23:01 Fresh explosions in Lanka during search ops:
Three explosions rocked Kalmunai city of Sri Lanka on Friday while security forces were carrying out searches to nab suspects of the Easter Sunday attacks.
No casualties or damage to property has been reported yet.
During the raids, the Sri Lankan police recovered Islamic State uniforms, ISIS flags, 150 Gelignite sticks, 100,000 ball bearings and a drone camera in Sammanthurai, CNN quoted police, as saying.
On April 21, eight explosions rattled Sri Lankan cities of Colombo, Negombo, Kochchikede, and Batticaloa amid Easter Sunday celebrations.
At least 250 people were killed and over 500 others were injured in the serial blasts.
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had on Thursday warned of 'sleeper cells' that might launch more attacks in the island nation. -- ANI
IMAGE: Sri Lankan Special Task Force soldiers stand guard in front of a mosque during the Friday prayers in Colombo. Photograph: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters
22:20 NHRC notice to Telangana over students' suicides after 'goof-up' in inter results:
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued a notice to the Telangana government over the reported goof-up in the intermediate exam results which allegedly led 18 students to commit suicide since March this year.
The commission said it has taken cognisance on its own over media reports that 18 students, who had failed in the examinations conducted by the Board of Intermediate Education, have allegedly committed suicide amid massive protests in the state.
"The commission has issued a notice to the chief secretary, government of Telangana, calling for a detailed report in the matter within four weeks, including action taken against the guilty and relief, if any, provided to the aggrieved families," the commission said in a press release.
It said that about three lakh students have reportedly failed in the exams and they, along with parents, are staging protests there.
"It has observed that the contents of the news reports, if true, raise the issues of serious lapse on the part of the authorities amounting to violation of human rights," the release said.
"The National Human Rights Commission has taken suo motu cognisance of a media report that 18 students have committed suicide since March 2019 who have reportedly failed in the intermediate examinations conducted by the Board of Intermediate Education (BIE), as large-scale discrepancies have triggered furore in the state," the commission said.
Referring to media reports, the commission said several students failed to even get pass marks in the examination and aggrieved students have also approached the high court there.
"As mentioned in the news report, around 10 lakh students took the Class 12 exam in February 2018, and nearly 3.5 lakh have failed, making it a gigantic task for the board to conduct supplementary exams for such a large number of students," it said, adding that time was also running out for students who have to appear in competitive entrance exams like NEET and JEE. -- PTI
21:33 While dad backs Deora, Anant attends Modi rally:
Days after Mukesh Ambani endorsed Congress candidate from Mumbai South Milind Deora, the industrialist's son Anant was among the audience at Prime Minister Narendra Modi's election rally in Mumbai on Friday.
Anant, who was seated in the front row among the audience at the poll rally in suburban Bandra Kurla Complex, told a Marathi news channel that he was there to 'listen to Modi and support the nation'.
Mukesh Ambani recently endorsed the candidature of Congress leader Milind Deora from the Mumbai South Lok Saba constituency, where polling is slated on April 29.
The backing of Ambani, Reliance Industries Limited chairman, to the Congress leader comes at a time when the party has been unrelenting in attack on his industrialist -- brother Anil Ambani over the Rafale deal.
In a video shared by Deora, former Union minister, on his Twitter page, Ambani says 'Milind is the man for South Mumbai', while Kotak eulogises the Mumbai Congress chief for 'truly representing the Mumbai connection'. -- PTI
20:40 Protection from arrest to Chidambaram, Karti extended:
A Delhi court on Friday extended till May 6 the interim protection from arrest granted to former Union minister P Chidambaram and his son Karti in the Aircel-Maxis case.
The ED meanwhile told the court that Karti was not cooperating in the case and evaded questions on certain emails retrieved from his computer hard disks.
Special Judge O P Saini extended the interim relief to Chidambarams and deferred the matter after Enforcement Directorate (ED) sought adjournment of four weeks as the response to Letters Rogatory from Singapore is awaited.
"It is submitted by senior advocate/Special Public Prosecutor for ED that Solicitor General/SPP is not available today and the matter may be adjourned.
"Reluctantly allowed. No further adjournment would be granted. Accordingly, put up the matter for consideration of cognisance on May 6," the judge said.
The prayer for adjournment was strongly opposed by senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for both the accused, on the ground that the prosecution is repeatedly seeking adjournments without any justifiable reason.
A team of lawyers including senior advocate Sonia Mathur, advocates N K Matta, Nitesh Rana, A R Aditya and Noor Rampal appeared for ED in the case.
During the hearing, ED submitted an affidavit in the court and informed it that it has sent a team headed by a special director of Directorate of Enforcement to Singapore to ensure that the relevant material evidence is obtained as quickly as possible in pursuance of Letters Rogatory (LR) issued by this court.
A strong prima facie case is made out to investigate money laundered in foreign countries by both the accused, it said, adding that this court has issued LRs to the United Kingdom for P Chidambaram and for Karti to Singapore.
The agency also told the court that Karti was examined on March 5,6,7 and 12 and was shown emails which were retrieved from the hard disks seized by ED during the course of searches at his premises and his associates S Bhaskaran and Ravi Visvanathan along with statements of his various associates.
"The applicant Karti Chidambaram chose not to reply the questions based on emails shown to him, raised questions and submitted stereotype responses.
"Thus, he is not cooperating in the investigation...The accused has deliberately and wilfully refused to answer even those questions which can only be within his knowledge and which are germane to the investigation," ED said.
