Thu, 01 March 2018
Another PNB executive arrested; papers related to LoUs found in chawl

Timeline  Refresh

23:26   Pak says Indian firing kills 2 soldiers along LoC
Pakistan's military has accused Indian troops of killing two of its soldiers in an 'unprovoked firing' along the Line of Control (LoC).

According to a statement issued yesterday by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), Pakistani Army's media wing, Indian troops initiated 'unprovoked firing' in Bhimber Sector along the LoC.

Two Pakistan Army soldiers were killed in the incident, it said.

It further said that Pakistani troops retaliated and caused 'substantial damage' to the Indian posts.

In the recent past, Pakistan has accused India of carrying out more than 400 ceasefire violations in 2018, resulting in the death of 18 civilians.

On February 27, Pakistan summoned India's Deputy high commissioner J P Singh for the sixth time in February over the issue of alleged firing across the LoC.  -- PTI
23:24   Another PNB executive arrested; papers related to LoUs found in chawl
The Central Bureau of Investigation today arrested another senior executive of the Punjab National Bank and claimed to have recovered documents related to Letter of Undertaking from 'chawl' as it continued its searches in connection with the $2 billion fraud.

Internal Chief Auditor (retd) Bishnubrata Mishra, who was responsible for concurrent audit for the period 2011-2015 at PNB Brady House branch, was arrested today, the agency said.

Mishra was responsible for auditing the procedures and practices followed in the PNB branch and report them.

Officials said 13 more people were questioned today in addition to the questioning of those who are in CBI custody.

They said the more searches were carried out after information surfaced during questioning of some arrested accused and others persons.

The documents were hidden in a small room of a 'chawl' in Wadala, a central Mumbai suburb.

The premises is believed to be that of Nirav Modi (not in name of the company).

The billionaire jeweller has refused to join the probe citing his business engagements.

The CBI made first arrest of an auditor of the bank when its internal chief auditor M K Sharma-- a chief manager-ranked official-- was picked up by the agency.

Sharma, a scale-IV officer, was responsible for auditing the systems and practices of the bank's Brady House branch--from Letters of Undertakings (LoUs) were issued-- and report the deficiencies with zonal audit office, they said.

Unfazed by Nirav Modi's reluctance to join the probe, the CBI, in a terse letter, 'directed' him to approach the Indian mission in the country where he is residing so that immediate arrangement can be made for his travel to India, officials said.

The agency has told him that it is mandatory for an accused to join the investigation whenever they are asked to, they said.

The agency had earlier asked Modi on his official email id to join the investigation related to Rs 12,636 crore scam pertaining to fraudulent issuance of the LoUs and Letters of Credit (LCs) from Brady House branch of PNB in Mumbai in favour of his and his uncle Mehul Choksi's companies, they said.

The quantum of the alleged fraud perpetrated in the bank by billionaire jewellers Modi and Choksi stands close to $2 billion after the teams of the CBI and PNB found fresh LoUs and LCs worth Rs 1,251 crore related to Choksi's Gitanjali group of companies.

The PNB had earlier put the defrauded amount at Rs 11,394.02 crore ($1.77 billion).

The LoU is a guarantee which is given by an issuing bank to Indian banks having branches abroad to grant a short-term credit to the applicant.

In case of default, the bank issuing the LoU has to pay the liability to credit giving bank along with accruing interest.

It is alleged that LoUs and LCs worth close to $2 billion were issued to the companies of uncle-nephew duo of Choksi and Modi from the Brady Road branch of the bank through SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) messages.

These messages were allegedly not entered in the banking software of the PNB to bypass surveillance.  -- PTI
23:19   Prasar Bharati rejects NFDC demand to pay pvt firm for IFFI coverage
The Prasar Bharati board has rejected NFDC's demand that Doordarshan should pay Rs 2.92 crore towards expenses for hiring a private firm for live coverage of the 2017 International Film Festival of India, a source said.

The board turned down the demand from the National Film Development Corporation, a PSU under the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, in its meeting on February 15 and asked why a private firm was engaged when Doordarshan was 'fully qualified' to do the task.

"A nominated member brought a tabled item to the board, asking it (Doordarshan/Prasar Bharati) to pay Rs 2.92 crore. The board rejected it in its meeting," the  source said.

Prasar Bharati runs Doordarshan and All India Radio.

The task of managing IFFI, earlier with the Information and Broadcasting Ministry's Directorate of Film Festivals, was given to NFDC in July last year.

"Doordarshan officials strongly objected to NFDC's demand. They said Doordarshan is fully qualified for such coverage and has been doing it all these years, why should a private company be asked to do it now," the source said.  -- PTI
22:58   CBI quizzes Amarinder's son-in-law in Simbhaoli scam case
The Central Bureau of Investigation today questioned Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh's son-in-law Gurpal Singh in connection with the alleged bank fraud case of Rs 97.85 crore by Simbhaoli Sugars Limited, officials said.

Former Chief Executive Officer G S C Rao has also been quizzed by the agency, they said.

The CBI had registered a case against the sugar mill, its Chairman Gurmit Singh Mann, the then (in 2015) Deputy Managing Director Gurpal Singh (now director) and others in connection with the alleged bank loan fraud case.

