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Fri, 14 December 2018
Disappointed over SC's 'conservative view': Prashant Bhushan on Rafale verdict

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23:49   I feel like my right arm is being taken away: CJI says on Justice Lokur's retirement
Justice Madan B Lokur, who was the part of four judges to hold the controversial January 12 press conference against the then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, was given a farewell on Friday by the lawyers of the Supreme Court.
 
Justice Lokur, who is set to retire on December 31, on Friday had the last working day in the apex court which will go for the winter break and christmas holidays.
Though it was a last regular working day for him on the judicial side, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said Justice Lokur will participate in several important decision making matters that will be coming up in the next two weeks.
Among the matters that would come for the deliberations, the Chief Justice was hinting about the elevation of some judges to the higher judiciary for which the collegium can meet during the winter break.
Justice Lokur, now the second senior-most judge, had participated in the presser led by Justice J Chelameswar (since retired) in which Justices Gogoi and Kurian Joseph (since retired) also took part and levelled several allegations against the then CJI Misra over the issue of allocation of sensitive cases.
Speakers including the CJI and Attorney General K K Venugopal praised Justice Lokur who dealt with the cases on different aspects of law -- constitutional law, juvenile justice, Alternate Dispute Redressal mechanism.
He also played an active role in the pursuit of judicial reforms -- computerisation of courts, judicial education, legal aid and legal services.
Justice Lokur was a part of the bench which adjudicated a writ petition, Nipun Saxena vs UOI, on privacy and identity of victims of sexual harassment wherein the court took the view that privacy and reputation of victims should be protected while issuing special directives in this regard.
He had taken a tough stand in the Delhi sealing matter and had severely reprimanded Delhi BJP president and MP Manoj Tiwari for breaking the civic agency's seal on a premises here in September.
Justice Lokur has been a flag bearer in environment jurisprudence. In his role as a judge, he has passed significant judgements in cases like MC Mehta, Common Cause and Goa Foundation, the CJI said. 
Praising Justice Lokur, the CJI said he has extraordinary abilities coupled with a towering intellect, full commitment towards upholding constitutional values, human ideals and an overall empathy towards the indian society.
"It is emotional for me as I will continue to have him (Lokur) as my friend but for various reasons I feel my right arm has been taken away.
"All these years I have been depending on him. That would come to an end because of the virtue of the office I am holding and the virtue of the office he is demitting. There can be no debate that Justice Lokur is an outstanding judge," the CJI said, adding that Justice Lokur was a pro citizen and pro victim judge.
Justice Lokur has shown a liberal attitude in dispensing justice to the underprivileged and vulnerable groups in the society, he said.
Referring to another judgement delivered by Justice Lokur, the CJI said that in Mallikarjun Kodagli case, he recognised the need of criminal justice system in the country to be more victim oriented.
Justice Lokur had written that the rights of an accused far outweighs the rights of the victims of an offence and there needs to be more balancing in equalising their rights so that criminal proceedings are fair to both.
In the matter relating to inhuman conditions in 1382 prisons, he spoke on the importance of PIL and issued important guidelines for prison reforms.
Speaking at the occasion, Justice Lokur referred to the independence of the judiciary and bar.
He said if the bar loses its integrity, there's going to be problem, people will believe that there is something wrong with the legal system and that should not happen because as a flourishing democracy, we have to keep our legal system going and make it credible.
"Independence is again very very important. We talk about the independence of the judiciary, yes it is very important but what about the independence of the bar. I think that is equally important. Bar cannot and should not be subordinate to the judiciary or any other institution.
"I think once we are able to do that, once we are able to maintain that independence that we have, we've had from the beginning of the constitution, once we are able to maintain that independence and integrity, other things will follow," Justice Lokur said.
He said there was a need to think about things like judicial reforms and highlighted the increase in pendency of cases in high courts and district courts.
"I was surprised yesterday to find that the number of cases that have gone up in the district courts, it used to be in the region of 2 crore 68 lakhs. I was really shocked to find out that the number has gone up to 2 crore 91 lakhs. That's a huge number, the number of cases in the high court has gone up to about 40 lakhs so we are really facing a bit of a problem," he said.
Attorney General K K Venugopal conceded that he had some disagreements with Justice Lokur in the courts role and also confessed that many schemes were made workable because of Justice Lokur's constant vigil.
He said that in swaraj abhiyan case, Justice Lokur gave directions for implementing National Food Security Act and his intervention has gone a long way in ensuring basic needs of a large sections of the population.
"And, his interventions have gone a long way to ensure that the next generation will be able to enjoy Taj Mahal in all its magnificent glory," the law officer added.
Justice Lokur was part of the Supreme Court bench which in August said that there will be no "second chance" to preserve the Taj Mahal, asking the authorities to take a larger perspective on issues of pollution and green cover to prepare a vision document on protecting the monument.
Before the farewell function, Justice Lokur as the custom of the apex court, was part of the bench headed by the CJI and heard 47 matters. -- PTI
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23:04   Disappointed over SC's 'conservative view': Prashant Bhushan on Rafale verdict
On a day the Supreme Court dismissed pleas challenging Rafale deal, Swaraj Abhiyan's founder member and one of the petitioners in the case, Prashant Bhushan on Friday said he was disappointed over the court's "conservative view" and claimed "new disclosures" were expected soon in the matter.
 
He also expressed shock that the judgement on the deal between India and France was based on "false information" about CAG report.
"Disappointed that the court has taken a conservative view of judicial review in cases of defence deal corruption involving high functionaries," Bhushan said in a statement.
He said the "scandal" involving the deal will continue to agitate people in the country.
"The scandal will continue to agitate the public mind - new disclosures are expected soon," the activist-lawyer said.
Bhushan was one of the petitioners who had approached the Supreme Court seeking an independent court-monitored investigation into the Rafale deal.
In a relief to the Modi government, the Supreme Court Friday dismissed the pleas challenging the deal between India and France for procurement of 36 Rafale jets saying there was no occasion to "really doubt the decision making process" warranting setting aside of the contract.
The court rejected the pleas which sought lodging of an FIR and a court-monitored probe alleging irregularities in the Rs 58,000 crore deal, in which both the countries have entered into an inter-governmental agreement. -- PTI
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22:51   Govt did not share price of Rafale jet with Parliament but revealed it to CAG, says SC in its verdict
The Supreme Court on Friday said the material placed before it shows that the Centre did not disclose in Parliament the pricing details of the Rafale fighter jet, but revealed it to the Comptroller and Auditor General.
 
It said that CAG report was even examined by the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament.
"The material placed before us shows that the government has not disclosed pricing details, other than the basic price of the aircraft, even to the Parliament, on the ground that sensitivity of pricing details could affect national security, apart from breaching the agreement between the two countries," a bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph said. 
It said the pricing details have, however, been shared with the CAG, and the report of the CAG has been examined by the Public Accounts Committee.
"Only a redacted portion of the report was placed before the Parliament," the bench said in its verdict as it dismissed a batch of pleas seeking a court-monitored probe into the 36 Rafale fighter jet deal and direction to the CBI for registering an FIR for alleged irregularities. -- PTI 
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22:32   Like Rafale, hope BJP also waits for SC's Babri Masjid verdict: Mehbooba
On a day the Supreme Court dismissed pleas challenging the Rafale deal, Peoples Democratic Party chief  Mehbooba Mufti said the Bharatiya Janata Party should also wait for the apex court's verdict on the Babri Masjid issue. 
 
