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Curfew relaxed in Guwahati as situation improves in Assam

The curfew enforced in Guwahati due to the volatile protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act was relaxed for seven hours from 9 a.m. on Saturday as the situation improved in Assam.
Angry protesters burn tires and write
Angry protesters burn tires and write "No CAB" with white chalk on a street as Assam witnessed widespread violence over the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) 2019; in Guwahati on December 12, 2019.
The curfew enforced in Guwahati due to the volatile protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act was relaxed for seven hours from 9 a.m. on Saturday as the situation improved in Assam.
 
With the prohibitory orders relaxed till 4 p.m., shops and markets opened in the capital city and some vehicles were seen plying on the roads.
 
However, schools continued to remain shut.
 
People lined up before shops selling essentials like food items and a large number of cars were seen outside petrol pumps for refuelling.
 
At least two people have died during violent protests against the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which is now a law after the President's assent.
 
On Thursday, thousands of people defied the curfew and took to the streets as the raging agitation saw the house of an MLA and a Circle Officer set ablaze, while the government removed two key police officers.
 
Two protesters with bullet wounds were taken to the Guwahati Medical College and Hospital, where one was declared dead on arrival and the other succumbed to his injuries during treatment. At least 11 others were injured during the protests.
 
The All Assam Students Union (AASU), which is spearheading the protests, has called a three-day mass "satyagraha" in all district headquarters of the state from December 16.
 
Announcing the fresh agitation programme, AASU Chief Adviser Samujjal Bhattacharya on Friday coined the slogan "Repeal Citizenship Amendment Act or arrest me".
 
Bhattacharya said marches and protest meetings would be organised across the state and posters would be put up against the controversial law.
 
Meanwhile, authorities have rolled out measures to help the hundreds of passengers stranded at the airport, railway stations and inter-state bus terminals due to the protests which have led to suspension of flight, trains and public road transport services.
 
Buses would ferry the stranded passengers to various parts of the city, an official said.
 
IANS
 

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Rajya Sabha passes Citizenship Bill with 125-105 votes

The Rajya Sabha passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 (CAB) on Wednesday with 125 members voting for and 105 against the Bill. Earlier the demand for referring the Bill to the Select Committee was negated.
The Rajya Sabha passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 (CAB) on Wednesday with 125 members voting for and 105 against the Bill. Earlier the demand for referring the Bill to the Select Committee was negated.
 
The members of Shiv Sena, the latest Congress ally, were absent at the time of voting. The Janata Dal (United) voted for the Bill.
 
The CAB paves the way for citizenship to lakhs of illegal immigrants living in various parts of the country, even if they lacked any document to prove their residency.
 
The cut-off date for being eligible for the Indian nationality is December 31, 2014, which means those applying for citizenship should have entered India on or before this date. The citizenship would be granted with retrospective effect.
 
The Lok Sabha had passed the Bill on Monday.
 
IANS
 

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All 4 Hyderabad rape, murder case accused killed in 'encounter'

Ten days after the brutal gang rape and murder of a young veterinarian in Hyderabad, police on Friday shot dead all the four accused in an alleged exchange of fire near Shadnagar town of Telangana's Ranga Reddy district.
The scene of an alleged encounter in which the four men accused of the gang-rape and murder of a veterinarian in Hyderabad a week ago were shot dead by the police near Shadnagar town of Telangana's Ranga Reddy district on December 6, 2019.
The scene of an alleged encounter in which the four men accused of the gang-rape and murder of a veterinarian in Hyderabad a week ago were shot dead by the police near Shadnagar town of Telangana's Ranga Reddy district on December 6, 2019.
Ten days after the brutal gang rape and murder of a young veterinarian in Hyderabad, police on Friday shot dead all the four accused in an alleged exchange of fire near Shadnagar town of Telangana's Ranga Reddy district.
 
Police said the accused were killed in retaliatory firing after they snatched weapons from the police and opened fire on them.
 
The incident occurred around 6 a.m. at Chatanpally near Shadnagar town, about 50 km from Hyderabad.
 
The accused were gunned down at a spot about 400 metres away from a bridge under which the accused had dumped the victim's body and set it afire on the night of November 27 after the gang rape near Shamshabad on the outskirts of Hyderabad.
 
Cyberabad Police Commissioner V. C. Sajjanar said told reporters at the scene that the accused were brought to the spot around 5.45 a.m. by a 10-member police team to recover the mobile phone and other objects which they had hidden after burning the body.
 
He said the accused attacked police with stones, sticks and other sharp objects. Two of the accused also snatched firearms from policemen and opened fire.
 
"Still the police maintained restraint and ask them to surrender but they continued to fire. The police returned the fire and after a lull, when they checked they found all four dead," he said.
 
The police chief said the police found weapons in the hands of main accused Mohammed Arif and fourth accused Chennakeshavulu.
 
He said two police officers also received head injuries. However, they did not suffer bullet injuries.
 
Facing a volley of questions, the officer said the police weapons snatched by the accused were unlocked. He also said that accused were not handcuffed.
 
"Law has done its duty. That's all I can say," Sajjanar said when asked about criticism from some quarters that police took the law into its hands to kill the accused.
 
"We will submit reports to all concerned," the police chief said when asked about National Human Right Commission (NHRC) seeking report on the "encounter".
 
The four accused killed in the encounter were: lorry drivers Mohammed Arif, 26, Chintakunta Chennakeshavulu, 20, and lorry cleaners Jollu Shiva, 20, and Jollu Naveen, 20. All hailed from Narayanpet district of Telangana.
 
As the news of the "encounter" spread, people gathered near the scene, off the Hyderabad-Bengaluru national highway. They raised slogans hailing the police.
 
Four executive magistrates conducted an inquest at the scene. The bodies were later shifted to a government-run hospital in Mahabubnagar for autopsy. They will later be handed over to their families.
 
The accused had committed the crime after trapping the accused near Tondupally toll gate on Outer Ring Road (ORR) by deflating one of the tyres of her parked scooter. When the victim came to pick up her two-wheeler, the accused approached her offering help and raped and killed her.
 
The charred body of the victim was found under the Chatanpally bridge.
 
The four accused in the brutal gang rape and murder of a young veterinarian in Hyderabad, who were killed by the police in an alleged 'encounter' near Shadnagar town of Telangana's Ranga Reddy district on December 6, 2019: lorry drivers Mohammed Arif (26), Chintakunta Chennakeshavulu (20) and lorry cleaners Jollu Shiva (20) and Jollu Naveen (20). All hailed from Narayanpet district of Telangana. (File Photo: IANS)
The four accused in the brutal gang rape and murder of a young veterinarian in Hyderabad, who were killed by the police in an alleged 'encounter' near Shadnagar town of Telangana's Ranga Reddy district on December 6, 2019: lorry drivers Mohammed Arif (26), Chintakunta Chennakeshavulu (20) and lorry cleaners Jollu Shiva (20) and Jollu Naveen (20). All hailed from Narayanpet district of Telangana. (File Photo: IANS)
The four were arrested by the police on November 29 and the next day, a court in Shadnagar sent them to judicial custody for 14 days. They were subsequently shifted to the Cherlapally Jail in Hyderabad.
 