Simbhaoli Sugars Limited is one of the largest sugar mills in the country.

Rao, the then CFO Sanjay Tapriya, the then Executive Director Gursimran Kaur Mann and five non-executive directors were also booked by the agency.

The CBI had carried out searches at eight premises including residences of the directors, factory, corporate office and registered office of the company in Delhi, Hapur and Noida.

The probe focuses on two loans -- Rs 97.85 crore which was declared fraud in 2015 and another corporate loan of Rs 110 crore which was used to repay the previous loan.

The second loan was declared Non Performing Asset (NPA) on November 29, 2016, nearly 20 days after scrapping of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes was announced, according to the CBI FIR.

The bank was allegedly cheated to the tune of Rs 97.85 crore, but the loss incurred by the bank was Rs 109.08 crore, the FIR read.  -- PTI
22:24   ED seeks NBW against Choksi, permission to search Nirav Modi's house
The Enforcement Directorate today moved a special court in Mumbai seeking a non-bailable warrant against Gitanjali Gems' promoter Mehul Choksi, a key accused in the alleged Rs 12,700 crore PNB scam.

It also moved another court seeking permission to search the south Mumbai residence of billionaire diamond merchant Nirav Modi, a co-accused in the Punjab National Bank scam.

"We issued three summonses to Choksi, he neither responded to those summonses nor appeared before the agency," special ED prosecutor Hiten Venegaonkar told the court for the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) cases in Mumbai.

On February 27, the agency had moved the court seeking an NBW against Nirav Modi. Judge M S Azmi is likely to pass orders on both the pleas on Saturday.

The ED today also petitioned the special Central Bureau of Investigation court in Mumbai for permission to conduct searches at Nirav Modi's residence in Samudra Mahal building in south Mumbai.

Venegaonkar told CBI judge S R Tamboli that the agency has searched the residence and sealed it.

"We (ED) need permission to search his residence," the lawyer said.

The CBI had not searched three cupboards in the house, and the ED may be allowed to conduct a joint inspection of these cupboards with the CBI, the lawyer said.

The CBI court is likely to pass an order on March 3.

Meanwhile, judge Tamboli today remanded PNB's internal chief auditor M K Sharma in CBI custody till March 13.

Sharma was arrested yesterday.  -- PTI
22:05   SBI freezes accounts of 3 Nirav Modi group companies
State Bank of India (SBI) has frozen accounts of three group companies of fugitive Nirav Modi and shared the information related to those accounts with investigative agencies, bank officials said.

"We have proactively conducted internal scrutiny and came across deposit accounts of three Nirav Modi group companies in our overseas branches," the officials told PTI.

These accounts were with the three overseas SBI branches at Dubai, Bahrain and Antwerp, officials said.

The bank found out these accounts after internal scrutiny, the officials said, adding these accounts are not directly related to the PNB fraud of nearly Rs 12,600 crore.

However, these could help in investigation so the bank shared the details with the CBI, the ED, the income tax department and other relevant agencies.

State Bank of India (SBI), the country's largest lender that has exposure of $212 million to Nirav Modi fraud, expects Punjab National Bank (PNB) to clear the bank's dues in the fraud case.

Billionaire jewellery designer Nirav Modi is at the centre PNB fraud.  -- PTI
20:25   Rahul leaves for Italy to 'surprise' grandma
Congress president Rahul Gandhi today left for Italy to 'surprise' his maternal grandmother and spend the Holi weekend with her.

Announcing this on Twitter, he also extended Holi greetings to fellow citizens.

'My Nani is 93. She's the kindest soul ever. This Holi weekend, I'm going to surprise her! I can't wait to give her a hug...

'Happy Holi to all of you. Have a joyful celebration,' Gandhi wrote on Twitter. -- PTI
19:19   All assets of economic offenders fleeing country will be seized: FM
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley  speaks on Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill:

- Courts may declare anyone fugitive if he flees the country to avoid arrest in a scheduled offence where arrest warrant has been issued.

- All assets, not just proceeds of crime, will be confiscated of an offender fleeing the country; offender cannot pursue any civil case.

The FM informed that the cabinet has also cleared National Financial Reporting Authority.  -- PTI
18:45   Karti sent to CBI custody till March 6
JUST IN: Delhi's Patiala House Court sends Karti Chidambaram to Central Bureau of Investigation custody till March 6 in INX Media Case. -- ANI
18:42   Stringent Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill gets cabinet nod
The cabinet today approved a stringent Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill that provides for confiscating assets without conviction in cases where economic offenders flee the country.

The bill is aimed at deterring economic offenders like jeweller Nirav Modi from fleeing the country or not returning to face trial.

Official sources said the Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved the bill, which is likely to be brought before Parliament in the second half of the budget session beginning March 5.

The provisions of the bill will apply for economic offenders who refuse to return.

Persons against whom an arrest warrant has been issued for a scheduled offence as well as wilful bank loan defaulters with outstanding over Rs 100 crore.

It provides for confiscating assets even without conviction and paying off lenders by selling off the fugitive's properties.

