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LIVE! I-T officials seek jail superintendentís nod to quiz Sasikala

December 07, 2018

23:59  I-T officials seek jail superintendents nod to quiz Sasikala:  
Income Tax officials from Tamil Nadu have sought permission of prison authorities in Bengaluru to question V K Sasikala in connection with a tax matter, an official said.

Sasikala, an aide of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister late J Jayalalithaa was convicted in a disproportionate asset case and lodged in the Parapana Agrahara central jail here since last February.

"We have received a letter from Income Tax Department in Tamil Nadu, seeking permission to question Sasikala in an I-T matter on December 13 and 14," Jail Superintendent Somashekhar told PTI in Bengaluru.

Tax sleuths had last year conducted searches at premises linked to Sasikala and her kin over suspected tax evasion in various cities including Chennai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru.  -- PTI
23:28  Tuticorin firing: SC refuses to stay CBI probe against cops:  
The Supreme Court on Friday refused to stay the Madras high court order for a Central Bureau of Investigation probe against police officials for firing at anti-Sterlite protesters in Tamil Nadu in May this year.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi issued notice to the CBI on the petition filed by the Tamil Nadu government challenging the high court order.

"We have to see the other side," said the bench, also comprising Justice S K Kaul, when senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi sought the stay.

The police firing had taken place in Tuticorin district during the anti-Sterlite protests claiming 13 lives on May 22 and 23.

The high court ordered that FIRs be registered against top police officials and officials of the civil administration.

The high court on August 14 had transferred to the CBI the probe into the police firing and directed the  agency to conclude the investigation in four months.

It had also quashed an order detaining six members of the 'Makkal Adhikaram,' a Left outfit accused of inciting violence in the district.      

On May 22, after the Tuticorin district collectorate was picketed to seek the closure of copper plant of Sterlite, a unit of the Vedanata group over pollution concerns, large-scale violence had followed.

The consequent police firing 13 people were killed on May 22 and 23.      

The high court had on July 9 directed the state government to furnish a video in its possession, allegedly showing some anti-Sterlite protesters with petrol bombs during the stir, as it observed that a CBI probe into the violent incidents will instill confidence in the minds of the people.  -- PTI
22:44  Congress set to form govt in Rajasthan: Pilot:  
Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee chief Sachin Pilot said on Friday his party will form the next government in the state.

He said that exit polls were encouraging and indicating towards the formation of the Congress government in the state with strong majority.

"Our all leaders and workers toiled for the last five years and the party president Rahul Gandhi launched the election campaign in August. That all will deliver on December 11 when the election results are declared," Pilot told reporters here after the polling was over.

"The public welcomed our 'Jan Ghoshna Patra' (Rajasthan Congress' election manifesto) and not only we exposed the Vasundhara Raje government but also held it accountable and presented an alternative to people.

"The exit polls are indicating towards strong majority of the Congress and the party will form the government," he said.

He said the winning party will have a great responsibility and the one that loses the election should introspect.

Pilot also thanked the voters and the election machinery for successfully conducting the polls.

Polling took place in the state on Friday and the results will be declared on December 11.  -- PTI
22:36  1st meeting of GoM formed to probe #MeToo complaints on Monday:  
A group of ministers formed to strengthen legal and institutional frameworks to prevent sexual harassment at workplace will hold their first meeting on  Monday where Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi will push for strengthening the National Commission for Women (NCW), officials said.

The group of ministers, headed by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, was constituted by the government to strengthen the legal and institutional frameworks to deal with and prevent sexual harassment at workplace.

Its members are Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Gandhi, the women and child development minister.

A senior WCD official said Gandhi would push for strengthening the National Commission for Women and giving it more teeth to grapple with the complaints of harassment made by women.

The official said the WCD minister is likely to suggest giving more powers to the commission, equivalent to that of a civil court, and allowing it to impose fines and the right to summon and search and seize documents when carrying out an investigation.

The GoM will examine the existing legal and institutional frameworks for dealing with such matters.

It will recommend action required for effective implementation of the existing provisions, as well as for strengthening these frameworks for addressing issues related to sexual harassment at workplace, the official said.

The GoM has been set up in the wake of #MeToo where several women have publicly named people who had harassed them at their workplace.

India's '#MeToo' movement, which started with actor Tanushree Dutta accusing actor Nana Patekar of harassing her during the shooting of a Bollywood film in 2008, escalated sharply with more and more women coming forward with their complaints against various personalities.

Former minister of state for external affairs M J Akbar, filmmakers Subhash Ghai, Sajid Khan, Rajat Kapoor and actor Alok Nath are among those who have been accused of sexual misconduct.  -- PTI
21:35  ISI agent 'plotting' terror attacks arrested in J&K:  
The Jammu and Kashmir police on Friday arrested a suspected Inter-Services Intelligence agent who was allegedly planning terror attacks in Kishtwar district, an officer said.

Sehran Sheikh alias Abu Zubair, a resident of Malikpeth area in Kishtwar, was arrested during a raid in the district on charges of working as an agent for the Pakistan spy agency, ISI, a police officer said.

Sheikh was gathering information about the establishments of J&K Police, armed forces and army deployment in Kishtwar. He had come in contact with a Pakistan-based militant group, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), the officer said.

The aim of gathering the information about the security establishments was to plan terrorist attacks, the officer said, adding that there were inputs that the banned organisation was using agents to carry out terror attacks in the district.

According to the officer, the accused had confessed to his involvement. The police have found that many videos, including on the paramilitary forces' establishments, have been exchanged on Pakistan numbers.  -- PTI
20:51  Bill granting voting rights to NRIs to come up in Rajya Sabha in upcoming session:  
The Centre on Friday informed the Supreme Court that a bill to amend electoral law to allow Non-Resident Indians to vote through postal or e-ballots has been passed by Lok Sabha and is likely to come up in Rajya Sabha in the upcoming Winter Session.

The government told this to a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta which was hearing a batch of petitions filed by Nagender Chindam, chairman of London-based Pravasi Bharat organisation, and other NRIs including Shamsheer V P.

The petitions have said that 114 countries, including 20 Asian nations, have adopted external voting, which could be held by setting up polling booths at diplomatic missions or through postal, proxy or electronic voting.

