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LIVE! SC must fast-track Ayodhya title suit, says law minister

December 24, 2018

23:35  'Caste' of Lord Hanuman: Hindu seers slam politicians:  
Akhada Parishad, the apex body of 13 Hindu ascetic denominations, on Monday said politicians making statements about caste and creed of Lord Hanuman seem to have lost their "mental balance".
In a strong-worded criticism of political leaders, Parishad president Mahant Narendra Giri said they should immediately stop making such statements about the Hindu deity.

"The ignorant politicians who are making unnecessary statements about the caste and religion of Hanumanji have lost their mental balance. They should treat their brains", Giri told PTI.
He said a deity cannot be "divided" into castes.
"Lord Hanuman is an incarnation of Lord Shiva. He is a Rudra incarnation. It would be appropriate for politicians to stop making statements about the Lord now", he said.

Laxminarayan Tripathi, head of the third gender Akhada, also expressed anger over the political statements regarding caste and creed of the deity.
"It is a matter of shame that politicians are continuously making statements on Bajrang Bali for their own interests. The deities should be kept away from politics, because there is no caste in God's incarnations", Tripathi
Addressing a public meeting during the campaigning for recently-held assembly elections, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had reportedly said Lord Hanuman, one of the central figures in epic Ramayana, was a Dalit.
Last week, Bukkal Nawab, a BJP MLC from Uttar Pradesh, claimed that the monkey god was a Muslim while UP's religious affairs minister Laxmi Narayan Chaudhary stated that the Hindu deity belonged to the Jat community.
Samajwadi Party's national general secretary and former MP Rama Shankar Vidyarthi had claimed that Lord Hanuman belonged to tribal 'Gond' community. -- PTI
23:05  SC must fast-track Ayodhya title suit, says law minister:  
Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad appealed to the Supreme Court today to fast-track the hearing of the Ayodhya title suit, stressing if it can happen in the Sabrimala issue why can it not be done to resolve this long pending matter.
The Union minister for law and justice was speaking at the inauguration of the 15th National Conference of Akhil Bharatiya Adhivakta Parishad in Lucknow.
He said, "I appeal to the Supreme Court, in my personal capacity, to hear the Ram Janmbhoomi issue at a fast-track court for a prompt disposal of the case".
"When the Supreme Court can give its verdict on the Sabrimala Temple case promptly, why is the Ram Janmbhoomi issue pending for the past 70 years," he said.
Supreme Court Justice M R Shah, Chief Justice of the Allahabad high court Govind Mathur were among others present at the event.
The minister also said "why should we worship Babar". 
Showing a copy of the Constitution, he said, "There is a mention of Ram, Krishna as well as Akbar but there is no mention of Babar... But if we talk about such things in the country, a different kind of controversy is raised."
He also talked about bringing an all India judicial services system for appointment of judges in future.
He appealed to the members of the Adhivakta Parishad to ensure that the cases related to the poor and needy people are heard promptly. -- PTI 
23:02  UP doctor kills partner, keeps her social media accounts running for months:  
A leading doctor in Uttar Pradesh's Gorakhpur and two others have been arrested for allegedly murdering his partner in Nepal and keeping her social media and WhatsApp accounts active for seven months to deceive her family, police said.
Dr D P Singh and his two accomplices were arrested on Friday from Daudpur for allegedly killing his partner Rajeshwari alias Rakhi Srivastava, special task force inspector general Amitabh Yash said.
Singh is the director of a hospital in Gorakhpur and both his accomplices -- Pramod Kumar Singh and Deshdeepak Nishad -- are his employees, he said.
On June 24, the victim's brother, Amar Prakash Srivastav, lodged a complaint against Rajeshwari's second husband Manish Sinha at Shahpur police station under sections 366 (kidnapping), 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code, the IG said.
It became clear earlier this month that Singh and his accomplices had killed Rajeshwari in Nepal in June, Yash said.
They went to Nepal on June 4 and returned on June 6 after killing Rajeshwari. 