Such economic offenders will be tried under prevention of money laundering act, they said.  -- PTI

Read details of the Bill HERE
18:39   Parrikar discharged from Goa hospital
Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar was today discharged from a hospital in Panaji where he was admitted following dehydration a few days ago.

'Happy to be home. Thanks for your wishes,' Parrikar tweeted after returning home from Goa Medical College and Hospital.

The chief minister was admitted to GMCH on February 25 after he complained of uneasiness.

Health minister Vishwajit Rane had said that Parrikar was suffering from 'mild dehydration'.

The chief minister was earlier admitted to Lilavati Hospital in Mumbai on February 15 when he complained of stomachache.

According to the hospital, he received treatment for a pancreatic ailment.

He was discharged on February 22, and on the same day attended the session of the Goa Legislative assembly where presented the state's Budget and made a brief speech.

The session was truncated to four days owing to Parrikar's illness.  -- PTI
18:19   86 per cent turnout in Meghalaya re-poll
About 86 per cent voters exercised their franchise during re-polling at one polling station Raliang constituency in Meghalaya today, Chief Electoral Officer F R Kharkongor said.

The re-poll was ordered at Kyndong Tuber polling station after polling officers stopped voting on February 27 following a mixed up of voting machines, he said.

Till 4 pm at the close of the poll today, 544 of the total 628 voters cast their votes in Kyndong Tuber polling station and this accounted to about 86 per cent of polling, Kharkongor told PTI.

The re-poll was by and large peaceful. Polling for 59 of the 60 assembly seats was held in the north-eastern state on February 27.

Around 84.86 per cent votes were polled on that day.

Polling was countermanded in the Williamnagar constituency due to the killing of NCP candidate Jonathone N Sangma on February 18.  -- PTI
@BollywoodGandu In parallel universe, Alauddin Khilji performs Jauhar.
17:47   SBI hikes home loan rates to 8.15%
The largest lender State Bank today raised its lending rates by 0.20 percentage point (20 basis points) to 8.15 per cent, with immediate effect, setting the tone for the industry to follow suit. This is the first lending revision by the bank since April 2016 and comes a day after it massively raised the retail and bulk deposit rates.

Prior to this, the one year-MCLR (marginal cost of funds based lending rate, on which most of the lending is based now, was at 7.95 per cent. The six-month MCLR has been raised by 10 basis points to 8 per cent, while the three-year loan pricing goes up by 25 basis points to 8.35 per cent.

For the third consecutive time since November, the bank yesterday raised its retail and bulk term deposit rates for various maturities by up to 75 basis points. For retail deposits, below Rs 1 crore, the rate was increased by up to 0.50 per cent, while for deposits maturing in one year to less than two years, it was hiked by 0.15 per cent to 6.40 per cent. -- PTI
17:41   Omar seeks divorce, wants to re-marry, HC told
The Delhi High Court today sought the response of Payal Abdullah, the estranged wife of former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, on his plea seeking divorce on the ground that their marriage has broken down irretrievably and he wants to get re-married.

A bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Deepa Sharma issued notice to Payal asking her to file a reply before the next date of hearing on April 23.

The court also sought her stand on an application moved by Omar seeking early hearing in the matter. Advocate Malavika Rajkotia, appearing for Omar, claimed that the court had on an earlier date asked if the parties wanted to get married again. She replied in affirmative about Omar's intent, saying "I do".

The application by Omar seeking grant of divorce has been moved in his petition challenging a trial court decision of August 30, 2016 dismissing his plea for divorce. He has contended that their marriage has "irretrievably broken down".

The trial court had held that he had failed to prove irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. It had also said that Omar could not prove his claims of "cruelty" or "desertion" which were the grounds alleged by him for grant of decree of divorce.

In his appeal against the trial court order, Omar had claimed that his marriage had broken down irretrievably and he has not enjoyed conjugal relationship since 2007 and the couple, married on September 1, 1994, were living separately since 2009. The couple have two sons who are staying with their mother. -- PTI
17:31   Indian women's T20 skipper Harmanpreet is now a cop
Indian women's Twenty20 cricket team captain Harmanpreet Kaur joined the Punjab police as a Deputy Superintendent of Police in Chandigarh today.

 Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh and Director General of Police Suresh Arora pinned the stars on her uniform.

"Proud to join DGP Suresh Arora in pinning the stars on the uniform of this young cricketer @ImHarmanpreet as she takes over as DSP in @PunjabPolice. This lady has done us proud and I'm confident she'll continue to do so. My best wishes are with her," Amarinder tweeted.

Harmanpreet, who was serving in the Indian Railways, was relieved from her duties after she put in a request to join Punjab police. Punjab chief minister had also taken up the matter with the Railway Ministry to waive off the bond condition and allow Harmanpreet, who is a native of Moga, to join as a DSP in Punjab. -- PTI
16:21   Sensex shrugs off positive GDP numbers, sinks 137 pts
The benchmark BSE Sensex dropped by over 137 points today to close at 34,046.94 as global sell-off triggered by US Fed rate hike fears rode roughshod over the positive economic growth data for the third quarter. Banking stocks, particularly state-run were among the biggest laggards on unabated nervous off-loading by participants amid growing concerns over a spate of fraud cases. Select auto stocks, however, were in some demand on the back of encouraging February sales numbers.