Additional Solicitor General A N S Nadkarni, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that the bill was likely to be taken up in the Rajya Sabha in the Winter Session, which is to commence from December 11.

The bench said it would hear the matter in last week of January. In July last year, Attorney General K K Venugopal had told the court that NRIs could not be allowed to vote by merely changing the rules made under the Representation of People (RP) Act and a Bill was needed to be introduced in Parliament to amend the Act itself to grant the voting rights.

The court had asked the Centre to decide whether it would amend the electoral law or rules to allow NRIs to vote by postal or e-ballots in the polls in the country, taking note of the fact that the Centre and Election Commission of India (ECI) were agreeable to the report of a panel that NRIs might be allowed to vote.

The poll panel had earlier said the move to allow NRIs to use proxy voting on the lines of defence personnel and e-ballot facility would require changes either in the RP Act or in the rules made under the Act.

The Centre had said in principle, it was agreeable to the recommendations made in the report prepared by a 12-member committee to explore the feasibility of alternative options for voting by overseas electors.

One of the petitioners had told the court that NRIs could be given the right to vote by making changes in the rules only and there was no need to amend the provisions of the RP Act.  --  PTI
20:11  HC raps Bengal govt, asks officials to decide on BJP rath yatra:  
The Calcutta high court on Friday came down heavily on the West Bengal government for not responding to letters of the Bharatiya Janata Party seeking permission for its rath yatras in the state and directed top officials to take a decision on the processions by December 14.

A division bench of justices Biswanath Somadder and A Mukherjee said the government's silence on the permission is 'astonishing and astounding'.

The court disposed of an appeal by the BJP against a single bench order of Thursday that refused permission for its rath yatra and directed the state to hold the meeting by Wednesday.

The chief secretary and home secretary and the director general of police shall hold a meeting with three representatives of the BJP by December 12 and take a decision on the matter by December 14, the court directed.

Observing that an injunction upon the petitioner could not have been passed by the single bench, the division bench modified its ad interim order of Thursday.

The bench criticised the state government for not responding to BJP's letters for permission to hold three rath yatras in the state.

The single bench of Justice Tapabrata Chakraborty had on Thursday said it cannot give permission at this stage for the BJP rath yatra in Coochbehar, which was scheduled to be flagged off by party president Amit Shah on Friday, after the state government refused to allow the event on the grounds that it might cause communal tension.

The rath yatra in Coochbehar was slated to be the first of the three by BJP before the Lok Sabha polls next year.

The other two were to be held on December 9 from Kakdwip in South 24 Parganas district and on December 14 from Tarapith temple in Birbhum district.  -- PTI
19:34  Court records statements of 2 witnesses in defamation complaint by M J Akbar:  
A Delhi court on Friday recorded the statements of two witnesses in support of defamation case filed by journalist and politician M J Akbar against his former woman colleague Priya Ramani who had levelled allegations of sexual misconduct against him.

Akbar's two former colleagues, Sunil Gujral and Veenu Sandal deposed as witnesses before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal and said the allegations came as a shock to them and irreparable damage was caused to his reputation.

Gujral, a businessman and printer, publisher of the Sunday Guardian, who appeared as a complainant witness to support defamation case filed by Akbar, testified that as a colleague and a friend, he never heard any whisper regarding misconduct or misbehaviour of any kind.

Regarding the allegations levelled by scribe Ramani against Akbar, he said this came as a 'shock' to him and he was 'very disturbed'.

"I spoke to Akbar thereafter as I felt embarrassed and let down. Besides this, my embarrassment was compounded as friends and acquaintances who knew of all my old association with Akbar of almost 40 years started asking embarrassing questions, which made me feel very bad since I felt that irreparable damage has been done to Akbar's reputation in my estimation as well as in estimation of my friend circle and acquaintances," Gujral, who knows Akbar sinch 1979-80, testified.

Akbar, who resigned as Union minister on October 17, had filed a private criminal defamation complaint in the court against Ramani after his name cropped up on the social media when he was in Nigeria, as the #MeToo campaign raged on in India.

Ramani has accused Akbar of sexual misconduct around 20 years ago, which was denied by him.

The other witness, Sandal said she heard in the news about Ramani's tweets on October 8 and it was a 'huge jolt' that she had called Akbar a 'predator' and other revelations about him.

"It was really distressing that the allegations had been made and that he could do the things that Ramani had alleged... It was very shocking and painful to think that someone you had placed on a pedestal could allegedly fall so low," she deposed.

Sandal, a journalist who said she knows Akbar for over 20 years, added that there was a lot of talk about this at that time and during discussions with friends and at other public places, it was embarassing to be asked questions about Akbar as people knew of her association with him.

"It was very obvious that not only in my eyes but also in others, his reputation had been dragged through the mud and was in tatters," she said.

The court has posted the matter for further hearing on January 11, when it is likely to record the statement of another witness named by Akbar in his complaint.

It had earlier recorded the statements of Akbar and Joyeeta Basu, the editor of Sunday Guardian, in the matter.

Akbar had earlier told the court in his statement that an 'immediate damage' has been caused to him due to the 'scurrilous', concocted and false allegations of sexual misconduct levelled against him.

Multiple women have come out with accounts of alleged sexual harassment by him while he was working as a journalist.

He had termed the allegations 'false, fabricated and deeply distressing' and said he was taking appropriate legal action against them.

Expressing her readiness to fight the defamation allegations, Ramani had said, "Rather than engage with the serious allegations that many women have made against him, he seeks to silence them through intimidation and harassment."  --  PTI
18:41  TRS likely to retain Telangana:  
Exit polls for Telangana (119 seats) are following:

Telangana (119 seats)
Times Now-CNX TRS 66
Congress+TDP 37
Others 9

Republic TV-Jan Ki Baat
TRS 50-65
Congress+TDP 38-52
BJP 4-7
Others 8-14

India Today-Axis My India
TRS 79-91
Congress+TDP 21-33
BJP 1-3
Others 4-7
18:16  Exit polls: BJP to retain MP, Chhatisgarh; Cong takes Rajasthan:  
The exit polls for Rajasthan (199 seats) are following:

India Today-Axis My India
BJP (55-72)
Congress (119-141)
Others (3-8)

Times Now-CNX
BJP 85
Congress 105
Others 9
17:57  Exit polls: BJP wins Chhattisharh:  The exit polls for Chhattisgarh (91 seats) are as follows:

BJP (46)
Congress (35)
Others (2)

India TV

BJP (42-50)
Congress (32-38)
JCC+BSP (6-8)
Others (1-3)

News24-Pace Media

BJP (36-42)
Congress (45-51)
Others (4-8)

Times Now-CNX
BJP (46)
Congress (35)
Others (2)
17:54  Exit polls: BJP retains MP :  Exit polls predict a win for the BJP in Madhya Pradesh.