The accused had offered her a sedative-laced drink before pushing her off a hill in Nepal's Kaski district, he said.
On June 8, the woman's body was recovered by the Nepal police, he added.
The accused kept Rajeshwari virtually alive for seven months. They kept her WhatsApp running and updated her social media account, Yash said.
According to police, Rajeshwari met Singh in 2011 and they got married the same year. Singh was already married.
Later the couple started having frequent arguments and Rajeshwari even lodged a rape case against Singh at Cant police station in Gorakhpur, they said.
In February 2018, Rajeshwari married Sinha, a native of Bihar's Gaya district, and went to Nepal with him, the IG said.
Sinha returned to India on June 3 but Rajeshwari stayed back, Yash said.
Later, when Sinha tried calling his wife, she did not answer her phone but her WhatsApp account remained active. Her account only became non-operational on October 4 at around 11.30 pm, he said.
During interrogation, Singh and his accomplices admitted to have killed Rajeshwari, he said.
Singh told police that Rajeshwari lived in a house in Nepal which he had bought. He decided to kill her as she would repeatedly ask him to transfer the ownership of the property in her name. -- PTI
22:17  Israel to hold early elections in April:  
Israel's coalition government enjoying a wafer thin 61-59 majority in a 120-member Parliament on Monday decided to hold early polls in April, seven months before they are due, amidst disagreement among lawmakers over a court-ordered legislation and deliberations over possible indictment of Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu on graft charges.
The two possible election dates in April are 2nd and 9th, the Hebrew media reported.  
"Out of budgetary and national responsibility, the heads of the coalition parties unanimously agreed to dissolve the Knesset and go to a new election at the beginning of April after a term of four full years," a statement released at the end of a meeting of the coalition party heads said.
There are also widespread speculations that Netanyahu may be indicted in a series of graft charges, which many analysts said was a possible reason for the early polls.
Despite ongoing disagreements over the ultra-Orthodox draft bill, which was the initial impetus for their meeting Monday, the coalition heads stressed that none of the parties will leave the government and that "the partnership in the Knesset and in the government will continue during the elections".  
Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid's announcement that it would vote against the Defence Ministry's bill to enlist Haredim (ultra-orthodox Jews) into the Israel Defence Forces and a small faction within the coalition also opposing the bill in its current form triggered the decision for fresh elections, the possibility of which has been widely spoken about recently irrespective of the current crisis.
The Netanyahu's government would need the support of 61 lawmakers to pass the controversial Haredi enlistment bill, which the Supreme Court directed to pass by January 15. 
If the bill is not passed by then, Netanyahu as Defence Minister could be seen as breaking the law if he does not immediately enlist the Haredim en masse.  -- PTI
21:55  Shatrughan Sinha says Modi govt 'one-man show', mocks PM, Shah:  
Bharatiya Janata Party MP Shatrughan Sinha on Monday took potshots at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah, saying he was personally against the "one-man show and the two-men army".
Sinha, who is known for his sharp attacks on the ruling BJP-led NDA government at the Centre, said in a democracy "a party is bigger than the individual but nation is bigger than the party".
"So, whatever I have said and done was in the national interest and certainly not in self interest. So far, I have never asked for any favour, or anything for me," the BJP leader said.
He was speaking in Thiruvananthapuram at the launch of the book The Paradoxical Prime Minister, Narendra Modi And His India, penned by Thiruvananthapuram MP and Congress leader Shashi Tharoor.
The actor-turned-politician, who has often been critical of the various policies of the Narendra Modi-led NDA government, said people of the country needed jobs and better facilities instead of promises and jumlas (rhetoric).
"I am not just talking about Rs 15 lakh. I am not against him (Modi). I am personally against the one-man show and the two-men army. They are running the country. What kind of scene is this," Sinha added.
Sinha further said that some people had asked him that being an actor, why was he expressing his opinions on demonetisation, GST and other issues.
"If a lawyer can talk on financial issues, without having any experience and knowledge, if a TV actress can become the HRD minister, and a tea-seller, though he never was one but thanks to media propaganda, can reach this height, then why can't I," he asked.
The former Union minister said he had enough experience in the film industry to speak about demonetisation in the national interest.
Sinha said people can decide whether the prime minister was paradoxical or absurd after reading Tharoor's book.
Meanwhile, Tharoor invited Sinha to join the Congress saying there was "room for a hero" like him.
He also lashed out at Modi and said that despite being an exceptional orator, the prime minister mysteriously goes silent every time a Dalit or a Muslim gets flogged. -- PTI
20:49  Congress-JDS govt is stable, asserts Deve Gowda amid bickering :  
Janat Dal-Secular supremo and former prime minister H D Deve Gowda on Monday dismissed any threat to the ruling coalition headed by his son H D Kumaraswamy after the recent cabinet rejig.
The government was stable and the alliance will efficiently fight the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, he told reporters.
"Nothing will happen...why do you have doubts? It is all your (media) creation," Gowda said in response to a question about troubles for the coalition government after the ministry expansion and reshuffle on Saturday.
Pointing out that there are senior leaders and high command in the Congress to resolve all issues, he said "don't worry, the coalition government will work efficiently."
"We (alliance partners) will fight efficiently during parliament polls, there are no issues...I'm saying there is no trouble for coalition government," Gowda added.        

Kumaraswamy on Saturday had expanded his six-month-old cabinet, inducting eight members from the Congress in the much-awaited exercise, while dropping two ministers.       