The 30-share benchmark, after scaling a high of 34,278.63 in early deals, slipped into the negative zone to touch 34,015.79, before settling at 34,046.94, down 137.10 points, or 0.40 per cent. The 50-issue NSE Nifty too lost 34.50 points, or 0.33 at 10,458.35 after shuttling between 10,525.50 and 10,447.15. -- PTI
16:09   CBI's stand bizarre, motivated: Karti's lawyer
The CBI today produced Karti Chidambaram, arrested in the INX Media case, before a Delhi court after the expiry of his one-day custody and sought extension of his custody by 14 days.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi starts arguments on behalf of Karti Chidambaram saying the CBI's stand is "bizarre" and "motivated". Singhvi says the CBI did not even issue any summons to Karti after August 2017.

Singhvi is leading the team of advocates for Karti.

How can CBI claim non-cooperation when they haven't issued summons... all documents are in their possession. He is not even a  flight risk and has come back to India... I'm not Hindustan leaver but a returner... There is no ground for custodial interrogation," Singhvi argues for Karti.

Karti was produced before Special Judge Sunil Rana who is hearing the demand of the agency seeking Karti's 14 days custodial interrogation. Karti's mother Nalini Chidambaram, who is also a senior advocate, was seen sitting with him in the court.

The CBI had yesterday sought 15 days custody of Karti for his interrogation but the duty magistrate had remanded him to one-day police custody.

The CBI told the court that Karti didn't complain of uneasiness during routine medical check but Safdarjung doctors sent him to the cardiac unit last night.

The FIPB Board members who cleared the INX deal to be called for questioning shortly.
Love poems for the border patrol, by Amitava Kumar. 
Update on the Karti case: In the Patiala House Court, the CBI has sought a 14-day remand of Karti Chidambaram. Karti's remand with the CBI ends today. The CBI said that interrogation has only taken place for a short time. "Karti did appear for interrogation, but remained evasive. Custodial interrogation is completely different," the CBI said. 
15:15   Did Pranab warn Sonia about Karti?
Quite naturally, the big news that New Delhi is talking about (and it's not Sridevi's death) is former finance Minister P Chidambaram's son, Karti's arrest by the CBI.

Not a single senior Congress leader actually wants to support or for that matter react to Karti's arrest and our sources tell us that the AICC's media conference on Karti's arrest was just a formality.

Interestingly, senior Congress leader and former President of India Pranab Mukherjee was keen to know the inside details of the case and has sourced an FIR copy and also studied it.

It's no idle interest.

Sources said that during the UPA2 tenure (2010-2014), it was Mukherjee who alerted Sonia and Rahul Gandhi about Karti's possible involvement in INX Media.

Meanwhile, the Patiala House court is hearing Karti's bail plea. The Enforcement Directorate has opposed the bail plea.
14:41   Holika hookah in Mumbai
In Mumbai, a replica of a hookah will be burnt as part of 'Holika Dahan' in Panchsheel Society in Grant Road. Residents say. "We want to send out a message that a hookah burnt down Kamala Mills and will do the same to your life. Hookah hum nahi jalate, hookah hamein jalata hai. We don't light a hookah, the hookah sets us on fire."
Karti Chidambaram's counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi arrives at Delhi's Patiala House Court for hearing in the INX Media case. Karti's one-day custody with the CBI ends today. Singhvi did not make any comments and asked reporters to be patient.  
Karti Chidambaram (in specs) arrives at the Patiala House Court to hear his bail plea.
14:21   Court begins hearing Karti's bail plea
Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram's son Karti has just reached the Patiala High Court to hear the bail plea in connection with the INX Media money laundering case.

Karti was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday and sent to one-day police custody, as against 15 day-custody sought by the CBI. The CBI will seek extension of custody.

In May 2017, the Enforcement Directorate had registered a money laundering case against Karti for his role in facilitating clearance from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board for INX Media Ltd and its directors, Peter and Indrani Mukerjea - both accused in the murder of Sheena Bora -- and others.

Karti has been accused of illegally taking service charges for obtaining FIPB clearance to the INX Media for receiving funds from abroad worth Rs 305 crore in 2007 when his father was the finance minister in the Congress-led UPA Government. -- PTI
14:05   Satyajit Rays The Hero Revisited
"The film is anchored at every moment in Uttam Kumar's performance, and to me it's an astonishment. Everything about his soft hands as the film begins, his designer socks in two-tone shoes, his baby-faced insouciance, gives us a sense of spoiled entitlement; here is a man who thinks nothing of decorating his home with large, framed glossies of himself. Yet the beauty of Kumar's Arindam Mukherjee is that he has the capacity to surprise us, again and again. He can be witty and charming and kind. As Ray and Kumar push beneath the leading man's smooth surfaces, we expect, perhaps, demons and sleepless nights; but we may not be prepared for such grace. The professional hero, after boarding the train, helps an old man open a bottle and is patient with an elderly scold who dislikes all "talkies"; he even uses a glossy picture of himself as an instrument of compassion to heal an ailing child. Maybe because she's the rare soul who doesn't need him to be anything other than what he is."

