme Court.

Bihar CM Nitish Kumar. AFP

Bihar CM Nitish Kumar. AFP

The girl has expressed her anxiety in a message to reporters, saying she and her family were “living in fear” after the release of Yadav.

“He (Yadav) is out of jail…I am scared and afraid for my family. What will happen to them? I am already dead after what happened to me. I have nothing more to lose,” said the Nalanda schoolgirl in a WhatsApp message to reporters.

She said she was scared that her family might be “eliminated”, along with her, after the Patna High Court granted bail to Yadav on 30 September.

The girl, who had cleared the matriculation examination earlier this year, was allegedly raped by Yadav, the RJD MLA from Nawada, and has been living in trauma since the sordid event.

She had appeared for the matriculation examination after the state school examination board facilitated her to write the papers at a secluded centre due to fear of humiliation.

She cleared the examination in first division.

Meanwhile, The Nitish Kumar government on Wednesday moved the Supreme Court, challenging the bail granted to Yadav by the Patna High Court.

The apex court is scheduled to hear the matter on 7 October.

Yadav had surrendered before a local court in March in connection with the incident.

Case of ‘honour killing’: SC judgment on Nitish Katara murder reflects on a much deeper issue

On the fateful night of 16 February, 2002, Vikas Yadav, the son of a power politician from Uttar Pradesh, along with his cousin Vishal Yadav and aide Sukhdev Pehalwan abducted and killed 25-year-old Nitish Katara – an MBA graduate and the son of an IAS officer. Katara was punished for his closeness to Vikas’ sister Bharti Yadav, a relationship that Vikas did not approve of.

It was a case of ‘honour killing’.

The ‘honour killing’ took place in the National Capital Region (NCR), an area representative of a new-age India. The perpetrators were two educated men, who could very well have been mistaken as representatives of the new inspirational middle class.

Fourteen years after that fateful night, the Supreme Court on Monday gave its final judgement in the case. The apex court sentenced Vikas and Vishal Yadav to 25 years in imprisonment without remission. The court also handed a 20-year sentence to their aide Pehalwan in the case.

Nitish Katara. AgenciesNitish Katara. Agencies

File image of Nitish Katara. Agencies

In the 93-page judgement, Justices Dipak Misra and C Nagappan made some important observations that leaves one baffled at the way caste and other prejudices continue to dictate social life and individual choices even now. It reads like a social commentary on a disturbing paradox that exists in the extreme: A modern India coexisting with a medieval one.

An India, where a man is brutally killed for loving a woman who does not belong to his caste and where a girl is denied her choice in the name of some mistaken sense of honour. Add to this the irony that the stage for all this is a place where identities forged by achievements have replaced the ascriptive ones, as one may assume.

While sentencing the three accused in the case the court observed, “From the aforesaid findings recorded by the high court it is vivid that crime was committed in a planned and cold blooded manner with the motive that has emanated due to feeling of some kind uncalled for and unwarranted superiority based on caste feeling that has blinded the thought of “choice available” to a sister — a representative of women as a class. The high court in its judgment of conviction has unequivocally held that it is ‘honour killing’ and the said findings apart from being put to rest, also gets support from the evidence brought on record. The circumstantial evidence by which the crime has been established, clearly lead to one singular conclusion that the anger of the brother on the involvement of the sister with the deceased, was the only motive behind crime.”

The apex court made it clear that it highlighted the issue ‘honour killing’ as, according to the court, it is a seminal ground for imposing the fixed term sentence of twenty-five years for the offences under section 302/34 IPC on the two accused persons. However, it also reflected on the irony that how the two accused (Vikas and Vishal) in spite of being “ highly educated in good educational institutions, had not cultivated the ability to abandon the depricable feelings and attitude for centuries.”

“Perhaps, they have harboured the fancy that it is an idea of which time had arrived from time immemorial and ought to stay till eternity,” the judgement added.

In an another important observation the apex court held that “Freedom, independence, constitutional identity, individual choice and thought of a woman be a wife or sister or daughter or mother cannot be allowed to be curtailed definitely not by application of physical force or threat or mental cruelty in the name of his self-assumed honour.”

The judgement further reads, “One may feel ‘My honour is my life’ but that does not mean sustaining one’s honour at the cost of another. That apart, neither the family members nor the members of the collective has any right to assault the boy chosen by the girl. Her individual choice is her self-respect and creating dent in it is destroying her honour. And to impose so called brotherly or fatherly honour or class honour by eliminating her choice is a crime of extreme brutality, more so, when it is done under a guise. It is a vice, condemnable and deplorable perception of “honour”, comparable to medieval obsessive assertions”.

Apart from the Supreme Court, the judgement of the high court also reflects on the absurdity of honour killing in some detail. It reads, “The instant case manifests that even in a household belonging to the highest class in society, (one in which you can make day trips with friends from Ghaziabad to Mumbai just to celebrate a birthday; owns multiple businesses and properties, luxury vehicles etc.) what can happen to even a young, educated, articulate daughter if she attempted to break away from the conventional caste confines and explored lifetime alliance with a member of another caste. Especially one who was also perceived to be of a lesser economic status”.