The rejig was marked by rumblings of dissidence, as many senior congress MLAs were upset over their exclusion.
The JD-S was not part of this round of cabinet expansion.
Asked when the JD-S will fill vacant slots under its quota, the party patriarch said "the JD-S is a small party and whatever we get, it is great for us, we don't have any dispute." -- PTI
20:46  Delhi govt withdraws order on revised parking charges:  
The Delhi government  withdrew on Monday its order of a 18-fold hike in one-time parking charges for cars and annual fees for commercial vehicles from January 1.
The Delhi transport department had Friday approved a recommendation for the hike by three municipal corporations of the city. 
Delhi transport minister Kailash Gahlot Monday directed withdrawal of his department's previous order due to "irregularities" in it.
"The order issued by the Transport Department, dated December 21, 2018, under the signature of Pradeeep Kumar, Deputy Controller of Accounts regarding increasing the parking charges in South/North/East Delhi Municipal Corporations, appears to be irregular for many reasons," the minister said in his order.
"Transport dept has been directed to withdraw the order dt 21.12.2018 reg increase in parking charges in South/East/North Delhi Municipal Corporations. Owners of Commercial/Non commercial vehicles need not deposit the enhanced parking fee till the matter has been examined afresh (sic)," Gahlot tweeted.
He said that in the previous order, the revised charges were not notified by the Union Urban Affairs Ministry that has administrative control over the municipal corporations. Also, no opinion was sought from the Law Department of the Delhi government.
Gahlot in his order said that the revised parking charges did not include the parking lots of the New Delhi Municipal Council and the Delhi Cantonment Board.
 The December 21 order was issued on behalf of the then Transport Commissioner Varsha Joshi on her last working day at the department. She is currently holding the charge of the North Delhi Municipal Corporation.
The order had raised the one-time parking charges of cars from existing Rs 4,000 to upto Rs 75,000 based on price of the vehicles. -- PTI
20:10  Uddhav uses 'chowkidar chor hai' jibe to attack Modi:  
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on Monday mouthed the Congress' oft-repeated jibe of chowkidar chor hai (the guard is a thief) made in the context of the Rafale fighter jet deal to mount a veiled attack on his senior ally -- the Bharatiya Janata Party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi has been repeatedly hurling the chowkidar chor hai jibe at Modi to claim irregularities and favouritism in the Rafale deal and award of offset contracts related to the Rs 58,000-crore defence agreement with France. However, the government has rejected the charges.
Addressing a rally in Pandharpur in Maharashtra's Solapur district, Thackeray used the slogan in a different context while narrating an incident.
Thackeray said, "In one of the state tours, a farmer showed me a pest-infested lime tree. The lime tree is actually used to make pesticides but this was a plant that was infested with pest.
"The farmer told me that for the first time in his lifetime, he had seen a lime tree getting infested, which they have been using to make pesticides. I had told him that now, days have changed. Security persons have become thieves."
"Halli paharekarich chorya karaylaa laagale aahet. (Today, security persons have themselves become thieves)," he said in Marathi.
Paharekari is a Marathi equivalent of the Hindi word chowkidar.
Thackeray, whose outfit is part of the BJP-led governments at the Centre and also in Maharashtra, did not take any names, but the significance of his comments was not lost on anyone.
Thackeray and his party have been often criticising the BJP and its top leaders, including Modi, on a range of issues. However, this was perhaps for the first time a BJP ally has publicly made the chowkidar chor hai taunt.
The origin of this line dates back to the run-up of the 2014 general elections when Modi had promised to work as a chowkidar to guard the people's money and their trust once elected to the top office.
At the rally, Thackeray also said "There have been several allegations over the Rafale fighter jet deal and I do not know how the Supreme Court has given a clean cheat. But I know the Modi government has refused pay hike for jawans." 
19:46  SC to hear Ayodhya title dispute on Jan 4:  
The Supreme Court is scheduled to take up a batch of petitions in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute case for hearing on January 4.
The matter is listed before a bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice S K Kaul.
The bench is likely to constitute a three-judge bench for hearing as many as 14 appeals filed against the Allahabad high court judgement, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77 acre land be partitioned equally among three parties -- the Sunni Waqf Board, Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla. -- PTI  
19:29  Uddhav targets BJP over Rafale, assembly poll results:  
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on Monday targeted senior ally Bharatiya Janata Party by raking up the alleged corruption in the Rafale deal and said the party's perception of being a "world winner" had been shattered with the results of the just-held state assembly polls.
Thackeray, who had visited Ayodhya last month to push for the construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site in the holy town, said he may soon visit Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi.
The Sena leader, whose party is a constituent of the BJP-led governments at the Centre and state, was addressing a public rally in Maharashtra's Solapur district.
Thackeray, who has consistently attacked the Modi government on a range of issues, said he has already taken the decision on whether to form an alliance with the BJP for the upcoming general elections.
The Sena chief in January had announced his party would contest all future Lok Sabha and assembly elections on its own.
In the last six months, the BJP leadership has been consistently stressing on an alliance with the Sena for the upcoming polls.
The Amit Shah-led party has regularly insisted that the Maharashtra-based outfit is its natural ally and they will resolve their differences amicably.
However, at the Pandharpur rally, Thackeray appeared to be in no mood to spare the lead NDA constituent.
"The BJP's perception of a 'world winner' has been shattered by the results of the assembly elections in the five states.
"The outcome of Mizoram and Telangana assembly elections has given a clear message that voters have rejected national parties and chosen strong regional options," he said.
In the just-held polls, the BJP was ousted from power in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh by the Congress, while regional parties did well in Mizoram and Telangana.
"The Chhattisgarh assembly election has also given a strong message against the BJP. People were fed up with the BJP government and hence they rejected it," said Thackeray.
He also took on the Modi government over issues like allegations of irregularities in the Rafale fighter jet deal and implementation of crop insurance scheme for farmers. -- PTI
19:08  Sacked brother of OPS re-admitted into AIADMK:  
Tamil Nadu deputy chief minister O Panneerselvam's brother O Raja, who was sacked for "anti-party" activities last week, was Monday re-inducted into the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam after he expressed regret for his action, the party said. 
Panneerselvam and chief minister K Palaniswami, the party's joint coordinator, announced the re-induction of Raja, the former panchayat body chief hailing from Theni district.
"O Raja, who was removed from the party, is being allowed to function as member from today onwards after he expressed regret for his action in person and through letter, and requested that he be inducted in the party," they said in a statement.
Raja was sacked from all posts and the AIADMK's primary membership by the two leaders on December 19 for "going against the party's policies and bringing disrepute to it". 
The ruling party had then welcomed the action, saying the leadership would not tolerate any indiscipline, irrespective of the person's status. -- PTI 
18:22  Lord Hanuman was a sportsperson, claims UP minister:  
Amid row over Lord Hanuman's identity, Uttar Pradesh's sports minister and former cricketer Chetan Chauhan has said that the Hindu deity was a sportsperson.
However, he dismissed his party colleagues' attempts at identifying Lord Hanuman's caste and said gods don't have castes. 
"Hanumanji was a devta, a god and I consider him as god and I worship him.. I am a sportsman and all sportsmen worship power... Humunanji was a symbol of power and strength... He also used to do wrestling and was a sportsman... all wrestlers worship him," Chauhan said in Amroha on Sunday.
He added, "There is no caste of gods and saints.. Similarly for me Hanumanji is a god... I do not want to divide him on caste lines."
During campaign for state elections in Rajasthan, UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath kicked up a storm by calling Lord Hanuman a Dalit, following which several leaders of his party joined the spree in taking a shot at the lord's identity and Chauhan's comment is the latest addition to it.
At a rally in Alwar, Adityanath had said Hanuman was a forest dweller, deprived and a Dalit. "Bajrang Bali worked to connect all Indian communities together, from north to south and east to west," he had said.
Following this, a minister in Adityanath's cabinet, Chaudhary Laxmi Narain, identified Lord Hanuman as Jat.
BJP lawmaker Bukkal Nawab went one step ahead and said the lord was a Muslim, as he feels, Muslim names like Rehman, Farman and Zishan resemble that of Hanuman, unlike Hindu names.
The party has faced strong criticism over the issue from the opposition with Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav asking Adityanath to reveal castes of other gods too. -- PTI
18:11  Dhoni returns to India's T20 squad for NZ series:  
M S Dhoni on Monday returned to India's T20 squad for the February series against New Zealand, while young wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant was dropped from the ODI squad.
Dhoni's return comes as a surprise since he was dropped from the T20s against Australia only last month. 