Pico Iyer on Satyajit Ray's masterpiece, Nayak. Do read
13:51   Amid chants Kanchi Shankaracharya interred
Jayendra Saraswathi, the 69th pontiff of the Kanchi Mutt, was today buried in the Brindhavan annexe in the premises of the religious establishment here with Vedic honours. Amid chants, the body of the 82-year-old was lowered in the sitting posture into a large bamboo basket that had been placed inside the 7 ft x 7 ft burial pit in the annexe. The pit was filled with herbs like 'Vasambu,' salt, sandalwood and sand. Marking the conclusion of the ceremony which lasted for about three-and-a-half hours beginning 7.45 am, a grand aarti was performed, with Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit also in attendance.

The ceremony began with the performance of 'abishekam' on the body of Jayendra Saraswathi that was seated with folded hands in a chair. The mutt hall reverberated with hymns with emotional devotees bidding farewell to the revered saint.

The body was earlier brought from the main hall in a chair to the Brindhavanam annexe housing the mausoleum of Sri Chandrasekarendra Saraswathi, his predecessor.

The mortal remains of the seer had been kept for public homage in the main hall of the Mutt premises since yesterday morning. Devotees were teary eyed during the burial ceremony when the 'Kailaya Vadhyam,' was played (a form of Tamil music involving use of traditional drums and trumpets). Such music is performed usually in Shiva temples during worship.

The burial ceremony was performed in the presence of Sri Vijayendra Saraswathi, the junior pontiff of the Mutt and some close family relatives of the late seer.  -- PTI
13:24   Khaleda Zia in jail, party all at sea
The giant portraits of Begum Khaleda Zia and her exiled son Tarique Rahman are very much in place, but the political address of Bangladesh's three-time time Prime Minister wears a deserted look. The main gate of the two-storey building on Road No. 86 in Gulshan, Dhaka, is closed. Not a single Bangladesh Nationalist Party activist or security guard can be spotted.

How the BNP is doing after Khaleda Zia was sent to jail.  Read the report here.
13:15   Menstrual cramps as painful as heart attack
Doctors have finally gotten around to announcing what women have been saying from basically the beginning of time: menstrual cramps are really, really painful. In fact, period pains can even be almost as painful as a heart attack. Do read
12:49   ED seeks non-bailable warrant aganst Choksi
The Enforcement Directorate approaches the Bombay High Court seeking a non-bailable arrest warrant against Mehul Choksi in the PNB fraud case. The Court likely to pass order on Saturday.

The ED today said it has attached 41 properties, valued at over Rs 1,200 crore, in connection with its money laundering probe in the PNB scam against Gitanjali Gems and its promoter Mehul Choksi.

The central probe agency issued a provisional order for attachment under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. The attached assets include 15 flats and 17 office premises in Mumbai, a mall in Kolkata, a four-acre farm house in Alibaug and 231 acres of land at locations like Nasik, Nagpur, Panvel and Villupuram in Tamil Nadu. A 170-acre park in Hyderabad's Ranga Reddy district valued at over Rs 500 crore has also been attached, it said. Four flats in Borivali (east) area of the Maharashtra capital and nine others in Khemu Towers in Santacruz (east) have been attached as part of the action. "The total value of the 41 seized assets controlled by Choksi is estimated at Rs 1,217.2 crore," the ED said. 

Choksi and designer diamond jewellery businessman Nirav Modi and others are being investigated by the ED and other probe agencies after the bank fraud recently came to light, following a complaint by the PNB that they allegedly cheated the nationalised bank to the tune of Rs 12,000 crore, with the purported involvement of a few employees of the bank.
12:26   Oprah waiting for 'God's sign' to run for President
Philanthropist and TV show celebrity Oprah Winfrey has doused the speculations of running for the presidency, asserting that she is waiting for a signal from "God".

"I went into prayer: 'God, if you think I'm supposed to run, you gotta tell me, and it has to be so clear that not even I can miss it,'" she said. "And I haven't gotten that," Winfrey said in her cover story for this week's issue of People.

The calls for a 'President Oprah' began earlier this year, during her speech while accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globe Awards in January.

In an unexpected turn, the social media was booming with a "Oprah2020" hashtag.

However, Winfrey told People magazine it wasn't meant to be a stump speech."When I walked off with Reese [Witherspoon], I thought, 'I got that done,'" Wmagazine quoted her as saying.

"It wasn't until I was back in the press room that they said, 'Do you realize you're trending?'," she said.

Since then, Winfrey said she's been encouraged to run for president by close friends and strangers alike."I had people-wealthy, billionaires-calling me up and saying, I can get you a billion dollars. I can run your campaign," she shared. "That many people saying something made me think, am I at least supposed to look at the question?" said Winfrey. -- ANI

Also read:Don't think she'll run in 2020, but I'd win anyway: Trump
12:13   Inclusion is path to co-existence: Jordan King in Delhi
This is what King Abdullah II of Jordan said while speaking at the same conference on 'Islamic Heritage: Promoting Understanding & Moderation', in Delhi:

"Jordan is working globally for dialogue in peace. The world is one family. However different our countries and people are we have shared responsibility to each other as well as future.

