23:40 Pak troops violate ceasefire in Poonch sector:
In a fresh ceasefire violation, Pakistani troops tonight fired at Indian posts along the Line of Control in Poonch sector of Jammu and Kashmir, but there was no casualty on the Indian side.
Pakistani troopers resorted to small and medium weapon firing in Balnoi forward area along the LoC at 20.05 PM, PRO Defence S N Acharya told PTI here.
Indian troops guarding the borderline retaliated resulting in exchange of fire which continued till 22.50 pm, he said. There was no loss of life on the Indian side in the Pakistani firing, the Defence PRO said.
23:24 Afzal's wife demands return of his body:
The wife of Afzal Guru, who was hanged and buried in Tihar jail last week, has said she had full right over his body and demanded that the mortal remains be handed over to her for 'proper burial' in his home state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The home ministry, however, is likely to reject the request of Afzal's wife Tabassum, citing jail manuals and possible law and order situation which may arise in Jammu and Kashmir in the event of the body of the Parliament attack convict being handed over to the family, official sources said tonight.
In her short letter, Tabassum said that as Afzal's wife she has full right over the body and its formal burial in his home state in keeping with religious traditions.
23:00 16 killed in terror attacks in northwest Pakistan:
In a series of terror attacks targeting security forces, at least 21 people, including six militants and five security personnel, were killed and over 40 injured in Pakistan's restive northwest today.
A suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden pick-up truck into a check post manned by policemen and Frontier Corps personnel in Hangu district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
Eleven people, including five security personnel and two children, were killed in the attack, officials said. Twenty-three injured people were taken to nearby hospitals.
The blast created an eight-foot crater and the check post was destroyed. Authorities imposed curfew after the blast and additional security forces were sent to the area.
The banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack.
22:26 Curfew reimposed in Kashmir:
Authorities tonight re-imposed curfew in Kashmir to foil any plans of separatist groups to stage a march to Eidgah graveyard in memory of Parliament attack convict Mohammad Afzal Guru.
The police vehicles fitted with public address systems announced the imposition of curfew and asked people not to venture out of their homes.
A police spokesman said the curfew has been clamped as a precautionary measure to maintain law and order.
22:26 Kargil and 26/11 martyrs' kin participate in Kumbh:
About 100 people, closely related to martyrs of the Kargil incursion and the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, today took part in a number of functions held at the ongoing Maha Kumbh in the memory of the martyrs.
"The martyrs' kinsmen, who had been invited to the ongoing congregation by spiritual leader Maharaj Bal Yogeshwarji, took a holy dip in the Sangam before taking part in havans organised at Yogeshwarji's yajnashala.
They were joined by a number of senior Army officials, including Major General Bishamber Dayal, General Officer Commanding Purva UP and MP sub-area", Defence spokesman Wing Commander B B Pande said.
22:13 Amnesty demands halt on execution of Veerapan associates:
Amnesty International today demanded a halt on the execution of four associates of slain sandalwood smuggler Veerapan.
"India must immediately halt the impending executions of four prisoners whose mercy petitions were rejected by President Pranab Mukherjee," Amnesty International said in a statement.
The four prisoners -- Gnanprakasham, Simon, Meesekar Madaiah and Bilavendran -- were sentenced to death in a 1993 landmine blast case.
22:06 Maha Kumbh: Elaborate arrangements for last 'Shahi Snan' :
Elaborate arrangements have been put in place by the state administration and the Railways for the third and last Shahi Snan
of the Maha Kumbh on Friday in the wake of the stampede at a railway station in Allahabad.
As a gesture of condolence, akharas have decided to keep their bathing processions a low-key affair.
"We have been assured by the Railways that it will be running more than 70 special trains, other than the regular ones, in the next three days to ensure safe return journey of pilgrims coming for a holy dip in the Sangam on Basant Panchami," said Devesh Chaturvedi, divisional commissioner of Allahabad.
22:04 Chandrababu Naidu takes a break from 'padayatra':
Telugu Desam Party chief N Chandrababu Naidu had to take a break from his ongoing state-wide padayatra.
He was injured after the wooden steps of a dais he was standing on collapsed in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh today.
Naidu was standing on the steps, taking representations from the people after addressing a gathering in Kolakalurum, when they collapsed.
22:00 Drought situation in Maharashtra serious: CM:
Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan today described as serious the drought situation in the state and said the focus of the state budget in March would primarily be on drought relief measures.
Speaking at a meeting of MPs from the state ahead of the budget session of the Parliament, Chavan said the state will have to tackle the drought situation for the next five to six months.
20:44 Summons to Karuna, Vijayakant on defamation plea:
A local court today ordered the issuance of summons to DMK chief M Karunanidhi, DMDK founder Vijayakant and senior Congress leader E V K S Elangovan to appear before it on different days in April in connection with a defamation complaints filed by the Tamil Nadu government.
The Principal Sessions Judge directed the DMK chief to appear before him on April 29, Vijayakanth on April 26 and Elangovan on April 25, in connection with the cases against them.
20:43 Sena leader Parshuram Uparkar likely to join MNS:
In a setback for the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena, its former MLC Parshuram Uparkar said today that he is likely to quit the party and join the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.