In a relief to the Modi government, the Supreme Court Friday dismissed the pleas challenging the deal between India and France for procurement of 36 Rafale jets saying there was no occasion to "really doubt the decision making process" warranting setting aside of the contract.
"Like the Rafale decision was welcomed, I hope they (the BJP) will wait for the decision (of Supreme Court) on Babri Masjid as well and won't start pointing fingers at the SC. We have an institution which is highly respected," Mehbooba said. 
She was replying to questions at an event held by the Observer Research Foundation.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has been demanding an ordinance or a law to build a Ram temple in Ayodhya at the earliest. It had also criticised the Supreme Court's decision to defer the hearing in the land dispute case, saying it "hurt" Hindu sentiments.
Several BJP leaders have also supported RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat's push for the law to enable the construction of Ram temple.
Praising Congress president Rahul Gandhi over his party's success in the three states (of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh), Mehbooba said, "He fought his first election in 1994. He has given a lot of time. He is now arriving". 
When asked if the PDP will be a part of the grand alliance, the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir said although talks were taking place, her party was a "small player" to be considered. -- PTI
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22:18   Alok Nath moves court for anticipatory bail
Actor Alok Nath, accused of rape by a woman writer-producer, has filed anticipatory bail application in a Mumbai court.
 
The plea for pre-arrest bail was filed before Additional Sessions Judge S S Oza Thursday.
 
The court on Friday adjourned the matter to December 20, after the complainant's lawyer sought time to file an intervention plea opposing bail for Nath.
A rape case was registered against Nath by the Mumbai Police on November 21 based on a complaint filed by the writer-producer who accused him, in a social media post, of raping her 19 years ago.
Nath refuted the allegations and filed a civil suit against the complainant, seeking Rs 1 as damages for defaming him.
Though she did not name Nath in the post, the complainant referred to him as the actor who is known as the "most Sanskari person". -- PTI
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21:58   BJP performed well without Ram temple, can do again: Prashant Kishor
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is still the most popular leader in the country, Janata Dal-United leader Prashant Kishor said on Friday, emphasising he does not see any reason for alarm in the Bharatiya Janata Party after the saffron party suffered setbacks in three Hindi heartland states.
 
Kishor, who played an important role in shaping the BJP campaign during 2014 polls, said he believes the BJP won that election without resorting to the Ram temple issue and should stick to the development agenda to win the general election next year.
"I do not think there is any cause for alarm for the BJP. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is still the most popular leader in the country," he told reporters during an informal chat in Patna. 

The JD-U is an ally of the BJP in Bihar.
Kishor's comments come three days after the BJP was defeated in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. 

The assembly elections were billed as "semifinals" to the 2019 Lok Sabha election by political observers, who speculate the saffron party might rake up the Ram temple issue ahead of the general election as election results have thrown open the race for 2019.
In the run-up to the assembly elections, right-wing organisations held rallies and programmes to demand that Ram temple be built in Ayodhya. 

The BJP has said that the construction of Ram temple is not a political issue for it but a matter of faith.
"The BJP today may not appear as formidable as it was in 2014 but it remains much stronger than it was in 2004 -- when it lost power, and in 2009 -- when it failed to wrest power (from the Congress)," Kishor said about the NDA ally. -- PTI
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21:56   #MeToo: Sona Mohapatra asks Delhi govt to withdraw invitation to Kailash Kher
Singer Sona Mohapatra has urged the Delhi government to withdraw an invitation to Kailash Kher for a cultural event in view of the #MeToo allegations levelled against him by her and other women.
 
The singer started a petition on change.org where she has reiterated her allegations of sexual harassment against Kher  
"That is why I am shocked to learn that Kailash Kher has been asked to headline a performance at the Delhi Government's Mayur Utsav that begins today.
"Action needs to be taken against perpetrators. Sign my petition asking the Delhi Government to withdraw Kailash Kher's invitation from the Mayur Utsav being hosted in Delhi," she said.
The singer others to sign the petition to stop Kher's performance at the event on Sunday, December 16.
"I am hopeful that the Delhi Government which is keenly aware of women's safety as a critical issue will listen to #MeToo survivors and their citizens when we ask them to drop Kailash Kher. That is why I am asking you to sign and support this petition to the Delhi Government," she said.
"We have just 2 days to make the Delhi government listen to us, but it is an important fight which if we win, will set an example and send a clear message: We will not tolerate any threats to women's safety," she claimed.
When contacted, Kher declined to comment on the matter.  
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21:55   Britain's Air Force gets first Sikh, Muslim chaplains
In a first for the British military, a Sikh and a Muslim "padres" have become part of the Royal Air Force Chaplain's Branch, UK's Ministry of Defence announced on Friday.
Flight Lieutenant Mandeep Kaur, who grew up in Punjab, becomes the first Sikh chaplain and Kenya-born Flight Lieutenant Ali Omar becomes the first Muslim chaplain.
Kaur was selected as a chaplain while studying in the UK for her doctorate in engineering and has been working towards this role since 2005, the ministry of defence said.
The two padres, as they are officially referred to, graduated at Royal Air Force (RAF) College Cranwell, RAF's training and education academy, on Thursday, after completing reservist officer training.
"Padres provide spiritual and welfare support to all soldiers, sailors, airmen and women, and their families. They deploy on operations and aboard ships when they go on long deployments," the MoD said
"Padres can also go out on patrols and live on the front line, on hand for when personnel need them," it notes.
The appointments form part of the ministry's new diversity strategy to increase diversity and inclusion across the armed forces.
The strategy titled 'A Force for Inclusion' is aimed at ensuring that diversity and inclusion are a major part of all of the department's work, including workforce policies, culture and behaviour.
"It has been an absolute privilege to welcome our first Sikh and Muslim commissioned Chaplains into the Royal Air Force and I look forward immensely to working with them into the future," said John Ellis, RAF Chaplain-In-Chief, the Venerable (Air-Vice Marshal). -- PTI
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20:55   Is Rahul above the Supreme Court, asks BJP
The Bharatiya Janata Party on Friday accused Rahul Gandhi of "almost condemning" the Supreme Court for dismissing the pleas challenging the Rafale fighter aircraft deal, and said the Congress president crossed all limits of propriety, decency and probity in public life.
 
Union law minister and senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad launched a counter-attack on Gandhi, saying the apex court had "exposed his lies" which he has been using to attack the "honest and popular" prime minister.
With Gandhi reiterating his "chowkidar chor hai" (watchman is thief) barb against PM Narendra Modi, Prasad dubbed his remarks "shameful" and "cheap", and accused him of using an abuse against the prime minister.
Rahul and his mother Sonia Gandhi are themselves facing a trial on corruption charges, he said, referring to the National Herald case against them.
The BJP expected that Rahul Gandhi would accept the Supreme Court's verdict but it did not happen, Prasad said.
"He (Rahul Gandhi) crossed all limits of propriety, decency and probity in public life by almost condemning the Supreme Court. What does he mean? Is he above the Supreme Court? Is the Congress above the Supreme Court? What kind of language is this?" he asked.
Prasad said Rahul Gandhi's problem is his arrogance and conceit about his dynasty.
Notwithstanding the Supreme Court's verdict on the Rafale deal, Rahul Gandhi on Friday maintained that there was massive corruption in the contract and wondered why the CAG report "cited by the Supreme Court" on it had not yet been shared with the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament. 
In a relief to the Modi government, the Supreme Court on Friday dismissed the pleas challenging the deal between India and France for procurement of 36 Rafale jets saying there was no occasion to "really doubt the decision making process" warranting setting aside of the contract. -- PTI 
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20:14   At least 5 die, 80 others ill after consuming 'prasad' in K'taka
At least five people, including two children, died and about 80 others took ill Friday after consuming 'prasad' at a temple at Sulivadi village in Karnataka's Chamarajnagar district, police said.
     
The condition of 12 people was critical and they have been taken to Mysuru for treatment, they said.
     
The deceased have been identified as Gopiyamma (55), Pappanna (50), Shantha (20), Anitha 14 and Anil (12).
     
District Health Officer Prasad said it was suspected that poison might have got mixed with the 'prasad', resulting in the tragic incident.
     
"We have collected the samples and sent it to a laboratory for investigation," he told reporters.
     
According to police, the foundation laying ceremony of Maramma temple was organised Thursday morning and prasad was distributed after the function.
     
Most of those who attended the event followed the 'Om Shakti' tradition.
     
After consuming the prasad, people started vomitting and began writhing with stomach pain, police said.
     
Commotion prevailed as people hurried to nearby hospitals for treatment.
     
