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LIVE! IndiGo pulls out 30 flights, says cancellations to continue

February 12, 2019

23:17  IndiGo pulls out 30 flights, says cancellations to continue:  
Shortage of pilots continued to hamper operations of IndiGo with the budget carrier on Tuesday cancelling as many as 30 flights from across major airports and passengers allegedly being forced to buy last minute tickets at high fares, a source said.

The airline said flight cancellations will continue for some more days, affecting around 30 flights per day.

On Monday also, the airline had pulled out 32 flights from its network at short notice inconveniencing tens of hundreds of passengers.

Acknowledging the disruption in its services, the airline said, it will 'slightly adjust' its schedules in the coming days, impacting about 30 flights per day.

Meanwhile, a senior official said aviation regulator Director General of Civil Aviation is looking into the 'issue'.

"IndiGo is slightly adjusting its flight schedule in the coming days by around 30 flights per day to stabilise the network and operations impacted due to various ongoing Notams and likely bad weather in the coming days," the airline said in a statement after the PTI story went on wire.

Notam, or notice to airmen, is given to pilots and include information on potential hazards on a flight route.

IndiGo has cancelled 30 flights Tuesday due to the on-going pilot shortages.

Most flights have been cancelled from Kolkata, Hyderabad and Chennai, a source told PTI earlier in the day.

While eight flights were not operated from Kolkata, another five flights were cancelled from Hyderabad and four each from Bangalore and Chennai among others,the source added.

The source also alleged that IndiGo was forcing passengers to either buy last minute tickets on its flights or offering them alternate flights with one-stop connectivity with a long layover time.

"To avoid inconvenience, these adjustments are being made in advance, enabling adequate notice to passengers. They are being accommodated close to their original flight schedule. These adjustments amount to 1-2 percent of the originally planned flights," IndiGo said in the statement.

An airline official said the disruption in the flight operations emanated from the heavy rains and hailstorm that hit the Delhi-NCR region last week and subsequent FDTL issue.

Both the pilots and cabin crew are governed by DGCA mandated flight duty and time limitation (FDTL) norms and they can't fly beyond the FDTL.

The airline had Sunday blamed bad weather for disruptions in operations across its network.  -- PTI
22:02  Rahul puts 41 seats in UP under Priyanka, 39 under Scinda:  
Congress president Rahul Gandhi has placed 41 Lok Sabha constituencies in Uttar Pradesh under the charge of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and 39 parliamentary segments under Jyotiraditya Scindia, a party statement said on Tuesday.

Priyanka Gandhi and Scindia were appointed All India Congress Committee general secretary in-charge UP east and UP west respectively in January and took charge last week.

Among the constituencies placed under Priyanka Gandhi's charge were the key seats of Lucknow, Amethi, Raebareli, Sultanpur, Gorakhpur, Varanasi, Phulpur, Allahabad, Barabanki, and Kushinagar. Saharanpur, Kairana, Muzaffarnagar, Moradabad, Ghaziabad, Mathura, Pilibhit, Dhaurahra, Kanpur, and Farrukhabad, were some of the key constituencies placed under Scindia's charge.

Priyanka Gandhi and Scindia, along with Rahul Gandhi, had held a grand roadshow here on Monday, raising hopes of a turnaround in the party's fortunes.

Virtually launching the party's Lok Sabha poll campaign, Rahul Gandhi had asserted that it was the time to uproot the Bharatiya Janata Party and form government in the state.  -- PTI
21:44  Chhattisgarh govt renames 5 schemes named after Deendayal Upadhyaya:  
The new Congress government in Chhattisgarh has renamed five schemes that the previous Bharatiya Janata Party government had named after Jan Sangh leader Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya.

Condemning the decision, the BJP, the main opposition party in the state, on Tuesday created an uproar in Chhattisgarh Legislative Assembly over rechristening the schemes, terming the move as 'political vindictiveness'.

The Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya Swavlamban Yojna has been renamed Rajiv Gandhi Swavlamban Yojna, Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya Sarvasamaj Manglik Bhavan Yojna has been renamed Dr B R Ambedkar Sarvasamaj Manglik Bhavan Yojna, and Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya LED Path Prakash Yojna has been renamed Indira Priyadarshini LED Path Prakash Yojna.

Similarly, Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya Ajivika Kendra (livelihood centre) Yojna is now Rajiv Gandhi Ajivika Kendra Yojna, and Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya Shuddh Peyjal (clean drinking water) Yojna has been renamed Indira Priyadarshini Shudhh Peyjal Yojna, as per a government order issued Monday.

BJP legislators led by Leader of Opposition Dharamlal Kaushik on Tuesday raised the issue in the House, saying the move was 'not only an insult to a great personality but also an initiative to kill the very ideology' on which their party is based.

The BJP moved an adjournment motion notice demanding immediate discussion on the issue in the House.

BJP MLA Ajay Chandrakar said the renaming move is not good for democracy.

Urban Administration Minister Shiv Kumar Dahariya responded by saying that in 2004, such a practice was started by the then BJP government.

"In 2004, the BJP government renamed all schemes named after Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. The Rajiv Gandhi Swavlamban Yojna was then renamed as Deendayal Upadhyay Swalamban Yojna," he said.

Former chief minister and senior BJP leader Raman Singh said the rechristening exercise indicated the Congress regime's 'political vindictiveness'.

"The state government deliberately rechristened schemes named after Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya on his death anniversary, which was observed on Monday. This reflects the mentality of Congress," Singh said in a statement in Raipur.

"Without making any new provisions, they have just renamed the schemes. This clearly indicates that it is a new episode of 'Badlapur' (vindictive politics)," Singh said.  -- PTI
21:31  Hotel sealed top floor with wall during inspection, later demolished it to run eatery: Official:  
The fifth floor of 'Hotel Arpit Palace', where a massive fire snuffed 17 lives, was being used as a rooftop restaurant which was 'unauthorised', officials said on Tuesday.