The India Today-Axis MY India exit polls predict a neck-and-neck fight between the Congress and the BJP in Madhya Pradesh.

The exit poll gives the BJP between 102 and 120 seats, with the Congress at 104 and 122 seats. Madhya Pradesh has 230 seats with the cut off mark at 115.  So, the Congress gets the edge in MP. India Today-Axis My India

The NDTV exit polls gives the BJP 118 seats in Madhya Pradesh, with the Congress 101, Others: 11

The Times Now-CNX gives the BJP 126, the Congress 89, Others 15 seats.

17:42  ED raids offices linked to Robert Vadra :  Enforcement Directorate officials reach three locations in Delhi connected to close aides of Robert Vadra. Robert Vadra's lawyer says, "They have locked our people of Skylight hospitality inside, they are not allowing anyone to go inside. Is this Nazism? Is this a jail?  It has been 4.5 years and they found nothing, so now they are locking us outside and planting and fabricating evidence."
17:06  Stay alert, EVMs have mysterious powers in Modi's India: Rahul to party workers:   Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday asked party workers to be vigilant after polls close in Rajasthan and Telangana, saying in "Modi's India, the EVMs have mysterious powers".

Gandhi on Thursday had urged party workers in two states to put all their efforts at their respective polling booths to ensure the party's win in both the states.

Taking to Twitter on Friday, Gandhi asked party workers to be vigilant after polls close. "In MP, EVM's behaved strangely after polling: Some stole a bus and vanished for 2 days! Others slipped away & were found drinking in a hotel. In Modi's India, the EVMs have mysterious powers," he said, in an apparent reference to media reports that Electronic Voting Machines or EVMs reached a collection centre in Madhya Pradesh 48 hours after voting ended on November 28. -- PTI
17:01  Historian and author Ramachandra Guha tweets: @Ram_Guha After a magical morning in Old Goa we had lunch in Panaji, where'"since this is a BJP ruled state -- I decided to eat beef in celebration.
16:59  Farmers are being looted: Pawar on low onion prices:  NCP president Sharad Pawar on Friday hit out at Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis over low onion prices in Nashik district, accusing him and his government of not being concerned about farmers' "loot".

Those talking about adopting Nashik were not concerned about local farmers' woes, he said. Ahead of Nashik Municipal Corporation polls last year, Fadnavis had said he would "adopt" the city if the voters reposed faith in the BJP.

Pawar was speaking at an event in Mumbai Friday where former state legislator from Nashik, Apurva Hiray, returned to the NCP fold after quitting the BJP.

Referring to a comment made by senior NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal at the function, Pawar said, "Bhujbal talked about onions being sold at 50 -51 paise per kg.

"This is our (farmers') loot. And those who talked about adopting the district (Fadnavis) are not concerned despite this loot," he said. When he read about the chief minister's comment, he was "surprised", Pawar said.
-- PTI
16:39  T'gana polls: 56.17 per cent polling recorded till 3 pm:  Over 56 per cent of 2.80 crore voters of Telangana exercised their franchise till 3 pm Friday, officials said. "Polling commenced at 7 am, though at some polling centres there was a delay of 10 to 15 minutes. In one or two cases EVMs needed to be replaced. We have replaced 22 ballot units, 19 control units and 42 VVPATS," Chief Electoral Officer Rajat Kumar told reporters in Hyderabad.

He also said so far, 30 complaints relating to violation of Model Code of Conduct has been received. According to officials, voting was progressing by and large peacefully in all the 119 constituencies of the state and as of 3 pm the voter turnout was 56.17 per cent. Telangana and Andhra Pradesh Governor ESL Narasimhan, caretaker Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, caretaker ministers K T Rama Rao and T Harish Rao, BJP's Telangana president K Laxman, state Congress chief Uttam Kumar Reddy and AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi were among the leaders who cast their vote. -- PTI
16:26  Hanuman's caste certificate sought after Dalit tag:  The raging debate on whether Lord Hanuman was a Dalit Friday took an interesting turn with Shivpal Yadav's Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (Lohia) demanding the Hindu deity's 'caste certificate' from the district administration.

The PSPL, launched in October after Shivpal Yadav fell out with his nephew and Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav, threatened to launch a sit-in if the district administration did not provide the certificate within a week.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had recently dubbed Lord Hanuman as a Dalit.

"We have applied for caste certificate of Lord Hanuman at the office of the Varanasi district magistrate. As the CM has termed him as a Dalit and dragged the deity in petty caste politics, we want his caste certificate," PSPL youth wing district chief Harish Mishra told PTI from Varanasi.

In the proforma submitted by the PSPL to the administration, a photograph of Lord Hanuman was pasted with Maharaj Keshari named as his father and Anjana Devi, his mother. The famous Sankat Mochan temple was declared as his residence and Dalit was mentioned in the caste column.

His age was mentioned as 'amar' (immortal) by the PSPL worker and the year of birth was "anant" (infinite). Mishra claimed that they have formally submitted the form in due proforma for obtaining the caste certificate.

Adityanath's controversial statement at a poll rally in Rajasthan had triggered a debate with the opposition accusing the Bharatiya Janata Party of indulging in politics of caste while one of its own Dalit MP's quitting the organisation.

Bahraich BJP MP Savitri Bai Phule claimed that Lord Hanuman was "a Dalit and a slave of 'manuwadi' people" and alleged that Dalits and backwards were being called 'bandar' (monkey) and 'rakshas' (demon).
-- PTI
16:14  Rajasthan polls: Voters walk miles through desert to cast votes:  In Rajasthan's border districts of Barmer and Jaisalmer, people reached polling booths walking several miles through the desert to cast their votes Friday. People here had to walk long distances as polling booths are located at far off places. Both the districts share border with Pakistan and is part of the Thar desert region.