Police rushed to the spot, as also district authorities, to provide medical aid.
     
During treatment, five people breathed their last, two at a hospital at Kamagere, two others at a hospital at Kollegala and one athospital in Ramapura, police said. -- PTI
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19:55   Rajapakse to step down as Sri Lankan PM, says son
Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was appointed as prime minister of Sri Lanka in a controversial move, will resign on Saturday, his son announced Friday, shortly after the Supreme Court refused to stay a court order that restrained the embattled former strongman from holding the office until it fully heard the case next month. 
 
Rajapaksa was appointed as the premier on October 26 by President Maithripala Sirisena after sacking Ranil Wickremesinghe, plunging the nation into a constitutional crisis. 
"To ensure stability of the nation, Former President @PresRajapaksa has decided to resign from the Premiership tomorrow after an address to the nation," Rajapaksa's son Namal tweeted. 
 
The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna with former president, Sri Lanka Freedom Party and others will "now work to form a broader political coalition with President Sirisena", Namal, who is also a lawmaker, added.
 
The apex court's latest ruling came a day after it unanimously declared that the dissolution of Parliament by President Maithripala Sirisena was "illegal", in a body blow to the embattled leader, whose controversial decisions plunged the island nation into an unprecedented political turmoil.
The Supreme Court decided that a Court of Appeal order issued against the appointment of Rajapaksa as Prime Minister and against his Cabinet from holding office will stand.
The appeal filed by Rajapaksa will be taken up for hearing on January 16, 17 and 18. -- PTI 
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19:27   India Post announces full-fledged entry into e-commerce
India Post on Wednesday announced full-fledged entry into e-commerce business, where it will leverage its parcel business for end-to-end delivery of products.
   
"We have simplified decision-making process at the department of posts by setting up a separate parcel directorate. It can make quick decision on parcel rates and related provisions. India Post will leverage its vast network for e-commerce services for doorstep delivery of products," communications minister Manoj Sinha told reporters.
 
The minister also launched India Post's e-commerce portal.
 
Earlier, any decision related to change in parcel delivery rates or matching services of private players required approval from top officials, which was time-consuming.
 
The DoP has set up parcel directorate which is free to take decision to match the competition.
 
"India Post is open for registration of all vendors for e-commerce business. It will pick up products from vendor and deliver to doorstep of customers," Sinha said.
 
India Post has delivery network up to remotest villages through its 1.55 lakh post offices which no one can match, the minister said.
 
"We will also facilitate return of products service like it is available for customers on other e-commerce platforms," India Post Secretary A N Nanda said.
 
Sinha said the department will strictly monitor delivery of products.
 
"The credibility that DoP has built over the years is immense. We will suitably resolve complaints whenever we receive them," the minister said. -- PTI 
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19:19   CAG report cited by SC in Rafale verdict doesn't exist, claims Rahul
Reacting to the Supreme Court verdict on Rafale deal, Congress president Rahul Gandhi today questioned the basis of the apex court judgement on the deal, alleging that a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India mentioned in the judgement does not exist.

Gandhi read out a paragraph from the judgement which cited a CAG report on the deal.

The court had said the pricing details of the aircraft was provided to the CAG and that this CAG report had been examined by the Public Accounts Committee and a redacted portion placed before Parliament.

"Where is this report of the CAG? Show it to us if it exists," said Gandhi, flanked by Public Accounts Committee chairman Mallikarjuna Kharge.

"The government will have to explain to us where is the CAG report. Show it to PAC chairman Kharge. Maybe a different PAC is running parallelly, maybe in a different Parliament, maybe in Parliament of France. It's possible Modiji has constituted his own PAC in PMO," he said.

Calling for the joint parliamentary committee, Rahul said entire country believes chowkidar chor hai.
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18:41   IB and RAW chiefs get six months extension
Intelligence Bureau director Rajiv Jain and Research & Analysis Wing Secretary Anil K Dhasmana, whose two-year terms end later this month, have been given extensions of six months, a government order said Friday.
Jain's tenure was to end on December 30 and Dhasmana's on December 29.
The decision to extend the tenure of the two intelligence chiefs was taken due to the forthcoming general election by the prime minister-led Appointments Committee of the Cabinet. The centre wanted a new government to take a decision on appointments on these key posts, officials in the know said.
Jain, a 1980-batch IPS officer from Jharkhand, was appointed IB Director on December 30, 2016 for two years.
A recipient of the President's Police Medal, Jain has served in various departments of IB, including the sensitive Kashmir Desk. He was advisor to the previous NDA government's interlocutor on Kashmir K C Pant when talks were held with separatist leaders such as Shabbir Shah.
Dhasmana, a 1981-batch officer from the Madhya Pradesh cadre, has been with R&AW for 23 years, during which he served in important areas, including the Pakistan Desk. The R&AW is tasked with gathering external intelligence.
The ACC has also redesignated Anil Srivastava, 1985-batch IAS officer of the Madhya Pradesh cadre from advisor, NITI Aayog, to principal adviser, the order stated. -- PTI  
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18:22   Wholesale inflation at 4.64% in November, lowest since August
India's wholesale inflation fell to a three-month low of 4.64 per cent in November, driven down by decline in prices of food articles, especially vegetables, and some easing in rates of petro products.
 
The Wholesale Price Index-based inflation was 5.28 per cent in October and 4.02 per cent in November last year.
 
Food articles witnessed softening of prices with deflation at 3.31 per cent in November, against 1.49 per cent in October, government data released Friday showed.
 
Vegetables, too, became cheaper with deflation at 26.98 per cent in November, compared to 18.65 per cent in the previous month.
 
Inflation in the 'fuel and power' basket in November continued to rule high at 16.28 per cent, but was lower than 18.44 per cent in October. This was on account of lowering of prices of petrol and diesel, following a decline in global crude oil prices.
 
Separately in petrol and diesel, inflation was 12.06 per cent and 20.16 per cent, respectively, and for liquified petroleum gas, it was 23.22 per cent during October.
 
ICRA Principal Economist Aditi Nayar said the easing of the WPI inflation was led by a deeper disinflation in prices of primary food articles, easing of inflation related to crude petroleum and mineral oils following the correction in retail fuel prices, and some impact of the appreciation in the rupee on the landed prices of imports. 
"The recent trend of a year-on-year correction in food prices does not augur well for the strength of rural demand in the immediate term. However, factors such as weak post-monsoon rainfall and a delay in rabi sowing pose some uncertainty regarding how long food prices would remain in the disinflation zone," Nayar said.
Nayar said with the recent stability in the crude oil prices and the rupee, ICRA expects the WPI inflation to range between 3.7-4.4 per cent in the remainder of second half for current fiscal. -- PTI

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17:55   Saina Nehwal ties the knot with P Kashyap
Ace Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal tied the know with fellow badminton player Parupalli Kashyap on Friday

"Best match of my life..#justmarried," Saina tweeted with couple of photographs. 
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17:45   Modi set to storm Cong stronghold of Rae Bareli
Notwithstanding the setbacks BJP suffered in assembly polls in three major Hindi heartland states this week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to visit Rae Bareli, the traditional seat of the Gandhi family, on Sunday.


This will be the first visit by the prime minister to the constituency represented by United Progressive Alliance chairperson and former Congress president Sonia Gandhi, and before her by other members of her family.


Modi's visit is being seen as a strategy of the BJP to pin the Congress leadership in their respective constituencies in the 2019 general election. His visit was planned before the counting of votes polled in the five states was taken up on December 11, following which the Congress party threw out BJP governments in three states -- Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Union Textile Minister Smriti Irani, who contested the 2014 Lok Sabha election from the neighbouring Amethi against Congress president Rahul Gandhi, often visits Rae Bareli as part of a bid by the BJP to dent the Gandhi family bastion in 2019.


On Sunday, Modi will hold a public meeting and flag off the Humsafar Express, official said. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath visited Rae Bareli on Thursday to oversee preparations for the visit.