The fifth floor was sealed with a brick wall after which a fire safety certificate was issued, officials said and indicated that later the wall was demolished to run the rooftop restaurant.

They said the fifth floor was shaded with acrylic roof and being used as a terrace restaurant by the hotel management and added that kitchen and chairs were found by them during the fire fighting and cooling operations.

"The fifth floor was sealed with brick wall when a fire safety certificate was issued to Hotel Arpit Palace on December 12, 2014," said a Delhi Fire Service (DFS) officer.

Later, a reinspection was done by the DFS on December 4, 2017, and the owner was 'deemed complied' with fire safety norms at the hotel premises and it was declared 'fit' for 'occupancy class residential' (guesthouse) with effect from December 24, 2017 for a period of three years, he said.

"Apparently, the wall used to seal the fifth floor was dismantled and it was being used for a terrace restaurant," the official said.

The fire safety certificate was issued only for basement being used as storage, ground floor which was used for a restaurant and reception, first and second floor having 12 guest rooms each, third and fourth floor having 11 guest rooms each, he added.

A massive fire swept through the four-storied hotel in the early hours of Tuesday, killing at least 17 guests, including two people who jumped off the building in a desperate bid to save themselves.

A child was among those killed in the blaze that started on the first floor of the hotel in the heart of the national capital around 3.30 am, trapping many guests who were in deep sleep, a fire official said.

The child as well as the two people who jumped are yet to be identified. Preliminary investigation suggested a suspected short circuit may have sparked the fire, in which 35 people were injured, civic officials said. -- PTI

IMAGE: A view of charred remains on the rooftop of Karol Bagh's Hotel Arpit Palace where a massive fire broke out, in New Delhi, on Tuesday. Photograph: Shahbaz Khan/PTI Photo)
20:48  Delhi blaze: Hotel's general manager, another staff member arrested:  
The Delhi Police arrested the general manager and a manager of Hotel Arpit Palace, where a massive fire killed 17 people on Tuesday, an officer said.

The hotel's general manager, Rajender, and manager, Vikas, have been arrested for culpable homicide, Deputy Commissioner of Police (central) Mandeep Singh Randhawa said.

The hotel owner, Shardendu Goel, is absconding after the incident, he said. Randhawa said the case has been transferred to the Crime Branch.  -- PTI
20:23  Christian Michel may abscond from India if released on bail: CBI, ED:  
The Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate on Tuesday strongly opposed before a Delhi court the bail plea of Christian Michel, arrested in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper case, saying he may abscond from India if released.

The CBI and the ED, in their separate replies, told special judge Arvind Kumar that Michel is accused of serious economic offences and there is ample evidence against him to prove his guilt.

The court has posted the matter for hearing on Wednesday after Michel's lawyer sought time to argue.

CBI said Michel is a British national and has no roots in India and there is 'every likelihood that if he is granted bail, he may abscond from India, evading the process of law and may not return to face the trial'.

"The apprehensions of CBI about his absconding from the process of law gets support from his past conduct. Keeping in mind the facts and circumstances, there also exists a security threat for the applicant accused, if enlarged on bail," CBI said while seeking dismissal of his bail plea.

It said the accused has acted as middleman in a defence deal of government of India and such 'shady and nefarious defence deals sometime create hurdles even in implementing the fair and transparent decisions taken by the governments for procurement of defence equipments in order to strengthen the defence line of the country'.

"There is ample evidence on record to link the applicant accused to the commission of such offences, and his release on bail would adversely affect further investigation to unearth the deep-rooted multi-layered conspiracy in the instant case. The conduct of the applicant-accused till date has been evasive," it said.

It said that the agency is taking all possible steps to conduct an effective and fair further investigation which would be hampered if he is released on bail.

Michel had moved the court seeking bail in cases by the CBI and the ED, saying the charge sheet against him was not filed within the stipulated time frame of 60 days.

"Since, the charge sheet was not filed against him within the stipulated 60-day period under section 167(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). Probe is complete. I'm in custody since December 22, 2018," Michel had said in the petition.

With regard to Michel's submission that charge sheet has not been filed in 60 days, ED said that he was remanded to judicial custody on January 5 and the period of remand commences from December 22, 2018 and therefore the period of 60 days prescribed under section 167 CrPC does not expire in the case.

CBI also said that the provisions of Section 167(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure are not applicable in the case as charge sheet has already been filed against him and 11 others.

Opposing his bail, ED said Michel's past conduct makes it amply clear that there exists a reasonable apprehension of him evading the process of law. He is also closely linked to ceratin influential people and there exists a reasonable apprehension of applicant tampering with the evidence of the case.

"The investigation of the case is at very crucial stage and the instant application is an attempt to adversely affect an effective investigation of the case," ED said.

Michel, extradited from Dubai, was arrested by the ED on December 22 last year.

On January 5, Michel was sent to judicial custody in the ED case. He is also lodged in judicial custody in the CBI case related to the scam.

Michel is among the three alleged middlemen being probed in the case by the ED and the CBI.

The others are Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa.  -- PTI
20:02  MiG 27 crashes in Jaisalmer district during routine mission:  
A MiG-27 fighter aircraft of the Indian Air Force crashed on Tuesday in Eta village in Pokaran tehsil of Rajasthan's Jaisalmer district, a defence official said.

The pilot ejected safely, Defence spokesperson Col Sombit Ghosh said.

"A MiG 27 aircraft airborne from Jaisalmer crashed during a routine mission today evening. Pilot ejected safely. A Court of Inquiry will investigate the cause of the accident," Ghosh said.

Jaisalmer Superintendent of Police Kiran Kang said no casualty has been reported so far, and a police team is in touch with Air Force officials. She said a police team rushed to the spot.  -- PTI

Image only for representation.
18:58  JUST IN: The Finance Bill, 2019 has been passed in Lok Sabha
18:50  'Human life worth more than Rs 5 lakh': Gautam Gambhir slams Kejriwal after fire:  
Former India and Delhi cricketer Gautam Gambhir has hit out at Delhi at Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and the regulators in the aftermath of the tragic fire at Hotel Arpit Palace in the capital's Karol Bagh area early Tuesday (February 12) morning. 