Substantial evidence is available for custodial interrogation of Chidambarams at this stage, it said.
ED added however that for a proper and more effective custodial interrogation and utilisation of statutory period of remand, it is desirable that questioning takes place after receipt of material evidence in pursuance of Letters Rogatory or letters of request to a foreign court for some judicial assistance.
"The insistence of the applicants accused to conclude the hearing of anticipatory bail prima facie reveals their intention of depriving of this court the benefit of the material which may come in pursuance to the Letters Rogatory," the affidavit said.
The ED also told the court that Karti during the course of interrogation under PMLA on March 6 was asked to provide details of certain specific transactions.
"He stated that at least three months time is required to provide the desired information. The information is not submitted by him so far. It is submitted that considering the nature and facts of the case, every evidence is relevant for both the accused," the affidavit said. -- PTI
20:30 Modi politicising soldiers because he did nothing in 5 years: Hardik:
Congress leader Hardik Patel alleged on Friday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was doing politics in the name of soldiers because he did 'nothing' in the past five years.
"In the last five years, Modi ji did nothing except continuously touring the country and abroad as 'prachar mantri' (publicity minister)," Patel told reporters.
"Had he (Modi) done something, he would have gone to the people with a list of the works to show instead of seeking votes in the name of soldiers."
"He is using martyrs for political gains," the Patidar leader from Gujarat added.
Patel was in Uttar Pradesh to address a rally in support of Congress' Maharajganj Lok Sabha candidate, Supriya Shrinate.
The journalist-turned-politician, who is the daughter of late Congress MP Harsh Vardhan Singh, filed her nomination on Friday.
Patel hit out at Modi and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath for alleged anti-farmer policies of the ruling BJP at the Centre and the state.
The Congress leader claimed that every section of the society, including farmers, youth and women, were distressed and dubbed the much-hyped 'Gujarat Model' a 'lie'. -- PTI
19:48 Jaya death probe: SC stays panel proceedings:
The Supreme Court on Friday stayed the proceedings of an inquiry commission set up to probe the death of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa at Apollo Hospitals, Chennai, in 2016.
The Madras High Court on April 4 rejected Apollo Hospitals' objections to the setting up of the Justice A Arumughaswamy Commission of Inquiry that was empowered to probe 'the appropriateness, efficacy, adequacy or inadequacy of the treatment given to Jayalalithaa during her 75-day hospitalisation in 2016'.
The then Chief Minister and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam supremo had died allegedly of massive cardiac arrest on December 5, 2016 at Apollo Hospitals.
"Notice. Stay of further proceedings of the inquiry commission," said a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi.
Senior advocate C A Sundaram, appearing for the hospital, sought a stay of the inquiry proceedings saying that the panel cannot scrutinise the medical treatments given to the leader during her hospitalisation.
"The committee says that you should have done the operation which you did not do. Can these aspects be dealt by it," the senior lawyer said.
The counsel appearing for the state government said that 90 per cent inquiry has been completed and the same should not be stalled.
The appeal of the hospital was mentioned before the bench in the morning praying for urgent hearing on Friday itself. The plea was allowed.
The high court, while rejecting the plea of the hospital, had said that as mandated by its terms of reference, the Justice A Arumughaswamy Commission of Inquiry was empowered and entitled to go into the matter.
It had refused to stall the proceedings of the commission and disposed of the petition filed by the hospital seeking to quash the government orders which laid down terms and reference of the probe panel.
It had also rejected the prayer of the hospital for setting up a medical board to assist the panel during the inquiry.
The high court had said if a harmonious interpretation was made to terms of reference, the government was careful enough to include the word 'subsequent treatment provided till her unfortunate demise on December 5, 2016'.
This meant the nature and extent of treatment given by Apollo Hospitals, which includes appropriateness, adequacy or inadequacy of the treatment, the court had said.
"We are of the view that if the commission is restrained from going into the correctness, efficacy, adequacy or inadequacy of the medical treatment provided by the petitioner hospital, it would only defeat the very object with which the government had appointed the commission of inquiry," it had said.
Therefore, the panel can look into the medical treatment provided by Apollo Hospitals by screening the records produced before it and arrive at a conclusion, the bench had said.
It had disagreed with the hospital's contention that a retired judge of the high court (Arumughaswamy) cannot be the competent person to deal with the complex and intricate medical treatment and hence experts and professionals should be included in the panel.
It had said that even in the absence of inclusion of experts or professionals, as per Section 5B of Commission of Inquiry Act, the commission can independently take the aid of any person who, in its opinion, shall be of assistance for conducting the inquiry.
Referring to the hospital's charge that its doctors were repeatedly questioned and harassed, the high court had said it was not inclined to accept the submissions that witnesses (doctors) were wantonly, wilfully and deliberately harassed by the commission.
The government had set up the inquiry commission to look into circumstances leading to the death of the AIADMK supremo, citing doubts expressed by various people. -- PTI
19:15 'Sunny Deol filmi fauji, I'm the real one':
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Friday described Sunny Deol, who recently joined the Bharatiya Janata Party, as a 'filmi fauji', in an apparent reference to the Bollywood actor's popular war film, Border.
Singh claimed that Deol, the BJP's Gurdaspur candidate, had no ground support in the constituency.
Asked about the entry of Deol into the contest, Singh quipped: "He (Deol) is a filmy 'fauji' (soldier), while I am a real 'fauji'."
Singh had served in the Army, while Deol played a leading role in J P Dutta's Border, a 1997 film based on the Battle of Longewala during the 1971 India-Pakistan war.