Despite hardships, people from remote villages came out to vote with a noticeable number of women seen at the polling stations. One such voter is 101-year-old Pali Devi who voted at a booth in Barmer.

People of Rajasthan have been voting since 8 this morning for 199 seats of the state assembly. In Bundi district's Hindoli area, 102-year-old Kisni Bai reached the polling booth with the help of a stick to cast her vote.

Voting started with delay of nearly an hour at Sathur and Mandi polling booths in Hindoli. In other areas of the districts, the pace of voting was slow resulting in long queues at most of the booths.

In Jodhpur district, long queues were seen outside several polling booths. An elderly priest who turned up to vote, said he voted for "dharam ki raksha" or protection of religion. -- PTI
15:54  Sensex rebounds 361 points on positive global cues:  Benchmark indices broke their three-day falling streak Friday driven by strength in global equities, sliding crude prices, recovering rupee and a surge in Kotak Bank shares on reports that Berkshire Hathaway was planning to pick up stake in the lender.

The BSE Sensex rallied 361.12 points, or 1.02 per cent, to close at 35,673.25. Similarly, the broader NSE Nifty jumped 92.55 points, or 0.87 per cent, to 10,693.70.

Kotak Mahindra Bank was the biggest gainer on both the indices, ending nearly 9 per cent higher following reports that Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc was planning to pick up stake in the private sector lender. According to media reports, Berkshire Hathaway may invest between USD 4 billion and USD 6 billion in the lender by buying promoter stake or through a preferential allotment.

Other gainers included Adani Ports, Bajaj Auto, Infosys, Asian Paints, Maruti, HUL, L&T, M&M, ICICI Bank and Reliance Industries, rising up to 3 per cent. -- PTI
15:42  Govt appoints Dr Krishnamurthy Subramanian as CEA :  Dr Krishnamurthy Subramanian has been appointed as the new Chief Economic Advisor (CEA) to the government of India for three years.

Subramanian teaches at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad. He has a PhD from Chicago-Booth and is an expert in banking, corporate governance and economic policy, the ISB website says.

He replaces Arvind Subramanian, who resigned from the post 20 June this year. His term was supposed to end in May 2019. Subramanian will return to academic research and writing in the US.
15:26  Court allows BJP, Ram Jethmalani plea to end suit on his expulsion:   A Delhi court Friday allowed a joint application of noted lawyer Ram Jethmalani and the BJP to end a pending suit relating to his expulsion from the party. Jethmalani had filed the suit against the BJP for expelling him in 2013. He had also sought Rs 50 lakh in damages. Additional District Judge Sumit Dass disposed of the suit considering the settlement agreement between BJP and 95-year-old Jethmalani.

"Now nothing survives in the suit. The suit is disposed of," the judge said. The BJP and Jethmalani had said in the joint plea, filed on Thursday, that a decree be passed in terms of amicable settlement between them as BJP president Amit Shah has expressed "regret" over the senior lawyer's expulsion from the party.

When the matter came up for hearing, the court recorded the statements of advocate Ashish Dixit, representing Jethmalani, and Manik Dogra, appearing for the BJP, that issue has been settled amicably and the suit be decreed.  -- PTI
15:21  Farmer gets 51 paise per kg for his onions, sends money to Maharashtra CM:   After a farmer sent his meagre earnings from sale of onions in the wholesale market to the Prime Minister, another farmer in Nashik district of Maharashtra has adopted the same mode of protest.

Chandrakant Bhikan Deshmukh, resident of Andarsul in Yeola tehsil, has sent a money order of Rs 216 to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. He got this princely amount after selling 545 kg of onions at the Agriculture Produce Market Committee at Yeola in an auction on December 5, Deshmukh said Friday.

The rate he got was 51 paise per kg, and was paid Rs 216 after deducting APMC's charges, he said, showing the sale receipt. "There is a drought-like situation in my area. How I am supposed to run my house and repay my loans with these paltry earnings?" he said, speaking to reporters. "I did not get good price though my onions were of good quality. So I sent Rs 216 to Maharashtra chief minister in protest," he said.

Nashik district in north Maharashtra accounts for nearly half the onion production in the country. -- PTI

Representational image.
15:08  Gadkari faints on stage in Maha, attributes it to low sugar:   Union minister Nitin Gadkari fainted during a public event in Maharashtra's Ahmednagar district Friday. The 61-year-old BJP leader attributed the incident to low sugar in his body.

"Had slight medical condition due to low sugar. I have been attended by doctors and I am doing well now. I thank all of you for all the well wishes," Gadkari tweeted.

Gadkari fainted at the convocation of the agriculture university at Rahuri while the national anthem was being sung, a official said.

A video grab of the event shows Maharashtra Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao, who was standing beside him, supporting him while he fainted.

Gadkari was examined by a team of doctors present at the venue. His blood pressure was checked and he remained on his chair for about 10 minutes, after which he walked to his vehicle and proceeded to the nearby helipad. The minister later flew to his home town Nagpur as per schedule, an aide of the minister told PTI.
14:39  Three tigers killed every month in India in last 10 years, reveals RTI:   A total of 384 tigers have been killed by poachers across the country in the last ten years, which translates to over three a month, a reply under the Right to Information has revealed. Between 2008 and 2018 (till November), 961 persons have also been arrested for allegedly poaching tigers, it said.

The information was given by the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau or WCCB in response to a RTI query filed by Noida-based advocate Ranjan Tomar. Tomar, also an RTI activist, had asked the WCCB the number of tigers killed by poachers in the last ten years and the people arrested and convicted for the same.

"As per the data available in records of the Bureau based on the information received from the State Forest and Police authorities the total number of tigers killed by poachers in the last 10 years is 384 and 961 number of poachers arrested in the tiger cases," the reply stated. -- PTI
14:33  Govt calls all-party meet ahead of winter session of Parliament:  The government has called an all-party meeting on Monday ahead of the winter session of Parliament to build a consensus for smooth functioning of the two Houses. At the customary session-eve meeting called by the Parliamentary Affairs Ministry, the prime minister usually lists the government's agenda and seeks the opposition's support for smooth transaction of official business.