As it stands, the fire has claimed lives of 17 people with nine injured and the toll could rise.

Gambhir's remarks against the ruling party Aam Aadmi Party came after the city government announced Rs 5 lakh as compensation for families. 

In a tweet, the former Indian cricketer said: "Surely a human life is worth much more than Rs 5 lakh Arvind Kejriwal. It underlines what our machinery thinks about us, d common man. Compensation is merely a bandaid on an oozing wound whereas Delhi needs surgeries and it should begin with a systemic overhaul."

Further slamming the regulators, the cricketer stated the hotel is near Gautam Gambhir Foundation's office and was aware of the rules and regulations being ignored in the name of commercial interests. He tweeted, "It's so sad to see the callousness of regulators with regards to building laws being traded with loss of human lives. This hotel is right next to the GGF office and I know first hand how parking rules, building laws are conveniently flouted for commercial interests. Disgusting."
18:11  Notice issued to Parrikar's son for destroying forest area in Goa:  
The Panaji bench of the Bombay high court on Tuesday issued a notice to Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar's son, Abhijat, for allegedly destroying forest land in Goa.

Last week, deputy sarpanch of the Netravali panchayat, Abhijit Dessai, had filed a petition seeking a stay on the construction of the eco-resort promoted by Parrikar.

Dessai alleged that the project had caused the destruction of forested areas and that several laws had been by-passed and an ordinance had been specially moved by the Goa government to ensure fast-tracked facilitation of the project, which is spread over nearly 90,000 sq. mts, adjoining a wildlife sanctuary.

The notices were issued based on a petition filed against Abhijat for alleged destruction of forest area to construct an eco-resort located near the Netravali wildlife sanctuary in South Goa district, said Carlos Ferreira, advocate of Dessai.

Besides Abhijat, notices were also issued to six others involved in the case. He has been asked to file his reply by March 14. 

-- ANI
17:50  India signs contract for Sig Sauer assault rifles for army:  Defence Ministry: India signs contract for acquiring 72,000 Sig Sauer assault rifles for the Indian Army under fast-track procedures. 

PTI had reported that Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman approved the procurement of the Sig Sauer rifles, which will be used by troops deployed along the nearly 3,600-km border with China.

They said the rifles, being used by US forces as well as several other European countries, are being bought under the fast-track procurement procedure.

"The contract is expected to be finalised within a week. The US firm will have to deliver the rifles within one year from the date of finalising the deal," said a senior official involved in negotiation of the deal said.Army sources said the US-manufactured rifles will replace the INSAS rifles. 

The world's second-largest standing Army has been pressing for fast-tracking the procurement of various weapons systems considering the evolving security threats, including along India's borders with Pakistan and China.
17:34  Facts deliberately twisted: Ambani's company on Rahul allegations:  Anil Ambani's Reliance Defence company on Tuesday rubbished Congress President Rahul Gandhi's charge that the industrialist had prior information about the signing of the Rafale deal and said the facts are being "deliberately twisted and reality being ignored".

In a statement, the company said the "purported email being referred by the Congress Party is regarding the discussion between Airbus and Reliance Defence regarding Civil & Defence Helicopter Programs under Make in India'." 

The statement came hours after Gandhi used a fresh media report to allege that Anil Ambani had prior information about the Rafale deal and that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had acted as a middleman for the industrialist.

Addressing a press conference in Mumbai this morning, Gandhi displayed some papers and said, "An email has come to light that states 'A. Ambani visited the (French Defence) Minister's office... Mentioned MoU in preparation and intention to sign during PM visit'. How is Anil Ambani meeting the French Defence Minister prior to Prime Minister's visit?"

Responding to this, the Reliance Defence spokesperson said, "Discussion on proposed MoU was clearly with reference to cooperation between Airbus Helicopter and Reliance. It had NO connection whatsoever with Government to Government Agreement between France and India for 36 Rafale aircraft."

The company spokesperson added: "It is in public domain that Airbus Helicopter has partnered with Mahindra for the Military Helicopter Program. Also, for the record, MoU for Rafale aircraft was signed between France and India on 25 January 2016 and not in April 2015."

Citing the media report, Gandhi had claimed that an Airbus executive wrote that Mr Anil Ambani met the French Defence Minister and told him 10 days before the Rafale deal was signed that he was going to get it.The Reliance Defence spokesperson said, "From the above, it is evident that the facts are being deliberately twisted and reality being ignored." -- ANI
17:18  Condemn arrogant attitude of BJP leaders: Mamata extends support to Akhilesh:  
Condemning the incident of Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav being stopped at Lucknow airport, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Tuesday said it happened because of "arrogant attitude of so-called BJP leaders".
"I've already spoken to @yadavakhilesh. We all condemn the arrogant attitude of the so-called #BJP leaders who didn't allow Akhilesh to address the students. Even @jigneshmevani80 was not allowed," Banerjee wrote on her Twitter handle.
"Where is the democracy in our country? And they are giving lessons to everybody!" she added.

The former Uttar Pradesh chief minister was stopped by authorities at Lucknow airport in a bid to prevent him from visiting Allahabad, triggering outrage by opposition parties in the state and elsewhere in the country.

Yadav said he was to fly to Allahabad from Chaudhary Charan Singh International Airport to attend an event at Allahabad University.

In a separate incident on Monday, Mevani's college cancelled its annual day function after the institution's trustees got protest calls against the Dalit leader being the chief guest. 

-- PTI
16:57  Former interim CBI director M N Rao leaves courtroom after serving day-long sentence in contempt case. Rao and CBI legal advisor S Bhasuram remained seated in courtroom till 4 pm as SC rejected AG's plea to allow them to leave at 3:40 pm.
16:31  Karol Bagh fire: Emergency exit of hotel locked, says Alphons:  
Union minister K J Alphons on Tuesday said the emergency exit of the Arpit Palace hotel, where 17 people were killed in a fire that broke out early Tuesday, was "too narrow" and also locked.
The minister, who visited the site of the tragedy in central Delhi's Karol Bagh locality, said he was sure that there would be violation of norms.