"Sunny might have played Brigadier Kuldip Singh Chandpuri in Border film, but that does not make him a real fauji," the chief minister said while accompanying state Congress chief Sunil Jakhar during the filing of nomination papers for Gurdaspur.
The chief minister described Deol, 62, as an ageing actor whose acting career was 'over'.
"He (Sunny) will come and go," Singh said.
When pointed out that Deol's latest movie, 'Blank', was set for release next month, the Congress leader told reporters: "He will draw a blank (in the election)."
Singh dismissed the possibility of any threat to Jakhar from Deol and exuded confidence that the BJP candidate would be defeated.
Deol joined the BJP on Monday and was fielded from Gurdaspur.
The actor is pitted against Jakhar, Aam Aadmi Party's Peter Masih and Punjab Democratic Alliance's Lal Chand. Actor-turned-politician Vinod Khanna had won the Gurdaspur seat for the BJP in 2014, but Jakhar won from the constituency in the 2017 bypolls after Khanna's demise.
The chief minister, meanwhile, claimed that the Congress would win all the 13 Lok Sabha seats and the mood across the state was upbeat and totally in favour of the Congress. Punjab goes to polls in the last phase on May 19. -- PTI
19:09 EC bars Bengal BJP leader for 48 hrs over sexually coloured remarks against TMC candidate:
After a Supreme Court prod, the Election Commission on Friday barred Bharatiya Janata Party's Nadia district president Mahadev Sarkar from campaigning for 48 hours for making sexually coloured remarks against a Trinamool Congress candidate.
The ban came into force at 4 pm on Friday and would remain in force till April 28 evening, an order issued by the commission said.
The EC's decision came a day after the Supreme Court ordered the poll panel to initiate action based on a complaint filed by TMC candidate Mahua Moitra.
A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna had on Thursday directed the Election Commission to pass the order 'forthwith'.
The EC 'strongly condemned' and 'severely reprimanded' Sarkar for his remarks and said he had violated para 2 of the model code which states that: "Criticism of other political parties, when made, shall be confined to their policies and programme, past record and work. Parties and Candidates shall refrain from criticism of all aspects of private life, not connected with the public activities of the leaders or workers of other parties ..."
Moitra had alleged that Nadia district BJP president Sarkar, in the presence of party candidate Kalyan Chaubey, made sexually coloured remarks against her on April 22.
She said that the poll panel had not taken any action against Sarkar. In his reply to the commission, Sarkar had not denied making the remarks but had maintained that the issue was not covered under the model code.
The Krishnanagar constituency in Nadia district in West Bengal goes to polls on April 29.
"The commission, under Article 324 of the Constitution of India and all other powers enabling in this behalf, also bars Mahadev Sarkar, district president, Bharatiya Janata Party, Nadia, from holding any public meetings, public processions, public rallies, road shows and interviews, public utterances in media (electronic, print, social media) etc in connection with ongoing elections for 48 hours from 4 pm on April 26, 2019 till 4.00 pm on 28 April 2019 (Sunday)," the order read. -- PTI
18:04 Total assets of Modi rise by Rs 85 lakh in 5 yrs:
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has assets worth Rs 2.5 crore including a residential plot in Gujarat's Gandhinagar, fixed deposits of Rs 1.27 crore and Rs 38,750 cash in hand, according to his affidavit filed with the Election Commission on Friday.
Modi has named Jashodaben as his wife and declared that he has an MA degree from Gujarat University in 1983.
The affidavit said he is an arts graduate from Delhi University (1978). He passed SSC exam from Gujarat board in 1967, it said.
He has declared movable assets worth Rs 1.41 crore and immovable assets valued at Rs 1.1 crore.
The prime minister has invested Rs 20,000 in tax saving infra bonds, Rs 7.61 lakh in National Saving Certificate (NSC) and another Rs 1.9 lakh in LIC policies.
His cash balance in savings bank account is Rs 4,143.
Modi has four gold rings, weighing 45 grams, valued at Rs 1.13 lakh.
The prime minister has declared the property details in the affidavit which is a mandatory requirement for filing nomination papers.
Modi possess about 3,531 sq ft plot in Sector-1, Gandhinagar.
The value of the property, which includes a residential unit on the plot, is assessed to be Rs 1.1 crore, according to the affidavit. While Modi has listed 'salary from government' and 'interest from bank' as his sources of income, his wife's source of income is mentioned as 'not known'.
Her profession or occupation is also listed as 'not known'.
Modi has declared that he neither has any criminal case pending against him nor has any government dues on him.
The prime minister, who is seeking a second term from Varanasi parliamentary constituency, had disclosed a total assets of Rs 1.65 crore in 2014. -- PTI
17:45 No Varanasi contest Priyanka's own call: Pitroda:
Congress leader Sam Pitroda on Friday said it was Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's own decision not to contest against Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the Varanasi Lok Sabha seat.
Speculation over Priyanka Gandhi's electoral debut from Modi's constituency ended on Thursday when the Congress fielded Ajay Rai from there.
"The party president had left the final decision on her," Pitroda said when reporters asked him about Rahul Gandhi not fielding his sister from the high-profile constituency.
"She decided that she has several responsibilities. She decided that rather than concentrating on one seat, she should focus on the job she has at hand," Pitroda, who heads the Indian Overseas Congress, said.
"So that decision was finally hers and she decided it," he said.
Priyanka Gandhi is in charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh for her party. -- PTI
17:04 NYAY scheme is sound economics: Rahul:
Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday called the NYAY scheme a surgical strike on poverty and asserted that the proposed minimum income guarantee programme was not populist but based on sound economics. Gandhi also sought to allay apprehensions of the middle class saying he guaranteed that the salaried people will have to pay not a single paisa from their pockets to fund the Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY) scheme.