The reason cited by the selectors at that time was that they were looking for a second wicketkeeper in the format.
However, justifying the 37-year-old's selection, a BCCI official, on conditions of anonymity, told PTI, "Since there are only eight ODIs (three against Australia and five against New Zealand), selectors want to give MS as much game time as possible (before the World Cup). Three T20Is means 11 international matches through the next one month."
In the ODI squad, the 21-year-old Pant's axing is the only change that the selectors have made to the side that competed against the West Indies in a home series in October-November.
India are currently engaged in a Test series against Australia and will play three ODIs against them starting January 12 in Sydney. 
This will be followed by a limited-overs engagement with New Zealand, starting with five ODIs from January 23. The three T20 Internationals against Kiwis are lined up from February 6.  
The squads:
India's squad for ODI series against Australia and New Zealand: Virat Kohli (Capt), Rohit Sharma (VC), KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (WK), Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Khaleel Ahmed, Mohammed Shami.
India's squad for T20I series against New Zealand: Virat Kohli(Capt), Rohit Sharma (VC), KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Rishabh Pant, Dinesh Karthik, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (WK), Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Khaleel Ahmed. -- PTI 
17:44  Uddhav wants Parliament to vote on Ram temple :  Shiv Sena Chief, Uddhav Thackeray, holds forth on it's ally, the BJP:

Rafale deal
: A company which had no experience was given a contract.  Soldiers of our country need a pay hike which you don't give, but you do scams in purchase of arms and ammunition.

Ram temple: It's been 30 years and still you say that matter is in court. Hindus are innocent, but not fools. Let there be a discussion in Parliament on the Ram temple issue, who are in your favour on this issue among NDA will be clear.
17:39  Manipur CM: Journalist can criticise me, not Rani of Jhansi or PM:  Manipur CM M N Biren Singh on the detention of Manipur journalist under the National Security Act: "Justified or not, that will be work of court. NSA, which detained him is re-examined by an independent board. It's a democratic country, we've right to criticize but we shouldn't forget there are also some restrictions. In this case I can tolerate criticism but not humiliation of my leaders, he was abusing as well as humiliating the national heroes like Rani of Jhansi and PM Modi, which is totally beyond freedom of expression."

Manipur journalist Kishorchandra Wangkhem has been detained under the National Security Act (NSA), 1980, for a year, for posting a video criticising chief minister N. Biren Singh for organising a function on Rani of Jhansi.

Kishorchandra was brought to the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences in Imphal East on Saturday for a medical check-up. He was arrested on November 20 and has been detained at Sajiwa Central Jail in Imphal East.
17:25  Maha CM seeks Chinese investment during meeting with Wang Yi:  Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis Monday sought Chinese investment in infrastructure and tourism development to strengthen cultural exchanges and boost tourism between India and China. Fadnavis was speaking at a meeting held in Mumbai with a Chinese delegation led by visiting Foreign Minister of that country, Wang Yi. The chief minister discussed tourism, cultural partnership and industries with the Chinese team, a statement from the CMO said.
16:52  After Naveen, KCR meets Mamata for Federal Front talks:  
Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao today met West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee to take forward their discussion on the formation of a non-Congress, non-Bharatiya Janata Party Federal Front.

The two had met earlier in March, when the Telangana chief minister came to Kolkata. 

Rao has stepped up his campaign for a Federal Front following his landslide victory in assembly elections.

KCR on Sunday met his Odisha counterpart Naveen Patnaik and emphasised a "dire need" for unification of regional parties to provide an alternative to the Congress and the BJP ahead of the 2019 general elections.
16:14  India stands by tsunami-hit Indonesia, says Swaraj:  
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Monday expressed grief over the loss of life in a volcano-triggered tsunami in Indonesia and said India stands by Indonesians in this hour of grief. 
On Sunday, a powerful tsunami hit Indonesia, known for its thousands of islands stretching from the Andaman Sea to Indian Ocean and South China Sea, killing at least 281 people and injuring thousands.

"My deepest condolences to the families of victims who lost their lives in the Tsunami that struck the coast of Sunda Straits in Indonesia. Our prayers are with them as we stand by our Indonesian brothers in this hour of grief @Menlu_RI," Swaraj tweeted tagging the foreign ministry of Indonesia -- Menteri Luar Negeri.

In October, when a deadly tsunami hit Indonesia India had pressed its air force and navy for rescue and humanitarian work. 

-- PTI
15:57  7-year jail term for Nawaz Sharif:   Former Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif has been sentenced to 7 years in jail in the NAB reference case, but has been acquitted in the Flagship Reference case.

Pakistan's Accountability Court on Monday convicted the former prime minister and sentenced him to seven years in prison in Al Azizia case. The accountability court Judge, Muhammad Arshad Malik announced the verdict reserved after completion of hearing in Al-Azizia Steel Mills and the Flagship Investment cases against the deposed PM last week.

The court also imposed a fine of $25 million in the  Al Azizia case.

The accountability court had indicted Sharif for holding assets beyond his known sources of income in August 2017. Last week, the judge rejected an application by Sharif's lawyer Khawaja Harris to provide one week time to submit more documents but allowed him to provide any document by Friday last.

The judge also observed that the court was bound to follow the December 24 final deadline set by the Supreme Court.

Three cases - Avenfield properties case, Flagship Investment case and Al-Azizia steel mills case - were launched by the National Accountability Bureau on September 8, 2017 following a judgment by the top court that disqualified Sharif as prime minister.

Image: Former Pak PM Nawaz Sharif with his daughter Maryam at Abu Dhabi airport in July.
15:32  12%, 18% GST slabs may be merged: Jaitley:   Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Monday hinted at further rationalisation of GST by merging the 12 and 18 per cent slabs, while criticising Congress for oppressing the country with a high indirect tax rate of 31 per cent. With an increase in revenue, India will eventually have a standard GST rate between 12-18 per cent for commonly used goods. This would be in addition to 0 per cent and 5 per cent for essential items and a higher rate for luxury, sin and demerit goods.

