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LIVE! INX Media: CBI to file chargesheet against Chidambaram

February 22, 2019

23:19  INX Media: CBI to file chargesheet against Chidambaram:  
The Central Bureau of Investigation is likely to file a chargesheet in the INX media foreign investment clearance case as it has received sanction from the Centre to prosecute former finance minister P Chidambaram, under whose tenure approval for it was given, officials said on Friday.

They said after clearance from the Centre, giving a go-ahead to the agency to press charges against Chidambaram, the CBI might soon proceed with the filing of the chargesheet.

The CBI had registered an FIR on May 15, 2017 against alleged irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance to INX Media for receiving overseas funds to the tune of Rs 305 crore in 2007, when Chidambaram was the finance minister.

The Law Ministry had told the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) that there was 'no legal infirmity' in the agency's request seeking prosecution sanction.

This view has now been communicated to the CBI, they said.        Chidambaram was not listed as an accused in the FIR registered by the agency.

The Prevention of Corruption Act mandates an investigating agency to get prior sanction from competent authority for prosecution of an accused public servant.

The agency had registered the FIR against Karti Chidamabaram, his company Chess Management Services, Peter Mukerjea and Indrani Mukerjea, INX Media, Advantage Strategic Consulting Services and its Director Padma Vishwanathan.

Both the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate are investigating the foreign investment clearance granted to the Aircel-Maxis deal in 2006 and the INX Media in 2007.

The government has already given sanction to prosecute Chidambaram in the Aircel-Maxis case.

Chidambaram had denied allegations of any wrongdoing in clearing the foreign investment proposals of these companies.

According to the CBI, INX Media stated in its records that Rs 10 lakh was given to Advantage Strategic Consulting (P) Limited, a firm 'indirectly' owned by Karti, for management consultancy charged towards FIPB notification and clarification.

The FIR also alleges that invoices of approximately Rs 3.5 crore were raised in favour of the INX group in the name of other companies in which Karti had substantial interests 'directly or indirectly'.

The allegations levelled by the CBI are based on the information given by 'source', the first information report has claimed.

INX Media was seeking investment from Mauritius, an official had explained.

The investment was allowed by the FIPB board and the finance minister with the condition that only Rs 4.62 crore could be received, he had said after registration of the FIR.

For investment in INX News Pvt Ltd a separate proposal was required, he had said.

The company allegedly violated the conditions set by the FIPB and received investment to the tune of 26 per cent in the capital of INX News which included foreign investment.

It allegedly generated more than Rs 305 crore of FDI in INX Media against the approved inflow of Rs 4.62 crore by issuing shares to foreign investors at a premium of more than Rs 800 per share, the FIR had said.

The violation prompted an Income Tax Department probe. INX Media claimed that the investment was done as per FIPB conditions, it had said.

In order to wriggle out of the situation without any punitive action, INX Media entered into a criminal conspiracy with Karti whose father was the finance minister of the country, the agency has alleged.

Officials, by virtue of the influence exercised over them by Karti, not only ignored serious illegalities on the part of INX Media but also showed undue favours by abusing their official position and advised the company to file for a fresh clearance, the FIR had claimed.

Chidambaram had issued a strong rebuttal to the allegations after the FIR was filed and searches were carried out on May 16, 2017.

He had said the government was using the CBI and other agencies to target his son. FIPB approval was granted in 'hundreds of cases', the senior Congress leader had said.  -- PTI
22:49  Stalin, Rajini visit DMDK chief Vijayakanth:  
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam president M K Stalin and top actor Rajinikanth on Friday called on Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam chief Vijayakanth who had recently returned from the United States following medical treatment.

With negotiations between the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu and DMDK over a poll deal for the coming Lok Sabha elections proving inconclusive, the DMK chief's visit at this juncture assumes significance.

When asked if he would welcome DMDK into his party alliance, Stalin said, "I appreciate and thank you for yourgood intentions," but did not elaborate.

The DMK chief said he did not visit Vijayakanth to discuss politics but to enquire about his health on humanitarian grounds.

Days ago, Bharatiya Janata Party top leader and Tamil Nadu election incharge Piyush Goyal had met with Vijayakanth.

Rajinikanth too said he visited Vijayakanth to enquire about his health.

"He is a nice man," the top actor said, adding the DMDK chief has recuperated well and 'is in good health'.

The actor, who is expected to launch a political party,said there was absolutely 'nothing political', in his visit.