Uparkar, whose MLC term ended in July last year, met Raj Thackeray today.
Raj will address a rally in Khed on Friday and Uparkar is likely to join the party with his supporters at the rally.
20:42 Rahul promises early solution to Naga problem:
AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi today promised an early solution to the decades old Naga problem which would be "honourable and acceptable to all sections of the people".
The UPA government at the Centre is sincere towards resolving the Naga political issue, he said.
"The UPA government will try all avenues to find a settlement of the Naga issue at the earliest so that peace can be ushered in the state for all-round development," he told public rallies at Mon and Tuensang.
19:44 Benedict's protege to hold dual role under new pope:
Pope Benedict XVI's closest confidant Georg Gaenswein will continue to be the soon-to-be former pope's secretary while also overseeing the new pope's household, the Vatican said today.
"He will remain prefect of the papal household and will also be secretary to Benedict," Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said at a press briefing. "He has informed us he will take up residence with Benedict" in a monastery within the Vatican walls that is currently being renovated, Lombardi said.
19:27 'Mercy petition' page removed from Pres office website:
The office of the President has taken off the 'mercy petition' section from its official website and it said matters relating to the subject for public information will henceforth be dealt by the Union home ministry.
The website had a separate section giving details of the number of clemency petitions pending with President Pranab Mukherjee and those cleared by him after he assumed office in July last year.
19:25 Mumbai: Major traffic congestion on domestic airport route:
There are reports of a major traffic jam on the Sion - Dharavi - Kalanagar route of the Express Highway that leads to Mumbai's domestic airport.
Motorists travelling on the route can expect delays of up to 1.5 to 2 hours.
Motorists are advised to use the Andheri Kurla Road and International Airport Road to reach the domestic airport.
For further traffic updates go to www.traffline.com
18:52 91.6 per cent voting in Tripura:
Tripura today witnessed a massive turnout of 91.6 per cent of 23,52,505 voters in peaceful polling amidst tight security for the 60-member House. The percentage of polling could rise as poll process was still continuing in some parts of the state, sources in the office of the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) said.
In the last assembly election in 2008, the percentage of polling was 92.6 per cent. The Left Front is hoping to return for a record fifth straight time with the main contest between the LF and the Congress.
18:36 Full statement of Reeva Steenkamp's PR agency:
Full statement from Reeva Steenkamp's PR agency confirming she was the victim of this morning's shooting. South African police are yet to formally identify the victim. Steenkamp was the girlfriend of Oscar Pistorius, shot dead today.
"We can confirm that Reeva Steenkamp has passed away. We are in communication with people on the scene, please wait for official statements, as there is too much speculation at this moment in time. We will provide further information as soon as we are able to provide accurate information as to what transpired. Our thoughts and prayers go to the Steenkamp family, who have asked to have their privacy respected during this difficult time, everyone is simply devastated. She was the kindest, sweetest human being; an angel on earth and will be sorely missed." -- Guardian.
The inevitable quips on Oscar Pistorius on Twitter...
Jay Cartwright: If this Oscar Pistorius thing goes to court he wont have a leg to stand on
Aidan McLaren: Pistorius making up for his lack of legs by clearly being very well armed
Ethan: I bet Pistorius shot his wife because she bought him shoes for Valentine's....
17:59 India asks Finmeccanica: Were individuals bribed?:
India asks Italian firm Finmeccanica to specify if money was paid to Indian individuals or entities in VVIP choppers. The government also warns of legal action including blacklisting of Finmeccanica if corruption allegations against it are proved.
17:57 TCS overtakes RIL to become India's most valued company:
TCS today surpassed Reliance Industries to become the country's most valued company as the IT major's market capitalisation soared to over Rs 2.83 lakh crore on the back of a spurt in its share price.
At the end of trade, TCS commanded a market value of Rs 2,83,209 crore, the highest for any listed company in the country. This is about Rs 6,523 crore more than RIL's market value of Rs 2,76,686 crore.
17:24 Time Warner may shed magazine division:
Time Warner is reported to be in talks to shed much of Time Inc, the largest magazine publisher in the United States, which has a big division, IPC Media, in Britain.
The company is said to be in early discussions with the Meredith Corporation to put most of Time Inc's magazines -- including People, InStyle and Real Simple -- into a separate, publicly traded company that would also include Meredith's titles, such as Better Homes and Gardens, Ladies' Home Journal and Family Circle. Read
17:16 Tibets voice of realism :
Pico Iyer, essayist and novelist, on the Dalai Lama: China needs Japan, Japan needs China,' the 14th Dalai Lama declared, with immovable conviction, as I listened to him in a sunlit conference room in Yokohama last November, a great Ferris wheel turning outside and a jungle of high-rising grey skyscrapers presiding over the blue bay. Read
17:09 Murder accused Pistorius due to appear in court:
Oscar Pistorius leaves the Boschkop police station, east of Pretoria, South Africa en route to appear in court charged with murder. Pistorius's unusually quick appearance in court was reportedly requested by the athlete himself.