A court on December 2 had remanded the accused to the police custody for 10 days. The Police Commissioner said they interrogated the accused on December 4 and 5.
 
A massive protest was held outside the Shadnagar police station on November 30 when the accused were about to be taken to the court. The protesters demanded that the accused be handed over to them. The magistrate had to be brought to the police station to send the accused into judicial custody.
 
The gruesome rape and murder had triggered nationwide rage with demands for immediate death penalty for the perpetrators. There have been protests all over the country. Many have demanded that the accused be hanged in public.
 
Speaking in Parliament, some MPs even called for lynching the perpetrators involved in the horrific crime.
 
The Telangana government on December 4 had set up a fast-track court in Mahabubnagar for speedy trial of the case.
 
IANS
 

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All 4 suspects in Hyderabad gang-rape, murder case shot dead

A week after the brutal gang rape and murder of a young veterinarian in Hyderabad, police shot dead all the four accused in an alleged "encounter" near Shadnagar town in the early hours of Friday.
Members of BJP Mahila Morcha at a candlelight vigil to protest against the gang-rape and murder of a woman veterinarian in Hyderabad, on December 2, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
Members of BJP Mahila Morcha at a candlelight vigil to protest against the gang-rape and murder of a woman veterinarian in Hyderabad, on December 2, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
A week after the brutal gang rape and murder of a young veterinarian in Hyderabad, police shot dead all the four accused in an alleged "encounter" near Shadnagar town.
 
The accused were killed when they allegedly snatched weapons from the police and tried to escape from Chatanpally near Shadnagar, about 50 km from Hyderabad.
 
Police sources said they were gunned down at the same spot where the accused had dumped the victim's body and set it afire on the night of November 27 after the gang rape near Shamshabad on the outskirts of Hyderabad.
 
The accused were taken to the spot by the Cyberabad police for reconstruction of the crime scene as part of the investigations.
 
The four accused killed in the encounter were identified as: lorry drivers Mohammed Arif (26) and Chintakunta Chennakeshavulu (20), and lorry cleaners Jollu Shiva (20) and Jollu Naveen (20). All hailed from the Narayanpet district of Telangana.
 
Cyberabad Police Commissioner V. C. Sajjanar and other senior officials rushed to the "encounter" scene.
 
As the news of the "encounter" spread, people gathered near the scene on the Hyderabad-Bengaluru national highway.
 
The four accused in the gang rape and murder case of 25-year-old veterinarian -- Mohammed Arif, Chintakunta Chennakeshavulu, both lorry drivers and Jollu Shiva and Jollu Naveen, both lorry cleaners - who were arrested on Friday night by Cyberabad Police. (File Photo: IANS)
The four accused in the gang rape and murder case of 25-year-old veterinarian -- Mohammed Arif, Chintakunta Chennakeshavulu, both lorry drivers and Jollu Shiva and Jollu Naveen, both lorry cleaners - who were arrested on Friday night by Cyberabad Police. (File Photo: IANS)
The four were arrested by the police on November 29 and the next day a court in Shadnagar had sent them to judicial custody for 14 days. They were subsequently shifted to Cherlapally Jail in Hyderabad.
 
A court on Wednesday had remanded the accused to police custody for seven days. The police believed to have taken them into custody on Thursday. This was done secretly as police were anticipating law and order problems due to possible protest by people.
 
A massive protest was held outside Shadnagar police station on November 30 when the accused were about to be taken to court. Hundreds of people demanded that the accused be handed over to them. The magistrate had to be brought to the police station to send the accused into custody.
 
The gruesome rape and murder had triggered nation-wide rage with demands for immediate death penalty to the perpetrators. There have been protests all over the country. Many demanded that the accused be hanged in public.
 
Speaking in Parliament, some MPs even called for lynching the perpetrators of the horrific crime.
 
The Telangana government on December 4 had set up a fast-track court in Mahabubnagar for speedy trial in the case.
 
IANS
 

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Congress' Patole elected unopposed as Maharashtra Assembly Speaker

Senior Congress leader Nana F. Patole was declared elected unopposed as the 14th Speaker of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly in Mumbai on Sunday.
Nana F. Patole (File photo: IANS)
Nana F. Patole (File photo: IANS)
Senior Congress leader Nana F. Patole was declared elected unopposed as the 14th Speaker of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, here on Sunday.
 
Pro-tem Speaker Dilip Walse-Patil made the announcement that was greeted with applause and thumping of desks by both the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi and the Opposition Maha Yuti alliances.
 
The development came soon after the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party withdrew its nominee, Kisan Kathore from the contest earlier today for the prestigious post, according to state party chief Chandrakant Patil.
 
Patole was the candidate of the ruling Shiv Sena-Nationalist Congress Party-Congress Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) which won the vote of confidence in the assembly on Saturday afternoon with 169:000.
 
Soon after Patole's election was announced, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and other leaders of MVA congratulated him and recalled his glowing contributions as a parliamentarian and legislator in Maharashtra for over two decades.
 
Others who spoke included Congress Legislature Party Leader Balasaheb Thorat, Nationalist Congress Legislature Party (NCP) leader Jayant Patil and Shiv Sena's senior leader Eknath Shinde.
 
The next major appointment pending is that of the critical post of Leader of Opposition, which is likely to be announced in due course.
 
IANS
 

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Uddhav Thackeray sworn in as new Maharashtra CM

Shiv Sena President Uddhav B. Thackeray was sworn in as the new Chief Minister of Maharashtra in a grand ceremony held at the Shivaji Park here on Thursday evening.
Uddhav Thackeray takes oath as the 17th Chief Minister of Maharashtra at the swearing-in ceremony in Mumbai on November 28, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
Uddhav Thackeray takes oath as the 17th Chief Minister of Maharashtra at the swearing-in ceremony in Mumbai on November 28, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
Shiv Sena President Uddhav B. Thackeray was sworn in as the new Chief Minister of Maharashtra in a grand ceremony held at the Shivaji Park here on Thursday evening.
 
Governor B. S. Koshyari administered the oath of office and secrecy to Uddhav Thackeray, 59, who sported a striking saffron coloured kurta-pyjama, the Sena party's colour.
 