In a Facebook post titled 'Eighteen Months of GST', Jaitley said, of the 1,216 commodities which are used at present, broadly 183 are taxed at zero rate, 308 at 5 per cent, 178 at 12 per cent and 517 at 18 per cent. "The 28 per cent slab is now a dying slab,' he said. Currently, 28 items, including luxury and sin goods, auto parts, dishwashers, air conditioners (ACs) and cement remain in the highest slab of 28 per cent.

"With the GST transformation completed, we are close to completing the first set of rates of rationalisation i.e. phasing out the 28 per cent slab except in luxury and sin goods,' he said.

GST was rolled out on July 1, 2017. A future road map could be to work towards a single standard rate instead of two standard rates of 12 per cent and 18 per cent, he said. "It could be a rate at some mid-point between the two. Obviously, this will take some reasonable time when the tax will rise significantly. The country should eventually have a GST which will have only slabs of zero, 5 per cent and standard rate with luxury and sin goods as an exception," Jaitley said.  -- PTI
15:09  VVIP Chopper case: Court allows former Air Chief Tyagi, cousin to travel abroad:  A Delhi court Monday allowed former Air Chief S P Tyagi, accused in the VVIP chopper case lodged by the CBI, to travel abroad in March next year. Special Judge Arvind Kumar permitted Tyagi and his cousin Sanjeev Tyagi's plea to go to the United States of America.

Hearing on a similar plea filed by them them in the ED's money laundering case was adjourned to January 3. If the ED opposes the plea to travel abroad, the court may deny permission later. The CBI on September 1, 2017, had filed a charge sheet in the case in which Tyagi and British national Christian Michel were named among the accused.

Nine others were also named in the charge sheet in connection with a bribery case in the VVIP chopper deal. Tyagi (73) is the first chief of the Indian Air Force to be charge sheeted in a corruption or a criminal case by the CBI and he has denied all charges against him. -- PTI

Image: Former Air Chief S P Tyagi
14:47  GST standard rate to be fixed between 12-18%: Jaitley:  Going forward, as tax revenues significantly increase, India will have GST slabs of 0 per cent, 5 per cent and a standard rate between 12-18 per cent for commonly-used items, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said Monday. Luxury and sin goods will, however, continue to be taxed in a higher bracket.

In a Facebook post titled 'Eighteen Months of GST', Jaitley said, of the 1,216 commodities which are used, broadly 183 are taxed at zero rate, 308 at 5 per cent, 178 at 12 per cent and 517 at 18 per cent. "The 28 per cent slab is now a dying slab,' he said. Currently 28 items, including luxury and sin goods, auto parts, dishwashers, AC and cement remain in the highest slab of 28 per cent.

"With the goods and services tax (GST) transformation completed, we are close to completing the first set of rates of rationalisation i.e. phasing out the 28 per cent slab except in luxury and sin goods,' he said. A future road map could be to work towards a single standard rate instead of two standard rates of 12 per cent and 18 per cent, he said. "It could be a rate at some mid-point between the two. Obviously, this will take some reasonable time when the tax will rise significantly. The country should eventually have a GST which will have only slabs of zero, 5 per cent and standard rate with luxury and sin goods as an exception,' Jaitley said.

"All other building materials have already been transferred from 28 per cent to 18 per cent and 12 per cent. The sun is setting on the 28 per cent slab,' he added. The GST Council in its last meeting on Saturday cut rates on 23 items, thereby trimming the 28 per cent slab.
14:36  Rahul Gandhi not acceptable as a pivot to many parties: BJP:  The BJP Monday said the Congress and its President Rahul Gandhi are not acceptable as a pivot to many parties outside the NDA and said the so-called opposition unity against his outfit as a "bogus claim."

"That the so-called Opposition unity against the BJP is a bogus claim is evident from the multiple fronts being forged by non-NDA parties," the BJP spokesperson G V L Narasimha Rao said. He was responding to a question on Telangana Rashtra Samiti chief K Chandrasekhar Rao's stepped-up efforts to forge a non-Congress, non-BJP federal front of regional parties.

The Telangana Chief Minister yesterday met his Odisha counterpart and Biju Janata Dal chief Naveen Patnaik in Bhubaneswar to promote his idea of alignment. He is also scheduled to meet West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee, and Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party Presidents Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati, respectively.

"The efforts of TRS chief KCR (Chandrasekhar Rao) and the apparent interest of some regional parties shows that the Congress and its President Rahul Gandhi are not acceptable as a pivot to many parties outside the NDA," Narasimha Rao said.

"The BJP will highlight in campaigns that these ragtag coalitions are a threat to stability and development and are driven by personal agendas," he told PTI.
14:29  7 killed in 50-vehicle pile-up due to heavy fog in Haryana :   Seven people were killed on Monday after a car collided with a truck in Haryana's Jhajjar district, leading to a massive pileup involving several vehicles, police said.

Several others were injured in the pile-up of 50 vehicles, including school buses, because of dense fog on the Rohtak-Rewari highway between Delhi and Haryana this morning.

The incident took place near a flyover in Haryana's Jhajjar. All seven dead are women. 10 of the injured are critical.

The victims were travelling in a jeep, officials said. "As the cruiser jeep was involved in an accident with a truck, other vehicles which were close behind also rammed into each other. The visibility was poor due to dense fog," a Jhajjar police official said.
14:16  Compensation announced in Haryana vehicle pile-up:  Update:  Haryana Minister OP Dhankar says, "Compensation of Rs 2 lakhs will be given to the kin of the deceased, Rs 1 lakh to those severely injured and Rs 50,000 to those with minor injuries.
13:46  Power like oxygen for some people, they can't live without it: PM:  Power is like oxygen for "some people" with restlessness setting in if they are out of it for even "two or five years", Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday while taking a jibe at the opposition but without naming anybody or any party.

Releasing a Rs 100 commemorative coin in the memory of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on the eve of his 94th birth anniversary, Modi said the late premier spent most of his political life in the opposition benches but always thought of the country and its people.