16:44 I grabbed a gun and tiptoed downstairs: Pestorius :
"As he put together lunch for all of us -- fruit smoothies, breaded chicken fillets he pulled from the refrigerator -- he mentioned that a security alarm in the house had gone off the previous night, and he had grabbed his gun and tiptoed downstairs. (It turned out to be nothing.)" -- the New York Times interview with Oscar Pestorius in January 2012. Read
World headlines on the Oscar Pestorius story. See
16:30 Oscar is sad, says his father :
Earlier in the day, Pistorius's father said his son was "sad" following a shooting at his Pretoria home which left his girlfriend dead.
"I don't know nothing. It will be extremely obnoxious and rude to speculate. I don't know the facts," Henke Pistorius told SABC radio news.
"If anyone makes a statement, it will have to be Oscar. He's sad at the moment."
He added that his heart goes out to the victim's family. Earlier, a convoy of about 10 cars arrived at the Boschkop police station in Pretoria following the shooting. Pistorius's sister, Aimee, was among those arriving at the station. Police have opened a case of murder.
16:26 Piers Morgan @piersmorgan Wow. SA police say media reports of a mistaken intruder explanation for Pistorius girlfriend shooting 'did NOT come from us'.
16:25 Olympian Oscar Pistorius charged with murder:
Just in: South African police: Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius charged with murder.Previous incidents, allegations of a domestic nature, reported at home of Oscar Pistorius, police say.
The South African police to oppose any bail application by Oscar Pistorius at the court appearance over murder charge.
According to the Beeld newspaper, the athlete known as the "Blade Runner" was arrested early today following the shooting at his home in an upscale area near the South African capital.
Police spokesman Katlego Mogale said a "26-year-old man had been taken into custody for shooting a 30-year-old woman".
Mogale could not confirm if the suspect was Pistorius, saying his identity would be revealed only once he appears in court later on Thursday.
The deceased was shot four times and died on the scene."
The deceased, South African model Reeva Steenkamp, was the girlfriend of the accused. Steenkamp, a former FHM model and law graduate, was the face of Avon cosmetics in her native South Africa.
New Delhi street kids forge alter-egos on Facebook to connect with world. Read
Stephanie Nolen's piece for the Globe and Mail.
16:05 Steenkamp was looking forward to V-Day:
South African model Reeva Steenkamp was looking forward to Valentine's Day. "What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow?" she asked her thousands of followers on Twitter a day before. "Get excited."
She did not live to see the day. More
16:02 Pistorius shot model Reeva Steenkamp :
Oscar Pistorius, the Olympic and Paralympic athlete, has allegedly shot his girlfriend, South African model Reeva Steenkamp. She reportedly died from gunshots to the head, chest and arm according to Johannesburg's Talk Radio 702. Steenkamp, a former FHM model and law graduate, was the face of Avon cosmetics in her native South Africa. More
16:01 29-year-old model Reeva Steenkamp was the victim of the shooting at the home of Oscar Pistorius, talent agent confirms.
15:55 India finds executing extremists isn't so easy:
Although India is in a minority of nations that still have the death
penalty on the books, the sentence is implemented far less often than it
is handed down. Before Kasab's execution, there had been only two
hangings in India in the last 17 years. Afzal Guru had been sentenced to
death in 2002, and remained in jail for more than a decade before he
was hanged Feb. 9. Read
15:54 Bribes, necessary part of doing business globally: Berlusconi:
Defending Finmeccanica SpA's jailed ex-chief executive officer Giuseppe Orsi, Italy's three-time former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi today said bribes are a necessary part of doing business globally.
"Bribes are a phenomenon that exists and it's useless to deny the existence of these necessary situations," Berlusconi said in a televised interview. "These are not crimes. We're talking about paying a commission to someone in that country. Why, because those are the rules in that country," the former premier was quoted as saying by Bloomberg.
In February 2010, India had inked the deal to acquire the 12 three-engine AW-101 helicopters from AgustaWestland for IAF's elite Communication Squadron, which ferries the President, PM and other VVIPs. The deal came under the scanner of Italian agencies after allegations of kickback given in India surfaced.
1941- A Love Story or Why you don't need Valentine's Day. Read
15:37 Rs 217 cr! That's the bribe AgustaWestland kept: Report:
Italy's state-controlled AgustaWestland had allegedly kept aside Rs 217 crore as part of "corrupt activity" to bag India's Rs 3,600 crore deal and its choppers became eligible only after certain required parameters were altered in the tender document.
According to the report filed by Italian investigators in an Italian court, the middlemen had agreed for a 7.5 per cent commission in the Rs 3600 crore for 12 VVIP helicopters.
Finally, the kickbacks were to the tune of about Rs 362 crore. The payment of bribes through contracts between firms registered in Tunisia and India, was "still underway" when the scam was unearthed.
PM's statement to the media during the State Visit of President of France to India. Read
15:30 Shane Warne tweets: I'm going to spoil ElizabethHurley too as I love EH so much.
15:24 Benedict XVIs successor last pope before apocalypse?:
Doomsday fanatics have claimed that a 12th century prophecy states the successor to Benedict XVI will be the last pope before the end of the world. After the Mayan 2012 prophecies failed to materialise, apocalypse aficionados have turned their attention to the purported writings of St Malachy, an Irish saint and Archbishop of Armagh, who lived between 1094 and 1148, the Daily Mail reported.