This would be the last full-fledged Parliament session before the Lok Sabha polls. The results of the assembly elections, in which both the ruling BJP and the Congress have high stakes, are bound to cast a shadow on parliamentary proceedings.

The results of polls in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram would be out on December 11, when the session begins.

The government would push for the passage of the 'triple talaq' bill pending in the Rajya Sabha. It had promulgated an ordinance to make the practice of instant triple talaq a penal offence.

The government also wants the Indian Medical Council amendment ordinance and the companies amendment ordinance to be passed as bills in this session. The Winter Session of Parliament usually starts in November. However, it would be the second year in a row when it would begin in December. The session was delayed this year due to the assembly elections in five states. -- PTI
14:13  Priyanka makes the cut :  Just about enough space for another feather in Priyanaka's cap. The just-married actress has landed January's Vogue US cover and becomes the first South Asian/Indian woman to have a solo. As Priyanka uploaded the cover on her Instagram page, hubby Nick Jonas commented: 'Wifey'. And added a love-struck smiley and heart emojis.

14:07  Gadkari faints on stage at university convocation in Maharashtra:  Union minister Nitin Gadkari fainted during a public event in Maharashtra's Ahmednagar district Friday, an official said. He fainted at the convocation of an agriculture university in Rahuri while the national anthem was being sung, the official said. Maharashtra Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao, who was present there, supported him and helped him get up. Gadkari is being examined by doctors, the official added. -- PTI
14:02  Whos afraid of Priyanka Chopra?:  "The naked prejudice and ignorance of the editors was well-deserving of her (Priyanka Chopra's) contempt. The outrageous lead said "Nicholas Jones married into a fraudulent relationship against his will this past Saturday, December the 1st," which suggests that Chopra is the lesser deal in her relationship and hence desperate for validation. The writer and editors obviously had no clue that Bollywood (the Hindi film industry) sells more tickets every year than Hollywood and also makes many more movies. In 2012, 1,602 films from Bollywood led the pack compared with 476 films from the United States and 745 from China. Well before Chopra snagged a lead role in ABC's "Quantico,' she was already all the rage in India, adored by millions. In a film industry often dominated by family dynasties, she is a middle-class girl -- the daughter of army doctors -- who is entirely self made. And quite honestly, were she an American getting married to Jonas, I suspect at least Indians wouldn't have been interested at all."

Barkha Dutt on the incredible demonisation of Priyanka Chopra for the Washington Post.  Read the column here.
13:45  Voter turnout recorded till 1 pm in Telangana elections 2018 is 49.15%
13:35  Nobody can stop BJP rath yatras in Bengal, fumes Amit Shah:  BJP President Amit Shah on the pending permission for the party's rath yatra in West Bengal. Shah held a press conference even as the BJP has decided to put on hold Shah's proposed rally saying it will wait for the final order from the Calcutta high court, which will now hear an appeal by the saffron party this afternoon. 

Shah said a democratic process has been suppressed in West Bengal, with the misuse of power. "The CM is following this trend. This is non-democratic. She (Mamata Banerjee) is scared that if BJP takes out all these three rallies in the state of West Bengal and assemble in Kolkata then the foundation of a complete change will be laid down. So she attempted to stop all these yatras."

He said West Bengal leads in the number of political killings and that the entire West Bengal administration was working for the ruling TMC.

In a message to the BJP rank and file, Shah said, "We will definitely carry out all 'yatras', nobody can stop us. People of West Bengal are now ready for change. We want to advice Mamata Banerjeeji that denying permissions to BJP events in the state will only result in more resentment among the people. BJP karyakartas do not fear the suppression of Mamata Banerjee. We are committed to bringing good governance and change in Bengal," he said.
13:16  BJP convenes emergency meeting after Rath Yatra uncertainty:  The BJP leadership on Friday convened an emergency meeting in Coochbehar to discuss the future course of action after uncertainty loomed over the party's Rath Yatra programme in several districts of West Bengal.

The Calcutta High Court had on Thursday refused permission to the BJP for holding a 'Rath Yatra' in Coochbehar, which was to be flagged off by party president Amit Shah on Friday, after the West Bengal government refused to allow the event saying it may cause communal tension.

The BJP had decided to put on hold Shah's proposed rally and the Rath Yatra, saying it will wait for the final order from the high court, which will now hear an appeal by the saffron party at 12.30 pm.

The emergency meeting that started at around 10.30 am is being attended by BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, along with other senior party leaders such as Arvind Menon, Shiv Prakash, Dilip Ghosh and Mukul Roy.

A section of party leaders, who spoke to PTI on the condition of anonymity, said if the BJP fails to conduct the proposed Rath Yatra, it would send a wrong message to the rank and file of the party. "We are waiting for the court's verdict. We have also called a meeting of party workers at 2 pm," said a senior state BJP leader. Asked to comment on media reports that BJP chief Shah would not be coming for the yatra, the party's state president Dilip Ghosh said he was not aware of it.-- PTI
12:47  Screening of Kedarnath banned in 7 districts of Uttarakhand:  A ban has been imposed on the screening of the film "Kedarnath" in seven districts of Uttarakhand in view of protests by Hindu outfits, a senior official said Friday.

The decision has been taken by District Magistrates concerned in view of the situation prevailing in their areas, ADG (law and order)Ashok Kumar told PTI on Friday. There will be no screening of the film in seven districts of the state where Hindu outfits have protested against the film burning effigies of film-makers, he said.

The districts where the film has been banned include Dehradun, Haridwar, Nainital, Udham Singh Nagar, Pauri, Tehri and Almora, the ADG said.

Set against the backdrop of the 2013 deluge, the film, which depicts the love story of a Muslim porter and a Hindu girl on a pilgrimage to Kedarnath, releases Friday. Sushant Singh Rajput and debutante Sara Ali Khan portray the lead characters in the movie. Those seeking a ban on the film accused it of hurting Hindu sentiments and alleged that it was promoting love jihad. -- PTI
12:41  Glam and glitz queue up to vote for Telangana polls :  Adding a dash of glamour to the poll process in Telangana, Telugu film bigwigs turned up in good numbers to cast their ballot Friday. Actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi, popular Telugu hero Nagarjuna and director of Baahubali SS Rajamouli were among the early voters in the election to the 119-member Telangana Assembly.