Addressing a rally in this north Bihar town where he shared the stage, for the first time after general elections were announced, with RJD heir apparent Tejashwi Yadav, Gandhi also deplored the insulting treatment meted out to Lalu Prasad, the jailed supremo of his alliance partner and warned the BJP-led coalition of a backlash in the polls.
Former state minister Ashok Ram of Congress is pitted against Ramchandra Paswan, Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan's brother, at Samastipur (SC reserved seat).
Commencing his nearly 25-minute-long speech with an apology for turning up late because of a snag in his aircraft, Gandhi greeted the crowds with Ki haal chaal chhe (how are you) in the local Maithili dialect and went on to add with a smirk has not Modi looted you a lot. Lakhs of crores have been gifted to thieves like Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi and Vijay Mallya by the chowkidar (watchman an epithet the Prime Minister uses for himself). Public money to the tune of 5.55 lakh crore has been siphoned off by 15 persons close to Modi, Gandhi alleged.
Calling the NYAY programme proposed in his party's manifesto a surgical strike on poverty, Gandhi declared the scheme will be entirely funded with the money that thieves like Anil Ambani plunder with Narendra Modi's help. -- PTI
16:58 If NDA wins, Modi may take oath in Varanasi:
If the NDA government headed by PM Narendra Modi wins a second term on May 23, Varanasi, which is the PM's Lok Sabha constituency may be in the spotlight as the venue where he will be sworn in.
The other venue being considered by the party, if legal experts give the go-ahead, is at the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the venue in 2014. The feasibility is being considered by intelligence and security agencies as well.
In 2014, Narendra Modi was sworn-in in the presence of seven heads of state of SAARC countries. But sources tell us that Modi wants Hindu overtones when he assumes office in 2019 and accordingly, he may be sworn in to the hum of Vedic mantras on the banks of the Ganga in Varanasi with President Ram Nath Kovind administering the oath of office.
The precedent has already been set by chief ministers who were sworn in outside state capitals, like Haryana Chief Minister ML Khattar being sworn-in at the Haryana Bhavan in Delhi.
Experts say there is no legal impediment to the investiture ceremony being held at Varanasi. Yes, it may be a break in tradition, but protocol is not an impediment.
Bureaucrats also feel that while it is a political decision, Modi has been of the view that Delhi should be decentralised. World leaders used to be accorded a reception in Delhi, but Modi changed it. Chinese and Japanese heads of states landed first in Gandhinagar in Gujarat. DGP and Chief Secretaries annual conferences were held only in Delhi, but are now being held at various state capitals.
The decision on the venue will be revealed in on May 25 once a clear picture emerges of whether the NDA is indeed getting a majority, even as a blueprint is being prepared by close confidants of the PM.
Watch this space.
-- R Rajagopalan
15:50 Navy officer dead in fire on INS Vikramaditya:
The Indian Navy confirms that one officer has died during fire fighting ops on board aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya in Karwar, Karnataka. The Navy has ordered a Board of Inquiry to probe the incident. The Fire was controlled by its crew preventing any serious damage to the warship's combat capability.
Lt Cdr DS Chauhan led the firefighting efforts in the affected compartment. Whilst the fire was brought under control, the officer suffered loss of consciousness owing to the smoke and fumes during the firefighting efforts, and was immediately evacuated to the Naval Hospital at Karwar, INHS Patanjali for medical attention. However, the officer could not be revived.
15:45 In Patna Sahib it is RS Prasad vs Shatrughan Sinha:
Union Minister and BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad files nomination from Patna Sahib constituency. Prasad will be pitted against the Congress party's Shatrughan Sinha, who left the BJP recently after differences.
15:41 Over 130 IS linked suspects are in Sri Lanka: Sirisena:
Over 130 suspects linked to the Islamic State (IS) terror group have been operating in Sri Lanka, President Maithripala Sirisena said Friday, days after the terror outfit claimed responsibility for the Easter bombings that claimed the lives of 253 people.
The president said that several suspects have already been arrested following the Easter Sunday attacks, and the terror network will be completely eliminated from Sri Lanka.
"Information is that around 130-140 ISIS suspects linked to the terror network are in Sri Lanka. Around 70 are arrested, we will arrest them all very soon ending this (terror)," Sirisena said.
Speaking further, the president said the Defence Secretary and Inspector General of Police had failed in their duties and that is why he called for their resignation. He said that they had failed to share prior information obtained by them over a possible terror attack in the country.
The president added that he and the entire Government will also take the full responsibility for the attacks. Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara and defence secretary Hemasiri Fernando have resigned from their posts over the security establishment's alleged failures which led to the attacks on three hotels and three churches on Sunday.
"The IGP has resigned. He has sent his resignation to the acting defense secretary. I'll nominate a new IGP soon," the president said.
The police chief's resignation came a day after the country's defence secretary Hemasiri Fernando handed over his resignation letter to the president.
Nine suicide bombers carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through three churches and three luxury hotels on Easter Sunday. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the government has blamed a local Islamist extremist group National Tawheed Jamath (NTJ) for the attacks. -- PTI
15:07 Dad in jail, girl reaches out to PM in Varanasi:
A young girl on Friday reached out to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking help to free her father from jail. Jyoti was standing in between the huge crowd of BJP workers in Varanasi when Prime Minister Modi was addressing the party workers ahead of the filing of his nomination from temple city for the ongoing Lok Sabha elections.