He also took a tour of the Rail Coach Factory in the district. According to district officials, Modi will lay the foundation stone and inaugurate projects worth Rs 1,100 crore during the visit.


Sonia Gandhi has not visited Rae Bareli since April. Before that, she visited the constituency in mid-2016. Also, she did not campaign in the constituency during the 2017 UP election, after she developed a health issue during a roadshow in Varanasi. -- PTI
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17:41   Lone wolf attacks is our current worry: Maha ATS chief
Preventing lone wolf attacks and identifying persons who might be planning such strikes is a major concern for security agencies, Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Atulchandra Kulkarni said Friday. He also said that there is a need to develop technology which can scan vehicles for detection of hidden explosives "in real time" in view of coming elections when there will be plenty of rallies and roadshows.
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17:40   WPI inflation falls to 4.64% in November on easing food, petro prices
India's wholesale inflation fell to a three-month low of 4.64 per cent in November, driven down by decline in prices of food articles, especially vegetables, and some easing in rates of petro products.


The Wholesale Price Index-based inflation was 5.28 per cent in October and 4.02 per cent in November last year. Food articles witnessed softening of prices with deflation at 3.31 per cent in November, against 1.49 per cent in October, government data released Friday showed.


Vegetables, too, became cheaper with deflation at 26.98 per cent in November, compared to 18.65 per cent in the previous month. Inflation in the 'fuel and power' basket in November continued to rule high at 16.28 per cent, but was lower than 18.44 per cent in October.


This was on account of lowering of prices of petrol and diesel, following a decline in global crude oil prices. -- PTI
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17:16   Rafale allegations fiction writing: Jaitley
Finance Minster Arun Jaitley Friday dubbed allegations on the Rafale jet deal as "fiction writing" that compromised national security, after the Supreme Court dismissed the pleas challenging the deal between India and France for procurement of 36 Rafale jets.


In an apparent attack on Congress President Rahul Gandhi, who has been alleging corruption in the purchase of the fighter jets, Jaitley said "disrupters" have lost on all counts and those who manufactured falsehood compromised the security of the country.


Falsehood is bound to fall apart and it has, Jaitley said, adding that if honest deals are questioned, then civil servants and armed forces will think twice before undertaking such a process in future.


Buoyed by the verdict, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who addressed a press conference along with Jaitley said the matter of Rafale deal has been put to rest through the apex court's order.


Jaitley said every figure cited by Gandhi in his allegations has been false. He said the government would again press for a debate on the issue in Parliament.


He claimed that there has been a tradition in democracies across the world of leaders quitting their positions when their lies are caught. "Rafale deal has protected both security and commercial interest of India. Allegations on Rafale was fiction writing that was compromising national security," Jaitley said.


To a question about the Congress demand of Joint parliamentary Probe into the deal, he said only judicial body can carry out such an investigation as there has been experience in the past of JPCs working on partisan lines.


The SC verdict is conclusive and leaves no scope of any doubt on the deal, he said. In relief to the Modi government, the Supreme Court Friday dismissed the pleas challenging the deal between India and France for procurement of 36 Rafale jets saying there was no occasion to "really doubt the decision making process" warranting setting aside of the contract.


The apex court rejected the pleas seeking lodging of an FIR and the court-monitored probe alleging irregularities in the Rs 58,000 crore deal, in which both the countries have entered into an inter-governmental agreement. -- PTI
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17:06   Amitav Ghosh to receive Jnanpith Award
Novelist Amitav Ghosh will receive with the Jnanpith Award, the highest literary honour in the country, reports said. . The Jnanpith award selection committee, which met in New Delhi, has unanimously agreed that Ghosh, an English language novelist, will get the award this year.


Ghosh, who was born in 1956, is best known for his work in English fiction writing. The writer thanked the selection committee:  "This is an amazing day for me,' he tweeted. "I never thought I would find myself on this list [of Jnanpith award recipients], with some of the writers I most admire.'


Also read our 2016 interview with Ghosh on climate change.
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16:58   SC dismisses petition challenging Asthana's appointment
The Supreme Court has dismissed a curative petition filed by an NGO Common Cause challenging the appointment of Rakesh Asthana to the post of CBI Special Director.
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16:57   IB and RAW chiefs get six months extension
The chiefs of Intelligence Bureau and Research and Analysis Wing Rajiv Jain and Anil K Dhasmana respectively got extensions of six months each on Friday from their two-year terms, which were coming to an end later this month, a government order said. Jain's tenure was to end on December 30 while Dhasmana's was to end on December 29.


The decision to extend the tenure of the two intelligence chiefs by six months was taken due to the forthcoming general election and the centre wanted a new government to take a decision on these key posts, said the officials who know about the decision.


Jain, a 1980-batch IPS officer from Jharkhand, was appointed IB Director on December 30, 2016 for a period of two years.


A recipient of the President's Police Medal, Jain has served in various departments of the IB, including the sensitive Kashmir Desk.


He was advisor to the previous NDA government's interlocutor on Kashmir K C Pant when talks were held with separatist leaders like Shabbir Shah. Dhasmana took over the reins of the R&AW, tasked with gathering external intelligence.


A 1981-batch officer from the Madhya Pradesh cadre, Dhasmana has been with R&AW for the past 23 years, during which he served in important areas, including the Pakistan Desk. -- PTI
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16:43   Board agrees to further examine RBI governance framework
The crucial central board meeting of the Reserve Bank, the first under the new governor Shaktikanta Das, Friday agreed to discuss the governance framework of the central bank further. The meeting, which lasted for nearly four hours, also reviewed the current economic situation, both global and domestic challenges, matters relating to liquidity and credit delivery, and issues related to currency management and financial literacy.


"The board deliberated on the governance framework of the RBI and it was decided that the matter needs further examination," RBI said in a terse statement after the meeting. This is the first board meeting chaired by Das, who took over as the 25th governor Wednesday after the surprise resignation of Urjit Patel Monday. The 18-member board also discussed the draft report on the trends and progress of banking (2017-18), the RBI said.
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16:34   We will form govt: smiles Pilot
Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister designate Sachin Pilot: I would like to thank Congress President Rahul Gandhi and other legislators for taking this decision to make Ashok Gehlotji the Chief Minister of Rajasthan. "Mera aur Ashok ji ka jadoo puri tarah chal gaya hai. Hum ab sarkar bana rahe hain," Pilot said.


This is a nod to Ashok Gehlot's background. At a conjurors' convention in 2015 which he inaugurated by performing a little trick of his own the veteran told the audience he would have followed in his magician father's footstep had he not joined politics.
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16:27   It's official: Gehlot is CM, Pilot is Dy CM in Rajasthan
Rajasthan Congress Observer KC Venugopal begins the presser. He is flanked by Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot. He is making the announcement on behalf of Congress President Ashok Gehlot.


And it's official, Ashok Gehlot is the chief minister, Sachin Pilot is the deputy CM.


Sometimes called "Rajasthan's Gandhi" for his simple lifestyle and mass connect, Gehlot has been chief minister twice earlier. The first stint was in 1998-2003 and the second ended in 2013, with the Bharatiya Janata Party's Vasundhara Raje succeeding him each time. Gehlot has also been at the helm of the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee four times.


Currently an All India Congress Committee general secretary, Gehlot has  been deployed by the party in crucial roles at the national level.
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16:11   Raj CM presser begins
Congress leader Sachin Pilot reaches All India Congress Committee (AICC) headquarters in Delhi. Abhishek Manu Singhvi also present. Ashok Gehlot also present. The official announcement on the CM decision any time now.
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16:07  
Appointments Committee of Cabinet has approved the extension in service of Rajiv Jain, Director, Intelligence Bureau for a period of 6 months beyond the present tenure which ends on December 30. 
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16:05   Shivraj congratulates Kamal Nath, urges him to continue with BJP's welfare schemes
Former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Friday congratulated his successor Kamal Nath and urged him to continue with the schemes he implemented for the welfare of the people during his tenure.


Speaking to media, Chouhan said, "I would like to congratulate Kamal Nathji and convey my best wishes to him. I hope he will fulfil all the promises he has made and continue with the schemes we had implemented.