"Today's political landscape is such that if someone has to stay out of power even for two or five years, they become restless," he told the gathering. Vajpayee, he added, committed every second of his life for the welfare of the people. "For some people, power is oxygen...they can't live without it. A long part of Atal-ji's career was spent in the opposition benches but he spoke about national interest and never compromised on the ideology of the party," the Prime Minister's Office added on Twitter while quoting the prime minister's speech.

Vajpayee's long-time associate and BJP veteran L K Advani, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and BJP president Amit Shah were also present at the event. Discussing Vajpayee's political journey, Modi said he always kept the nation and democracy before himself and the party. -- PTI
13:18  Invisible people: Aadhaar versus particularly vulnerable tribal groups:   Many families depend on two entitlements for survival: social security pensions and rations from the public distribution system. Jean Dreze writes for the Telegraph.
12:44  23 ministers take oath of office in Rajasthan:  Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot expanded his council of ministers on Monday with 23 ministers, including one from Congress ally Rashtriya Lok Dal, being sworn in at the Raj Bhavan in Jaipur.

Of the 23, 13 are cabinet ministers and 10 ministers of state. Governor Kalyan Singh administrated the oath of office to the new ministers at an event attended by Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot and senior Congress leaders. The ministers took oath in Hindi. -- PTI
12:26  50 vehicle pile-up in Haryana:  Seven people have been killed in a 50-vehicle pileup on the Rohtak-Rewari highway in Haryana due to dense fog. 
12:25  BJP moves SC for rath yatra permission in Bengal :  As expected, the BJP has filed an appeal in the Supreme Court against the Calcutta High Court division bench order refusing permission for the BJP's rath yatra in the state.

The saffron party's ambitious roadshow in West Bengal had hit a roadblock again on Friday, with a division bench of the Calcutta High Court quashing a single bench order that had given a go-ahead to the event.

"We have decided to move the Supreme court. We have full faith in the judiciary, and will fight till the end. The Trinamool Congress (TMC) government is trying to ensure that our 'rath yatra' programme doesn't take place," West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh said.

The TMC government is trying to stop the BJP event on the basis of only assumptions that it might create problems, Ghosh said.

According to BJP sources, the party will for now organise rallies in various parts of the state against the government's decision to disallow the yatra.
11:59  Now, a Rs 100 commemorative coin in Vajpayee's memory :   On the eve of Atal Bihari Vajpayee's 94th birth anniversary, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Monday released a Rs 100 commemorative coin in the memory of the former premier. Vajpayee's long-time associate and BJP veteran LK Advani, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and BJP president Amit Shah were also present at the event in New Delhi.

The former prime minister died at the AIIMS in the national capital in August at the age of 93 following prolonged illness.

Addressing the gathering, Modi said he would go to Vajpayee's memorial on Tuesday to reiterate his commitment to the ideology and path shown by the statesman. "AtalJi wanted democracy to be supreme. He built the Jana Sangh. But, when the time came to rescue our democracy he and others went to Janata Party. Likewise, when the choice was between remaining in power or comprising on ideology, he left Janata Party and formed the BJP," the prime minister said.

He said while for some, power is oxygen and they cannot live without it, Vajpayee spent a long part of his career in the opposition benches raising issues of national interest. The late prime minister never compromised on the ideology of the party, Modi said. He said, the party, which "Atalji built brick by brick" has become among the largest political parties.

Prime Minister Modi said Vajpayee as a speaker was unparalleled. "When he spoke, the nation spoke... when he spoke the nation listened," he said. The mind is not ready to believe that Vajpayee is no longer alive. Though he was away from public glare for nearly a decade due to ill health, the way people gave him a farewell on his demise showed the mark he had created in people's minds, Modi said. -- PTI
11:57  Trump pushes for border wall amid partial government shutdown :  US President Donald Trump has again pushed for a wall in its Southern border with Mexico despite a partial government shutdown in the country which may continue till 2019.

The shutdown was triggered by a lack of consensus between lawmakers and the US President on the funding for the wall which was one of Trump's electoral promises.

"The most important way to stop gangs, drugs, human trafficking and massive crime is at our Southern Border. We need Border Security, and as EVERYONE knows, you can't have Border Security without a Wall. The Drones & Technology are just bells and whistles. Safety for America!" Trump tweeted on Sunday (local time).

Meanwhile, Trump's next acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney told Fox News, "It is very possible that the shutdown will go beyond the 28th and into the new Congress."

The US Constitution mandates the Congress to convene in the new year on January 3, unless a different day has been designated by law by the preceding Congress. -- ANI
11:42  Some Djinn and tonic for Naseeruddin Shah:   Where is the confusion, Naseer saab? Read the column here.
11:36  Sabarimala retreat: Women devotees head home :  The two women devotees being brought back to the Pampa base camp following protests. They were stopped by protesters at Appachimedu, two kilometres away from the Sabarimala Temple. 
11:33  Ayyappa devotees protest outside woman devotee's home :  Intimidation tactics at work here. Lord Ayyappa devotees hold a protest in Perinthalmanna, Malappuram, outside the residence of Bindu, a woman devotee who began the trek to Sabarimala Temple this morning. She is being brought back to Pampa base camp now following protests against her entry to the temple. 
11:03   Pak troops target forward posts, villages in Rajouri:   Pakistani troops Monday opened fire and shelled forward posts and villages along the LoC in Rajouri district of Jammu and Kashmir, police said.  The firing and shelling from across the border started in Keri, Lam, Pukharni and Peer Badaser areas of Noushera sector around 9.30 am, a police officer said.

Army personnel guarding the LoC retaliated and the cross-border firing between the two sides was going on when last reports came in.  There was no immediate report of any casualty, the officer said. PTI

Image: In 2016, incessant firing by Pakistani troops on civilian villages in Jammu left several dead and injured and around 60 cattle dead. Scores of houses and other structures along the IB in Jammu district are riddled with holes from shelling across the border.
10:49  Muzaffarnagar riots accused found dead:  An accused in the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots was found dead under mysterious circumstances at Sikheda village in Muzaffarnagar, police said Monday. Sodan Singh's body was found Sunday evening hanging from the ceiling of a room, which housed a tube well, they said.