The Union tourism minister said there were a lot of wooden structures inside, which may have helped the fire spread. 
"When I headed to the emergency exit, I found that it had been locked yesterday (last night). Also, it was too narrow," he told reporters. 
"Obviously, even if people came to the emergency exit, they could not have escaped as it was too narrow and it was locked anyway," he said. 
Alphons said he spoke to the  mayor and asked him to check whether all regulations were in place and to take immediate action if there was any lapse on the part of the hotel management. 

-- PTI
15:58  Reliance Defence responds to Rahul's presser:  Reliance Defence spokesperson on Rahul Gandhi's presser this morning: "Purported email being referred by the Congress Party regarding the discussion between Airbus and Reliance Defence regarding civil and defence helicopter programmes under 'Make in India'. The discussion on the proposed MoU was clearly with reference to cooperation between Airbus Helicopter and Reliance. It had no connection whatsoever with government to government agreement between France and India for 36 Rafale aircraft." 
15:41  When the dynast lies, all join the chorus: Jaitley :  
Union minister Arun Jaitley's Facebook post today slamming Rahul Gandhi's 'lies' on the Rafale deal:

"Truth is both precious and sacrosanct. In mature democracies those who deliberately rely on falsehood are banished from public life. There is no doubt that with the changing socio-economic profile of India this will inevitably happen in India. 

"In modern world dynasties inherently have their limitations. Aspirational societies abhor kingdoms. They insist on accountability and performance. But the grand old party of Indian politics has sadly become a captive of a dynasty. Many of its senior leaders lack the courage and moral authority to advise the dynasts to change course. This trend started in early 1970s; climaxed during the Emergency and has continued ever since. The 'slave' mentality of senior leaders convinces them that they must only sing the song scripted by the dynast. A contrarian opinion will cost them their political career. When the dynast speaks lies, they all join the chorus.

"How many lies are necessary to be peddled to save a sinking dynasty? The contagion effect of falsehood is fairly large. It appears to have spread to other colleagues in the 'Mahajhootbandhan'. In relation to the Rafale deal where thousands of crores of public money has been saved, a new falsehood is manufactured on a daily basis. The latest is in relation to the present CAG and his participation in the decision making process of Rafale. In 2014-15, the present CAG was Secretary (Economic Affairs) in the Ministry of Finance. Being a senior most at one point of time, he was also designated as the Finance Secretary. I say this without fear of contradiction that no file or paper relating to the Rafale transaction ever reached him nor was he in any way, directly or indirectly, associated with the decision making on defence purchases. Expenditure to be incurred on purchases by various departments of the Government needs the approval of Secretary (Expenditure).

"Why then is the lie in relation to the CAG having a non-existent conflict of interest being raised? The dynast knows that his 500 crore vs 1600 crore kindergarten argument was a fictional story. No one would ever buy it because facts don't support it. Even before the contents of CAG report are known, a 'Peshbandi' attack on the institution of the CAG is launched. The dynast and his friends have in the past even attacked the Supreme Court when it rejected the writ petition on Rafale. The entire pricing argument was factually wrong. The procedure argument that there was no Defence Acquisition Council, no CCS, no Contract Negotiation Committee was a blatant lie. The Rs.30,000 crore favour to a private company is non-existent. The use of sliced document by a newspaper is unprecedented in the history. The use of an incomplete document is certainly not in consonance with the spirit of free speech. The 'no integrity pact' argument is belied by the fact that even in earlier purchases through inter-governmental agreement with Russia and the United States, such pacts were not there. Now without a shred of evidence, a fictional conflict of interest of the CAG is invented.

"How many more lies will be peddled to sustain a sinking dynast? India, certainly deserves better."
15:05  Finmin spent Rs 1157 cr in 2017-18 without Parl approval: CAG:  The Ministry of Finance spent Rs 1,157 crore on various heads during 2017-18 without obtaining prior approval of Parliament, the Comptroller and Auditor General report tabled in Parliament Tuesday said. Excess expenditure aggregating Rs 1,156.80 crore was incurred during 2017-18 without obtaining prior approval of Parliament, the CAG report 'Financial Audit' of the Accounts of the Union Government said. 

The report further noted that the Ministry of Finance did not devise a suitable mechanism in respect of new service/new instrument of service, which led to the extra spending. The Department of Economic Affairs under finance ministry failed to obtain legislative approval for augmenting provision (for extra expenditure), the report added. 

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in its 83rd report had also taken serious view on cases of augmentation of provision of object head 'grants-in-aid' and 'subsidies'. PAC noted that these serious lapses are a pointer towards faulty budget estimation and deficient observances of financial rules by the ministries/ departments concerned. There is an imperative need on the part of the Ministry of Finance to devise an effective mechanism for imposing financial discipline on all the ministries/departments so as to avoid recurrence of such serious lapses, CAG report said. "Despite the PAC recommendations, Ministry of Finance had not devised a suitable mechanism, as result of which, during 2017-18 in cases across 13 grants, there was excess expenditure over total authorisation aggregating to Rs 1,156.80 crore without obtaining approval of Parliament," as per the report. -- PTI
14:43  Delivery of first Rafale aircraft in September:   Notwithstanding the controversy, the Rafale fighter jet procurement process is on schedule and the first aircraft will be delivered to India in September this year, said an Indian Air Force official on Tuesday.

The delivery of the aircraft is slated to take place in France and would be brought to India, the official added.

Earlier in the day, IAF's Deputy Chief Air Marshal VS Chaudhari said that no sovereign guarantees were given by the Russians in the S-400 air missile system deal.