"Nath will take oath as chief minister of Madhya Pradesh on December 17, at Lal Parade ground in capital city Bhopal. The statement from Singh came days after he quit the workplace after the Rahul Gandhi led-Congress emerged as the largest party in the state winning 114 seats in the Assembly Elections.


However, Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Akhilesh Yadav's Samajwadi Party (SP) extended their support to the party. BSP has won 2 seats and SP 1 seat, taking the total for Congress to 117, crossing the majority mark of 116. -- ANI
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15:36   Ashok Gehlot likely to be Rajasthan CM: Reports
The Congress is expected to reveal it's CM face by 4:30 pm. But news agency ANI quoting sources says Ashok Gehlot is expected to be the next Chief Minister of Rajasthan. Sachin Pilot likely to be the Deputy Chief Minister of Rajasthan. He will also continue to be the Rajasthan Congress Chief.


Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday appeared to have successfully brokered peace between Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot after several rounds of discussions and tweeted a picture of the two warring leaders from Rajasthan with himself.


"The united colours of Rajasthan," he said in the tweet along with the photograph in which the three leaders were seen in a jovial mood.


Gandhi met the two leaders separately thrice since Thursday and is learnt to have decided the chief ministerial face in the state. But there was no immediate clarity on who would be the chief minister and it is likely to be announced by this evening.


There have been hectic discussions between top party leaders, including Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, on the selection of chief ministers for Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Senior party leaders K C Venugopal, Avinash Pande and Jitendra Singh were also present during the meeting Friday.
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15:22   The Savita Halappanavar verdict: Ireland legalises abortion
Ireland's parliament has passed a landmark legislation to make abortion legal for the first time in the Catholic-majority country, a "historic moment" which came after an Indian dentist died from blood poisoning in 2012 when the doctors refused her repeated requests to abort the foetus.


Ireland voted decisively to change the Constitution to repeal the Eighth Amendment in May, with 66.4 per cent voting in favour of new legislation to allow for the termination of pregnancies.



"The bill that allows for the introduction of abortion services in Ireland has passed all stages of the Oireachtas(Irish Parliament) and will now go to President Michael D Higgins to be signed into law," Irish Broadcaster RTE reported on Thursday.


"Historic moment for Irish women. Thanks to all who supported and well done to (Health Minister) Simon Harris for steering this through both Houses," Ireland's Indian-origin President Leo Varadkar said. The new development has come following a rising number of distressing stories about women unable to get an abortion in Ireland. -- PTI
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14:56   Rahul's 'united colours of Rajasthan' signals end of CM battle
So, the matter of the Rajasthan CM seems to have been resolved, but we still don't know who wears the crown even though Ashok Gehlot remains the frontrunner.


Congress president Rahul Gandhi has just tweeted this picture (image alongside) with the two contenders for the Rajasthan CM's post -- Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot -- with the words, 'The united colours of Rajasthan'. All the three are smiling in the picture a far cry from the friction between the two sides last night.


After several rounds of discussions on selecting the chief minister of Rajasthan, top contenders for the post, Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot, reached the residence of party chief Rahul Gandhi on Friday for a final settlement on the issue.


Yesterday, ahead of the announcement of Kamal Nath as MP CM, Rahul had tweeted a smiling picture with Madhya Pradesh chief ministerial contenders Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia and quoted Leo Tolstoy to say that the two most powerful warriors are patience and time.


According to sources, both Gehlot and Pilot were called by the Congress president for an amicable settlement to the issue amid a clear fight between the old and the young guard in the party.


Sources said former Union minister and party leader from Rajasthan Jitendra Singh met Pilot earlier in the day and then met Gandhi. Party's central observer for Rajasthan K C Venugopal and AICC general secretary in-charge of party affairs in the state Avinash Pande were also present at Gandhi's residence during the discussions.
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14:37   Rafale deal: SC verdict excellent, clean chit to govt, says Venugopal
Attorney General K K Venugopal on Friday welcomed as "excellent" the Supreme Court verdict in the Rafale deal case, and said it has given a clean chit to the Narendra Modi government.


"I think a clean chit has been given to the government on Rafale deal," he told reporters on the sidelines of a function to give farewell to Justice Madan B Lokur, who is set to retire on December 30.


"Supreme Court judgement on Rafale deal is excellent and I am extremely happy," Venugopal said, adding, "The court has accepted all our arguments".


A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi Friday dismissed the pleas challenging the deal between India and France for procurement of 36 Rafale jets saying there was no occasion to "really doubt the process" warranting setting aside of the contract. -- PTI
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14:34   Indian techie sentenced to nine years in prison for sexual assault inside plane
A 35-year-old Indian IT professional was sentenced in the US to nine years in prison for a "brazen sexual assault" against a sleeping woman during a flight early this year and will be deported to India after the completion of his jail term.


The incident happened on a nighttime Spirit Airlines flight from Las Vegas to Detroit in January. Prabhu Ramamoorthy, who came to the US on a H-1B visa in 2015, will be deported after he serves his sentence, a federal court in Detroit said as it sentenced the Indian national to nine years of imprisonment.


Judge Terrence Berge hoped it would be grave enough to deter others from committing similar crimes. Federal prosecutors had sought 11 years of imprisonment for Ramamoorthy. "Everyone has the right to be secure and safe when they travel on airplanes. We will not tolerate the behaviour of anyone, who takes advantage of victims who are in a vulnerable position. We appreciate the victim in this case for her courage to speak out," US Attorney Matthew Schneider said after the sentencing was announced.


Ramamoorthy, who hails from Tamil Nadu, was convicted in August after a five-day trial that was conducted before United States District Judge Terrence Berg. The jury deliberated approximately three-and-a-half hours before returning the guilty verdict.


According to the evidence presented at the trial, on January 3, Ramamoorthy had engaged in a sexual act with a female, while she was sleeping on a flight from Las Vegas to Detroit. Ramamoorthy was seated along with his wife, when he sexually assaulted his co-passenger.


During the trial, the government admitted evidence demonstrating that Ramamoorthy had digitally penetrated the 22-year-old woman sleeping next to him during the overnight flight. The sexual assault woke her up, she found her pants unbuttoned and unzipped, and sought help from the flight attendants.


The victim, who was a model, sat paralysed in disbelief, and texted her boyfriend.

The sentence was proof that the safety and security of all aircraft passengers was a priority for the FBI, said Timothy R Slater, Special Agent in Charge, Detroit Division of the FBI.  According to court papers, Ramamoorthy's parents are farmers. He came to the US in July, 2015 after his graduation to work as an IT professional. -- PTI
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14:12   Amit Shah: Congress chowkidar se darte hain
BJP President Amit Shah on the Rafale verdict by the Supreme Court:

"We welcome the judgement of the Supreme Court, the truth has won. People were being misled by unfortunately the country's oldest party. Rahul Gandhiji should apologize to the nation for misleading people. Want to ask Rahulji what was the source of information on basis of which he made such big allegations.


"Suraj ke oopar kitna bhi keechad ya kitni bhi mitti ucchal lein vo swayam pe hi girti hai. Aage se vo (Rahul Gandhi) aise bachkaane aarop se bachein.


"If Congress had all the proof then why did they not go to the Supreme Court with it? Their B team was already there. JPC is formed only when there is a discussion in the house (Parliament). I challenge Congress for a discussion on it.


"Court has said they are satisfied with decision making process. The court went through all the records and dismissed the plea. The court also said that our neighbours have 4th and 5th generation aircraft hence India also need such aircraft.


I would like to ask a few questions to Rahul Gandhi:

#What was the source of info that you raised such questions on deal?

#It was your govt in power in 2001 when the process was started but from 2007 to 2014 the process was stopped. Why was  this done? What was stopping you from going with the deal?

Whatever deal was done by the Congress, middlemen benefited but our govt did a govt-to-govt deal. It's impartial. Why was a govt-to-govt deal never done by the Congress party?

#Why were these aircraft not inducted by your govt?