"Today's global war against terror is not a fight between different religions or people. It is between all faiths and communities against extremism, hate and violence. We can't afford to allow young people to be left without hope trapped in isolation and vulnerable to false promises of outlaw groups. Inclusion is path to co-existence we need, we need to build strong successful countries, our strongest defence against turmoil." 
12:04   India cradle of all major religions in the world: PM
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said India's youth should associate themselves with the humanitarian aspects of Islam and be able to use modern technology at the same time. Every religion promotes human values, the prime minister said in his address at a conference on 'Islamic Heritage: Promoting Understanding & Moderation', where Jordan's King Abdullah II was also present.

India, the prime minister added, had been a "cradle of all major religions in the world". He said the fight against terrorism and radicalisation was not against any religion, but against a mind set that misguides youth. Indian democracy is a celebration of age old pluralism, Modi said.

According to him, all faiths promote human values. "... therefore, our youth should associate themselves with the humanitarian aspects of Islam and should also able to use modern technology", he said. -- PTI
11:59   New Elphinstone bridge is in the wrong place, say commuters
Zaid Wani (43), who works in a multinational corporation near Elphinstone Road station, said, "Most people who use Parel station have to go to the Elphinstone station to use the Western line. As the new bridge does not serve this purpose, I am unable to use it."

Read the report here.

Image: The new bridge that spans Parel and Elphinstone Road station. Pic courtesy: @Dev_Fadnavis
President Ramnath Kovind accorded a ceremonial welcome to King Abdullah II Ibn Al Hussein of Jordan at the Rashtrapati Bhavan this morning. 
11:40   Tripura awaits outcome of Assembly polls
Political parties in Tripura are keeping their fingers crossed on the outcome of the recently held Assembly elections in the state as exit polls have failed to present a clear picture.

Elections for 59 seats in Tripura's 60-member House were held on February 18 and the results will be declared on March 3. Polling in one Assembly seat has been postponed to March 12, following the death of a CPI(M) candidate.

A national TV channel NewsX has predicted victory for the BJP alliance, ending 25-year run of the Left Front in the state. The TV channel gave the BJP alliance 35-45 seats and said the Left Front will bag 14-23 seats while one seat will be won by others. -- PTI
11:32   PNB fraud: ED attaches Rs 1217-cr assets of Choksi group
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) today said it has attached 41 properties, valued at over Rs 1,200 crore, in connection with its money laundering probe in the PNB scam against Gitanjali Gems and its promoter Mehul Choksi.

The central probe agency issued a provisional order for attachment under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. The attached assets include 15 flats and 17 office premises in Mumbai, a mall in Kolkata, a four-acre farm house in Alibaug and 231 acres of land at locations like Nasik, Nagpur, Panvel and Villupuram in Tamil Nadu. A 170-acre park in Hyderabad's Ranga Reddy district valued at over Rs 500 crore has also been attached, it said. Four flats in Borivali (east) area of the Maharashtra capital and nine others in Khemu Towers in Santacruz (east) have been attached as part of the action.

"The total value of the 41 seized assets controlled by Choksi is estimated at Rs 1,217.2 crore," the ED said.  Choksi and designer diamond jewellery businessman Nirav Modi and others are being investigated by the ED and other probe agencies after the bank fraud recently came to light, following a complaint by the PNB that they allegedly cheated the nationalised bank to the tune of Rs 12,000 crore, with the purported involvement of a few employees of the bank.

The CBI and the ED have registered two FIRs each to probe the case. Both Choksi and Modi are said to have left the country before criminal cases were lodged against them.  They have, however, denied any wrongdoing. The ED, a central probe agency under the union finance ministry, is investigating if the allegedly defrauded bank funds were laundered and proceeds of crime were subsequently used by the accused to create illegal assets and black money. -- PTI

Image: NiravModi's effigy to be burnt as a part of 'Holika Dahan' ritual at BDD Chawl in Mumbai. "Holika Dahan' signifies victory of good over evil. Pic: ANI
11:22   Suburban train services on Mumbai's Harbour line disrupted
Suburban rail services on the Harbour corridor between CSMT and Vadala Road stations were suspended this morning due to technical problems in the Over Head Equipment, causing inconvenience to thousands of passengers.

Teams of engineers have been pressed into service to restore the services as soon as possible. Due to technical problem in the Over Head Equipment, suburban services on the Harbour corridor between CSMT and Vadala Road stations have been suspended, Chief PRO of Central Railways Sunil Udasi said. However, services between Wadala Road to Andheri and Wadala Road to Panvel sections are running, he said.

Expressing regret for the inconvenience caused to passengers, he said alternate arrangements have been made for commuters. He said, "Commuters holding valid tickets or passes can travel from Kurla to CSMT and back on the main line till services are restored". On our request, BEST is running additional buses on the affected stretch, Udasi said. -- PTI

Image: Vashi rail station
11:12   The Stefan Edberg interview
When one meets a sporting legend, expectations of the star in question bringing along his ego for company are high.

But tennis champion Stefan Edberg is anything but.