Later while briefing on the Vayu Shakti exercise, IAF Vice Chief Air Marshal Anil Khosla said, Rafale induction into the Air Force will give a big boost to our combat capabilities. -- ANI
14:23  Kolkata Police chief faces CBI questioning for fourth day in a row:  Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar is facing questioning in connection with the chit fund scam cases at the CBI office in Shillong on Tuesday for the fourth consecutive day. Kumar, who in being examined since Saturday, arrived shortly before 10:30 am at the CBI office in the city. He is being questioned in connection with his role in the alleged tampering of evidence in the Saradha scam, an official told PTI.

Kumar was examined along with former Trinamool Congress MP Kunal Ghosh for the past two days. The ex-MP was arrested in 2013 in the Saradha scam and has been out on bail since 2016. 

The questioning of Ghosh is over for the time being and he was allowed to return to Kolkata, a CBI official said. The Kolkata Police commissioner had already spent over 24 hours in the past three days inside the highly secured CBI office, facing questions relating to Saradha and Rose Valley chit fund scam cases.

The Supreme Court had directed Kumar on Tuesday to appear before the CBI and "faithfully" cooperate in the investigation of cases arising out of the Saradha chit fund scam. The court chose Shillong as a neutral meeting place "to avoid all unnecessary controversy" and made it clear that Kumar would not be arrested. 
14:14  HC notice to Parrikar's son:  Panaji bench of Bombay HC today issued notices to Goa CM Manohar Parrikar's son Abhijat, in connection with a petition filed against him for alleged destruction of forest area for construction of an eco-resort located near the Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary in South Goa district.
14:08  SC's unusual punishment to Nageswara Rao guilty of contempt of court :  The Supreme Court Tuesday convicted and punished then acting CBI Director M Nageswara Rao and agency's legal advisor S Bhasuram by imposing a fine of Rs 1 lakh each and sentenced them to sit in the courtroom till the rising of the court for committing contempt of its orders. 

The apex court held them guilty of its contempt for wilfully disobeying its order by transferring CBI Joint Director A K Sharma, who was probing the Bihar shelter home sexual assault cases, as additional director general of CRPF on January 17. 

"In our considered view, it is a case where contempt has been committed by both the then acting CBI Director, M N Rao, and the director prosecution (of the agency)" a bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said. Holding them guilty of contempt of court, the bench, comprising justices L N Rao and Sanjiv Khanna, said, "We could not have done anything else." It said, "We have heard Rao and Bhasuram for commission of contempt of court and we impose one lakh fine and sentence them till the rising of the court". "Go to one corner of the court and sit down till the rising of this court," the CJI said.

Before passing the order, the bench told Rao and Bhasuram they have been held guilty of contempt of court and it was not accepting the unconditional and unqualified apology tendered by them. It also gave option to Rao and Bhasuram to say something as the sentence for them could be 30 days in jail.

"Do you have to say something" the bench asked them. At this point, Attorney General K K Venugopal, appearing for CBI and its officers, requested the court to look into other options as per the law and sought leniency for them. "To err is human, to forgive is divine," Venugopal said. Rejecting the defence of the two officers, the bench said though they have tendered an unconditional and unqualified apology, "we don't agree with the contentions raised by them".

During the hearing, the bench observed that Rao was aware of the apex court direction that the CBI officer probing the shelter home sexual assault cases cannot be transferred without its consent. 

However, his "attitude is 'I have done what I thought was required'," the bench said. "This is a blatant contempt of court. If this is not contempt of court then what is," asked the bench. The court had on February 7 come down heavily on the CBI for transferring Sharma out of the agency in violation of the court's order. It had also taken note of the violation of two earlier orders and issued contempt notice to Rao. -- PTI
14:00  Rahul a lobbyist for foreign firms: BJP on Rafale accusations :  The BJP Tuesday dismissed Rahul Gandhi's allegations against Narendra Modi on the Rafale jet deal as height of shamelessness and irresponsibility, and asserted that the e-mail he cited to criticise the prime minister referred to some chopper deal and not the purchase of the fighter aircraft. 

Senior party leader and Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad also put Airbus, whose internal e-mail was cited by the Congress president, in a dock, saying the European aircraft manufacturer is under a needle of suspicion in deals finalised during the previous Congress-led government. He asked Gandhi to answer how he got hold of the company's internal communication and accused him of acting as a "lobbyist" of foreign firms. 

Speaking to reporters soon after Gandhi's press conference, Prasad also took strong exception to the Congress leader charging Modi with "treason". The BJP leader said his party had serious differences with former prime ministers, who came from the Gandhi family, over several "murky" defence deals signed during their term but never accused them of treason.

"He (Rahul Gandhi) has thrown muck at his own face by abusing our honest prime minister... We will expose his lies before the public," he said. Earlier Tuesday, Gandhi accused Modi of acting as a "middleman" of Anil Ambani in the Rafale jet deal, as he cited the e-mail to claim the businessman was aware of the MoU before India and France signed it. He also accused Modi of "treason". -- PTI
13:49  Contempt case against Ambani to be heard tomorrow :   The Supreme Court Tuesday adjourned for tomorrow the hearing on a contempt notice issued to Reliance Communication Ltd (RCom) Chairman Anil Dhirubhai Ambani and others on a plea filed by Ericsson India for allegedly not clearing its dues of Rs 550 crore. 

Ambani, Reliance Telecom Ltd Chairman Satish Seth and Reliance Infratel Ltd Chairperson Chhaya Virani appeared before a bench of Justices R F Nariman and Vineet Saran in pursuance to the contempt notice issued against them. 

The bench said it will continue hearing the contempt plea tomorrow due to paucity of time and assembling of a special bench in the post lunch session. 

During the brief hearing, senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for Ericsson India, said there was gross violation of apex court's two earlier orders and they (RCom) have not paid any outstanding dues. The bench asked the three alleged contemnors to remain present in court tomorrow. 
-- PTI
13:19  Books worth Rs 21 cr sold at International Kolkata Book Fair:  The 12-day-long International Kolkata Book Fair has registered a record sale of Rs 21 crore, the organisers said. It was Rs 1 crore more than the sales figure at the book fair in 2018, according to data available till Monday evening.