St Malachy is said to have travelled to Rome in 1139, where he experienced a vision of future popes, writing down a series of 112 cryptic phrases that described each one in turn.
The saint's final prediction 'Petrus Romanus' is now being linked to leading contender Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson.
According to Malachy's visions, 'Petrus Romanus' will be the 112th and final pope after whom it is stated that the "the seven-hilled city will be destroyed and the dreadful Judge will judge the people.'
Although not part of official Catholic teaching, the Prophecy of the Popes is well known by Vatican officials and Catholic scholars.
15:19 Norah Jones: Will forever be re-discovering dad Ravi Shankar:
Norah Jones, who lost her father Pandit Ravi Shankar in December at the age of 92, said that she will forever be re-discovering his music.
The 'Come Away With Me' singer took the stage at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre, four days after accepting her father's posthumous Grammy Award, the Daily Mail reported.
The 33-year-old singer-songwriter took the stage in a demure blue cotton dress and crooned her hits as fans packed into the venue.
Ravi Shankar passed away on December 11, five days after undergoing a heart-valve replacement surgery.
15:05 Finmeccanica SpA appoints new CEO:
Scandal-hit Finmeccanica SpA, Italy's biggest defense contractor, has appointed Alessandro Pansa as the new CEO to succeed Giuseppe Orsi, who was arrested this week on charges of tax fraud and corruption including alleged pay-offs in the Rs 3,600 crore VVIP chopper deal with India.
15:00 Is Omar Abdullah pandering to Separatists?:
In his anxiety to shield himself from the adverse fallout of the sudden execution of Afzal Guru, Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah made a startling confession which raises legitimate questions about the National Conference's role in the so-called alienation of Kashmiri Muslims (Sunni, not Shia) from the nation. Read
In honor of Valentine's Day, an assortment of political pecks from around the world. See
A volatile Brahmaputra river will grow only more so. Read
the report on the NYT.
14:48 Falling short of the whole truth:
Soma Sengupta, a lawyer, who was born in India and grew up mostly in Jersey City, was charged with forgery and other charges at the State Supreme Court in Manhattan, when it emerged that she had not only "shaved nearly two decades off her age but that nearly everything about her work and education history was not as she had claimed," Russ Buettner wrote in The New York Times. Read
14:38 Maldives sees red as ex-prez seeks refuge with India :
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid will be speaking to his counterpart in Maldives which has raised strong objections to India's views regarding former President Mohamed Nasheed, who has sought "refuge" at the Indian High Commission in Male.
"I will be talking to the Foreign Minister of Maldives (Abdul Samad Abdullah) regarding the issue," Khurshid said. Nasheed (45) yesterday took refuge in the Indian High Commission in Male to evade arrest warrant issued by a local court in a case concerning the detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court during his Presidency in January last year. Sources here said that senior Indian officials are going to understand from Nasheed his future plans.
14:13 Indian gold buyers turn to online stores:
Until recently, gold sellers in India relied almost exclusively on walk-in customers. This is changing, as a growing number of people in the world's largest gold market are turning to online shopping to buy bangles, necklaces and earrings. Read
14:08 What sexist minister Vayalar Ravi told woman scribe :
Union Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi was caught on camera asking a woman journalist of Mathrubhumi TV channel whether she had any personal experiences with Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha P.J. Kurien who is embroiled in the Suryanelli sex scandal.
When the reporter asked Ravi if the High Command still stood by Kurien in the sex scandal issue, the Minister shot back: "Do you have anything personal against Kurien? I am sure you do. Has something happened between you and him in the past?"
The minister has apologised after a furor over the remarks.
13:56 Suryanelli rape: Finally, Sonia meets Kurien:
Just in: After a week of dithering, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has finally met Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P J Kurien over the Suryanelli rape case. Yesterday, Kurien wrote separate letters to Sonia and Hamid Ansari, Chairman of the Upper House, explaining his position on the Suryanelli rape case.
Kurien apparently wanted to meet Gandhi in person but could not get an appointment, till today. He was learned to have stated in the letter that all allegations against him were cooked up and politically motivated. He denied any involvement in the 17-year-old case, contending that various courts had already exonerated him.
13:52 External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid to speak to his Maldivian counterpart regarding former President Mohamed Nasheed.
13:45 Commedy of error? Raju Srivastava to be candidate for SP:
The Samajwadi Party (SP) has decided to field famous stand-up comedian Raju Srivastava against the Congress's Sriprakash Jaiswal from Kanpur. While Srivastava is from Kanpur, Jaiswal is the Union minister of state (independent charge) for coal and has been MP for the area three times. Read more
13:37 Gulzar cuts short Pak trip over Islamist threats:
Reports that prominent lyricist Gulzar cut short his visit to Pakistan over threats from fundamentalist Islamists have sparked a row between the Pakistani media and the Indian High Commission in Islamabad. Gulzar, who reached Lahore on Tuesday, was scheduled to fly to Karachi to attend a three-day literary festival, starting on Friday. Read more
13:35 The Presidential gardener :
Nigam Prakash gardens in extremes.In summer, when the temperatures in Delhi scrape the high 40s, the chief horticulturalist to the President of India has to make sure that the lawns of Rashtrapati Bhavan, the official residence, stay green.In winter, Mr. Prakash must protect delicate plants in the President's Mughal garden from frost damage.His biggest test in this volatile gardening environment is to ensure that over the next month, when the garden opens to the public, around half a million flowers bloom in unison. ReadAlso see
the slideshow on rediff.com: Roses bloom at Rashtrapati Bhavan.