Another leading Telugu film star "Junior" NTR, grandson of TDP founder N T Rama Rao, also queued up to vote. Film personalities cast their votes in polling stations mainly in the posh Jubilee Hills locality of Hyderabad. Junior NTR's sister N Suhasini is the TDP candidate in Kukatpalle Assembly constituency in Hyderabad.

Counting of votes would be taken up on December 11. Assembly polls in Telangana were originally scheduled to be held simultaneously with the Lok Sabha polls next year.

However, the Legislative Assembly was dissolved prematurely on September six following a recommendation made by the TRS government. The ruling TRS is going alone in the polls and so is the BJP. The Congress, TDP, CPI and Telangana Jana Samiti have formed the 'People's Front' for the election. -- PTI

Image: Tennis star Sania Mirza casts her vote at Film Nagar Cultural Center in Hyderabad. Pic: ANI
12:35  Former Jodhpur maharaja votes :  Erstwhile royals of Jodhpur, Gaj Singh and his wife cast their votes at polling booth no. 194 in Sardarpura constituency.
12:32  SC dismisses PIL against FM Arun Jaitley:  The Supreme Court Friday dismissed a PIL raising allegations against Finance Minister Arun Jaitley relating to capital reserve of the Reserve Bank of India. The apex court also imposes a cost of Rs 50,000 on advocate M L Sharma, who had filed the PIL.

"We find no reason whatsoever to entertain this PIL," a bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justcie S K Kaul said. Sharma had accused the Finance Minister of "plundering" the capital reserve of the RBI. The bench also directed the apex court registry not to allow Sharma to file any PIL till he deposits Rs 50,000. The top court imposed the cost as the advocate continued with the argument after dismissal of the PIL. -- PTI
11:56  Delhi HC to hear Asthana's plea seeking quashing of FIR in bribery case :   The Delhi High Court will on Thursday hear a plea filed by the CBI special director, Rakesh Asthana and others seeking quashing of the FIR filed against them in a bribery case.

The matter will be put forward for hearing at around 2.15 pm today.

CBI Director Alok Verma has already filed his reply in the High Court. Verma has clearly denied all the charges and allegations made against him by Asthana and said that the allegations are nothing but a figment of the imagination of the petitioner.

"Allegations are nothing but the imagination of the petitioner, a petition by Asthana is not maintainable and is misconceived. The investigation is at a nascent stage. Allegations made in the complaint against Asthana and others are very serious and requires thorough probe," Verma had said.

Verma has also submitted to the court that the petition moved by Asthana is not maintainable and is misconceived.

Alok Verma has said that the allegations of corruption against Rakesh Asthana, who is holding a very high public office of such a prestigious institution raise serious concern, which is required to be thoroughly investigated without any bias so that public faith in CBI is maintained. -- PTI
11:35  Rath Yatra: BJP moves HC against refusal of permission:  The BJP on Friday moved an appeal before a division bench of the Calcutta High Court against refusal of permission for its Rath Yatra. Granting leave to the BJP to file the appeal, a division bench comprising Justices B Somadder and A Mukherjee said it will hear the matter at 12.30 pm.

The bench directed BJP's lawyers to serve copy of the appeal to the West Bengal government and other respondents before the matter is taken up for hearing.

A single bench of the high court on Thursday said it cannot grant permission at this stage for the BJP rally in Coochbehar, scheduled to be flagged off by party president Amit Shah on Friday, after the West Bengal government refused to allow the event on the grounds that it might cause communal tension.

The court directed that superintendents of police of all districts in West Bengal will file a report by December 21 to it on the holding of 'rath yatra' rallies by the BJP, after hearing all district presidents of the party.

Directing that the rally stands deferred till the next date of hearing on January 9, Justice Tapabrata Chakraborty observed that the prayer of BJP for permission to hold the Rath Yatra cannot be granted at this stage.
--  PTI

Image: BJP chief Amit Shah flashes the victory sign as West Bengal BJP President Dilip Ghosh looks on.
11:05  We are working on Mika Singh case: Envoy :   Indian Ambassador Navdeep Singh Suri to United Arab Emirates on Friday informed that his representatives are present at the police station in the UAE, where Bollywood singer Mika Singh has been detained for allegedly harassing a woman.

Suri informed that the concerned officials are working on the case. "Our team is at the police station. We are working on it," Suri told ANI.

A member of the singer's team yesterday informed that a girl had lodged a complaint against the former. However, the questioning in the case is still underway.

The 'Subha Hone Na De' hitmaker had gone to Dubai to perform at a Bollywood event in the UAE.

Earlier this week, the 'Aaj Ki Party' singer took to his official Instagram account to share a video from Dubai. "Hey Dubai.. I'm in your city and it's the 1st time I'm here to attend the most popular awards the Masala Awards. See you tonight!" he wrote alongside the video.

This is not the first time that the 41-year-old singer has faced charges for inappropriate behaviour. He was also accused by Rakhi Sawant for forcibly kissing her in the past. -- ANI
11:01  BJP moves Calcutta HC against denial of permission for Rath Yatra; court to hear appeal at 12.30 pm.
11:01  Very sure things will work out for BJP: Vasundhara Raje:  Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje on Friday exuded confidence over the work done by her government, while adding, that she is sure, the people of Rajasthan will take cognizance of the initiatives taken by the state government and help strengthen the Bharatiya Janta Party.

Speaking to media after casting her vote at polling booth no. 31A in Jhalrapatan constituency of Jhalawar, she said, "This is a vote for development. This hasn't been done singlehandedly. Unlike other parties, the complete organisation, every party worker and leader has worked hard to take our message to people of Rajasthan. I am very confident that because excellent development that has taken place in the state, people would vote to strengthen the party that has done this development work."

Urging people to vote for development, she said, "I think they have seen the kind of work in Rajasthan all this time. They must go out and vote for development."

Later speaking to ANI, she added, "I am very sure that things will work out."
10:55  CNN offices evacuated:  ANI quoting AFP says CNN's New York offices were evacuated Thursday night after a bomb threat, the network said, recalling a similar evacuation in October after an explosive device was discovered.
10:54  Nirav Modi's illegal bungalow in Alibaug to be razed: Maha govt to HC:  The Maharashtra government has told the Bombay High Court that it has ordered demolition of fugitive jeweller Nirav Modi's illegal bungalow built along the beach at Alibaug in adjoining Raigad district.