While the AIADMK concluded its poll deal with the BJP and Pattali Makkal Katchi by allotting five and seven seats to them respectively on February 19, its talks with DMDK and other smaller outfits are yet to be formalised.  -- PTI
22:28  Jawan killed in Himachal avalanche cremated; five others still missing:  
The last rites of Army jawan Rakesh Kumar, who was killed in an avalanche near Shipki La on Wednesday, was performed in his native village in Himachal Pradesh on Friday even as five others trapped in the snow are still untraceable, officials said.

Six jawans of the Army's 7 JAK Rifles -- four from Himachal Pradesh and one each from Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir -- were buried under the avalanche that occurred near the Shipki La border outpost in Kinnaur district around 11 am on Wednesday.

Kumar's body was recovered on the same day.

The search operation could not carried out on Thursday due to bad weather.

Meanwhile, a fresh avalanche of about 120 metres in length and 20 metres in height hit the Tinku Nullah area in Kinnaur district on Friday, district public relations officer Mamta Negi said, adding that no loss of life or property was reported.

Kumar's mortal remains were consigned to flames in Bilaspur district by his son, Manish, officials said.

Thousands of people, including from neighbouring areas, paid their last respects to Kumar at the Ghumarpur village crematorium.

Kumar's body was airlifted from Pooh in Kinnaur district to Bilaspur at 12.10 pm, Negi said.

A ceremony in the honour of the jawan was held in Kinnaur, where Army, civil and police officers paid their last respects to him, she said.

Over 200 personnel of the Army, General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), police and the home guard have been deployed in the search operation, Negi said.  -- PTI
21:29  Charges framed against Virbhadra Singh, trial to begin on April 3:  
A Delhi court on Friday framed charges of criminal misconduct and amassing disproportionate assets of over Rs 10 crore against former Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh, paving the way for commencement of much-awaited trial in the case.

The veteran Congress leader, to whom the charges were read out by Special Central Bureau of Investigaiton judge Arun Bhardwaj, claimed innocence and said that instead of pleading guilty he will face trial in the assets case.

The court fixed April 3, 4 and 5 for the CBI to start recording statements of the witnesses in the case.

"Today, the case is listed for recording plea of the accused no 1, Virbhadra Singh and accused no 3 Anand Chauhan to the charge framed against them pursuant to order passed on December 10, 2018," the court said.

Charges have been read and explained to the accused to which they pleaded not guilty and claimed trial, it said.During the hearing, Virbhadra and his wife Pratibha Singh, who were present in the court, moved a plea seeking permanent exemption from appearing in the court during the trial of the case.

The court asked CBI to file its reply on their plea before the next date of hearing.In a separate case filed by the Enforcement Directorate, the agency filed third supplementary charge sheet against Virbhadra in a money laundering case.

The court said it would take up the matter on March 18.

ED's supplementary charge sheet was filed through advocates Nitesh Rana and N K Matta.

The court had on December 10 last year ordered framing of charges against Singh for alleged criminal misconduct and amassing disproportionate assets of over Rs 10 crore, saying he intended to cause loss to the tax authorities by presenting unaccounted money as sale proceeds of apples.

Apart from the two offences under the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act, the court had said that prima facie charges of alleged forgery and attempt to cheat under the Indian Penal Code were also made out against the 82-year-old Congress leader and former Union minister.

The court had also ordered framing of charges against Pratibha Singh, and seven others for allegedly abetting in the offences.

After the formal framing of charges, the court commences trial in the case.

The other seven accused are LIC agent Anand Chauhan, Chunni Lal Chauhan, Joginder Singh Ghalta, Prem Raj, Vakamulla Chandrasekhar, Lawan Kumar Roach and Ram Prakash Bhatia.

The court in its 105 page order said that Virbhadra Singh and Anand Chauhan 'fraudulently and dishonestly' signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) by ante-dating it to give an impression that it was signed on June 15, 2008 by them.   -- PTI
20:46  NDRF constable who saved man from drowning in Kumbh dies:  
A constable of the National Disaster Response Force who sustained a severe spinal injury while saving a pilgrim from drowning in the Kumbh Mela died in a Delhi hospital on Friday, a senior NDRF official said.

Constable Rajender Gautam, 36, a resident of Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh, died around 5.30 am at the Safdarjung Hospital, NDRF Inspector General L Ravi Joseph told PTI.

On February 19, he jumped into the waters of the Sangam, a confluence of the Ganga Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati, to rescue an elderly man.

"Gautam was on duty at the Kumbh Mela on February 19 when he saw an old pilgrim struggling in the water. He had crossed the safety barrier to take a holy dip in the river waters near Someshawara Ghat.