13:32 Witness to an immolation in Kathmandu:
Police in Nepal on Wednesday said a young man they believe is a Tibetan refugee set himself on fire inside the complex of a famous Buddhist religious site in Kathmandu.Tibetan activists said the incident highlights the continuing spate of self-immolations by Tibetans protesting against what they see as China's repressive regime in their homeland. Read
13:15 North Korea's new reality:
Tuesday's nuclear test by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea may have been widely anticipated but that has not made the tremors from its showmanship any less alarming. The test poses a difficult strategic dilemma for both the United States -- Enemy No.1 for North Korea '" and China, Pyongyang's strongest ally. Read
the editorial on the Hindu.
13:13 Jaswant: Ex-Air Chief can't be blamed for chopper scandal:
BJP leader Jaswant Singh on Thursday said blaming former Air Chief S.P. Tyagi for the AgustaWestland copter scam is not correct, and demanded a probe in the matter.
"I am sad that the accused in this is an Italian company. It seems that we have forgotten them. What we are focusing on is only what did the chief do," Singh told media here.
"The Air Chief Marshal is a distinguished retired officer. We should not casually denigrate these higher officers of the armed forces," he added.
Emphasizing that the extent of scam in Italy is bigger than in India, Singh said a thorough probe must be conducted into the entire matter so that all hidden facts are cleared and the truth comes out.
13:04 The First Lady:
An interesting piece on the wife of Pakistan first prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan. Read
13:02 Sori acquitted in crucial case, lawyer optimistic of speedy trial:
Soni Sori, the tribal accused of acting as a courier between Essar Steel and the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist), has been acquitted in a crucial case filed in 2010 by the Dantewada district police against 19 individuals for allegedly opening fire and using explosives to blow vehicles of Essar. Ms Sori was one of the key accused in the case. More
12:54 Chopper scandal: India media hotfoot it to Milan :
Our Delhi sources tell us that a a news channel crew was seen at the New Delhi International airport flying to Milan, Italy, to chase the story on the AgustaWestland chopper deal. They hope to meet the CEO of Finmeccanica who has been jailed for his alleged involvement in the bribery scandal. This has apparently created a scare for Intelligence agencies, the Defence Ministry and Indian Air Force officials, who fear more skeletons may fall out of various cupboards. The buzz is that at least six TV channels are likely to be deputed to Milan to follow the chopper deal scam.
12:40 Did Pistorius mistake burglar for girlfriend?:
This is what Reuters has on Oscar Pistorius shooting his girlfriend.
Johannesburg's Talk Radio 702 said Pistorius was understood to have shot his girlfriend in the head and arm, although the circumstances surrounding the incident were unclear. He may have mistaken her for a burglar, the radio report said.A police spokeswoman told Reuters that a woman had been found dead at the house but declined to give any more details.
Pistorius, who races wearing carbon fiber prosthetic blades after he was born without a fibula in both legs, was the first double amputee to run in the Olympics and reached the 400 semi-finals in London 2012.
12:35 Paralympic gold medallist Oscar Pistorius kills girlfriend:
South African Paralympic gold medallist Oscar Pistorius has reportedly shot and killed his girlfriend, after mistaking her for a burglar.
South African media are reporting the incident happened at his Silver Lakes home at around 4am on Thursday morning.
Captain Sarah Mcira confirmed to a South African website that Pistorius's girlfriend was shot in the head and arm and died at the scene.
Pistorius, 26, dubbed Blade Runner for the blade-like prosthetics he wears for his double under-knee amputation, is reportedly in police custody.
12:10 PMO, Intelligence chiefs in high-voltage meet today:
With many scams brewing up and the UPA2 in a crisis mode, the role of intelligence agencies are crucial to the political leadership. Petitions before apex courts earlier in other formats have also been argued-and the governments shall have a final say.
Prime Minister VP Singh in 1989 brought out a parliament resolution that IB and RAW have to be made accountable to Parliament. A joint Parliament committee was set up with Jaswant Singh as Chairman with reference to bringing intelligence agencies to the Parliament control. But such moves had never taken off-in 20 years.
12:09 PMO, Intelligence chiefs in high-voltage meet today:
The Prime Minister Office has called a meeting today at 1 pm at South Block of the heads of the Intelligence Bureau, the Research and Analysis Wing and the Directorate of Military Intelligence, in order to take a consolidated policy about the role of these agencies. It may be recalled that a petition is before Supreme Court on accountability of intelligence agencies.
A bench presided over by Justice Altamas Kabir sought the response of the government to the PIL by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) seeking accountability of IB, RAW and the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) like in other democratic countries such as UK and the US.