Curtains came down on the annual event on Monday. Altogether 23 lakh people had visited the book fair, since its inauguration on January 31. 

Russia will be the focal theme country of the 44th International Kolkata Book Fair to be held in 2019, the organising body, the Publishers and Book Sellers Guild, said. 

A delegation of writers from Russia had attended the Book Fair and the literature festival in past editions and the two countries share cultural ties, Guild general secretary Tridib Chatterjee said. 

The next edition of the International Kolkata Book Fair will therefore fittingly make Russia as the theme country which will be in sync with the tradition to name one theme country every year to create awareness about that nation among the people and boost cultural ties, Chatterjee said. 

He was addressing the closing ceremony of the 43rd International Kolkata Book Fair. Guatemala was the theme country of the 43rd International Kolkata Book Fair in 2019. -- PTI
13:15  UP govt stops Akhilesh Yadav from flying to Allahabad:   Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav on Monday claimed he was stopped at Chaudhary Charan Singh International Airport in a bid to prevent him from visiting Allahabad to attend an oath-taking ceremony at Allahabad University. 

"The government is afraid of oath ceremony of a student leader and is stopping me at the airport to prevent me from visiting Allahabad," Yadav claimed. He also posted photographs in his official Twitter handle in which he was seen talking to police officers inside the airport. He said he had to attend an oath-taking ceremony at Allahabad university. When asked, Airport Director AK Sharma said, "I have no such information."

UP CM Yogi Adityanath, speaking to ANI said the SP should refrain from its anarchist activities. "Allahabad University requested that Akhilesh Yadavs visit may create law and order problem because of the dispute between student organisations. Hence the government took this step."

The matter rocked the Uttar Pradesh legislature. As soon as Samajwadi Party members came to know about their national president being stopped at the airport, they tried to raise the matter during Question Hour in the assembly. 

"The present regime is trying to kill democracy and stop our leader from visiting Allahabad," SP leader Narendra Verma said. The members also trooped into the Well of the House due to which Speaker Hriday Narain Dixit adjourned the proceedings for 20 minutes during the Question Hour. The matter was also raised in the Legislative Council, leading to the adjournment of the House for 25 minutes during the pre-lunch sitting. PTI
12:16  CAG is Chowkidar Auditor General, says Rahul :  
Congress president Rahul Gandhi attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Rafale fighter jet deal a day after repeating his allegation of corruption in the 36-jet deal. 

"Dear Students & the Youth of India: Everyday there are new revelations about RAFALE that make it clear that the PM helped his friend Anil Ambani, steal 30,000 Cr of your money," Mr Gandhi tweeted shortly before his press conference.

At the presser, Gandhi reiterated his refrain of the watchman being a thief -- Chowkidar chor hai and held up an email to bizman Anil Ambani from an Airbus executive.  

"Narendra Modiji is acting as the middleman of Anil Ambani. This email is clear. An Airbus executive wrote that Mr Anil Ambani met the French Defence Minister and told him 10 days before the Rafale deal was signed that he was going to get it. Now PM needs to answer how did Anil Ambani know 10 days in advance of the Rafale deal? 

"Defence Minister, HAL, Foreign Secy don't know but Anil Ambani knew. If this is true then PM is in violation of the Official Secrets Act and criminal action must be initiated on this basis. 

"This is now treason. Mr Narendra Modi is doing what spies do, he is informing somebody of a defence matter. He is under oath to protect these secrets."

Rahul Gandhi rejected the CAG report on Rafale, dubs it 'Chowkidar Auditor General' report. "The Supreme Court said it clearly that it is not our jurisdiction. SC ne 'Chowkidar Auditor Report' ko quote kar diya. Frankly, Supreme Court judgement is open to question now."

Yesterday, Rahul Gandhi met Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu who was on a day-long fast in the capital to express his solidarity with Mr Naidu over his demand for  special status for Andhra Pradesh 
11:39  Delhi govt orders fire-safety check of high rises after hotel fire:  The Delhi government has ordered a magisterial probe into a massive fire at a hotel in central Delhi's Karol Bagh area on Tuesday in which at least 17 people were killed, its Home Minister Satyendar Jain said. 

Jain, who visited the Arpit Palace Hotel where the fire broke out in the early hours of the morning, told reporters that he has also directed the fire department to inspect buildings which are five floors or more and submit a report on their fire safety compliance within a week. 

"We have ordered for a magisterial inquiry into the case. Seventeen people have died, most of them of suffocation. Apparently, there were lapses (from the hotel administration's side) and action will taken against those found guilty," he said.

Generally, four floors are allowed for such establishments, the minister said. "We saw a canopy was put up on the terrace and tables and chairs were laid out. Inside in the rooms, wooden panels were there on the walls," Jain said. "So I have also directed the fire department to inspect such multi-storeyed buildings which have five floors or more and submit a report in a week's time," he said. 

The blaze that swept through the hotel in Gurudwara Road in central Delhi's Karol Bagh killed at least 17 people, police said. A call about the fire was received at 4.35 am and 24 fire tenders were rushed to the spot, a senior officer from the Delhi Fire Service said. -- PTI
11:18  Contempt notice: Nageswara Rao reaches SC:   M Nageswara Rao reaches the Supreme Court to appear in connection with the contempt notice issued against him by the court for transferring the CBI officer probing the Bihar shelter home cases. The court had issued the notice to Rao for transferring joint director A K Sharma out of CBI.

Rao on Monday admitted that as interim chief of the CBI he committed a "mistake" in transferring Sharma and apologised to the top court, saying he had no intention to circumvent its orders. Rao, who filed an affidavit in response to the contempt notice issued to him on February 7, said he was praying for an unconditional and unqualified apology by the court. -- PTI
11:11  Rafale report likely to be tabled in Parl today:   The pricing of the Rafale jet fighter deal is likely to be mentioned in redacted form -- which is without absolute numbers and with variables such as x, y and z -- in a Comptroller and Auditor General report, which may be tabled in Parliament on Tuesday.