The PM noticed her and asked one of his SPGs to enquire about her concern. Jyoti immediately handed over a letter to the guard and asked him to pass it on to the Prime Minister.
Jyoti, while speaking to ANI, claimed that her father is innocent and was framed in a false case.
Sharing her ordeal, an emotional Jyoti said, "I want Modiji to do justice and help me to release my father from jail. My father is innocent and has done nothing. My father got married 35 years go to a girl. One year after marriage, she committed suicide and the girl's family held my father responsible for this. My father was punished in the case and he is not responsible for it.
"We four siblings live together with our mother. My mother's health is not good. We do not have any relatives. We are not even able to pursue our studies. If something happens to my mother, there is no one to take care of ourselves," she added.
Jyoti also claimed that she wrote a letter to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath seeking help.
"A week back, I myself give a letter to Yogi ji at Sankat Mochan and Yogi ji assured us of all possible help. However, we have not received any update on the matter yet. I am happy that I got an opportunity to share my ordeal with Modiji," she claimed. -- ANI
14:46 Nirav Modi, Choksi's luxury cars auctioned at Rs 3.29 cr: ED:
A dozen luxury cars of PNB scam accused businessmen Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi have been auctioned, fetching the government exchequer Rs 3.29 crore, the ED said Friday.
The vehicles were attached by the agency under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act in the past.
The Enforcement Directorate had in March obtained the permission of a special PMLA court in Mumbai for auctioning 13 cars of the Modi-Choksi duo as part of its money laundering probe in the USD 2 billion alleged bank loan fraud.
The e-auction was carried out by Metal Scrap Trade Corporation (MSTC) Ltd, it said in a statement.
"There are 13 vehicles (11 belonging to Nirav Modi group and 2 belonging to Mehul Choksi group) put on e-auction through MSTC platform on April 25.
"Out of these 13 vehicles, twelve (10 of Nirav Modi group and 2 of Mehul Choksi group) were successfully bided for a total amount of Rs 3,28,94,293," it said. The Income Tax Department had last month auctioned several art works that were owned by absconding diamond merchant Nirav Modi for Rs 59.37 crore.
The ED and the CBI are investigating Nirav Modi, his uncle Choksi and others for alleged money laundering and corruption to perpetrate the alleged scam in the Brady House branch of the PNB in Mumbai that was unearthed last year.
While Nirav Modi has been arrested in London recently and India is seeking his extradition, Choksi is said to be in the Caribbean nation of Antigua and a similar legal action against him is on too. -- PTI
14:30 Look who's campaigning for the BJP:
BJP's 'strong-arm' tactics in Bengal: Wrestler, The Great Khali, campaigns for BJP's Jadavpur candidate Anupam Hazra in West Bengal. Khali was a Bigg Boss contestant in 2010.
14:16 Singer Daler Mehndi joins BJP :
Singer Daler Mehndi joins the Bharatiya Janata Party in the presence of BJP North West Delhi candidate Hans Raj Hans and Union Minister Vijay Goel. The singer joined the league of celebrities, who recently took a political plunge this Lok Sabha elections. The BJP is fielding celebrities like Bhojpuri actor Ravi Kishan (Gorakhpur), Dinesh Yadav Nirahua (Azamgarh), Jaya Pradha (Rampur), Suresh Gopi (Trissur), cricketer Gautam Gambhir (East Delhi) and Sunny Deol (Gurdaspur).
So, why is Hans Raj Hans at the function? Mehndi's daughter is married to a son of Hans.
Image: Daler Mehndi (third from left) at the BJP office
13:56 Varanasi uses 1.4 lakh litres of water to wash roads for PM:
Around 1.4 lakh litres of drinking water was used on Wednesday night to wash the roads of Varanasi where over 30 per cent of the population goes without piped water, reports the Telegraph.
A day later, Prime Minister and aspiring candidate Narendra Modi hit the city to a rousing welcome and led a spectacular road show.An official said: "We had instructions to wash the roads for the Prime Minister.'As many as 40 water tankers of the Varanasi Municipal Corporation and 400 labourers were deployed for the task, a source said. Usually, roads are washed only during festivals.
13:54 Easter blasts: Lanka police chief resigns over intel failure :
Sri Lanka's police chief resigned from his post on Friday, two days after President Maithripala Sirisena asked him to step down over the security establishment's failure to avert the deadly Easter bombings.
Sirisena, who is also the defence minister, said Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara resigned over failures which led to the attacks on three hotels and three churches on Sunday that claimed 253 lives.
"The IGP has resigned. He has sent his resignation to the acting defense secretary. I'll nominate a new IGP soon," the president said. The police chief's resignation came a day after the country's defence secretary Hemasiri Fernando handed over his resignation letter to the president. Sirisena had asked Fernando and Jayasundara to quit after their failure to prevent the blasts despite having prior intelligence. -- PTI
13:15 Don't assume Modi's victory, go vote: PM:
After filing his nomination papers from the Lok Sabha constituency of Varanasi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said, "I deeply express gratitude towards people of Kashi. They have again blessed me after 5 years. Such a grand roadshow yesterday was possible only in Kashi."
He also urged people to vote in large numbers. "Aisa mahaul kuch log ab banane lage hain ki Modi ji toh jeet gaye aur vote nahi karoge toh chalega. Kripa karke aise logon ki bataon mein mat aiye. Matdaan apka haq hai, loktanta ek utsav hai, zada se zada matdaan karna chahiye desh mazboot karne ke liye. Don't fall into trap of those who say it's okay not to vote because Modi has already won poll battle. Voting is your right. Democracy is a festival, vote in large numbers and strengthen your nation," he said.