In an unusual gesture, soon after completing the formalities, Uddhav Thackeray stepped to the front of the stage and knelt down, touched his hands and head on the floor to express his gratitude to the people of Maharashtra for the honour bestowed on him.
 
IANS
 

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Maharashtra floor test on Wednesday without secret ballot, to be telecast live

The Supreme Court on Tuesday gave interim directions to conduct a floor test in the Maharashtra Assembly on Wednesday after considering the competing claims of the parties.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday gave interim directions to conduct a floor test in the Maharashtra Assembly on Wednesday after considering the competing claims of the parties.
 
Having heard the parties, the bench of the top court comprising Justices N. V. Ramana, Sanjeev Khanna and Ashok Bhushan was of the opinion that since oath-taking of the MLAs has not taken place, a floor test should be conducted as soon as possible on November 27, saying the exercise should be completed before 5 p.m. on Wednesday.
 
The court said a pro tem speaker would be appointed and the floor test would not be conducted by secret ballot and the proceedings would be telecast live.
 
The court said the oath to MLAs is to be administered before 5 p.m. on November 27.
 
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal appearing for Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance, mentioned before the apex court an application seeking directions to restrain the Devendra Fadnavis government from taking important policy decisions.
 
The apex court has given eight weeks' time to the respondents to file a reply.
 
IANS
 

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Breather to BJP-Ajit govt, SC verdict on Tuesday

The Supreme Court on Monday gave a breather to the BJP-Ajit Pawar government in Maharashtra as it reserved its order on Governor B. S. Koshyari's decision to invite the BJP to form a government in the state for Tuesday.
The Supreme Court on Monday gave a breather to the BJP-Ajit Pawar government in Maharashtra as it reserved its order on Governor B. S. Koshyari's decision to invite the BJP to form a government in the state for Tuesday.
 
The top court said the order on Maharashtra will be pronounced on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the central government, told the court that he has "brought letters of support of the BJP, NCP MLAs on which the Governor's decision rested".
 
Mehta said: "Documents show that NCP leader Ajit Pawar submitted a letter of support of 54 Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MLAs to the Governor with their signatures."
 
"According to letter of support of Ajit Pawar on November 22, Devendra Fadnavis staked claim to form the government, which also includes letters of support of 11 independents and other MLAs."
 
The BJP has 105 MLAs in the 288-member House while the NCP had won 54 seats. The BJP claimed that it has the support of 11 independents and others thus taking its number to 170. Mehta also raised preliminary objections to a judicial review of Governor Koshyari's decision on appointment of Fadnavis as Chief Minister and Ajit Pawar as his deputy in a surprise early morning move on Saturday.
 
Mehta said that "after this, the Governor sent information to the President. Citing this information, he requested the revocation of President's Rule in the state."
 
Senior advocate Mukul Rohtagi appearing for the BJP submitted that the Governor had gone with the party with the support of 170 MLAs. Rohtagi said that the others have never claimed that the MLAs' signatures were forged.
 
The submissions were made in the apex court during the hearing of a petition of the Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP against the surprise government formation by Fadnavis on Saturday morning. Fadnavis was sworn in along with NCP's Ajit Pawar, nephew of NCP supremo Sharad Pawar as his deputy.
 
Meanwhile, Kapil Sibal appearing for the Congress said that he has the affidavit of support of 150 MLAs. He informed the court that the pre-poll alliance fell out as BJP did not stick to its promises with the Shiv Sena.
 
Senior lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi also appearing for Congress and NCP said what has been done is a "fraud on democracy".
 
"How can the Governor rely on signatures of MLAs without covering letter?" Singhvi asked.
 
Singhvi further said that 148 plus seven independent MLAs gave support in the affidavit. Insisting that the signatures of the NCP MLAs were perjury, Singhvi said, "We want to have floor test today after 155 people are saying we support."
 
Mehta intervened in Singhvi's submissions, and said, "Twelve signatures were missing when a letter was submitted to the Governor to withdraw Ajit Pawar's authority."
 
IANS
 

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Total unanimity between Congress, NCP on Maharashtra: Chavan

The Congress on Thursday said that it has resolved all the issues on government formation in Maharashtra with its alliance partner Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and there is complete unanimity between the two parties.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar with Congress leaders Ahmed Patel, K C Venugopal, Prithviraj Chavan and Jairam Ramesh during a meeting of the two parties in New Delhi on November 20, 2019.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar with Congress leaders Ahmed Patel, K C Venugopal, Prithviraj Chavan and Jairam Ramesh during a meeting of the two parties in New Delhi on November 20, 2019.
The Congress on Thursday said that it has resolved all the issues on government formation in Maharashtra with its alliance partner Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and there is complete unanimity between the two parties.
 
The party also said that a meeting with the Shiv Sena will take place on Friday in Mumbai for the formal announcement.
 
Addressing the media at the residence of NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, former Maharashtra Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan said: "Congress and NCP have completed discussions on all issues."
 
"There is a complete unanimity between the Congress and the NCP and we will move to Mumbai tomorrow and have a meeting with our pre-poll alliance partners. After that we will follow up that discussion together with the NCP and the Shiv Sena. As soon as discussions are completed, the media will be briefed about the structure of the proposed alliance," he added.
 
The remarks of the Congress leader came after parleys with the NCP in the national capital in the last two days.
 
Earlier in the day, the Congress' top decision making body, the Congress Working Committee (CWC), met and gave a go-ahead for the alliance with the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, where President's rule was imposed on November 12.
 
The Congress and the NCP on Thursday also held meetings separately of their respective leaders and then arrived at the residence of Pawar.
 
On Wednesday, the two parties held marathon meetings lasting over five hours to discuss the common minimum programme in the state.
 
The BJP and its pre-poll alliance partner Shiv Sena contested the October 21 assembly elections together and they won 105 and 56 seats, respectively, in the 288-member house.
 
The Congress and the NCP won 44 and 54 seats, respectively, in the assembly.
 
The Shiv Sena had a fallout with the BJP after Uddhav Thackarey demanded a rotational chief ministership, which was refued by the saffron party.
 
IANS
 

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Centre explains J&K curbs to Parliamentary Standing Committee

The Ministry of Home Affairs on Friday elaborated to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Kashmir about the reasons behind imposing restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir, including the communication clampdown there, and the facts leading to the bifurcation of the region into two Union Territories.
File photo of Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla
File photo of Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Friday elaborated to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Kashmir about the reasons behind imposing restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir, including the communication clampdown there, and the facts leading to bifurcation of the region into two Union Territories (UTs).
 
Following the abrogation of Article 370 in early August, the erstwhile state has been bifurcated into two UTs -- Jammu and Kashmir with legislature, and Ladakh without one.
 
Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla informed the committee that the Centre took these measures to keep the situation contained in anticipation of violence in view of statements made by various leaders of the state.
 