The bench has also sought the assistance of Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati in the matter.
12:01 The Question of Reasonable Doubt:
The guilt of Afzal Guru was not as evident as the State would have you think. And his dubious execution may not be the last such case. Read
the report on Open magazine.
11:50 From Bengal Famine to Right to Food:
While there is reason to be proud of the progress in the production of wheat, rice, cereals and millets, the use of farmland for non-farm purposes is a cause for concern. MS Swaminathan on the Right to Food. Read
11:45 In India, kisses are on the rise, even in public:
India may be the birthplace of the Kama Sutra, the ancient how-to manual on kissing and sex. But for many years, Indian couples did not widely embrace kissing, at least not in public. Now that is changing. Read
11:43 The rising menace of intolerance:
Former Attorney General of India, Soli J. Sorabjee's piece for the Hindu: Freedom of expression will continue to remain under siege unless all groups accept that people can have different opinions and beliefs in a free country. Read
11:35 Kashmir limping back to normalcy:
Kashmir today started limping back to normalcy, five days after the hanging of Parliament attack convict Mohammad Afzal Guru, even as curfew remained in force in 10 towns of the Valley as a precautionary measure. A police spokesman said curfew has been relaxed in many parts of the Valley this morning.
"Curfew is in force in some places as a precautionary measure which includes six police station areas in the city and some towns in rest of the Valley," the spokesman said.
11:31 Tyagi passes buck to Brajesh:
Update on the allegations against former air chief SP Tyagi. Speaking to the Telegraph, India, Tyagi says: "I am only a fighter pilot who has been leading a retired life for six years,' says former Air Chief Marshal Shashi P Tyagi, grabbing a half-hour from a series of television interviews he has been giving to television channels in his Gurgaon house.
The former head of the Indian Air Force is at the centre of the row over the AgustaWestland 101 VVIP helicopters since an Italian court named him as one of the beneficiaries of the "skyfall to windfall' bribes that Finmeccanica is alleged to have paid. Read
11:28 1 in 4 women think V-Day perfect time for men to propose:
On Valentine's Day today, largely peaceful in India, results of a survey. (Another one of those inane ones).
Well, according to a new survey, men should propose after exactly two years of dating, on a deserted beach, on Valentine's Day, the Daily mail reported.
Of the 200 polled, one in four women (22 percent) said this would be their ideal proposal situation and although it might be considered corny by some, this Thursday is still seen as the most appropriate time to ask.
If you really want to ensure that she says yes then you need to include an element of surprise (32 percent), a romantic setting (21 percent) and to get down on one knee (20 percent).
You'll need to ask her father's permission too - as one in ten women said that was a proposal essential.
11:26 French Prez accorded ceremonial reception at Rashtrapati Bhavan:
French President Francois Hollande, who is on a two-day state visit to India, was given a ceremonial reception at the Rashtrapati Bhawan here this morning. He was received by President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh.
He inspected the guard of honour and also met members of the Indian Cabinet. The visiting President said it was a great honour for him to visit India and thanked his Indian counterpart for extending a warm welcome to him.
"It's a great honour for me to be visiting India. I thank you (Pranab Mukherjee) President for this welcome. I am sure that this visit will lay our relationship at the best level we can hope. And we must always improve the relationship between our two countries. India is a great democracy," Hollande said.
During his visit, Hollande is expected to hold delegation level talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid besides calling on United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj.
On February 15, Hollande will deliver a lecture at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Teen Murti House. Following that, he will honour Nobel laureate and renowned economist Amartya Sen with Commandeur de la legion d'Honneur. Thereafter, the French President will visit Mumbai, where he will have a meeting with the Governor of Maharashtra and participate in a business conference.
11:12 'Ex-IAF Chief Tyagi was bribed to swing deal':
More on that story: Italian investigators Tuesday alleged that business conglomerate Finmeccanica bribed S P Tyagi when he was chief of the Indian Air Force to swing the controversial AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal in favour of the company. Read
Indian officials are 'morons', will take years to track links, middlemen had said. Read
the explosive report on the Indian Express.
11:08 Key middleman's confession: Met ex-IAF Chief 6-7 times:
A Swiss-based middleman who was allegedly instrumental in fixing the IAF's controversial VVIP chopper deal has confessed to Italian authorities that he had met the then Air Chief S P Tyagi 6-7 times and had discussed the technical specifications for the contract with him. More
on the Indian Express.
11:07 N Korea's nuclear tests represents real threat to US: Panetta:
US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta today said that the combination of a recent missile test combined with nuclear explosions by North Korea represents a real threat to America.
"There is no question that North Korea constitutes a threat to the United States, to regional stability and to global security. The combination of a recent missile test combined with what apparently was this nuclear test, we believe, represents a real threat to the United States of America," Panetta told reporters at his last press conference.
"Make no mistake: The US military will take all necessary steps to meet our security commitments to the Republic of Korea and to our regional allies," he told Pentagon reporters. Panetta said the actions of the North Korea regime are undermining regional security.