Varanasi will vote in the last phase of the seven-phase Lok Sabha elections on May 19.
Almost all prominent leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party, as well as members of the National Democratic Alliance and North-East Democratic Alliance accompanied Modi.
12:31 Telangana farmers to contest against Modi :
About 50 farmers from Nizamabad in Telangana have left for Varanasi to file nominations from the Lok Sabha constituency, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking re-election, in a bid to highlight their problems.
The farmers are planning to contest as independents to press their demand for remunerative price to turmeric and constitution of a turmeric board.
Ganga Reddy, a leader of the group of farmers who plan to file nominations, told PTI Friday they were on the way to Varanasi.
Varanasi will go to the polls in the last phase on May 19.
He said the group comprised 52 people and that more would reach Varanasi. "We want a turmeric board. We are going to file nominations to make the Centre and all political parties aware of that," he added.
The idea is that their nominations would trigger a debate, leading to the constitution of a turmeric board, he said. Reddy said turmeric farmers from Tamil Nadu, who also want formation of the turmeric board, would also reach Varanasi.
The BJP-led government at the Centre has failed to form a turmeric board, he alleged. Reddy said they were not associated with any political party. The only objective is to highlight their cause and not a serious contest in Varanasi, he said.
Reddy claimed some farmers in Varanasi were ready to sign on their nomination papers. It may be recalled that over 170 farmers had entered the fray in the recent election to Nizamabad Lok Sabha constituency to highlight the demands for remunerative price and formation of the turmeric board.
Image: Turmeric is the bone of contention for the farmers of Telangana. About 50 farmers from Nizamabad have left for Varanasi to file nominations saying they want a turmeric board to be set up.
12:21 Supreme Court stays Justice Arumugasamy Inquiry Committee's probe into death of former Tamil Nadu CM and AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa.
11:56 This kid is a Potterhead:
Stop bending over your phones and take a cue from this young boy, who pursues and interest that is slowly becoming a rarity, reading books. Rediff.com
had asked you, dear readers, to take a selfie and tell us which your favourite books are. Mumbai's Vihaan Kulkarni tells us how much he loves the Harry Potter series. Catch up with him here
11:35 SC refuses to interfere with EC's order banning release of PM biopic:
The Supreme Court Friday refused to interfere with the Election Commission's order banning release of the biopic on PM Narendra Modi until May 19.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said it was not inclined to entertain the application filed by producers of biopic challenging the EC's order.
"What survives in this now?" the bench, also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, said. The counsel, appearing for producers, told the bench that the EC's order is contrary to the clearance given to the movie by the Central Board of Film Certification.
"The issue is whether the movie can be exhibited at this time. The Election Commission has taken a decision. We are not inclined to entertain this," the bench said. -- PTI
11:32 NDA show of strength at PM's nomination :
Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives at the Collectorate office to file his nomination from the Varanasi parliamentary constituency. It's a huge show of strength for the NDA with all alliance leaders present at the DM office. Earlier in the day, the allies had a meeting, after which the PM addressed party workers and after a visit to the Kal Bhairav temple in Varanasi, arrived at the DM's office.
Image: Rajnath Singh and Amit Shah greet PM Modi at the DM office in Varanasi.
11:10 3 blasts at Tata Steelworks plant in UK:
At least three blasts were reported at the UK's largest Tata Steelworks plant in Port Talbot, injuring two persons, according to a media report. The blast at the plant in Port Talbot, Wales occurred around 3.35 am (local time), BBC reported. South Wales Police department said they are aware of an incident in the Tata Steelworks plant.
"Emergency services are in attendance and further information will be released shortly," the department tweeted. The police said they received calls at 3:35 am (local time) reporting an explosion at the plant.
"At this time we there are just two casualties with minor injuries." A Tata Steel spokesman said the company was working with emergency services and the fires at the plant are "under control"
"We can confirm there has been an incident at our Port Talbot site," he said, adding that "the emergency services have attended and are working with our on-site services.
"The fires has been extinguished, and that a full investigation launched into the incident, which it said started after a "spillage of liquid iron as it was travelling to the steel plant," Tata Steel said in a statement.
Early indications suggested the explosion came from a train used to carry molten metal, police was quoted as saying by the report.
"The explosion caused some small fires which are all under control and damage to some buildings on the site," the spokesman said. Locals reported their houses shook with the force of a blast at the Tata Steel site in Port Talbot in the early hours of Friday. PTI
11:03 PM heads to DM's office to file nomination:
PM Narendra Modi heads to the District Magistrate's office to file his nomination from Varanasi. This morning Modi told party workers at a hotel the city that a pro-incumbency wave was being witnessed for the first time in the country. Noting that the mood is festive from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, Modi said party workers are the real candidates. The prime minister said he has worked honestly for good governance and the people have made up their minds that they want Modi sarkar again. He stressed the importance of booth level workers.
He then offered prayers at the Kal Bhairav temple in the city and is now on his way to file his nomination papers, which is expected to take place at 11:30 am.
10:48 First time pro-incumbency wave in country: PM:
Pro-incumbency wave is being witnessed for the first time in the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told party workers Friday before filing his nomination papers in Varanasi.
Noting that the mood is festive from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, Modi said party workers are the real candidates.
The prime minister said he has worked honestly for good governance and the people have made up their minds that they want Modi sarkar again.