"Gautam was on an NDRF boat and jumped into the river without caring for his own life," Joseph said.

Though the pilgrim was saved, Gautam was severely injured in the spine.

"He was first rushed to a local hospital and from there referred to the Swaroop Rani Hospital in Allahabad," Joseph said.

"Considering the severity of his condition, he was moved to Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital in an Uttar Pradesh government air ambulance on February 19 itself," he added.

The following day, Gautam underwent a surgery and was in 'recovery mode'.

However, his condition started to deteriorate in the early hours of Friday and doctors couldn't save him despite their best efforts, the IG said.

"We are awaiting the arrival of his wife from Himachal Pradesh. After that, his mortal remains will be taken to his native place for the last rites," Joseph said.

NDRF Director General S N Pradhan and several senior officials of the rescue force gathered at the New Delhi Municipal Council's Convention Centre in New Delhi to pay their last respects to the constable.

"Constable Rajender Gautam laid down his life in selfless service to the nation and to humanity as a whole. The courage and dedication shown by him has been exemplary and he indeed lived up to the motto of the NDRF -- 'Saving Lives and Beyond'," Joseph said while paying tribute.

Many civilians and several scouts and guides, who had come to attend a function on World Scout Day, also joined in in mourning his untimely death.

NDRF personnel paid tribute to their colleague by blowing the ceremonial bugle and lowering their guns.

Gautam belonged to the NDRF's 9th Battalion stationed in Patna.  -- PTI
20:43  Parliament library loneliest place on earth: Varun Gandhi:  
Bharatiya Janata Party MP Varun Gandhi on Friday said he feels the library located at Parliament is the 'loneliest place' on earth as members seldom visit it.

Speaking at an Indian School of Business policy conclave 'Road to 2019' in Hyderabad, he said while the country is brimming with younger population, the average age of the Parliamentarians is increasing.

"I often go to the Parliament library because that is supposed to be one of the repositories of knowledge and I promise you, every time I go, I feel it is the loneliest place on earth," he said.

"Everytime I go there, the librarian hugs me, because she hasn't seen a person in about 10 days," he said, stressing the importance and need for lawmakers to gain knowledge.

He further said the average salary of MPs has been increasing every term since 1952. According to him, Parliament used to meet for 145 days a year, from 1950 to 1972.

Then, it came to 65 days a year during the past 20 years.

"In the last 20 years, 64 per cent of all legislation passed in Parliament have been done without one second of deliberation and 71 per cent of the Bills have been passed without sending them to any standing committee," he said.

He said ever since he became an MP, he has been donating his salary to the needy people and writing to other members whose annual income was above Rs 20 crore to give up their remuneration for which he did not get any response. -- PTI
20:09  Pak claims to have taken over control of Jaish headquarters:  
Pakistan Government claims that the government of Punjab has taken over the control of a campus (Jaish-e-Mohammed headquarters) comprising Madressatul Sabir and Jama-e-Masjid Subhanallah in Bahawalpur.

More details awaited.  -- ANI
19:39  UGC writes to varsities to ensure safety of Kashmiri students:  
In the wake of attack on Kashmiri students after the Pulwama incident, the University Grants Commission on Friday wrote to vice-chancellors of varsities across the country to ensure their safety on campus and to maintain peace and harmony.

The UGC was directed by the Human Resource Development Ministry on Thursday to issue an advisory to all the universities to ensure that the security of Kashmiri students is not compromised.

"In the context of reports being received through various media regarding the safety of students from Kashmir studying in various higher educational institutions, all universities and colleges affiliated to them are advised to ensure the safety and protection of the students on the campus.

"They may keep a watch on the situation and seek support of law and order machinery in case of any untoward incident," the UGC letter said.

The letter also requested the vice-chancellors 'to look into the matter personally for the safely of the students and maintaining peace and harmony in universities/colleges'.

The announcement comes two days after Kashmiri students studying in a college in Yavatmal in Maharashtra were attacked and threatened allegedly by members of the Yuva Sena, the youth wing of the Shiv Sena.

41 Central Reserve Police Force personnel were killed in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district on February 14 when a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) suicide bomber rammed a vehicle carrying over 100 kg of explosives into their bus.

AICTE chairman Anil Sahasrabuddhe said, "From the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) also we have checked with all the regional officers about the students who have been sent on scholarships and there has been absolutely no problem."