10:56 Will avenge Afzal Guru's execution: Pak militants:
Several banned Pakistan-based militant outfits, including the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), have pledged to take "revenge" for the execution of Parliament attack case convict Afzal Guru.
As per reports, the members of the groups, who gathered at the National Press Club for a conference organised by the United Jihad Council to pay tribute to Guru on Wednesday, also vowed to step up their "Jihad" in Jammu & Kashmir.
With assault rifles in their hands, the members of the United Jihad Council also utilized the opportunity to display their strength while paying tribute to Guru, who was hanged in a Delhi jail on Saturday for his role in the 2001 terror attack on the Parliament.
Chanting anti-India slogans, leaders of the LeT, JeM, Al Badr Mujahideen, Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and the United Jihad Council made fiery speeches in which they pledged to continue their jihad in Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of India.
This was the first time in the past four years that the banned groups organised a public gathering in the Pakistani capital though they have held low-key meetings in Rawalpindi and Lahore that were opened to sections of the local media.
10:54 After Gulzar, Shobhaa De skips Karachi Lit Fest:
Mumbai-born writer Shobhaa De has also canceled her visit to the Karachi Literature Festival (KLF).
The move comes a day after Indian poet Gulzar and film director Vishal Bhardwaj returned to India from Pakistan apparently over security fears.
According to the Express Tribune, the KLF organisers tweeted from their account that Shobhaa De cancelled because she said her visa was issued too late.
"She'd like to attend #KLF next year and we hope very much that she does," they added.
The Mumbai-born writer tweeted from her own account late on Wednesday that the delay in her visa was the main cause for her decision.
10:52 I was sexually abused, says Anoushka Shankar:
Legendary Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar's daughter musician Anoushka Shankar has admitted that she suffered "groping, touching and verbal abuse" when she was a child.
In a video to support a global campaign to end violence against women - One Billion Rising - the 31-year-old said that she was abused for several years by a man whom her parents trusted impicitly, the BBC reported.
Shankar went on to appeal to people to support the campaign in memory of the 23-year-old Delhi gang rape victim, in the video, recorded in her London home.
Shankar added that she was taking part in the One Billion Rising movement for the child in her who she thinks will not recover from what happened.
10:31 Rupee down 12 paise against dollar in early trade:
The rupee declined by 12 paise to 53.94 against the dollar at the Interbank Foreign Exchange market in early trade today on fresh demand for the American currency from banks.
Forex dealers said fresh demand for the US dollar from banks mainly put pressure on the rupee but a higher opening in the equity market restricted the loss.
The rupee had edged up by just three paise to close at 53.82 against the US dollar amid mild dollar selling by exporters in yesterday's trade.
Meanwhile, the BSE benchmark index Sensex rose further by 19.71 points, or 0.10 percent, to 19,627.79 in early trade on Thursday.
10:30 Delhi court summons ex-Haryana CM Chautala:
A Delhi court on Thursday sought the presence of former Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala in a disproportionate assets case in which he is an accused.
Special CBI Judge Manu Rai Sethi issued the production warrant for Chautala for March 2 as the 78-year-old Indian National Lok Dal chief was not brought to the court from jail, where he is lodged following his sentence of 10-year imprisonment in another corruption case.
"Let production warrant be issued in favour of superintendent Jail no.4 (where Chautala is lodged), Tihar directing production of accused O P Chautala for March 2," the court said.
The prosecution witnesses could not be examined on Thursday owing to Chautala's absence.
The CBI had on March 26, 2010 chargesheeted Chautala indicting him for allegedly possessing assets worth Rs 6.09 crore, far exceeding his legal income between 1993 and 2006.
Two such separate cases are also on against his sons Ajay and Abhay Chautala.
10:12 Delhi rape: Juvenile Board to hear case against minor:
The Juvenile Justice Board is expected to hear on Thursday arguments for framing charges against the sixth accused, who has been declared a minor, in the December 16 Delhi gang-rape case.
According to reports, the Delhi Police, which is investigating the case, had filed a supplementary chargesheet against the minor during the last hearing in the case.
The sixth accused, who was declared a minor by the Juvenile Justice Board after verifying his age, can be given a maximum punishment of three years in a reformatory for his role in the case.
The trial of the other five main accused in the case began last week when the Delhi Police filed a supplementary chargesheet which included the post-mortem and forensic reports.
08:52 Resigning for the good of the church: Pope Benedict:
Looking tired but serene, Pope Benedict XVI told the thousands who gathered for his weekly audience that he was resigning for "the good of the church" an extraordinary scene that unfolded in his first appearance since dropping the bombshell announcement.
The 85-year-old Benedict basked in more than a minute-long standing ovation when he entered the packed hall for his traditional Wednesday catechism lesson. He was interrupted repeatedly by applause, and many in the audience of thousands had tears in their eyes.
A huge banner reading "Grazie Santita" (Thank you Your Holiness) was strung up at the back of the room. Benedict appeared wan and spoke very softly, but his eyes twinkled with joy at the flock's warm and heartfelt welcome. He repeated in Italian what he had told his cardinals Monday in Latin: that he simply didn't have the strength to continue.
"As you know, I have decided to renounce the ministry that the Lord gave to me on April 19, 2005," he said, to applause. "I did this in full liberty for the good of the church."