"During yesterday's roadshow here, I have sensed the hard work of party cadre," he said amid chants of "Modi Modi" from the gathering. -- PTI
10:44 Engine trouble in Rahul's plane, Bihar rallies delayed :
Rahul Gandhi's rallies in Bihar have been delayed after there was engine trouble in the plane. The Congress president tweeted, "Engine trouble on our flight to Patna today! We've been forced to return to Delhi. Today's meetings in Samastipur (Bihar), Balasore (Orissa) and Sangamner (Maharashta) will run late. Apologies for the inconvenience."
10:23 Rajnath: NDA will get 3/4th majority:
At the meeting of NDA leaders in Varanasi, Home Minister and BJP leader Rajnath Singh says the alliance will get 3/4th majority in the country.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will file his nomination for Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency in Varanasi today.
All senior leaders of the BJP, NDA and North East Democratic Alliance are in the city to mark the occasion. After the address to BJP workers, the Prime Minister is expected to begin his schedule with prayers at the iconic Kashi Vishwanath Temple.
According to sources, BJP workers are giving final touches to the itinerary of the day, which includes another road show as Prime Minister proceeds to file his nomination. He may also hold media interaction.
10:11 'Will campaign for sadhvi if she apologises' :
BJP leader Fatima Rasool Siddique on Thursday said that she would campaign for Malegaon blast accused and her party candidate from Bhopal Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur if she apologizes to Muslims for her recent statements.
"I respect saffron but does Thakur respect hijab? If Thakur respects hijab then she must apologise to the Muslim community and then I will surely campaign for her," Siddique said while speaking to ANI.
Last week, Thakur had said that she is "proud" to accept that she was involved in the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992.
Expressing discontentment over the controversial statements delivered by Thakur, Siddique said: "What Thakur has said was obnoxious and communal and her views can tarnish the image of the party. I will not campaign for someone who says a thing like waging a `dharm yudh' (crusade). Her statement against former Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief Hemant Karkare has hurt us badly."
"Shivraj Singh Chouhan has a good reputation among Muslims. He is known for his strong views on Ganga-Jamuna Tehzeeb but her views might damage that too," she added.On being asked if she is unhappy with the party, Siddique said: "I have no resentment with the party. I am angry with madam ji (Thakur), I am not happy with the fact that she is provoking people."
"There are several cases registered against her. Rather than giving statements against Karkare ji, we should focus on the development of Ganga and Yamuna rivers. Vande Mataram is not a matter of development, Thakur should apologize for this," she said.
Underlying the need to focus on employment, education and women empowerment, Siddique said: "Our prophet had told us to keep the country at the first place. Be loyal to the country you are part of, we support the idea of Hindustan Zindabad. But what will happen to such talks, are they about development? Will they bring employment, education, women empowerment etc?"
"Nowadays, people have become wiser, they are not in favour of dividing Hindu and Muslims. A lot of Muslims are associated with the BJP, they have also been hurt. No one has raised voice against Thakur but I have raised my voice. The party will suffer and this will harm all of us. I have given my message and filed a complaint against it with the party," she added.
Last year in November, Siddiqui had joined the BJP and later she was nominated as the party's candidate from the Bhopal North assembly constituency. She was the lone Muslim woman candidate fielded by BJP in Madhya Pradesh.
However, she lost to Congress candidate Arif Aqueel. Voting in Bhopal will take place on May 12. The counting of votes will be held on May 23.
09:47 Uddhav, Nitish to accompany PM for nomination :
Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray offers prayers at Kaal Bhairav temple in Varanasi. Apart from Thackeray, BJP allies like JD(U) president Nitish Kumar will accompany PM Narendra Modi as he files his nomination around 11.30 am today.
Shiromani Akali Dal's Parkash Singh Badal and Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan will also be in attendance, the BJP said.
Yesterday, Modi held a mega roadshow in Varanasi, drawing massive crowds, before the show of strength culminated with the Ganga Aarti at the Dashashwamedh Ghat.
Modi was joined by Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and other senior BJP leaders in the temple town.
Image: Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray offers prayers at Kaal Bhairav temple in Varanasi.
09:35 Wife held for killing Rohit Tiwari shows confusing behaviour: Police:
Apoorva, the lawyer wife of Rohit Shekhar Tiwari who has been arrested for allegedly killing him, has showed confusing behaviour, a police officer said Thursday, adding she regrets her action sometimes and appears cold about the incident other times.
During four days of intense interrogation, she did not break down once but now she appears to be regretting smothering Tiwari on the night of April 15-16.
She also claimed that Tiwari's mother, Ujjwala, often interfered between them and this affected the couple's relationship, the officer said.
On the night Tiwari was killed, he and Apoorva were in their room at the Defence Colony residence when they had a fight over Tiwari's proximity with his sister-in-law.
"She told him she did not like his proximity with his sister-in-law and that he used to drink with her. He teased her saying that when he was returning from Uttarkhand, he and his sister-in-law drank alcohol from the same glass. This angered Apoorva. She held on to his neck and when he tried to raise an alarm, she choked him with a pillow," the officer said.
Police sources, meanwhile, claimed a letter, written by the District Bar Association of Indore on April 22, was received by the Crime Branch. It sought a fair probe in the case and urged the police department to ensure that Apoorva is not implicated, they said.
The letter also indicated that Apoorva may have been framed since Tiwari's family did not want her to get any share in his property. But the family has claimed the letter was written at the behest of Apoorva's father, who is a well-known lawyer in Indore and served at a top post in the bar association, the sources said.