"Every college where there are students admitted under the Prime Minister's Special Scholarship Scheme (PMSSS) (scholarship to help Kashmiri students), we have asked one of the faculty members to be a counsellor so that there is no fear psychosis.

"That process of integration has been started two years back," he added.

HRD Higher Education Secretary R Subramanyam said there are more than 8,600 Kashmiri students under the PMSS scheme in 600-odd institutions and AICTE and PMSSS teams are always in contact with them.

When questioned about students fleeing from institutes, he said, "We do not want to hold anyone. Our idea is to provide congenial atmosphere to study. In the last two years, AICTE has taken several steps to ensure that good quality institutions are selected and they are provided hostels."

"Despite this if someone wants to go back, our intention is not to hold them or put them in a prison. If there is any fear, we are here to support. The government is spending hundreds of crores on their education so where is the question of leaving them without adequate protection," R Subramanyam said.

While several Kashmiri students from different cities have been slapped with sedition charges for allegedly supporting the Pulwama terror attack, two colleges in Dehradun have decided not to admit those from the Valley, with students saying they were in a state of fear after the incident.  -- PTI
19:26  HC extends protection from arrest to Teltumbde till Feb 27:  
The Bombay high court on Friday extended till February 27 the interim protection from arrest granted to activist and academic Anand Teltumbde.

While Teltumbde's plea seeking anticipatory bail was listed for hearing on Friday, a single bench presided over by Justice N W Sambre adjourned the hearing and extended Teltumbde's protection at the request of the latter's counsel.

Teltumbde is one of the 22 accused in the Elgar Parishad-Bhima Koregaon case. Pune police has charged Teltumbde and others for various offences, including having links with banned Maoist organisations.

The high court had earlier directed Teltumbde to appear before the investigating officer in the case on February 14 and 18, and to cooperate with the investigation till his plea is finally decided.

Teltumbde was arrested on February 3 after his anticipatory bail plea was rejected by a Pune court, but released hours later when a city sessions court termed his arrest 'illegal' after noting that the Supreme Court had granted him time till February 11 to exhaust all his legal remedies seeking protection.

He then moved the high court to seek a pre-arrest bail.

According to police, Maoists had supported the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017, and the inflammatory speeches there led to violent clashes at the Koregaon Bhima war memorial in the district the next day.  -- PTI

Photograph: Sahil Salvi
19:11  Cong will try to build Ram temple if elected to power : Rawat:  
Describing Congress as the only party which had taken serious steps in the past towards construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya, All India Congress Committee general secretary Harish Rawat said on Friday that the party will try its best to fulfill the demand if it comes to power at the Centre after the Lok Sabha polls.

"My statement on Ayodhya is already in public domain. I have been saying that if elected to power at the Centre, the congress will try its best to build a Ram temple there. My stand on the issue should also be considered as the party's view," Rawat said at a press conference in Dehradun.

He said even senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy had acknowledged the fact during an interaction with him that it was the Congress which had made serious efforts towards construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya twice while in power.

Accusing the BJP of doing politics over the issue, he said the Centre should play the role of facilitator on the construction of a temple.

Targeting the BJP over the Pulwama terror attack, Rawat said the saffron party was giving the tag of being a nationalist only to Prime Minister Narendra Modi which was wrong.

"Why is only Prime Minister Modi being reckoned as a nationalist. I have strong objection to it. Every citizen of India is a nationalist. I am also a nationalist and so are you," he said, adding that the entire nation stands together over the martyrdom of the soldiers.

Reacting to the budget for Uttarakhand tabled by the state government, the former chief minister expressed disappointment over it saying there was nothing new in it except that some old proposals moved by his government had been incorporated into it under new names.

He said the scheme of reviving NGOs which was introduced during his tenure has been incorporated into the budget under the name of Deendayal Upadhyay.

"I want to ask how many NGOs the BJP government has revived during its tenure  which was the main objective of the scheme," he said.

"Growth rate is racing up like the bullet train but agricultural growth rate is at its lowest which is a matter of concern," he said.  -- PTI
19:08  Option of joining SP-BSP alliance open: Rajbhar:  
Accusing the Bharatiya Janata Party of creating confusion and not fulfilling his party's demands, Uttar Pradesh minister and Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party chief Om Prakash Rajbhar on Friday said the option for his outfit to join the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance in the state for the upcoming general elections is open.

Rajbhar said he is in talks with Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackrey, Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav, Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, and a decision on retaining or severing ties with the saffron party would be taken after February 24.