The body was sent for postmortem and the matter is being investigated, police said. Singh's son has lodged a complaint at the local police station and alleged that his 60-year-old father was murdered, they said. Based on the complaint, a case was registered against Anup, Rajesh, Sunil Kumar and Ramgopal, police said.

Communal clashes in Muzaffarnagar and adjoining areas in August and September 2013 had claimed more than 60 lives while over 40,000 people were displaced. Singh was also named as an accused in a sexual harassment case. -- PTI
10:28  Not annoyed, relished going head-to-head with Kohli: Paine:  Australia skipper Tim Paine said Monday he is "relishing going head-to-head" with his Indian counterpart Virat Kohli in a Test series and looked forward to "intense, hard" cricket in the Boxing Day game at Melbourne.

The pair had heated exchanges in the second Test at Perth, prompting the umpire to intervene. Australia won the game to level the four-match series at 1-1. Paine said he understands that Kohli never liked to lose.

"A lot was made of my battle with Virat in the second Test, and for the past few years when I haven't been playing international cricket, he was one guy I loved watching," he said in a column for 'Herald Sun'.

"Now to be out in the middle going head-to-head with him in a Test series is something I'm really relishing." Paine said he was not annoyed "in the slightest" by Kohli.

"Virat is someone who is prepared to wear his heart on his sleeve and like all professional athletes, hates to lose," he said. "I like the way Virat plays. I don't know him personally but I've always admired -- not only his obvious skill as a player -- but the passion and aggression he plays with. People like to see that and he gets fans through the gates."  -- PTI
10:25  Hard work will be rewarded, hardliners punished: Rahul:  Congress President Rahul Gandhi gave the party members a message stating that while hard workers will be rewarded, hardliners will be dealt with strictly.

After multiple meetings with Rajasthan leaders and observers, Rahul Gandhi gave the final nod to team Gehlot in Rajasthan. As many as 23 MLAs are going to take oath on Monday including an MLA from alliance partner Rashtriya Lokdal. However, five ministerial berths will reportedly remain vacant.

While deciding the Rajasthan cabinet, AICC general secretary in charge of Rajasthan, Avinash Pandey and Congress observer for the state on government formation, KC Venugopal was involved in the process.

"Congress President intends to focus on having a cabinet with a majority being fresh faces. The cabinet can be summarised into a blend of the old guards with new energetic leaders from the state guard this will give governance a good shape," the Congress leader said.Rahul Gandhi intends to send a message to his party men that any harm to the party will not be ignored.

Cabinet has been finalised for Rajasthan and for Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh meetings are underway with the state leaders, stated a source.

Karnataka Cabinet Expansion is a clear example of Rahul's actions, where two ministers, including Ramesh Jarkiholi, were shunned by Congress from the Cabinet. Jarkiholi was dropped for his alleged hobnobbing with opposition leaders and by missing the Cabinet meetings and party assignments.

The message from Gandhi was loud and clear that anti-party activities wouldn't be tolerated, the sources added.

The source said Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are likely to follow Rajasthan Formula. A senior Congress leader involved in the process told ANI, "Rahul Gandhi was of the opinion that those who have tried to harm the party or have ignored the party's agenda must not be let off." -- PTI
10:20  Sensex, Nifty choppy amid weak global cues:  The benchmark BSE Sensex opened on a volatile note early Monday on short-covering by investors amid weakness in Asian markets. Buying activity in pharma, technology, banking auto and FMCG stocks, influenced market sentiment.

The benchmark BSE Sensex was trading 28.05 points, 0.08 per cent, lower at 35,714.02, after swinging over 200 points between highs and lows of 35,910.67 and 35,675.02, respectively. The gauge had plunged 572.04 points on Friday. NSE Nifty was trading lower 25.25 points, or 0.23 per cent, at 10,728.75.

Top losers were Hero MotoCorp, Vedanta, Bajaj Auto, Bajaj Finance, Asian Paint and HDFC Bank fell up to 3 per cent. -- PTI
09:58  Indian-American Democratic Congressman supports Trump on troops withdrawal:  Indian-American Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna, a fierce critic of Donald Trump, has come out in support of the President's decision to pullout US troops from Syria and Afghanistan, saying his party colleagues should not pile on without offering an alternative vision.

The 42-year-old Congressman, who represents Silicon valley, has surprised many by coming out in strong support of president's decision to withdraw American troops from Syria and his reported plans to bring back nearly half of the 15,000 of his troops from war-ravaged Afghanistan.

Khanna said that he is doing so in the national interest. "A few days ago, I was with Trump as he signed one of my bills. I said Mr President, China has not been in a war since 1979. If we want to win the race against them, we should not get bogged down in war. He nodded and then observed that they have enriched themselves without firing a shot," Khanna wrote in an op-ed published in The Washington Post.

Khanna, who is on the Armed Services Committee, was re-elected for the second term in the November mid-term elections.  -- PTI

File pic: Ro Khanna with former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
09:53  Two women stopped en route to Sabarimala temple :  The two women devotees, who were on their way to the Sabarimala temple were stopped by protesters at Appachimedu, just two kilometers away from the Lord Ayyappa's shrine in the early hours today.

Earlier on Sunday, a group of 11 women devotees who had arrived in Pamba to visit the Lord Ayyappa temple had to return without paying obeisance at the hill shrine after several people, including women, staged a protest opposing their entry.

The Sabarimala temple and surrounding areas witnessed a string of protests after the Supreme Court lifted the ban on entry of women of menstrual age (10-50 years) inside the temple in September this year. However, till now, no woman of the previously-forbidden age group has been able to enter the temple due to widespread protests. -- ANI

Image: The 11 women devotees who attempted to enter the Sabarimala temple on Sunday were refused permission.
09:37  Pak court to deliver judgment in 2 corruption cases against Sharif:  
An anti-corruption court in Pakistan will deliver its judgment on Monday in two remaining corruption cases against ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
Judge Muhammad Arshad Malik of Islamabad-based accountability court last week reserved the judgment after completion of hearing in the Flagship Investment and Al-Azizia cases against 68-year-old Sharif.