It further reads, “We have found that immediately after Shivani Gaur’s wedding, Bharti was completely segregated and confined by her family. On the 17th of February 2002 itself, she was spirited away from her residence in Ghaziabad to Faridabad. The police could record her statement under Section 161 of the Cr.P.C only on the 2nd of March 2002 that too under the eagle eye of her father, a seasoned politician. Shortly thereafter, she was sent out of India to UK and kept out of court for over three and a half years. Her testimony is evidence of the influence of her brothers and family as she prevaricates over trivial matters and denies established facts borne out by documentary evidence. Finally, when she must have been stretched to the utmost, she succumbs to their pressures when she concedes a deviously put suggestion. Undoubtedly, the family of Nitish Katara has suffered at his demise and thereafter. Having given our thought to this issue, we are of the view that apart from the deceased and his family, there is one more victim in an ‘honour killing’”.

The observations made in both the judgments raises important issues about the lack of individual choices available to women and reflects seriously on social prejudices that tend to permeate even the lives in the most urbanised of spaces. For the same reasons, it should be read with some seriousness.

RBI’s Urjit Patel announces cut in repo rate by 0.25% to 6.25%, surprises market

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Tuesday cut its key lending rate, repo, by a quarter percentage point or 25 basis points to 6.25 percent. This is the first policy where the rate decision is taken by the monetary policy committee (MPC). For Urjit Patel too, this is the first policy as RBI governor.

RBI governor, Urjit PatelRBI governor, Urjit Patel

RBI governor, Urjit Patel

Since January 2015, the RBI has cut the repo rate by a cumulative 150 bps. The Consumer Price Inflation (CPI) trajectory had indicated room for the RBI for a rate cut. At the last reading (in August), the CPI inflation fell to 5.05 percent compared with 6.07 percent in July.

The RBI has set March 2017 target of 5 percent for inflation. Economists have been saying that inflation might well fall further down going ahead, given that monsoons this year have been favourable, enabling better crop output. Food price inflation, the main villain in the inflation story, has eased considerably in the recent past, giving room for further rate cuts.

However, most economists expected the RBI to postpone the rate cut to December, considering the persisting upside risks to inflation, including the impact of 7th pay commission and chances of unseasonal rains.

Read full policy statement here

RBI by Firstpost on Scribd

ED gets court nod to take possession of Himachal CM Virbhadra Singh’s assets

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> The ED will soon move to take possession of assets worth about Rs eight crore of Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and his wife after a special anti-money laundering court here confirmed the agency’s provisional order in this regard.The agency, in March this year, had ordered attachment of certain LIC policies, bank balances, a fixed deposit and two floors of a building in south Delhi’s posh GK-I area under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). “Considering the material in the original complaint, the replies and rejoinder and the arguments, I find that the properties provisionally attached in the name of D-2 (Pratibha Singh, wife of Virbhadra Singh) and D-1 (Virbhadra Singh) are involved in money laundering.”I, therefore, hereby confirm the attachment of properties made under sub-section (1) of section 5 of PMLA. “I, therefore, order that the said attachment shall continue during the pendency of the proceedings relating to offence under the PMLA before a court and become final after an order of confiscation is passed under…. PMLA by the special court,” an order issued on September 14 by Tushar V Shah, Member (Law) of the Adjudicating Authority of PMLA, said.The order, accessed by PTI, had examined the complaint filed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) against the Chief Minister and his wife and the statements made by various accused in the case including arrested LIC agent Anand Chauhan. A provisional order for attachment of assets worth over RS 7.93 crore was issued by the ED on March 23 this year where it attached an entire basement and ground floor of a building in Greater Kailash-I in South Delhi in the name of Pratibha Singh and and a number of LIC policies, bank balances and a fixed deposit in her name and those in the name of her husband.The ED, in its complaint filed under PMLA, has said that “it is evident from the flow of funds from redemption of LIC policies to the bank accounts and finally for the purchase of property, that Virbhadra Singh and his wife Pratibha Singh had indulged in possession of proceeds of crime in cash and in order to launder it showed it as its income from agriculture by filing revised returns and using fruit merchant business of Chunni Lal Chauhan of Universal Apple Associate “.The agency had recently questioned Pratibha and the CM’s son Vikramaditya in this case. The CM has denied allegations of any wrongdoing by him and his family. An attachment order under PMLA is aimed at depriving the accused from obtaining benefits of their alleged ill-gotten wealth and such an order issued by the ED can be appealed before the Adjudicating Authority of the said Act within 180 days.Further, if the Adjudicating Authority also confirms the order, the accused can appeal against it before the Appellate Tribunal of the said Act within 45 days.ED had filed a case under criminal provisions of the anti-money laundering law against the CM, his family members and others after taking cognisance of a complaint filed by the CBI in this regard in September last year.It had also conducted searches in this case last year in Delhi, Maharashtra and West Bengal. The agency is probing allegations against Singh and his family members of having amassed wealth of Rs 6.1 crore disproportionate to his known sources of income between 2009 and 2011 when he was the Union Minister of Steel.The CBI’s First Information Report had named Singh, Pratibha, Chauhan and his brother C L Chauhan, who were all accused of violating the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The CBI FIR said that during 2009-11, Singh bought life insurance policies worth Rs 6.1 crore in his and his family members’ names through Anand Chauhan claiming the money came from his income from agriculture.