For a man who has won 6 Grand Slam titles, Edberg is devoid of any baggage.Little wonder that he took home the ATP Sportsman of the Year 6 times during his famed career!'s Norma Godinho speaks to the legend, who made the art of serve and volley a potent weapon, about Federer, about Becker and how technology in tennis is here to stay.

Read the full interview here.
10:45   Kharge declines PM's invite to Lokpal meet
Congress leader in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, has refused to attend the meeting of the selection committee for Lokpal appointment.

Declining Prime Minister Narendra Modis invite to a meeting called to pick the lokpal, Kharge wrote saying that the "Special Invitee Invitation is a concerted effort to exclude the independent voice of the opposition from the selection process of the most important anti-corruption watchdog.  

The Lokpal selection committee on Thursday is to meet to pick an eminent jurist. In attendance will be  Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan.

The Congress leadership is unclear on what Kharges role would be in the meeting as a special invitee and Whether he will have the right to oppose, if the government pushes an unpalatable name

Kharge has said that the Modi government had made changes in various statutes such as the Delhi special police establishment (amendment) bill, 2014 to substitute the leader of opposition with the leader of the single largest party in the selection committee.
10:32   Delhi Chief Secy assault: HC to hear accused MLA's bail plea today
The Delhi High Court on Thursday will hear a bail plea of the MLA accused in the alleged assault of Delhi's Chief Secretary, Anshu Prakash.

Earlier in February, the Chief Secretary had alleged that he was beaten up by two Aam Aadmi Party MLAs Amanatullah Khan and Prakash Jarwal at Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's residence, where he had been called for an emergency meeting.

Following this incident, Secretary of the Indian Civil and Administration services Manisha Saxena conducted a meeting with the Minister of State Home Affairs Hans Raj Ahir and Union Minister Jitendra Singh.

She had also demanded the Delhi government to provide security to the officers and guarantee them protection from any further instances of violence or misconduct.

The Ministry of Home Affairs had sought a report from Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal regarding the matter. The AAP MLAs were sent to 16-day judicial custody by a Delhi Court. -- ANI

Image: Delhi Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash.
10:27   Walmart restricts sale of firearms, ammunition to people under 21
Walmart on Wednesday announced it will no longer sell firearms and ammunition to people younger than 21 of age. A statement by Walmart also said it would also remove items resembling assault-style rifles from its website.

"Going forward, we are raising the age restriction for purchase of firearms and ammunition to 21 years of age. We will update our processes as quickly as possible to implement this change," CNN quoted a statement by the retailing corporation as saying.

The move comes a few hours after American sporting goods retailing corporation Dick's Sporting Goods announced that it would restrict the sale of firearms to those under 21 years old.

However, it didn't mention ammunition. Dick's also said it would immediately stop selling assault-style rifles, and its CEO took on the National Rifle Association by demanding tougher gun laws, reported the Chicago Tribune.

Walmart further said its decision came after the company reviewed its firearm sales policy in light of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people.

The accused teenage gunman had used an AR-15 rifle, to which Walmart said it takes "seriously our obligation to be a responsible seller of firearms" and also emphasized its background of serving "serving sportsmen and hunters."

Several major corporations, including MetLife, Hertz and Delta Air Lines, have also cut ties with the National Rifle Association since the Florida tragedy, but none were retailers that sold guns.

The NRA has pushed back aggressively against calls for raising age limits for guns or restricting the sale of assault-style weapons.Walmart Inc. stopped selling AR-15 guns and other semi-automatic weapons in 2015.
-- ANI
10:23   Sensex inches higher on positive GDP data, Nifty above 10,500
The BSE Sensex rose over 63 points in opening deals today, supported by fresh buying activity triggered by positive GDP data for the December quarter amid mixed Asian cues.

The 30-share index, which had lost 261.71 points in the previous two sessions, opened 63.02 points, or 0.18 per cent, higher at 34,247.06.

All sectoral indices inched higher, led by gains in metals, capital goods, infrastructure, realty, banking and auto stocks. The broader NSE Nifty reclaimed the 10,500-mark, rising 25.85 points, or 0.24 per cent, to 10,518.70.  - PTI
10:17   The Income Tax officer who won a Shaurya Chakra
Captain Pradeep Shoury Arya is an Income Tax officer whose mission against terrorists in J&K won him the Shaurya Chakra. The hero tells's Archana Masih about his life as a soldier at the border and as a civil servant in Mumbai. Do read
10:14   Thousands pay homage to Kanchi Shankaracharya
Scores of people gathered here to pay their last respects to Kanchi Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati, who passed away on Wednesday.

As per Sundareshan, the Manager of the Kanchi Sankara Mutt, the body of the pontiff will remain for public viewing until 7:30 a.m. today, following which rituals will begin at around 8 a.m.

"More than one lakh people have paid darshan since yesterday. At 8 am, we will start the rituals, and the obituary will be done here itself for the public to see this. He will then be decorated and taken to the place he has to be kept beside his predecessor and guide Chadrasekharendra Saraswati Swamigal," he told ANI.