Troublemakers have been rounded up and arrested till date, the Secretary said, adding that as many as 288 persons have been booked under the Public Safety Act, including former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah.
 
The ministry said that no loss in human life by violence has been reported in Jammu and Kashmir and no pellets have been fired in the last one month, barring the first ten days.
 
The Home Secretary cited the instance of the 2016 killing of militant Burhan Wani when Jammu and Kashmir was put under restrictions and a communication blockade was imposed, adding "many lives were lost as social media was used to spread misinformation that time".
 
The Home Secretary informed the committee about the precautionary steps taken by the security forces to maintain peace in the Valley.
 
Noting that the terrorists have been targeting vulnerable sections to instil a sense of fear in the region, Bhalla said that no "major terror incident was reported in Jammu and Kashmir".
 
The committee was informed that five apple traders were shot dead by the terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir since the abrogation of its special status to destabilise the revenue of the region which despatches around 20,000 tonnes of apples every year.
 
A total of 16,000 tonnes of apples have already been transported from August 5 till date, Bhalla said, adding that landlines are functioning in the region.
 
According to sources, around 25 lakh post-paid mobile telephone connections are functioning in the Valley.
 
"There are no restrictions anywhere in the Valley," said the source quoting Bhalla.
 
Train services have resumed, public transport is operational, hospitals are functioning and the airport has been operating normally throughout, Bhalla told the committee.
 
Life in Jammu and Kashmir is returning to normal, while examinations have been conducted in 670 examination centres peacefully, he added.
 
IANS

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BJP opts out of Maharashtra govt race, wishes Sena 'the best'

In a stunning political development, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Sunday conceded its inability to form the government in Maharashtra despite having the public mandate for its pre-poll alliance.
Maharashtra BJP president Chandrakant Patil talking to journalists in Mumbai on November 10, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
Maharashtra BJP president Chandrakant Patil talking to journalists in Mumbai on November 10, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
In a stunning political development, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Sunday conceded its inability to form the government in Maharashtra despite having the public mandate for its pre-poll alliance.
 
BJP State President Chandrakant Patil said that party's stand has been conveyed to Governor B. S. Koshyari this evening after a series of marathon meetings of the party's state core committee since morning.
 
"The Shiv Sena has insulted the public mandate... If it is in a position to form the government along with the support of the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party, our best wishes are with them," said Patil, who was flanked by his former minister colleagues like Ashish Shelar, Sudhir Mungantiwar, Vinod Tawde, Pankaja Munde and Girish Mahajan, at the brief media interaction on the lawns of Raj Bhavan.
 
Outgoing Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis -- who has confidently proclaimed till Saturday that the BJP would form the government -- was conspicuous by his absence.
 
Reacting to the development, NCP's national spokesperson Nawab Malik said that there is no formal proposal from the Sena on the government formation.
 
"However, our national President will clear the party's stand at our party legislators' meeting scheduled in Mumbai on Tuesday," Malik told media persons.
 
The opposition Congress also conducted informal discussions with its legislators, currently flown to Jaipur, to gauge their mood on supporting the Sena, though the party high command has already expressed its reluctance in the matter.
 
There were contradictory opinions in Mumbai -- while former city President Sanjay Nirupam reiterated that the Congress should keep off the Sena at all costs, another former city chief Milind M. Deora suggested exploring a Congress-NCP government with Sena support.
 
Political activity gathered speed after Governor Koshyari took the reins in his hands and late on Saturday invited the BJP -- the single-largest party with 105 MLAs - to indicate its willingness to form the next government, barely four hours before the tenure of the state Assembly expired at midnight.
 
Besides the 105 members, the BJP had claimed the support of several independents and smaller parties, though the exact figures are not clear, and whether these would be sufficient to achieve the simple majority of 145 in the 288-member assembly.
 
Experts have said that in case the BJP is not able to muster sufficient numbers, then the Governor would invite the second largest party - the Shiv Sena, followed by the remaining two parties, the Nationalist Congress Party and Congress to explore the possibility of forming the next government.
 
Earlier on Sunday, Sena President Uddhav Thackeray met his legislators -- all secured in The Retreat -- a five-star hotel in Madh, Malad (north-west Mumbai) and boosted their morale by assuring that a Shiv Sena Chief Minister would soon be sworn in.
 
IANS
 

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SC to pronounce Ayodhya judgment on Saturday

After seven decades of a protracted legal battle, the Supreme Court on Saturday will pronounce the judgement in Ayodhya title dispute case at 10.30 a.m. on Saturday.
After seven decades of a protracted legal battle, the Supreme Court on Saturday will pronounce the judgement in Ayodhya title dispute case at 10.30 a.m. on Saturday.
 
The notice on the judgement was uploaded on the website of the court late in the evening on Friday. 
 
Earlier, during the day, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had held a highly confidential meeting with Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary and the Director-General of Police. It is learnt this meeting focussed on taking stock of the law and order situation in the state.
 
A five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Gogoi and comprising Chief Justice-designate Justice S. A. Bobde, Justice Ashok Bhushan, Justice D. Y. Chandrachud and Justice S. A. Nazeer, had reserved the judgement on October 17, after 40 days of daily hearing on the matter, which began on August 6.
 
On the last day of the hearing, the Hindu parties urged the court to take into consideration faith of the millions of people attached with the birthplace of Lord Ram, and the Muslim parties pleaded to restore the Babri Masjid, as it was, before the demolition in 1992. Both sides were involved in intense arguments in the last phase of the hearing, and it appeared high-pitched arguments had led to chaos in the courtroom.
 
The court began the daily hearing after the court-appointed mediation panel headed by former Supreme Court Justice F. M. I. Kalifulla and comprising spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravishankar along with senior advocate Sriram Panchu, failed to develop a consensus among the parties to arrive at an amicable solution.
 
On the last day of hearing the Muslim parties urged the court to allow the matter to be settled between parties without passing a judgement. A faction in the Sunni Waqf Board, Uttar Pradesh, had apparently conceded the title of the dispute to the Hindu side on terms and conditions. A representative of this faction told the media that the nature of dispute requires settlement and not judgement, which is essential to maintain peace in the country.
 
During the hearing, the judges had asked piercing questions, specifically focussed at the complexity involved in faith and its legal outcome, to both parties. Senior advocate Rajiv Dhavan, representing the Muslim parties, had objected to  this line of questioning specifically targeting them but later, he apologised to the court on the same.
 
Dhavan also shot to the headlines, after shredding a pictorial map, submitted by one of the Hindu parties associated with the disputed site. Dhavan had objected to this submission. He was also the only lawyer who argued for two weeks, establishing the possession of Muslim parties on the disputed site, before the court.
 