Amit Shah replies on Rahul's chowkidar chor hai jibe.

"Sab chor milke chowkidar ko chor bol rahe hain, lekin aaaj sab saaf hogaya hai. Inke ander dar hai chowkidar ka.


The Lok Sabha was adjourned for the day on Friday after treasury and opposition benches sparred over the Rafale issue, with the government seeking an apology from Congress chief Rahul Gandhi on the matter.
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13:35   Rahul should apologise for defaming govt globally: Fadnavis
Devendra Fadnavis, Maharashtra CM: "Supreme Court's judgment on the Rafale Deal has exposed the lies of Congress Party and it's President Rahul Gandhi. This judgement has vindicated our stand. Now Rahul Gandhi should apologize for defaming our country globally."
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13:29   Reactions on the Rafale deal verdict from the Congress
Mallikarjun Kharge, Congress: Our demand was for a Joint Parliamentary Committee and it still stands.  The main issue is pricing which SC said it did not want to comment as it is not in its jurisdiction. The Home Minister is speaking on an incomplete judgement given on a PIL.
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13:24   Lessons from Rahul Gandhi's humility
The BJP and its 'pradhan sevak' must learn to be more accommodating in their approach before their electoral test in 2019. Read more
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13:09   Rafale verdict: Defence minister meets PM
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman meets PM Narendra Modi after the Rafale verdict. The defence minister is yet to make a statement on the Supreme Court verdict today, but Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad spoke on behalf of the government, welcoming the Supreme Court's judgement in the Rafale fighter jet deal.


He urged that all campaigns against the Rafale deal must end now as the country's strategic interest is more important.


The apex court dismissed all the petitions seeking a direction to the CBI to register an FIR for alleged irregularities in the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France and said there was no occasion to doubt the decision-making process in the multi-billion dollar defence deal.


"I am very happy that today the Supreme Court has given the decision, upholding the entire Rafale deal. "...I would only urge one thing, that all campaigns against Rafale must end now because the country's strategic interest is more important," Prasad said on the sidelines of an event organised by industry body CII.


He further said that the country needed effective fighter planes to reinforce the strength of the Air Force. "This has been pending for a long time." "The entire deal was completely fair, transparent and honest," Prasad asserted.


The Congress has been alleging that the government had put pressure on Dassault Aviation to select Anil Ambani's Reliance Defence Ltd (RDL) as its offset partner.


The government, RDL and Dassault Aviation rejected the charges. A bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi said there is a necessity for fighter aircraft and the country cannot remain without the jets. -- PTI
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12:47   There could be a female Dalai Lama in future: Dalai Lama
Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama Friday said Buddhist tradition is very liberal, having equal rights for both genders, and that there could be a "female Dalai Lama" in the future.


The Dalai Lama was addressing an audience at the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay. The Dalai Lama, whose real name is Tenzin Gyatso, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, and is feted worldwide for his advocacy of independence for Tibet and other causes. When asked if in the future, there could be a female Dalai Lama, he said Buddha has given equal rights to both genders and that both Tibetan and Indian masters of the highest ordination have been females as well.


"Around 15 years ago, the editor of a French magazine for ladies had come to interview me. She asked me if there could be a female Dalai Lama in future. I had said yes. If in future, the female body is more effective, then certainly yes. The Buddhist tradition is very liberal," the Dalai Lama said.


The Dalai Lama said education from kindergarten should imbibe the importance of emotional hygiene because for physical health, the mind must be at peace. "Physical hygiene is about keeping the body healthy, which is very important. A healthy mind is important as well. In India, the knowledge about mind and emotions is over 3,000 years old. Bharat is the only civilisation, which as early as 3,000 years back, developed concepts like Vipassana. These are techniques to bring peace of mind," he said. -- PTI 
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12:32   BJP will milk certificate of honesty from the SC: Omar
 @OmarAbdullah on the SC clean chit to the Modi government on the Rafale deal: "Though I disagree about the zero impact. A certificate of honesty from the SC, deserved or not, is something the BJP will milk for all it's worth. The BJP really has the devil's luck (relax I'm not calling you devils, it's only an idiom) This #RafaelVerdict couldn't have come at a better time after the electoral set back."
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12:28  
The full Supreme Court verdict on the Rafale deal. Read it here
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12:15   Jaitley to address Parliament at noon
Finance minister Arun Jaitley to address parliament at noon and is likely to speak on the Rafale deal. Jaitley said the government was ready for a debate in the House on Rafale. "Rahul lied on Rafale


Arun Shourie, the other petitioner in the case said the top court has abdicated responsibility and not gone into the fundamental issues in the case. "I'm astonished at the verdict," he said.
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12:10   SC verdict establishes allegations politically motivated: Anil Ambani
Reliance chief Anil Ambani welcomes the Supreme Court judgment on the Rafale deal and says it establishes the falsity of politically motivated allegations against his firm. He said his company is committed to India's national security, including implementing offset deal with Dassault.


A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said there was no occasion to doubt the decision-making process in the multi-billion dollar deal. On the issue of offset partner (Anil Ambani's company) the bench, also comprising Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph, said there was no substantial evidence of commercial favouritism to any private entity.   


The top court said there has been a necessity for fighter aircraft and the country cannot remain without jets.    


The CJI, who read out the judgement for the three-judge bench, said no reasons were found to interfere in the procurement process for the fighter jets.   


The apex court said it is not the job of the court to deal with the comparative details of the pricing.
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12:03   RBI board meeting gets underway
The crucial central board meeting of the Reserve Bank is underway Friday morning to discuss contentious issues including a new economic capital framework for the central bank and relaxation in the prompt corrective action norms for at least some of 12 state-run banks.


This is the first board meet chaired by the newly- appointed Shaktikanta Das, who took over as the 25th governor on Wednesday.


In the previous board meeting, held on November 19, the board had decided to constitute a committee of experts to fix the appropriate level of economic capital framework that the central bank should hold at any given time and the membership and terms of reference of which will be jointly determined by government and RBI.


The issue of transfer of RBI's excess reserves, which stood at Rs 9.43 lakh crore as of June 2018, to the government has been one of the contentious issues between the government and the central bank for a long time and also one of the key reasons for the sudden resignation of Urjit Patel Monday.


The 18-member RBI board will also deliberate on relaxation of prompt corrective action norms. Of the 21 state-owned banks, 11 are under the PCA framework, which imposes lending and other restrictions on weak lenders. -- PTI
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12:01   Kamal Nath in Raj Bhavan to stake claim to form MP govt
Congress leader Kamal Nath will meet Governor Anandiben Patel Friday in Raj Bhavan in Bhopal to stake claim to form a government in Madhya Pradesh. The party won 114 seats in the 230-member House, the poll result of which were declared on December 11. It has secured support of a total of 121 MLAs, including SP - 1 and BSP - 2 legislators as also of four independents, to cross the majority mark of 116 seats.


The Congress Thursday night had named Nath as Madhya Pradesh's next chief minister after hours of hectic parleys held by the party chief Rahul Gandhi with senior party leaders. The BJP, which ruled the state for 15 years, got 109 seats in the elections. -- PTI
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11:49   Decision takes time: Gehlot on CM delay
Ashok Gehlot on the delay in the naming of the Rajasthan CM: "Decision is not being delayed, BJP is spreading lies. BJP took 7 days in UP and 9 days in Maharashtra to choose a CM. The process takes time, observers go to states for discussion. Whenever such decision is taken it takes time."
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11:43   KCR's son K T Rama Rao appointed working president of TRS
A day after he was sworn in as the chief minister, Telangana Rashtra Samithi supremo K Chandrasekhar Rao Friday appointed his son and former minister KT Rama Rao as the outfit's working president. According a press release from KCR's office, Rama Rao's appointment was necessitated as Chandrasekhar Rao will have to concentrate on national politics and also focus on various developmental activities in the state.


Chandrasekhar Rao returned as the chief minister for the second consecutive term Thursday. The TRS won 88 seats in the 119-member assembly in the December 7 polls.