The 82-year old head of the Kanchi Mutt was suffering from diabetes and had collapsed at the mutt with shortness of breath and was admitted to Chennai's Ramachandra hospital last month.The last rites, known as the 'Brindavana Pravesha Karyakramam' in Vedic context, are expected to go on until noon today.
10:04   CBI custody ends, Karti to be produced in court today
Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram's son Karti Chidambaram will be produced before the Patiala High Court on Thursday, in connection with the INX Media money laundering case.

Karti was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday and thereafter sent to one-day police custody, as against 15 day-custody sought by the CBI.

In May 2017, the Enforcement Directorate had registered a money laundering case against Karti for his role in facilitating clearance from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board for INX Media Ltd and its directors, Peter and Indrani Mukerjea - both accused in the murder of Sheena Bora - and others.

Karti has been accused of illegally taking service charges for obtaining FIPB clearance to the INX Media for receiving funds from abroad worth Rs 305 crore in 2007 when his father was the finance minister in the Congress-led UPA Government. -- ANI
09:50   Rupee sheds 8 paise against US dollar in early trade
The rupee depreciated 8 paise to 65.25 against the US dollar in early trade today at the forex market on increased demand for the US currency from importers and firm foreign fund outflows even as the country's economy grew to 7.2 per cent in the October-December quarter. Besides, strength in dollar against other currencies overseas on rising hopes that the Fed would hike interest rates also kept pressure on the domestic unit, dealers said. However, a higher opening in domestic equities capped the losses, the added. -- PTI
09:37   Final rituals for burial ceremony of Kanchi pontiff begin
The final rituals for burying the mortal remains of Sri Jayendra Saraswathi in the premises of the Kanchi Sankara Mutt in Kanchipuram began this morning in the presence of some of his family members.
Jayendra Saraswathi, regarded as one of the most influential spiritual leaders of his time but whose shock arrest in a murder case robbed the spiritual shine of the Kanchi mutt, died here yesterday.
The final rituals for burying the mortal remains, called 'Brindhavana Pravesam,' began with an 'abishekam' or bath. 

Milk and honey were the ingredients used in the abishekam.
The 'abishekam', held in the main hall of the mutt, was followed by recital of Vedic hymns by priests in the presence of Sri Vijayendra Saraswathi, the junior pontiff of the Mutt and some close family members.
A Mutt official said the body of Jayendra Saraswathi will be carried later to the adjacent 'Brindavan Annexe,' where the mortal remains of his predecessor Sri Chandrasekerendra Saraswathi were interred in 1993.
The rituals for lowering his body in the 7 x 7 ft burial pit in the Brindhavanam Annexe is expected to be completed by around 11 am.
Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit participated in the burial ceremony by offering flowers.
A large number of devotees have gathered Kanchipuram for the burial ceremony amid tight security. -- PTI
08:54   White House Communications Director Hope Hicks resigning
Hope Hicks, one of the closest aides of United States President Donald Trump, is resigning as the White House communications director.
Hicks, 29, is leaving the White House after serving Trump for three years in various capacities. This included being his campaign spokesperson and Director of Strategic Communication when Trump was sworn in as the president on January 20, 2017.
The announcement of her resignation came a day after she testified before the House Intelligence Committee on allegations related to the Russian interference during the 2016 presidential campaign.
The White House did not announce her exact day of resignation.
"Her departure is to be determined but it will be sometime in the next few weeks," it said.
Hicks is Trump's longest serving aide, having worked with him before he announced his candidacy, through the campaign, and into the second year of his administration.
After three years, she approached Trump and told him she wanted to leave so she could start exploring opportunities outside of the White House.
On his part, Trump was effusive in his praise for Hicks.
"Hope (Hicks) is outstanding and has done great work for the last three years. She is as smart and thoughtful as they come, a truly great person," Trump said.
"I will miss having her by my side but when she approached me about pursuing other opportunities, I totally understood. I am sure we will work together again in the future," he said. -- PTI
08:26   Terrorist killed in encounter in J&K's Bandipora, operation underway
One terrorist has been killed in an encounter with security forces in Hajin area of Bandipora district of Jammu and Kashmir.

Security forces launched a cordon and search operation in village Shakurdin this morning following information about presence of terrorists there, a police official said.
He said the search operation turned into an encounter after terrorist opened firing towards security forces.
00:04   Students make emotional return to US high school after shooting
With tears, fears and defiance, students made an emotional return today to their Florida high school where a former classmate went on a shooting rampage two weeks ago, killing 17 people.

Students at Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida, were greeted by heavy security and scores of well-wishers as they returned to classes.

Dozens of police officers lined the sidewalks saying "Good morning" to each student and former students, neighbors and their children turned out to show their support.

Two women handed out free water and fruit for breakfast. Retired police officers passed out flowers.

People held banners reading "We Love You," "You've Got This" and "We Are With You."

Carly Novell, a Stoneman Douglas student, admitted that she was "nervous."

"I'm really scared to go in," said Novell, who like many other returning students was wearing a maroon T-shirt, the school colours.

Lauren Hogg, a freshman, told CNN the experience was "surreal."

"To be quite frank, I'm scared," she said, expressing fear of "going back into my classes and seeing empty chairs where my friends once sat."

On Valentine's Day, 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz entered the school and opened fire with an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle, killing 14 students and three staff members.