'Priyanka Gandhi Zindabad' and 'Chowkidaar Chor Hai' slogans raised outside the ED office. 

The report will also be on 10 other capital acquisitions by the Air Force, sources said. The report will be in two volumes, with one of them dealing with the 10 acquisitions and the other one on the Rafale deal. However, the two volumes will be in one copy. 

Sources said the CAG had sent its report to President Ram Nath Kovind and the finance ministry. The ministry will prepare a brief on the report and send it to the president, who will then give instructions for it to be tabled in Parliament. 

Indivjal Dhasmana/Business Standard 
11:03  Priyanka accompanies husband, ma-in-law to ED office :  Robert Vadra, his mother Maureen reach ED office in Jaipur for questioning in the Bikaner land scam probe. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra accompanies them. 

The deposition, on the directions of the Rajasthan High Court, comes after the ED grilled Vadra over three days at its headquarters in the national capital in connection with a money laundering case.

Vadra, the brother-in-law of Congress president Rahul Gandhi, had moved the court seeking no coercive action against him and his mother, after which the HC had directed them to join the ED's probe in the case. The duo had arrived in Jaipur on Monday.
10:41  Vadra slams govt for harassing 'senior citizen mother':   Ahead of questioning in Jaipur by the Enforcement Directorate, Robert Vadra on Tuesday launched a scathing attack on the Centre for 'harassing a senior citizen' -- his mother Maureen Vadra. 

Vadra, along with his mother, is scheduled to appear before the ED in Jaipur in connection with a probe into an alleged land scam in Rajasthan's Bikaner on Tuesday.

In a Facebook post, Vadra, the son-in-law of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, also questioned why the "vindictive government" did not act in the past four years and 8 months and why he was called before the campaigning commenced for the Lok Sabha elections.

He said, "So here we are my 75-year-old mother n me in Jaipur to depose in front of the Enforcement Directorate. Not understanding the lows of this vindictive government to be harassing a senior citizen, who the world knows has lost her daughter in a car crash, her ailing son to diabetes, and her husband as well. Three deaths n all I did was to ask her to spend time with me in my office, so I can look after her and we both could grieve on our losses while spending time together. Now she is being accused, maligned and called to be interrogated, for spending time in my office.

"Since I have already been interrogated for 3 days in Delhi headquarters, of the Enforcement Directorate. If there was any issue or any illegality, which was found by the government, why did it take them 4 years n 8 months, to call me a month before campaigning begins for the General elections? Do they think people in India do not view it as an election gimmick ?! As I always have adhered to rules and overall being a disciplined person," Vadra wrote on Facebook. -- ANI
10:22  Academy to have four Oscar presentations during commercial Breaks:  The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) has confirmed that four Oscars presentations have been set for commercial breaks of the 91st awards ceremony. According to Variety, awards in the categories - best cinematography, film editing, live action short and makeup and hairstyling will be announced during the ads. The winning speeches will edited to remove the winners' walk from their seats to the stage and each speech will be aired separately later in the telecast. Academy president John Bailey informed the membership of the plans in a letter emailed on Monday. He also explained that the four delayed presentations will be streamed live online via Oscars official website. He said that the board of governors has committed to a three-hour show this year.
10:20  Amit Shah flags of BJP's Gujarat campaign :  BJP President Amit Shah flags off the 'Mera Pariwar, Bhajpa Pariwar' campaign from his residence in Ahmedabad. Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani also present. 

Shah unfurled the party flag as part of the campaign. The BJP also intends to hoist the party flag at the houses of voters under this mass outreach drive.

BJP's Gujarat in-charge for the Lok Sabha elections Om Mathur, state president Jitu Vaghani, Gujarat deputy CM Nitin Patel will attend the event. 

The campaign will be formally kicked off from Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay auditorium, where the BJP chief will address party workers on the preparation of the Lok Sabha elections, due in April-May this year, it said.