China extends its technical hold on Masood Azhar’s terror listing at United Nations

Beijing: Refusing to yield on its all-weather ally, China on Saturday announced the extension of its “technical hold” on India’s bid to get Pakistan-based JeM chief Masood Azhar designated as a terrorist by the UN, days before it was to expire.

The Chinese technical hold was set to lapse on Monday, and had China not raised further objection, the resolution designating Azhar as a terrorist would have been passed automatically. The hold has now been extended for another six months.

“The technical hold on India’s listing application submitted to the 1267 committee in March, 2016 has already been extended,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told PTI.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“There are still different views on India’s listing application. The extended technical hold on it will allow more time for the Committee to deliberate on the matter and for relevant parties to have further consultations,” Geng said.

On March 31 this year, China, a veto-wielding permanent member of the UN Security Council, had blocked India’s move to put a ban on the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) leader and Pathankot terror attack mastermind under the Sanctions Committee of the Council.

China was the only member in the 15-nation UN organ to put a hold on India’s application with all other 14 members of the Council supporting New Delhi’s bid to place Azhar on the 1267 sanctions list that would subject him to an assets freeze and travel ban.

Geng said the 1267 Committee of the UNSC “organises its work as mandated by relevant resolutions of the Security Council.”

“China always maintains that on the listing matter, the 1267 Committee should stick to the main principles of objectivity, impartiality and professionalism, base its judgments on solid evidence and decide upon consensus among the members of the Security Council,” he said in a written reply to a question.

Following the decision, the hold now has been extended in the midst of Indo-Pak tensions over the Uri terrorist attack, which was blamed on the JeM group..

China’s technical hold coupled with its move to block India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) cast a shadow on the Sino-India ties. Both the countries have held several rounds of talks on the issues in recent months.

China’s move to extend the technical hold comes ahead of the expected meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Goa during the BRICS Summit on 15 October and 16 October.

In June last year, China had blocked India’s demand for taking action under the Council’s anti-terrorism resolutions against Pakistan for releasing Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Zaki-ur-Lakhvi — the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

India had raised the issue of blocking by China of Azhar’s designation as a terrorist at various levels with Prime Minister Narendra Modi also taking up the matter with the Chinese leadership at different fora.

Bar bribery case: Court orders probe against Reddy, Sukesan

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> A Special Vigilance Court in Thiruvananthapuram on Friday ordered a probe against former vigilance director N Shankar Reddy and Superintendent of Police R Sukesan, the investigation officer, in the bar bribery case. The order follows a complaint alleging that the bar bribery case has been sabotaged by the duo.Earlier in 2014, Kerala Congress (M) chief KM Mani was booked by the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) for allegedly taking a huge amount as bribe from bar owners in the month of March and April that year on the promise of helping them re-open the closed bars. In the factual report prepared by investigating officer after the probe and submitted to VACB director, the Superintendent of Police admits there is no evidence for demand.The vigilance court rejected the final report on October 29, 2015, and directed for further investigation.The same officer (Sukesan) conducted further investigation and submitted a factual report to the then director N .Shanker Reddy stating that there is no evidence to prove demand and acceptance of bribe.In June this year, Jacob Thomas took over the charge of the VACB and on August 25, the investigating officer filed a petition before the vigilance court seeking permission for further investigation. Later, the court issued an order allowing further investigation in the matter.The petition filed by Thiruvananthapuram native Payichira Navas alleged that both officials (N. Shankar Reddy and R. Sukesan) had tampered the case diary.

Bombay HC refuses parole to former don Arun Gawli

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Bombay High Court has refused parole to former don Arun Gawli for taking care of his wife during her surgery at a Mumbai hospital.A division bench comprising justices Bhushan Dharmadhikari and Atul Chandurkar on Wednesday disposed of a petition in this regard filed by Gawli observing it was unclear whether she would need surgery at all.However, the bench allowed Gawli to approach the court again if a date for the surgery was fixed.The Maharashtra government opposed granting of parole to Gawli arguing that his wife was not very serious for which he had to visit Mumbai.Gawli had approached the high court after his plea for parole, citing his wife’s critical illness which required surgery, was recently rejected by Divisional Commissioner Anup Kumar.Before rejecting the plea, Kumar had sought opinion from Mumbai police.The Mumbai police informed that Gawli’s return to his residence in Dagadi Chawl might affect law and order in the state capital and this led to the rejection of his plea.Gawli is currently serving life imprisonment in Nagpur Central Prison here for murder of Shiv Sena corporator Kamalakar Jamsandekar.The former don was brought to Nagpur Central Prison in March last year.

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