Police have sought call details of the landline number at Tiwari's Defence Colony residence. They have also taken Apoorva's nail samples to ascertain if Tiwari's skin was stuck in them during the fight, or to see the possibility of any other DNA present there. But, the sources said, there may not be any clue as the samples were taken a few days after the killing.
The south district police, which investigated the case previously, did seal the room on April 16 after Tiwari was declared brought dead at a city hospital.
Initially, it was suspected that he had died of natural causes but after an autopsy, it was found he was "smothered" with a pillow. Police said she did enter the room a couple of times after allegedly killing him at around 1 am, so there are high possibilities of the crime scene being contaminated.
"She must have tried to tamper with the bedsheet and the pillows and tried to dress up the room to destroy the evidence," the police officer said. According to him, Apoorva strangulated Tiwari with bare hands and then used the pillow, so that he could not shout for help. She managed to keep his death a secret for almost 14 hours. -- PTI
09:16 Myths of Priyanka Gandhi stand eroded: Jaitley:
Union Minister Arun Jaitley issued a scathing takedown of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra after the Congress ended speculation about her candidature from Varanasi, fielding its 2014 candidate Ajai Rai against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The party's announcement came hours before PM Modi was to hold a mega road show in Varanasi and file his nomination today to seek a second term as a lawmaker.
"I am deeply disappointed with the Congress party's decision of not fielding Priyanka Gandhi from Varanasi," Jaitley wrote in a blog titled "Refuge in Wayanad and a Refuge Away From Varanasi - The Story of a Family Dynasty".
"The last two months that she has been in the public life has driven home the point - "India has changed, dynasties don't matter". The myths of Priyanka Gandhi stand eroded," the minister wrote.
The speculation over Priyanka Gandhi's candidature has been building since her entry to active politics in February. Over the last weeks, it had soared, with broad hints from Priyanka Gandhi and approval of "suspense" from her brother, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi.
Off the record, Congress leaders had said her taking on PM Modi would not only set up Varanasi for the biggest contest of the 2019 Lok Sabha election, but also have a ripple effect elsewhere that would benefit the party.
Sources said Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and most senior leaders were against the idea of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra taking on PM Modi in what would have been her maiden election. Sources also said Priyanka Gandhi did not finally agree to take the plunge.
08:18 BJP's Giriraj Singh booked for poll code violation:
A case was registered against Union Minister and BJP leader Giriraj Singh at Begusarai police station for violating the model code of conduct by making controversial remarks against the Muslim community.
This comes in response to Singh's statement where he demanded the Election Commission impose a ban on the use of green flags, associated with religious and political bodies of Muslims. He alleged that the green flags not only spread hate but also create a perception of being used in Pakistan.
In his complaint to the EC, the complainant alleged that Singh's remarks hurt the sentiments of a section of a minority group.
The FIR was lodged under sections 125 of the Representation of People Act and 153 A, 295A, 171C, 188, 298, 505 of the Indian Penal Code.
Lok Sabha polls in 14 out of the 40 seats at stake in Bihar were conducted in the first three phases - on April 11, 18 and 23.
07:49 Modi to file his nomination from Varanasi today:
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will file his nomination for the Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency today.
All senior leaders of the BJP, NDA and North East Democratic Alliance are expected to be present in the city to mark the occasion. For today, the PM is expected to begin his schedule with prayers at the iconic Kashi Vishwanath Temple.
According to sources, BJP workers are giving final touches to the itinerary of the day, which includes another road show as Modi proceeds to file his nomination.
A day before, the Prime Minister held a grand roadshow in Varanasi along with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Union Minister JP Nadda, UP and Delhi BJP chiefs, Mahendra Nath Pandey and Manoj Tiwari.
The roadshow began after paying his tributes at Pt Madan Mohan Malviya's statue outside Banaras Hindu University. The rally, stretching over 6 km, had passed through Lanka and Madanpura areas of the city and ended at the famed Dashashwamedh Ghat.
Before embarking on the roadshow, PM Modi had said that his scheduled programmes in "beloved Kashi" would give him an opportunity to interact with his "sisters and brothers" of the town.
Later in the evening, PM Modi also participated in the Ganga Aarti on the banks of the holy river. After that, he had an interaction with select intellectuals at Hotel De Paris.
Varanasi will go to polls on May 19 in the last phase of the Lok Sabha elections. The counting of votes will take place on May 23.
00:25 Lanka revises Easter blasts death toll to 253:
Sri Lanka on Thursday night sharply revised downward the death toll from the Easter Sunday terror attack by more than 100 to 'about 253', citing a 'calculation error'.
Authorities earlier said that nine suicide bombers, believed to be members of a local Islamist extremist group called National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ), carried out the devastating blasts that killed 359 people and wounded more than 500 others.
However, Dr Anil Jasinghe, Director General of the Health Services, said the larger death toll was released as a result of 'a calculation error'.
"The approximate total of the dead would be 253 and not 359 as reported in media," he said.
Jasinghe said at least 485 injured were admitted to six hospitals throughout the country.
"By 10 a.m. today, the casualty number at hospitals has been reduced to 149. Only 6 had died in hospitals," Jasinghe said.
On April 22, an estimated figure of 280 dead was released.
"As it was not easy to count the correct number of dead due to extensive damages suffered in some cases, the figures issued were all approximate numbers," he said.
Jasinghe said those who died in the three hotel blasts were mostly beyond recognition as their body parts had suffered comparatively more damages than those who died at church blasts.
Meanwhile, the foreign ministry said the number of foreigners killed has risen to 40, including 11 Indians. -- PTI