The Allahabad High Court in 2010 through a judgement equally partitioned the dispute 2.77 acre land between - Ram Lalla Virajman, Nirmohi Akhara and Sunni Waqf Board. A total of 14 appeals were filed in the apex court in four civil suits.
 
IANS
 

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Gadkari says 'not returning' to Maharashtra politics

Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari has ruled out any possibility of his returning to state politics and said the political impasse in Maharashtra would be soon resolved, here on Thursday.
File photo of Nitin Gadkari
File photo of Nitin Gadkari
Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari has ruled out any possibility of his returning to state politics and said the political impasse in Maharashtra would be soon resolved, here on Thursday.
 
"I am in Delhi... There is no question of my returning to state politics. The political crisis in the state will be resolved soon," Gadkari said, ending all speculation of his being a contender for the post of a consensus Chief Minister to defuse the state political deadlock over government formation.
 
Endorsing Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Gadkari said that all efforts are being made to ensure a government under his leadership in alliance with the Shiv Sena.
 
A day after stoking the political fires over his possible role in the state and a meeting with Congress leader Ahmed Patel, the Union Minister is currently in Nagpur to meet Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat.
 
In Mumbai, state minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said that Gadkari would not return to state politics and said the new government would be formed under Fadnavis' stewardship.
 
IANS
 

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German Chancellor Merkel arrives in India, to hold talks with Modi

German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived in Delhi last night on a two-day visit to India during which she and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will co-chair the fifth biennial Inter-Governmental Consultations between the two countries.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel being received by Minister of State in PMO Jitender Singh on her arrival at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi on October 31, 2019.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel being received by Minister of State in PMO Jitender Singh on her arrival at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi on October 31, 2019.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived here last night on a two-day visit to India during which she and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will co-chair the fifth biennial Inter-Governmental Consultations between  the  two countries.
 
The two countries are slated to sign around 20 agreements after the talks between the two leaders. This will be the fifth meeting between Modi and Merkel in the past one year, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
Merkel was received on her arrival at the Indira Gandhi International Airport here by Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Jitendra Singh.
 
The German Chancellor is accompanied on the visit by several Ministers and business leaders.
 
The agreements between the two sides are likely to be in the fields of agriculture, green urban mobility, Ayurveda, and artificial intelligence, among others.
 
Merkel was accorded a ceremonial reception in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan this morning after which she will visit Rajghat and lay a wreath at the "samadhi" of Mahatma Gandhi. She will then attend a meeting with Indian women leaders from various fields such as business and law.
 
Merkel will meet Modi at Hyderabad House here after which the two sides will hold their 5th Inter-Governmental Consultations. This will be followed by the exchange of agreements and press statements by the two leaders.
 
She is also slated to hold a meeting with business leaders from both countries in the afternoon.
 
After  a visit to Gandhi Smriti later in the afternoon, Merkel will call on President Ram Nath Kovind at Rashtrapati Bhavan. Later, she will hold a meeting with the Prime Minister at his residence.
 
Tomorrow, Merkel will meet a business delegation and visit the Continental Automotive Components India Pvt Ltd at Manesar near Gurugram. She will also visit a Metro station at Dwarka in Delhi before flying out.
 
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Girish Chandra Murmu named Lt. Governor of Jammu and Kashmir

Girish Chandra Murmu, an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of the 1985 batch (Gujarat cadre), has been appointed as the Lt. Governor of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
Girish Chandra Murmu
Girish Chandra Murmu
Girish Chandra Murmu, an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of the 1985 batch (Gujarat cadre), has been appointed as the Lt. Governor of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
 
Murmu, 59, is currently the Expenditure Secretary in the Ministry of Finance at the Centre.
 
A press communique from Rashtrapati Bhavan also said Satya Pal Malik, the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, has been transferred and appointed as Governor of Goa.
 
Murmu, who has an MA in Political Science from Utkal University and an MBA from the University of Birmingham, had earlier served as Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister of Gujarat when Narendra Modi, now the Prime Minister, held that position.
 
Parliament had in early August this year passed the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill 2019 and approved the resolution to abrogate the Constitution's Article 370. The Bill, which was passed by Rajya Sabha on August 5, was approved by the Lok Sabha on the following day.
 
The Jammu and Reorganisation Act bifurcated the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories -- Jammu and Kashmir with a legislature, and Ladakh without a legislature.
 
Murmu will, thus, be the first Governor of the new UT of Jammu and Kashmir.
 
Former Defence Secretary Radha Krishna Mathur, 65, a retired IAS officer of the 1977 batch (Tripura cadre), will be the first Lt. Governor of the new UT of Ladakh. Mathur had served earlier as the Secretary, Defence Production and as Secretary,  Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises. After his tenure as Defence Secretary, he had also served as Chief Information Commissioner (CIC).
 
The communique also said P S Sreedharan Pillai had been appointed as the Governor of Mizoram.
 
The appointments will take effect from the dates they assume charge of their respective offices, the communique added.
 
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13 dead as building collapses after gas cylinder blast in Mau district of UP

At least 13 people died when a two-storeyed residential building collapsed after a gas cylinder exploded on Monday morning at Walidpur in Mohammadabad area of Mau district in Uttar Pradesh, official sources said.
The scene at Walidpur in Mau district of Uttar Pradesh where a two-storeyed building collapsed after a gas cylinder exploded, on October 14, 2019
The scene at Walidpur in Mau district of Uttar Pradesh where a two-storeyed building collapsed after a gas cylinder exploded, on October 14, 2019
At least 13 people died when a two-storeyed residential building collapsed after a gas cylinder exploded this morning at Walidpur in Mohammadabad area of Mau district in Uttar Pradesh, official sources said.
 
About 10-12 others were pulled out of the debris and rushed for treatment of injuries to the Government Hospital in Mau, they said.
 
The tragedy occurred at around 7.30 am when the women of the household were cooking breakfast in the kitchen on the ground floor of the building.
 
The blast set off a fire and also brought down the entire structure, trapping those inside under the debris, the sources said.
 
While some of those killed died due to burns, others succumbed to injuries suffered when the structure caved in on them. The victims included some people who had rushed into the building to help those inside and were trapped when it collapsed suddenly.
 
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath conveyed his condolences to the families of the deceased and instructed the district administration to provide the best possible treatment for those injured.
 
"Hon CM has taken cognisance of the incident of cylinder blast in a house in Mau which has caused fatalities. He has conveyed deepest condolences to family of deceased and directed the district admin to immediately provide all possible relief & medical help to the injured," a post by the CM's Office said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
Residents of the area told journalists that they heard a loud explosion and then saw flames erupting from the building.
 
Teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) had reached the spot and were trying to extricate people still believed to be trapped under the rubble. Police personnel and local residents were assisting in the rescue operations.
 
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PM Modi leaves on packed, week-long US visit

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday left for a week-long visit to the US, voicing confidence that his visit would present India as a vibrant land of opportunities, a reliable partner and a global leader, and also help impart new energy to bilateral ties with the US.
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday left for a week-long visit to the US, voicing confidence that his visit would present India as a vibrant land of opportunities, a reliable partner and a global leader, and also help impart new energy to bilateral ties with the US.
 
In a statement, Modi said he looks forward to meeting US President Donald Trump in Houston as well as in New York, in a span of a few days.
 
Both sides will review bilateral relations "in order to bring even more benefits to our two nations and peoples", he said, terming the US "a vital partner for our national development" and that their "shared values, convergent interests and complementary strengths provide the foundation for natural partnership between the world's oldest and largest democracies".
 
Modi will also address the UN General Assembly session.
 
He is slated to hold around 20 bilateral meetings during his New York visit, including with President Trump. During his UNGA speech he will focus on India's role towards development and peace and security, with no mention of Article 370 which is an "internal issue", the Ministry of External Affairs had said on Thursday.
 
India will also host at the UN an event to celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi that will see the participation of several heads of state and government along with the UN Secretary-General to "pay our collective tribute to Gandhiji and underscore the significance of his message".
 
On the Houston leg of his visit, Modi will interact with CEOs of leading energy companies in the US with the aim to enhance India-US energy partnership.
 
The highlight there will be the 'Howdy Modi' event for the diaspora on September 22, where Trump and over 60 American lawmakers will be present.
 
The New York leg of the visit will also cover important elements of bilateral relations and he will also addressing the opening plenary of the Bloomberg Global Business Forum and receive the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Global Goalkeepers Goals Award 2019.
 
IANS

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Mamata meets Modi with sandesh, seeks his help

Meeting the Prime Minister in New Delhi on Wednesday after a 15-month gap amid heightened political speculations, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee urged Narendra Modi to revive certain stalled projects in the state.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee calling on Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, in New Delhi on September 18, 2019.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee calling on Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, in New Delhi on September 18, 2019.
Meeting the Prime Minister here on Wednesday after a 15-month gap amid heightened political speculations, Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee urged Narendra Modi to revive certain stalled projects in the state.
 
Terming the meeting with the Prime Minister good, Mamata said changing the name of the state topped her agenda. "We discussed changing the name of West Bengal to Bangla and he promised to do something about it."
 
The state has been trying to change the name of the state primarily to get central assistance early as West Bengal's turn comes right at the end.
 
The stalled projects taken up at the meeting related to railways and mining, and disinvestment of certain public sector units also figured at the meeting.
 
She also invited the Prime Minister for inauguration of the coal project in Birbhum.
 
Mamata carried a bouquet of yellow flowers and multiple packets of sandesh for Modi from a well known Kolkata shop.
 
Interestingly, during the heat and dust of the 2019 general elections, she had said, "I'll send Modi roshogollas made of mud, pebbles so that he loses his teeth".
 
The meeting comes at an interesting time, just a day after Modi's 69th birthday that drew criticism and formation of a 14-member Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) crack team to trace Rajeev Kumar, former Kolkata top cop and Mamata favourite, in the Rs 2,500 crore Saradha chit fund scam.
 
Bengal Congress chief Somen Mitra has accused Banerjee of making desperate attempts to ensure an "escape route" for Kumar.
 
"It's anybody's guess as why is she seeking a meeting with Modi all of a sudden," Kailash Vijayvargiya, BJP's Bengal in-charge, said, recalling Banerjee's sharp criticism of Modi during the 2019 general elections.
 
IANS
 
 

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Greater South-South cooperation needed to address climate change: Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said India would be happy proposing initiatives for greater South-South Cooperation on addressing the issue of climate change, biodiversity and land degradation.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the 14th Conference of Parties to the 14 United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, at Greater Noida on September 9, 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the 14th Conference of Parties to the 14 United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, at Greater Noida on September 9, 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said India would be happy proposing initiatives for greater South-South Cooperation on addressing the issue of climate change, biodiversity and land degradation.
 
Addressing the 14th Conference of Parties of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, Modi pointed out that desertification affects more than two-thirds of the countries of the world.
 
"This makes a compelling case for action on the land front. Combine this with the water crisis facing the world. Because when we address degraded lands we also address water scarcity issue.
 
"Augmenting water supply enhancing water recharge, slowing down water runoff and retaining moisture in the soil are all parts of holistic land and water strategy," he said.
 
"I call upon the leadership of UNCCD to create a Global Water Action Agenda which is central to the land degradation neutrality strategy.
 
"Restoring the health of the land is critical for sustainable development. Today, I was reminded of the India’s Indices that were submitted at the Paris COP at the UNFCCC.
 
"It highlighted India's deep cultural roots of maintaining a healthy balance between land, water, air trees and all living beings.
 
"Friends, it would make you happy that India had been able to increase its tree cover. Between 2015 to 2017 India’s tree and forest cover had been increased by 0.8 Mn Hectares," he said.
 
In India, any diversion of forest land for development purposes has to be compensated by making an equivalent landmass available for afforestation. It is also required that a monetary payment of the value of timber which such forest land would have yielded, he pointed out.
 
"I am happy to share that only last week funds amounting to nearly 6 Billion USD, that is, 40 to 50,000 crore rupees have been released to the provincial governments in lieu of such diversion for development of forest lands," he said.
 
"My government has launched a program to double the income of the farmers by increasing crop yield through various measures. This includes land restoration and micro-irrigation.
 
"We are working with the motto of per drop more crop.  At the same time, we are also focusing on zero budget natural farming. We have also introduced a scheme to determine the soil quality of each of the farms and are issuing soil health cards to the farmers. This enables them to grow right type of crops, fertilisers, and use the right quantity of water.
 
"So far about 217 million Soil Health Cards have been distributed. We are increasing the use of bio fertilisers and reducing the use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers," he added.
 
"Water management is another important issue. We have created Jal Shakti Ministry to address all water-related important issues in totality. Recognizing the value of water in all forms we enforced Zero liquid discharge in many industrial processes.
"The regulatory regime provides for treatment of wastewater to a degree that it can be put back into the river system without harming life in water," he added.  
 
Another form of land degradation which if not prevented could be impossible to reverse is the menace of plastic waste. Apart from having adverse health implications, this is going to render lands unproductive and unfit for agriculture, he said.
 
"My government has announced that India would put an end to single-use plastic in the coming years. We are committed to the development of environment friendly substitutes and also an efficient plastic collection and disposal method.
 
"I believe the time has come for even the world to say goodbye to single-use plastic," he added.
 