He thanked the faithful for their prayers and love, which he said he had "physically felt in these days that haven't been easy for me." And he asked them to "to continue to pray for me, the church, and the future pope."
The atmosphere was festive and warm, if somewhat bittersweet, as if the faithful were trying to persuade Benedict to stay with them for just a bit longer. A chorus of Italian schoolchildren serenaded him with one of his favorite hymns in German a gesture that won over the pope, who thanked them for singing a piece "particularly dear to me."
08:51 Voting underway for Tripura assembly elections:
Voting for the Tripura assembly elections began Thursday amidst tight security.
Men and women in large numbers queued up in front of polling stations well before voting opened at 7 am in the entire state. Polling ends at 4 pm, said chief electoral officer Ashutosh Jindal.
In all, 23,55,446 people, about half of them women, are eligible to exercise their franchise to decide the fate of 249 candidates, including 15 women and many independents.
"Apprehending trouble by separatist outfits and possible violence, a record 40,000 paramilitary and other security personnel have been deployed, while two air surveillance teams led by senior police officials are conducting air surveillance," the election official said.
"The Election Commission has deployed specially modified electronic voting machines in all the 3,041 polling stations across the state to check possible malpractice and other irregularities," he added.
About 18,000 poll officials, including four teams of polling personnel comprising all women, have been posted to conduct the elections.
08:49 Delivery of AgustaWestland choppers put on hold:
As the scam in the AgustaWestland chopper deal unfolded, India has put on hold the remaining payment of Rs 2,400 crore along with the delivery of the nine helicopters from the company, pending the outcome of the CBI probe.
India has already received three of the 12 helicopters for which the deal was struck in 2010 for Rs 3,600 crore. Three of the remaining helicopters were to arrive here next month, while the remaining six were to be delivered later this year.
India has already paid around 30 per cent of the amount but the payment of about Rs 2,400 crore for the remaining choppers is expected to be put on hold till the outcome of the CBI probe, Defence Ministry sources said here.
The first batch of three AW-101 choppers arrived last month at the Palam air base and the next batch of three more choppers was scheduled to arrive by March.
India was to pay the rest of the amount at the time of deliveries of the respective batches.
03:31 Iran agrees 'some points' in IAEA nuclear talks:
AFP: Iran agreed on "some points" in talks with experts from the UN atomic watchdog in Tehran today, its lead negotiator at the meeting said, quoted by local media.
"Some differences were resolved and agreement on some issues in the modality was reached," Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, was quoted as saying after the meeting.
Soltanieh said "new proposals" had been put forward, which would be discussed at "future meetings," ISNA news agency reported.
02:25 EU urges DNA tests of processed beef:
The EU is urging members to conduct random tests to tackle a widening scandal over mislabelled horsemeat. All members should carry-out DNA tests on processed beef for traces of horsemeat for three months from 1 March, the health commissioner said.
Horsemeat should also be tested for the presence of the veterinary medicine phenylbutazone ("bute"), he added. Tonio Borg was speaking after a meeting with ministers from the UK, France and other affected countries in Brussels.
Read more on BBC
01:19 EU regrets Afzal Guru's hanging :
The European Union has regretted the hanging of the Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, asking India to put a moratorium on executions.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said it was with "regret" that she learned of the execution of Afzal Guru last Saturday. While recognising that "terrible murders" were committed in the attack and aware of the sufferings of the victims and their families, the EU "reiterates its principled opposition to the death penalty under all circumstances", Baroness Ashton said in a press statement.
Afzal had been on a death row during the last ten years since he was convicted in December, 2002 for playing a central role in the attack on the Parliament on December 13, 2001 that left nine people dead.
His execution at the Tihar Jail in New Delhi last Saturday comes less than three months after Ajmal Kasab, the only survivor among the perpetrators of the terror strike in Mumbai in 2008, was hanged in November.
01:18 Response to N Korea will send message to Iran: US:
US Secretary of State John Kerry today called for a swift, clear and strong response to North Korea's "highly provocative" nuclear test to send Iran a message that the world is serious about nonproliferation.
"North Korea's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program are a threat now to the United States of America because of what they are pursuing, specifically, as well as to global security and peace...The international community now needs to come together with a swift and clear, strong, credible response, as pledged in the UN Security Council Resolution 2087," Kerry told reporters.
"So my message about this is really simple, that this is not only about the DPRK (Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea -- or North Korea) and its continued flaunting of its obligations under three separate UN Security Council resolutions; this is about proliferation," he said, adding that this is also about Iran.
"They're linked. You connect the dots. It is important for the world to have credibility with respect to our nonproliferation efforts. Just as it is impermissible for North Korea to pursue this kind of reckless effort, so we have said it is impermissible with respect to Iran.
00:06 Pope Benedict holds last public Mass:
BBC: Pope Benedict XVI has celebrated his last Mass as Pope in St Peter's Basilica in Rome following the surprise announcement that he is to retire. He presided over an Ash Wednesday ceremony marking the start of the Roman Catholic Church's season of Lent.
It came two days after the surprise announcement that the 85-year-old was to retire at the end of the month.