Government counsel advocate P B Kakade told a bench of Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Justice M S Karnik on Thursday that it had served demolition notices to another 58 private properties in the area constructed in violation of the state's rules and coastal zone norms.

He made the submissions in compliance with a previous order of the bench which had directed the government to submit details of action taken and pending litigation concerning the illegal private constructions along the beaches in Alibaug, a coastal town popular with weekend tourists.

The state filed an affidavit in the court stating that orders to demolish Modi's illegal bungalow have been issued. It also said 58 other properties were served with the demolition notice on December 4, and their owners asked to raze all illegal structures within a week.

In the affidavit, the state submitted that the owners of around 61 such illegal private structures had managed to get stay orders on demolition from local civil courts.

However, it was planning to initiate legal action to get the stay orders lifted, the government submitted. The bench took note of the state's submissions and scheduled the matter for further hearing on December 20. -- PTI
10:47  Telling letter on slain Bulandshahr cop:  Subodh Kumar Singh, the police officer killed on Monday in an attack linked to alleged cow-slaughter in Bulandshahr, had angered local BJP functionaries who wrote to their MP in September seeking his transfer.

Grouses mentioned in the letter include "thefts, cattle theft and cow slaughter'.

The September 1 letter carries the purported signatures of several BJP leaders in Syana, Bulandshahr district. The names include those of the BJP's Syana town general secretary Sanjay Shrotriya, Syana vice-president Kapil Tyagi, former civic councillor Manoj Tyagi and three others.

Read the report here.
10:26  Ashok Gehlot votes:  Rajasthan: Congress leader Ashok Gehlot cast his vote at polling booth no. 106 in Jodhpur. Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje (Jhalrapatan), Congress state president Sachin Pilot (Tonk), former chief minister Ashok Gehlot (Sardarpura) are among the 2,274 candidates in the fray. The election in Ramgarh constituency of Alwar district was put off following the death of Bahujan Samaj Party candidate Laxman Singh.
10:21  Voting turnout in Telangana 10.15%:  TRS MP K Kavitha stands in a queue to cast her vote at polling booth no. 177 in Pothangal, Nizamabad. Voting turnout recorded till 9.30 am in Telangana is 10.15%.
10:18  Chiranjeevi queues up :  Actor Chiranjeevi stands in a queue to cast his vote at polling booth no. 148 in Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad. Polling began amid elaborate arrangements in all 119 Assembly constituencies in Telangana on Friday morning. Voting began at 7 am and will conclude at 5 pm, except in 13 constituencies classified as Left Wing Extremist-affected, where the process ends at 4 pm itself.
10:15  Owaisi votes :  In Hyderabad, AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi casts his vote at polling booth no. 317 at Mailardevpally, Shastripuram. Telangana is also going to the polls today.
10:11  Rajasthan polls: 6.11% turnout so far :  Update on the polling in Rajasthan.

Rajasthan records a turnout of 6.11% till 9 am. Polling has begun to decide the fate of over 2,000 candidates across 199 Assembly constituencies in Rajasthan. It is scheduled to end at 5pm today.

Elections will take place at 51,667 polling stations where 4,74,79,402 people will cast their vote. Out of the 200 constituencies in the state, polling is being held in 199. Voting in Alwar constituency was countermanded following the death of a Bahujan Samaj Party candidate.

The fight is to win a target of at least 101 seats to achieve majority mark in the intense polling between the BJP and Congress.

In the 2013 assembly elections, the BJP won the mandate with 163 seats, while Congress was reduced to 21 seats. This year, Vasundhara Raje, the state's incumbent chief minister, is facing a tough fight from the Congress, which has not left any stone unturned to muster support while attacking the state government over its various initiatives.

On the one hand, the Congress has kept its card close to the heart as far as a chief ministerial candidate is concerned. However, it is being speculated that Rajasthan Congress president Sachin Pilot and former Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot are reportedly considered the main contenders.

On the other hand, BJP is pinning its hopes on Raje, who has been hailed time and again for her work in the state by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah.

Besides Raje who is contesting from Jhalrapatan, other top contenders include state Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria from Udaipur, Rajendra Rathore from Churu, state party president Ashok Parnami from Adarsh Nagar and Anita Bhadel from Ajmer South. -- PTI

Image: A 90-year-old man arrives at polling booth no. 104 in Sardarpura constituency of Jodhpur district to cast his vote. Pic: ANI
09:57  Rupee rises 46 paise to 70.44 against US dollar in early trade:  The rupee appreciated by 46 paise to 70.44 against the US dollar in early trade Friday at the interbank foreign exchange, amid weakness in the greenback against some currencies overseas and a higher opening of domestic equities.

Forex traders said, increased selling of the American currency by exporters and banks and sustained foreign fund inflows also supported the domestic currency.

At the interbank forex market, the rupee opened higher at 70.58 and rose further to quote at 70.44, showing a rise of 46 paise over its previous close.

On Thursday, the rupee fell by 44 paise against the dollar to close at 70.90. The local unit also gathered momentum following easing crude oil prices. -- PTI
09:46  EC should act: Vasundhara Raje on Sharad Yadav's body-shaming remark :  
Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje today expressed shock at senior politician Sharad Yadav's body-shaming comments at her in an election rally and said the Election Commission must act.

"I am shocked. I feel insulted. He has insulted women. I think to set an example, it is very important that the Election Commission takes cognizance," Raje told reporters on Friday, after casting her vote for the Rajasthan election.

"Is this the sort of example he wants to set for youngsters? Congress and its allies should be restrained in their language," the CM said angrily.

Sharad Yadav while addressing a rally in Alwar said, "Vasundhara ko aaram do, bahut thak gayi hain, bahut moti ho gayi hain, pehle patli thi. Humare Madhya Pradesh ki beti hai. (Give rest to Vasundhara. She looks too tired and has gained too much weight. Earlier she was slim. She is our Madhya Pradesh's daughter)," Yadav said on Thursday in Alwar while addressing a rally.