Later in the day, Shah will attend a cluster meeting of party leaders in Godhra for Panchmahal, Dahod and Chhota Udepur Lok Sabha seats in central Gujarat. Incharges of the three LS seats, party office-bearers, sitting and former MLAs and MPs from the region, will attend the meeting
09:51  China, Russia pose challenge to US space capabilities: Pentagon:  
China and Russia have developed robust and capable space services and the two countries pose a challenge and threat to the space capabilities of the US, the Pentagon has said.
Chinese and Russian military doctrines indicate they view space as important to modern warfare and counterspace capabilities as a means to reduce US and allied military effectiveness, the Pentagon said in a report released by the Defense Intelligence Agency.
The report "Challenges to Security in Space" examines the space and counterspace programmes that could challenge the US or partner interests in the space domain.
Noting that both countries have developed robust and capable space services, including space-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, the report said China and Russia were making improvements to existing systems including space launch vehicles and satellite navigation constellations.
"These capabilities provide their militaries with the ability to command and control their forces worldwide with enhanced situational awareness, enabling them to monitor, track and target US and allied forces," it said.
Running into more than 40 pages, the report mentions India a few times and describes China and Russia as a major challenger to the US, Iran and North Korea as other space challenges.
The Pentagon lists India as one of the nine countries and one international organisation which can independently launch spacecraft: China, India, Iran, Israel, Japan, Russia, North Korea, South Korea, the United States, and the European Space Agency (from French Guiana).
While the European Union, Russia and the US' satellite navigation constellations offer global coverage, Japan and India operate regional systems, it said.
China operates both a regional and worldwide satellite navigation system. -- PTI
09:45  Encounter underway between terrorists, security forces in J&K's Pulwama:  
An encounter broke out between terrorists and security forces in Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday, police said.
Security forces launched a cordon and search operation in Ratnipora area of Pulwama in south Kashmir during the night following specific information about the presence of militants there, a police official said.
He said the search operation turned into an encounter after terrorists fired on the forces who retaliated.
The exchange of fire was on, the official said, adding the area has been cordoned off and further details were awaited. -- PTI 
09:09  His name used to push painfully unpopular bill: Hazarika's son:  
Taking a swipe at the Bharatiya Janata Party, legendary Assamese singer-composer Bhupen Hazarika's son Tez Hazarika said on Monday his father's name and words were being invoked and celebrated publicly while plans were afoot to pass the "painfully unpopular" Citizenship (Amendment) Bill against the wish of the people of the Northeast.
In a Facebook post, Tez said the proposed legislation undermines the "documented position" of his father, who was awarded the country's highest civilian award Bharat Ratna posthumously by the Narendra Modi government last month.
"Numerous media journalists are now asking me whether or not I will accept the Bharat Ratna for my father. I go on record here to answer that A), I have not received any invitation so far there is nothing to reject. And B), how the Centre moves on this matter far outweighs in importance the awarding and receiving of such national recognition - a display of short lived cheap thrills," he wrote.
"For his fans - a vast majority of people of the Northeast - and India's great diversity including all indigenous populations of India, he would never have endorsed what appears, quite transparently, to be an underhanded way of pushing a law against the will and benefit of the majority in a manner that also seems to be grossly unconstitutional, undemocratic and un-Indian," said Tez, who resides in the US.
"I believe that my father's name and words are being invoked and celebrated publicly while plans are afoot to pass a painfully unpopular bill regarding citizenship that is actually undermining his documented position. It would in reality be in direct opposition to what Bhupenda believed in his heart of hearts," he said, without naming any political party.
"Adopting any form of this bill at this point in the manner in which it is being proffered, now or in the future, will ultimately have the sad and undesirable effect of not only disrupting the quality of life, language, identity and power balance of the region, but that of undermining my father's position - by delivering a wreaking blow to the harmony, inner integrity and unity of the secular and democratic Republic of India," he said.
The BJP government at the Centre has been pitching for the early passage of the legislation, which promises Indian citizenship to religious minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. It has triggered massive protests across the Northeast with many organisations and parties claiming that it would have a negative impact on the demography of the region.
"Bharat Ratna and longest bridges, while necessary, will not promote the peace and prosperity of the citizens of India. Only just popular laws and foresight on the part of the leadership will," Tez added.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently inaugurated Bogibeel Bridge -- the country's longest railroad bridge -- in Assam. -- PTI
08:30  9 dead as fire breaks out at hotel in Delhi's Karol Bagh:  
At least nine people, including a child, were killed after a major fire broke out in Hotel Arpit Palace in Delhi's Karol Bagh area in the wee hours of Tuesday.

According to the fire department, seven men, a woman and child died in the blaze. 

More than 20 fire tenders were rushed to the spot and rescue operations were underway.

"The fire has been doused. We have to look for bodies, if any, inside the hotel. Those injured have been sent to hospital. Two hotel staff members had jumped from the fourth floor of the hotel in an attempt to save themselves. The status of the staff who jumped is yet to be known." deputy chief fire Officer Sunil Choudhary told ANI.
00:32  Bombay HC extends Teltumbde's protection from arrest:  
The Bombay high court on Monday extended Dalit scholar Anand Teltumbde's interim protection from arrest till February 22 and directed the Pune Police to release him on a personal bond and surety in case he is arrested before the next hearing.

Teltumbde, who is facing arrest by the Pune Police in the Elgar Parishad-Bhima Koregaon case, was granted time till February 11 to exhaust all his legal remedies seeking protection from arrest.

He had approached the high court earlier this year, seeking anticipatory bail.

While his bail plea was opposed by the Pune Police, who urged that Teltumbde be denied any relief, the court accepted the scholar's request for an adjournment of the hearing, and protected him from arrest until the next hearing on February 22.

On February 5, the Pune Police was directed by Justice N W Sambre to file an affidavit listing down the grounds on which it was opposing Teltumbde's anticipatory bail plea.

Justice Sambre had also directed the police to give a copy of its affidavit to Teltumbde's counsel, Mihir Desai, by February 8.

The state's counsel, Aruna Pai, who appeared for the Pune Police, however, gave the affidavit to Desai only on Monday and hence, Justice Sambre granted an adjournment to the defence counsel.

In its affidavit, police reiterated that the court must not grant protection from arrest to Teltumbde as it had ample incriminating evidence against him.

It added that the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) did not allow granting anticipatory bail to those booked under it.

Advocate Pai told the court that earlier last year, Teltumbde had filed another plea in the high court in which he had denied all charges against him and had sought quashing of the FIR against him in the case.        However, another bench had rejected the plea.

Desai has maintained that the law provides for anticipatory bail even under the UAPA in 'exceptional cases'.

On February 2, the Pune Police arrested Teltumbde from the Mumbai airport at around 3 am.

His arrest was deemed illegal by a sessions court since interim protection from arrest granted to him by the Supreme Court had not expired. He was later released.

The Elgar Parishad-Bhima Koregaon case was registered by the Pune Police following an incident of violence near Pune between December 31, 2017 and January 1, 2018.

According to police, the Elgar Parishad event on December 31, 2017 led to violent clashes the next day at Bhima Koregaon.

Police claim that the event was funded and supported by Maoists.

Some activists made inflammatory speeches and provocative statements that contributed to the Bhima Koregaon violence at the event, the police said.

Several activists were named in the FIR.

Some of them, including Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj, P Varavara Rao and Gautam Navlakha, were initially put under house arrest on the directions of the Supreme Court.

However, all of them, except Navlakha, were re-arrested and taken into custody by the police recently.

In October this year, another FIR was registered by the Pune Police in the case, naming eight more activists, including Teltumbde and Stan Swamy.

The police also claimed to have seized four letters from the houses of these activists in which they allegedly discussed a plan to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  -- PTI

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