The Supreme Court set the deadline for Monday to wrap up the remaining two corruption cases against the three-time former prime minister.

If found guilty, Sharif can be sentenced up to 14 years in jail.

Sharif arrived in Islamabad from Lahore on Sunday, a day ahead of the verdict. He is expected to hear the judgement in the courtroom. 

Entry to the accountability court has been restricted. No one will be allowed to attend proceedings on Monday except those having permission of the registrar, the Dawn reported. 

PML-N workers have gathered outside the court premises to show their support for the party's supreme leader.

Sharif was disqualified by the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case in July, 2017.

In July, 2018 Sharif, his daughter Maryam and his son-in-law retired captain Mohammad Safdar were sentenced to 11 years, eight years and one year respectively in prison in the Avenfield properties case related to their purchase of four luxury flats in London through corrupt practices. However, the three were bailed out by the Islamabad High Court in September.

His two sons - Hassan and Hussain - were also co-accused in all three cases but they were declared absconders for failing to appear before the court even for a single time.

The court decided to hear their cases separately once they returned back.

The three-time former prime minister and his family have denied any wrongdoing.

-- PTI
09:10  Rajasthan cabinet to be expanded; 23 ministers to take oath today:  
As many as 23 newly elected legislators - 22 Congress and one RLD - will take oath as ministers in the Rajasthan-cabinet
formation on Monday.

The names of council of ministers have been finalised by the state Congress leaders including Gehlot and Pilot after rounds of discussion with Rahul Gandhi and other senior leaders, sources said.

The swearing in ceremony is expected to be held in Jaipur at 11.30 am on Monday, they said.

Mamta Bhupesh, Arjun Singh Bamaniya, Bhanwar Singh Bhati, Sukhram Vishnoi, Ashok Chandna, Tikaram Jully, Bhajanlal Jatav, Rajendra Singh Yadav and RLD's Subhash Garg are also likely to take oath. 

-- PTI
08:42  2 women begin climb to Sabarimala temple amid protests:  
Two women below 50 are trekking up towards the Sabarimala temple in Kerala, a day after a group of 11 women aborted their attempt to go to the hilltop shrine of Lord Ayyappa nestled in the Western Ghats.

The two women are being escorted by a large police team. Some protesters tried to stop them, but they were quickly removed by the police, sources at the base camp Pamba said.

The women are facing stiff resistance from the protesters on the 5-km uphill climb to the temple, sources said.

On Sunday, 11 women who were waiting at Pamba to attempt the 5-km trek were evicted from the base camp by the Kerala police following a huge face-off with protesters. The police have denied the accusation.

The group was expected to be the first of several planning to attempt the trek in December -- three months after a Supreme Court order that opened the temple doors to women of all ages.

On Sunday, protests intensified at Pamba against the women only three hours after they gathered at the base camp at dawn. The women's group said that the protesters "snatched" their "irumudi" or offerings kit that devotees carry on their heads.
08:40  High time Imran Khan learns about minority rights from India: Owaisi:  
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen president Asaduddin Owaisi gave strong-worded advice to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan over the latter's recent comments on minority rights in India.

Owaisi asked Khan to borrow some leaves of wisdom from India, specifically about "inclusive politics and minority rights".

Taking to Twitter, Owaisi stated, "According to the Pakistani Constitution, only a Muslim is qualified to be president. India has seen multiple Presidents from oppressed communities. It's high time Khan Sahab learns something from us about inclusive politics and minority rights."

Khan on Saturday has said that giving equal rights to the religious minorities is cornerstone of the vision of Pakistan's founding father and that the country will show the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi how to treat these groups, the Express Tribune reported.

-- ANI
08:19  NDA ministers' foreign trip bill amounts to Rs 239.05 crore, reveals RTI:  
The central government spent Rs 239.05 crore on official foreign trips by the NDA Council of Ministers over the last four years, with the bill dipping each year, data obtained by The Indian Express under the RTI Act show.

Responding to an RTI application, the Pay & Accounts Office, Cabinet Affairs, stated that Rs 225.30 crore was spent on official foreign trips by the Cabinet Ministers and Rs 13.75 crore on Ministers of State from April 1, 2014, till March 31, 2018. The Council of Ministers currently comprises 25 Cabinet Ministers and 45 Ministers of State, including 11 with independent charge.

Incidentally, in a reply dated December 13 to the Rajya Sabha, MoS, External Affairs, V K Singh placed on record that a total of Rs 2,021.58 crore was spent on the prime ministers 48 official trips abroad so far, including for aircraft maintenance, chartered flights and a secure hotline.
07:58  Death toll from Indonesia tsunami rises to 281:  
A volcano-triggered tsunami has left 281 people dead and hundreds more injured after slamming without warning into beaches around Indonesia's Sunda Strait, officials said Sunday, voicing fears that the toll would rise further.

Hundreds of buildings were destroyed by the wave, which hit the coast of southern Sumatra and the western tip of Java, on Saturday after a volcano known as the "child" of Krakatoa erupted, national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

Tsunamis triggered by volcanic eruptions are relatively rare, caused by the sudden displacement of water or "slope failure," according to the International Tsunami Information Centre.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said the "powerful waves" reached a height of 30-90 centimetres (1-3 feet).

US President Donald Trump was among world leaders to offer messages of support after the "unthinkable devastation" of Saturday's tsunami.

"We are praying for recovery and healing," he tweeted. "America is with you!" The UN and European Union both pledged to mobilise humanitarian support if requested by Jakarta.

"The United Nations stands ready to support the ongoing government-led rescue and relief efforts," a spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement.

Anak Krakatoa, which forms a small island in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra, emerged around 1928 in the crater left by Krakatoa, whose massive eruption in 1883 killed at least 36,000 people and affected global weather patterns for years.

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