Later, while clarifying his remarks, Yadav said that it was a mere 'joke' and his intentions were not to hurt the Bharatiya Janata Party leader.
09:24  An 80-year-old woman cast her vote at booth no. 103 in Sardarpura constituency of Jodhpur district in Rajasthan. 
09:06  Indian IT firm HCL Tech to acquire select IBM software products:  
Indian IT company HCL Technologies on Friday said it will acquire select IBM software products for USD 1.8 billion (over Rs 12,700 crore) in an all-cash deal.
The transaction, subject to "completion of applicable regulatory reviews", is slated to close by mid-2019, HCL Technologies said in a statement.
The deal entails seven products in areas including security, marketing and collaboration solutions, and represents a total addressable market of more than USD 50 billion, HCL Tech said in a regulatory filing.
"IBM and HCL Technologies today announced a definitive agreement under which HCL will acquire select IBM software products for USD 1.8 billion," it said.
With this acquisition, HCL Tech will get software products in areas of marketing, commerce, security and collaboration, a "highly profitable revenue stream" containing a significant annuity component, and access to over 5,000 large clients across industries and geographic markets, along with sales and marketing teams, the filing said.
HCL Tech Chief Financial Officer Prateek Aggarwal told PTI that the deal also entails transfer of IBM employees, but did not divulge any numbers. 
The cash deal will be funded largely through internal accruals, with USD 300 million of debt, HCL Tech said, adding that nearly half of the total amount will be paid at close of the deal.
This is the biggest acquisition for HCL Tech till date, and among the largest by an Indian tech company. The acquisition also reflects HCL's ambitions for software products business -- considered to be the next growth frontier for IT companies.
The software products in the deal include Appscan (for secure application development), BigFix (for secure device management), Unica (for marketing automation), Commerce (for omni-channel eCommerce), Portal (for digital experience), Notes & Domino (for email and low-code rapid application development), and Connections (for workstream collaboration).
HCL and IBM have an ongoing intellectual property partnership for five of these products. -- PTI
08:59  Polling begins in Telangana, Rajasthan:  
After a high-voltage campaign that saw war of words among contending parties, polling began in Rajastha and Telangana today.

In Telangana, voting began at 7 am and will conclude at 5 pm, except in 13 constituencies classified as Left Wing Extremist-affected, where the process ends at 4 pm itself.

Over 2,000 candidates are in the fray for 199 assembly seats in Rajasthan, where polling on Friday will determine whether the Bharatiya Janata Party bucks anti-incumbency and an increasingly aggressive opposition to return to power.

Votes will be cast at 51,687 polling booths, 259 of them managed exclusively by women officials and security personnel.

In Telangana, the Congress-led alliance is challenging the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti, and the Bharatiya Janata Party seeking to make it a triangular contest for 119 assembly seats.
08:34  IndiGo becomes first Indian airline to have 200 planes:  
Budget carrier IndiGo on Thursday said it has become the first domestic airline to have 200 aircraft in its fleet.
Four new aircraft have joined the fleet, including town Airbus A320 ceo (VT-IKA and VT-IKB) and two A320 neo (VT IZK AND VT-IZI) taking the fleet count to 200 and number of deliveries to 226, IndiGo said in an internal  communication.
With the addition of VT-IZI, IndiGo has become the first Indian airline to have two aircraft in its fleet, the largest domestic carrier said in the communication.
The Gurgaon-based no-frills carrier, which enjoys over 40 per cent of the total domestic traffic, had inducted the 100th aircraft on December 24, 2015.
"It has taken us only three years to take delivery of another 100 planes," it added.
The airline's fleet now comprises 123 A320ceos (current engine option), 61 A320 neos (new engine option) as well as 12 regional jets ATR.
IndiGo currently offers over 1,200 flights to 63 domestic destinations, which include 49 domestic and 14 international ones. -- PTI 
08:30  2 Indian-American CEOs attend White House summit for Tech leaders:  
Two Indian-American CEOs -- Satya Nadella from Microsoft and Sunder Pichai from Microsoft -- were among a select group of CEOs invited by the White House for a technology summit as part of the Trump Administration's move to ease its relationship, which thus far has remained tensed, with the Silicon Valley.
"We had a productive and engaging discussion at the White House today about America's leadership in emerging technologies," Pichai was quoted as saying by The Wall Street Journal. 
President Donald Trump made a brief appearance at the summit organised by his daughter Ivanka Trump. Ginni Rometty (IBM) Safra Catz (Oracle) and Steve Mollenkopf (Qualcomm) were among those who attended the White House Tech Summit. 
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and former secretary of state Henry Kissinger also attended the summit which was themed "Industries of the Future". 
The tech summit was intended to be a listening session for tech leaders to share policy ideas, a senior administration official said.
No other details were immediately available. CEOs who attended the summit did not respond to reporters' questions at the White House. -- PTI
00:19  OPEC to consider views of Modi before cutting production: Saudi oil min:  
Oil cartel Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries will consider views of world leaders such as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who represent the voice of major consuming nations, with seriousness before taking a decision on cutting output to support falling prices, Saudi oil minister Khalid Al Falih said on Thursday.

India is the world's third largest oil consuming nation, which is more than 80 per cent dependent on imports to meet its energy needs.

Led by Modi, it has been very strongly making a case for oil producers' cartel OPEC to price crude at reasonable and responsible rates.

Speaking to reporters at the meeting of the OPEC, he said: "We take the views of Prime Minister Narendra Modi seriously who (like US President Donald Trump) is equally vocal about the issue.

"We just met him in Buenos Aires (during G20 summit) and privately he made those points very very strongly that he does care for Indian consumers and is very serious about it. I have also seen him at three times at various energy events in India where he was very vocal."

He was replying to a question on US President's expectations from OPEC meeting.

OPEC on Thursday delayed a decision on production until it meets with other producers on Friday.

Following this, crude oil prices traded sharply lower.

Growing concerns that oil producers won't reach an agreement to aggressively reduce production has also weighed on prices.

West Texas Intermediate crude for January delivery lost $2.30, or 4.4 per cent, to $50.59 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Members of OPEC concluded their meeting in Vienna, without deciding on output-cut figures. It plans to debate output figures with non-OPEC producers during their meeting Friday.  -- PTI

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