"Human empowerment is closely linked to the state of the environment. Be it harnessing water resources or reducing the usage of single-use plastic, the way ahead is behavioural change.
 
"It is only when all sections of society decide to achieve something we can see the desired results.
 
"We may introduce any number of frameworks but the real change will be powered by teamwork on the ground. India saw this in the case of the Swachcha Bharat Mission, people from all walks of life took part and ensured sanitation coverage, which is up from 38% in 2014 to 99% today.
 
"I am seeing the same spirit when it comes to ensuring the end of single-use plastic, youngsters, in particular, are more supportive and are taking the lead to bring positive change. The media is also playing a very valuable role.
 
"I would like to make a further commitment to the global land agenda, I also offer India’s support to those countries who may like to understand and adopt some of the LDN (Land Degradation Neutrality) Strategies that have succeeded in India.
 
"From this forum, I would like to announce that India would raise its ambition of the total area that would be restored from its land degradation status from 21 million hectares to 26 million hectares between now and 2030.
 
"This will support India’s large commitment to achieve an additional Carbon Sink between 2.5 billion MT to 3 billion MT through tree cover.
 
"We in India take pride in using remote sensing and space technology for multiple applications including land restoration. India would be happy to help other friendly countries develop land restoration strategies, through cost-effective satellite and space technology," he said.
 
"In order to further develop a scientific approach and facilitate induction of technology to land degradation issues, we have decided to set up a centre for excellence in India at the Indian Council for Forest Research and Education.
 
"This will actively engage, to promote South-South cooperation with those who wish to access knowledge, technology and training of manpower to address land degradation related issues.
 
"Friends, I understand that an ambitious new Delhi declaration is being considered. We are all aware that the Sustainable Development Goals have to be achieved by 2030 of which attainment of LDN is also a part. I wish you well as you deliberate further towards proposing a global strategy for Land Degradation Neutrality," he added.
 
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Ace lawyer, ex-Minister Ram Jethmalani passes away

Veteran criminal lawyer and former Union Law Minister Ram Jethmalani passed away on Sunday at his residence in Delhi.
Ram Jethmalani (File photo: IANS) 
Ram Jethmalani (File photo: IANS) 
Veteran criminal lawyer and former Union Law Minister Ram Jethmalani passed away on Sunday at his residence here, confirmed advocate Ashish Dixit. 
 
Jethmalani was 96.
 
He had also served as the Minister of Urban Development in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government. In 2010, he was elected as the President of the Supreme Court Bar Association.
 
Born on September 14, 1923 in Sindh, Pakistan, Jethmalani completed his LL. M. from the S. C. Shahani Law College, Karachi.
 
He was first elected to the Lok Sabha in 1977. He took charge as Union Minister of Law, Justice and Company Affairs in October 1999 until July 2000 in the Atal Bihari  Vajpayee government.
 
A noted criminal lawyer, Jethmalani has been part of legendary cases including the famous multi-crore 2G allocation case.
 
He had appeared for Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh, convicted for the assassination of the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi; Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convict V. Sriharan alias Murugan; Harshad Mehta in the stock market scam; underworld don Haji Mastan in smuggling cases; and had argued for senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L. K. Advani in the Hawala case.
 
Jethmalani has also written various books including the "Conflict of Laws", "Justice: Soviet Style" and "Big Egos and Small Men".
 
A specialist in Criminal and Constitutional Law, he was also a part-time professor in Government Law College (Mumbai), Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi) and Wayne State University in the US.
 
He also was made Chairman of the Bar Council of India in 1970 and member of International Bar Association in 1966.
 
IANS
 

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Ex-Finance Minister Chidambaram sent to judicial custody in INX Media case

A Delhi court on Thursday sent former Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram to judicial custody in the CBI case related to INX Media.
P. Chidambaram (File photo: IANS)
P. Chidambaram (File photo: IANS)
A Delhi court on Thursday sent former Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram to judicial custody in the CBI case related to INX Media.
 
Special CBI Judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar sent Chidambaram to 14 days in custody after he was produced in court on Thursday. The court also allowed applications moved by Chidambaram seeking medicines and a western-style toilet in jail along with Z-category security and a separate cell with a cot and a bathroom. The same were allowed by the court.
 
Chidambaram has also moved another application in the court seeking permission to surrender in the Enforcement Directorate case relating to INX Media. The court had issued a notice to the financial watchdogs and the hearing on it would take place on September 12.
 
During the course of hearing, Chidambaram's counsel Kapil Sibal said, "There is nothing found against me. If I am a powerful person and I can influence the witness, they should bring some evidence of at least an attempt of tampering of evidence or influencing of witness."
 
"Potential of, likely to, apprehension of, can't be the reasons for me going to the judicial custody," he added.
 
Responding on the submissions, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, said, "Are you arguing on bail?"
 
Sibal replied, "I am arguing on the grounds you are seeking judicial custody for."
 
"It is bascially humiliation. There must be proof that has to be given," Sibal said.
 
Mehta replied "So far as the ED case is concerned, Supreme Court has accepted the chance of tampering. There is a strong possibility of tampering with the evidence."
 
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Kashmir is India's internal issue: Rahul slams Pakistan

Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday supported the government's stand that Kashmir was India's internal issue and said there was no room for any other foreign country to interfere in it.
File photo of Rahul Gandhi
File photo of Rahul Gandhi
Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday supported the government's stand that Kashmir was India's internal issue and said there was no room for any other foreign country to interfere in it.
 
The Congress leader, in a series of tweets, said: "I disagree with this government on many issues. But, let me make this absolutely clear: Kashmir is India's internal issue and there is no room for Pakistan or any other foreign country to interfere in it."
 
"There is violence in Jammu and Kashmir. There is violence because it is instigated and supported by Pakistan, which is known to be the prime supporter of terrorism across the world," he added.
 
IANS
 

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Confident that changes in Kashmir will benefit people: President

President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday expressed confidence that the government's moves on Kashmir would be of "immense benefit" to the people of J&K and Ladakh and enable them to access the same rights and privileges as the rest of the country.
File photo of President Ram Nath Kovind
File photo of President Ram Nath Kovind
President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday expressed confidence that the government's moves on Kashmir would be of "immense benefit" to the people of J&K and Ladakh and enable them to access the same rights and privileges as the rest of the country.
 
In his Independence Day eve address, that comes days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's address to the nation on Kashmir, President Kovind said: "I am confident that the recent changes made in Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh would be of immense benefit to those regions. They will enable the people to access and enjoy the same rights, same privileges and same facilities as their fellow citizens in the rest of the country."
 
On August 5, the Government of India revoked the special status for Kashmir and divided the state into two Union territories - J&K and Ladakh -- for better governance.
 