Soon after the results were announced, KCR declared that the TRS would play a crucial role in national politics. He has been pitching for a non-Congress, non-BJP federal front of regional parties to take on the two national parties. "...Congress-mukt Bharat... BJP-mukt Bharat... that is needed," he had said. -- PTI


Image: KT Rama Rao celebrates the party's win in the Assembly polls.
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11:36   Govt seeks apology from Rahul Gandhi on Rafale issue
The treasury benches Friday mounted a counter-offensive on the opposition on the Rafale issue in Lok Sabha after the Supreme Court gave a clean chit to the deal, with the government seeking an apology from Congress chief Rahul Gandhi.


As soon as the Question Hour was taken up, opposition members trooped into the Well carrying placards on various issues, including alleged scam in Rafale deal. But BJP members stood up and started raising slogans against the Congress and Gandhi.


Parliamentary Affairs Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said following the SC verdict, Rahul Gandhi should apologise. Amid loud sloganeering, around 11.10 am, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan adjourned the House till noon.


The Supreme Court Friday gave a clean chit to the Narendra Modi government on the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France. The apex court said there was no occasion to doubt the decision-making process in the multi-billion dollar Rafale deal.-- PTI
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11:28   Petitioner Bhushan slams SC clean chit on Rafale deal
Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan reacts to the dismissal of the plea asking for a probe in the Rafale deal: "In our opinion the Supreme Court judgement is totally wrong, the campaign will certainly not drop and we will decide if we will file a review petition."

The three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, Justice S. K. Kaul and K. M. Joseph of the apex court heard petitioners and the government lawyers and dismissed all petitions pertaining to multi-million dollar Rafale fighter jets deal.

The bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi,stated that there is no need to conduct an investigation in to details of Rafale pricing.

"We are satisfied that there is no occasion to doubt the process.

Joint exercise have taken place and there is no element of financial benefits," said CJI Gogoi.

The CJI added that, "Detailed scrutiny of RafaleDeal deal is not required."

During the arguments earlier, the top court was informed by former union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and senior advocate Prashant Bhushan that the decision making process for acquisition of 36 Rafale aircrafts and the consequent increase in price and grant of offsets to Reliance was "not bonafide" and "requires investigation by the CBI."

The SC says nobody questioned procurement of Rafale jet when deal was finalised in September 2016. Questions raised on Rafale deal only after ex-French prez Hollande came out with statement, which can't be basis of judicial review.
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11:16   Allegations by Congress baseless: Rajnath
First reactions from the government on the SC judgment dismissing a court-monitered probe on the Rafale deal. Home minister Rajnath Singh: "The matter was crystal clear from the beginning and we have been saying that the allegations leveled by Congress were baseless and to gain political mileage."
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11:12   Rahul to hold fresh round of discussions with Gehlot, Pilot
On the pending appointment of the Rajasthan CM: Congress president Rahul Gandhi is likely to hold a fresh round of discussions Friday with Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot, the two chief ministerial aspirants in Rajasthan, before taking a final call for the top post.


The decision of Rajasthan's next chief minister is likely to be taken before noon and will be made public at a meeting of the Congress Legislature Party in state capital Jaipur, sources said. After several rounds of discussions that lasted till Thursday midnight, Congress veteran Gehlot has emerged as a front runner for the top post, while Pradesh Congress Committee president Pilot is being placated in attempts to broker peace between the two. Party's central observer for Rajasthan K C Venugopal told PTI, "It is up to the Congress president to take a final call and the decision is being awaited."


Congress leaders feel once the MLAs in the state have authorised Gandhi to take a decision on the chief minister, leaders should not challenge the high command and accept the decision.


Pilot, 41, is still reported not on board on Gehlot's name, which is delaying the announcement, the sources said. The PCC chief has put up a stiff resistance and his staking his own claim for the top post. AICC general secretary in-charge of Rajasthan Avinash Pande told PTI," Congress president heard everyone and after wide consultations he will take the final decision which will be acceptable to all."


Gandhi is likely to meet Pilot and Gehlot, 67, again at his residence in attempts to broker peace, like he did in the case of Madhya Pradesh where Kamal Nath was declared as the next chief minister amid hectic parleys held by the Congress chief with senior party leaders in the national capital Thursday night.


The Congress leadership want Gehlot and Pilot to be present together at the CLP meet. Sources said the Congress top brass was upset with the manner in which party workers resorted to arson and violence in the state in a bid to exert pressure on the party to name Pilot.  -- PTI
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10:58   Not the job of court to compare pricing details: SC on Rafale pricing
Update on the what the SC said on the Rafale deal: "We are satisfied that there is no occasion to doubt the process (of procurement). A country cant afford to be underprepared. Not correct for the Court to sit as an appellant authority and scrutinise all aspects. There is no reason for interference in the choice of offset partner and perception of individuals can't be the basis for roving inquiry in sensitive issue of defence procurement. We can't compel the government to purchase 126 aircrafts and its not proper for the court to examine each aspect of this case. It isn't a job of court to compare pricing details." 
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10:54   SC dismisses plea for probe in Rafale jets' deal
The three-judge bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Justice SK Kaul and KM Joseph have said there is no reason for the court to intervene and dismissed pleas seeking a court-monitored probe into the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets. "There is no occasion to doubt decision-making process in Rafale deal," the three-judge bench said, which comes as a huge relief to the Narendra Modi government.


The court said it cannot sit on the perception of individuals. It said that press interviews (presumably with former French President Francois Hollande) can't be the basis for a probe. "We can't judge the jet purchase and there is no reason for the court to intervene," it said. It added there was no commercial favourtism in the purchase of the Rafale jets.


The court delivered an unanimous judgment and said pricing details must be kept confidential. The Congress has accused the Modi-government of corruption and crony capitalism. The court added that the "quality of the jet is not in doubt and the country cannot be allowed to be unprepared."


The apex court on November 14 had reserved its judgment in the case. The apex court heard petitioners and the government lawyers before reserving the verdict in the case.


During the arguments, the top court was informed by former union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and senior advocate Prashant Bhushan that the decision making process for acquisition of 36 Rafale aircraft and the consequent increase in price and grant of offsets to Reliance was "not bonafide" and "requires investigation by the CBI."
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10:33   Sensex, Nifty turn cautious on mixed global cues
Benchmark equity indices Friday opened on a cautious note amid negative signals from other Asian markets, and mixed macro cues like weakening rupee and easing crude prices.


Breaking its three-day winning streak, the 30-share index turned choppy and was trading 25.93 points, or 0.07 per cent, lower at 35,903.71. The NSE Nifty saw similar movement, shedding 5.55 points, 0.05 per cent, to 10,786.00.


The Sensex Thursday climbed 150.57 points, or 0.42 per cent, to end at 35,929.64, while the broader NSE Nifty rose 53.95 points, or 0.50 per cent, to 10,791.55. Investors were also on edge ahead of RBI central board meeting under new Governor Shaktikanta Das, traders said. -- PTI
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10:27   Sanjay Gandhi's 72nd death anniversary today
Varun Gandhi @varungandhi80 "My mother and I at Shanti Vana to pay tribute to my father Late Shri Sanjay Gandhi, on his 72nd birth anniversary."


Sadly, the Gandhi who will always remain the outsider.
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10:11   Creative tension should exist between RBI, Govt: Arvind Subramanian
Former Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian opined that although the Reserve Bank of India's independence is sacred, there must be "creative tension" between the central bank and government.


Subramanian, who participated in an interactive session with entrepreneur and co-founder of Infosys Nandan Nilekani, was of the view that anything that damages or undermines the RBI's reputation will cost the country dearly in the long run.


"We want autonomy and independence but along with communication and cooperation because both parts of the government (i.e. RBI and government) have to work together as many of their objectives are common. There will be some objectives which are different and that's why we created RBI. They will never agree, they should never agree, there has to be a creative tension," he said.


Subramanian, however, noted that despite all shortcomings in the last 5-6 years, the RBI remains one of India's most respected institutions.


Acknowledging the connect between financial stability and robust functioning of the Reserve Bank, Subramanian, who is a visiting professor at Harvard University, said the RBI has to be accountable for glaring deficiencies and shortcomings in the financial system or economy.


"As long as autonomy (of RBI) is protected, there will be no issues," he asserted. The recent rift between the RBI and the union government is one that has been widely debated, particularly after RBI Deputy Governor Viral Acharya stressed on the need to ensure the central bank's independence.


On Monday, Urjit Patel stepped down as the RBI Governor citing "personal reasons", weeks after differences between the central bank and the government regarding its "independence" became public.


A day later, former economic affairs secretary Shaktikanta Das was appointed as the new governor of the central bank with immediate effect.
-- ANI
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10:06   Rupee rises 14 paise to 71.82 against US dollar in early trade
The rupee Friday depreciated by 14 paise to 71.82 in early trade on the forex market as the American currency strengthened, while the domestic equity market opened on a weak note.


Forex traders said strengthening of the US dollar against some currencies overseas and caution ahead of RBI central board meeting under new Governor Shaktikanta Das, weighed on the local unit.


At the Interbank Foreign Exchange, the rupee opened on a weak note at 71.80 against the US dollar, then lost further ground and fell to 71.82 showing a decline of 14 paise over it's previous closing. On Thursday the rupee appreciated by 33 paise to 71.68 per US dollar. -- PTI
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09:59   Reduce number, weight of government mandates for PSBs: Rajan
Former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan Friday said there is need to reduce uncompensated government mandates imposed on public sector banks (PSBs). "This is lazy government -- if an action is worth doing, it should be paid out of budgetary resources. It also is against the interests of minority shareholders in PSBs," he said in New Delhi.


The government should incentivise all banks to take up activities it thinks desirable, not impose it on a few, especially as the privileges associated with a banking license diminish, he said. Along these lines, requirements that banks mandatorily invest in government bonds (the SLR requirement) should continue to be reduced, substituting instead with the liquidity coverage ratios and net stable funding ratios set by Basel, he added.


He further said public sector banks still not adequately professionalised and there is a need to substantially improve risk management. -- PTI
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09:53   SC verdict on probe into Rafale deal at 10.30 am
The Supreme Court is scheduled to pronounce its verdict on pleas seeking a court-monitored probe in the multi-billion dollar Rafale fighter jet deal with France this morning at 10.30 am. 

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had reserved its verdict on a batch of pleas on November 14.

Advocate M L Sharma was the first petitioner in the case. Later, another lawyer Vineet Dhanda had moved the apex court with the plea for court-monitored probe into the deal.

Aam Aadmi Party leader Sanjay Singh has also filed a petition against the fighter jet deal.

After the three petitions were filed, former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie alongwith activist advocate Prashant Bhushan had moved the apex court with a plea for a direction to the Central Bureau of Investigation to register a first information report for alleged irregularities in the deal.

The Centre has defended the deal for 36 Rafale fighter jets and opposed public disclosure of the pricing details.

India signed an agreement with France for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft in a fly-away condition as part of the upgrading process of Indian Air Force equipment. The deal is estimated to be about Rs 58,000 crore (about $8 billion).
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09:25   Kamal Nath to take oath as MP CM on December 17
Kamal Nath will take oath as Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister on December 17 at Lal Parade Ground in Bhopal. 

The 72-year-old Congress veteran was declared as CM after hours of hectic parleys held by the party chief Rahul Gandhi with senior party leaders.

Many credit  Nath for steering the Congress to victory in the important central Indian state, where Shivraj Singh Chouhan was the longest-serving chief minister of Madhya Pradesh and at the helm since 2003.
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09:06   Trump considering son-in-law Jared Kushner as next chief of staff: Report
Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner is on the short-list of potential candidates for the US president's next chief of staff, US media said on Thursday.

Kushner, an influential White House adviser and husband of Trump's daughter Ivanka, met with the Republican leader to discuss the job, according to the Huffington Post, which first reported the story.

"I am not aware that he is under consideration but, as I think all of us here would recognise, he would be great in any role that the president chooses to put him in," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said of the news, which was also reported by CBS.

The US president has been searching in vain for a new chief of staff after announcing that John Kelly, a retired general he had reportedly fallen out with, was to leave by the end of the year.

Nick Ayres, the 36-year-old chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, had been touted as favourite to get the job, but announced he was taking himself out of the running, dealing a blow to Trump.

Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican who heads the hard-right Freedom Caucus in the House of Representatives, showed more interest -- but also ultimately withdrew his candidacy.
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08:25   US Senate blames Saudi crown prince for Jamal Khashoggi's murder
The US Senate delivered a rare double rebuke to US President Donald Trump on Saudi Arabia on Thursday, voting to end US military support for the war in Yemen and blame the Saudi crown prince for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The votes were largely symbolic because to become law the resolutions would have to pass the House of Representatives, whose Republican leaders have blocked any legislation intended to rebuke the Saudis.

In a historic move, Senators voted 56-41 to end US military support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemens civil war. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and spawned what the United Nations calls the worlds most dire human crisis, with the country on the brink of famine.

It was the first time either chamber of Congress had backed a resolution to withdraw US forces from a military engagement under the War Powers Act. That law, passed in 1973, limits the presidents ability to commit U.S. forces to potential hostilities without congressional approval.

Seven of Trumps fellow Republicans joined Senate Democrats to back the measure.

Immediately after the Yemen vote, the Senate backed a resolution blaming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for Khashoggis murder and insisting that Saudi Arabia hold accountable anyone responsible for his death.

Khashoggi, a US resident who was a columnist for the Washington Post, was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October. The Senate vote, which was unanimous, puts pressure on House leaders to allow a vote on the Khashoggi resolution this month, before Congress adjourns for the year.
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08:00   Madhya Pradesh done, all eyes on Rajasthan as Rahul to make decision today
After day long meetings and consultations, the Congress on Thursday night picked Kamal Nath over Jyotiraditya Scindia for the chief minister's post in Madhya Pradesh. 

However, in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh - the two other heartland states the Congress managed to win from the BJP - the race for the top job is still on.

Sources say the party leadership prefers Ashok Gehlot in Rajasthan, but state Congress chief Sachin Pilot is not giving up. The two leaders had one-on-one meetings with Congress president Rahul Gandhi late Thursday night, and a decision on who will be chief minister was deferred till today.

Party observer for Rajasthan KC Venugopal, who was also at the meetings, said taking decision on leadership was not easy but it will be announced on Friday.

"Taking decision on CM is not an easy job. The final decision will be taken tomorrow (today, Friday) in a meeting to be held around 10 am," he said. 

As the experience versus youth battle for the top post in three states seemed to head nowhere all day Thursday, the Congress president even consulted his mother Sonia Gandhi and sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
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00:00   'Seriously' considering running for presidency in 2020: Tulsi Gabbard
Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu lawmaker in the United States Congress, has said that she was 'seriously' considering running for the White House in 2020.

This is for the first time that the four-time Democratic lawmaker in the US house of Representatives from Hawaii has indicated that she may run for the presidency.

"I'm seriously considering it," Gabbard, 37, told MSNBC News on Wednesday in response to a question on her presidential aspirations.

If she announced her candidature, she would be the first Hindu ever to be running for the presidency in the United states. And if elected in 2020, she could be the youngest ever and first woman to be elected as the US President.

"I'm concerned about the direction of our country. I'm thinking through it very carefully," Gabbard, an Iraq war veteran, said in response to a question on her presidential run.

Before challenging President Donald Trump in the November 2020 elections, she would have to fight it against her own Democratic party colleagues in primary elections beginning early that year.

In the last few weeks, Gabbard has been talking to her party leaders and reaching out to Indian-Americans to get their feedback on the issue.        Gabbard, who converted to Hinduism early in her life, is highly popular among Indian-Americans.

The 2020 presidential primary cycle is scheduled to kick off from the Iowa Caucuses on February 3, 2020, followed by the New Hampshire Primary on February 11, Nevada caucus of February 15 and South Carolina on February 22.   -- PTI