Referring to the Lok Sabha elections, he said the 17th general election was the largest democratic exercise in human history. "For this I must congratulate our voters. They turned up at polling stations in large numbers and with much enthusiasm."
 
He expressed happiness that the recently concluded session of Parliament saw lengthy and productive sittings of both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. "Many important Bills were passed, in a spirit of cross-party cooperation and constructive debate. I am confident this is only an indicator of what the coming five years have in store. I also urge that this culture percolates to all our legislative assemblies."
 
Commenting on governance, he said the state and the government have an important role to play as facilitator and an enabler. "As such, it is critical for our key institutions and the policy makers to study and appreciate the message being sent by citizens and to be responsive to the thoughts and wishes of our people."
 
"Indians can be very different in their tastes and habits, but Indians share the same dreams. Before 1947, the dreams were for a free India. Today, the dreams are for accelerated development; for effective and transparent governance; and yet for a smaller footprint of government in our everyday lives."
 
IANS

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Kerala flood toll hits 67; over 2.54 lakh in camps

The heavy rains that lashed Kerala over the last few days have lessened in intensity, even as the toll rose to 67 while over 2.54 lakh displaced people were in relief camps, the state government said on Sunday.
The scene at Puthmula village, Mepaddi, Wayanad district of Kerala where a landslide caused large-scale destruction, on August 9, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
The scene at Puthmula village, Mepaddi, Wayanad district of Kerala where a landslide caused large-scale destruction, on August 9, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
The heavy rains that lashed Kerala over the last few days have lessened in intensity, even as the toll rose to 67 while over 2.54 lakh displaced people were in relief camps, the state government said on Sunday.
 
All the 14 districts in the state, except Kollam, have people taking shelter in over 1,600 relief camps. Malappuram district with over 54,000 people has the largest number of people in the camps.
 
Earlier in the day, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told the media that compared to last year's floods which ravaged the entire state, the intensity this time is not that bad and has affected fewer districts.
 
"In a big relief to those engaged in rescue efforts, the rains today appear to have come down," he said.
 
The worst-affected areas are Meppadi in Wayanad and Kavalapara in Malappuram. Various rescue teams are working hard to recover bodies of those trapped.
 
"As of now, eight people are still missing in Meppadi and with the rains subsiding, the rescue works are going on well. However, more rains are predicted in the coming days. All should be on high alert and be receptive to warnings," Vijayan said.
 
Earlier in the day, former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, who is the MP from Wayanad, reached Kozhikode and drove first to Kavalapara and visited a church where 360 people were taking shelter. He listened to their woes and assured them of all possible help.
 
Gandhi will be touring Wayanad on Monday where he is expected to visit a few relief camps and affected areas.
 
Meanwhile, Vijayan expressed anguish at the manner in which some sections are spreading rumours about contributions to the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund.
 
"This fund will be used only for the needs of the affected and not for anything else. Knowing well about this, it's unfortunate that some negative campaigns are currently on... what we have found out is that the origin of this is from outside our state. The media also has a role in this to ensure that these anti-social measures are curbed," he said.
 
"We have not yet asked for funds from the Centre and they are providing us all the support for the ongoing relief and rescue work," added Vijayan.
 
Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala told the media that he has called on everyone to contribute to the fund generously.
 
The maximum deaths --  18 -- were reported from Wayanad, while Malappuram, Palakkad, Idukki, and Kozhikode have also reported casualties.
 
"Today (Sunday) there is a red alert in Kannur, Kasargode and Wayanad and orange alerts in six other districts," Vijayan said.
 
The Chief Minister said despite heavy rains, the water level had increased only in three dams while water level at dams in Idukki and Pathanamthitta continued to be low.
 
Even as a few long-distance trains were cancelled for the day, Railways were able to operate short-distance ones in several sectors while in a few other sectors, operations are expected to begin soon.
 
The Cochin International Airport that was closed a few days back, was also opened for service Sunday afternoon when the first flight landed.
 
"Operations have resumed and passengers can come for check-in according to the schedules," said an airport official.
 
IANS
 

60 killed in Kerala flood; 2.27 lakh in relief camps

Even as the heavy rains that lashed Kerala in the past few days abated, the death toll stood at 60 on Sunday, according to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
The scene at Puthmula village, Mepaddi, Wayanad district of Kerala where a landslide caused large-scale destruction, on August 9, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
The scene at Puthmula village, Mepaddi, Wayanad district of Kerala where a landslide caused large-scale destruction, on August 9, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
Even as the heavy rains that lashed Kerala in the past few days abated, the death toll stood at 60 on Sunday, according to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
 
Compared to last year's floods which ravaged the entire state, this time it is not that bad and has affected fewer districts, Vijayan said soon after chairing a meeting of the disaster response team that functions from near his office here.
 
"The rains today appear to have come down and have been a big relief for those engaged in the rescue and relief operations in the worst affected areas. Today there are 1,551 camps operating in which 2,27,335 people are housed," said Vijayan.
 
The worst affected places are near Meppadi in Wayanad and Kavalapara in Malappuram districts and those are the places where the various rescue teams are working hard to recover bodies of those trapped under a huge pile of mud.
 
"As of now, eight people are still missing in Meppadi and with the rains subsiding, the rescue works are going on well. The forecast, however, appears that more rains are predicted in the coming days and hence all should be on high alert and the need of the hour is all should be receptive to warnings and alerts and should listen to what authorities ask," added Vijayan.
 
He also expressed anguish in the manner in which some anti-social elements are taking to social media spreading canards about contributions to the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund.
 
"This fund will be used only for the needs of the affected and not for anything else. Knowing well about this, it's unfortunate that some negative campaigns are currently on and what we have found out is that the origin of this is from outside our state. The media also has a role in this to ensure that these anti-socials are curbed," said Vijayan.
 
"We have not yet asked for funds from the Centre and they are providing us all the support for the ongoing relief and rescue work," added Vijayan.
 
The maximum deaths -- 18 -- were reported from Wayanad, while Malappuram, Palakkad, Idukki, Kozhikode have also reported casualties.
 
"Today there is a red alert in Kannur, Kasargode and Wayanad and orange alerts in six other districts," he said.
 
The Chief Minister said despite heavy rains, the water level had increased only in three dams while water level at dams in Idukki and Pathanamthitta continue to be low.
 
Even while a few long-distance trains were cancelled for the day, they were able to operate short-distance ones in several sectors while in few other sectors, operations are expected to begin soon.
 
The other good news was that the Cochin International Airport that was closed a few days back, was opened for service Sunday afternoon when the first flight landed.
 
"Operations have resumed and passengers can come for check-in according to the schedules," said an airport official.
 
IANS
 

(Our News Desk can be contacted at desk@netindian.in)

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