Rajbhar had last week written to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to give up the charge of the backward class welfare department, expressing disappointment that his recommendations on appointment of state backward castes panel members have been 'ignored'.

However on February 17, the SBSP chief said his offer to give up the charge of the department was not accepted by the chief minister, who had assured him that the matter would be looked into.

"The BJP is creating confusion. I am not satisfied with the talks with him. Discussions are going on for a number of days... They are promising but not fulfilling our demands," alleged Rajbhar, who had recently met BJP national president Amit Shah.

Asked about the possibilities of him parting ways with the BJP, he said, "The option of tying up with the SP-BSP alliance or with any other party is open. We can go anywhere."

"I am in talks with West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackrey, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, SP president Akhilesh Yadav and BSP chief Mayawati. I will decide on leaving or remaining with the BJP on February 24," the SBSP chief told reporters Ballia.

On February 10, the party had threatened to part ways with the saffron party if the BJP-led Uttar Pradesh government does not implement a social justice panel's recommendation to classify various OBC and Dalit sub-castes into three broad categories and provide quota within quota to them.

"It is implemented in Bihar and nine other states. Then why can it not be put into effect in Uttar Pradesh," Rajbhar posed.

The committee, constituted in May last year, had in its recommendations to the state government, favoured classification of various OBC and Dalit sub-castes into three broad categories, backward, very backward and most backward, and provide quota within quota to them.

Backward classes account for about 44 per cent of the electorate in the state and play a crucial role in making or marring political prospects of any party.

The panel's recommendation to is likely to spice up the political scene in Uttar Pradesh ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.  -- PTI
18:37  HAL delivers first three Dhruv helicopters to Indian Army:  
The Hindustan Aeronautics Limited on Friday delivered the first three Advanced Light Helicopters named Dhruv as part of the 22 ALH MK-III contract to the Indian Army during the ongoing Aero India air show.

HAL had entered into a contract with the Indian Army for 40 ALH (22 ALH Mk III and 18 Mk IV Rudra) in August 2017.

Of the 22 helicopters, 19 helicopters have already been produced and will be progressively delivered, the defence public sector undertaking said.

The Advanced Light Helicopter is a multi-role, new generation helicopter in the 5.5-ton weight class, indigenously designed and developed by the HAL.

It provides superlative performance throughout its flight envelope, HAL said.

It is suited for a high-speed cruise for rapid deployment and to maximise the area of operations, the company said, adding that the basic helicopter is produced in skid version and wheeled version.

In the wheeled version, options for fixed and retractable undercarriages are available.  -- PTI
18:34  Police drops sedition charges against 14 AMU students:  
The police have dropped sedition charges slapped against 14 Aligarh Muslim University after the recent protests on the campus, citing 'lack of evidence'.

The students were booked for sedition after Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha district president Mukesh Lodhi alleged he was assaulted by some students who chanted pro-Pakistan slogans, police said.

Senior Superintendent of Police Akash Kulhari said on Friday the charges were dropped three days ago as there is no evidence to support them.

He said there is no videographic proof or any other evidence 'to support the claim that anti-India or pro-Pakistan slogans were raised by these boys during the clash between two student groups at University Circle on February 12'.

The clashes appeared to have been triggered by reports that All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen leader Asaduddin Owaisi was visiting the campus.

Bharatiya Janata Party youth wing BJYM had demanded that the reported visit should be banned.

There was also an altercation between some AMU students and a television news crew that had come to cover the anticipated visit, which never took place.

Meanwhile, the police raided a house in Noida on Friday, looking for Kashmiri student Basin Hilal over a tweet mocking the security forces after the Pulwama terror attack.

They failed to find the student who has already been suspended by the AMU authorities.

A case under Section 153 A (promoting enmity between different groups) of the Indian Penal Code had been registered against him.   -- PTI
18:23  2 Kerala students held for sedition over Kashmir posters:  
Two students were arrested on Friday under sedition charges for allegedly putting up posters saying 'Freedom for Kashmir' in the premises of a government college in Kerala's Malappuram.

The students have been identified as Mohammed Rinshad, 20, and Mohammed Faris, 18.

Rinshad is a second-year student while Faris is a first-year degree student in the government college of Malappuram.

A case has been registered under Section 124 (sedition laws) of the Indian Penal Code.

"After the Pulwama incident the students had put up a poster in the campus stating freedom for Kashmir and freedom for Manipur," police said.

"The principal of the college registered a complaint with the police, following which, we have arrested the duo," police added.

They both have been produced before the court and taken to police custody.

It is worth mentioning that this comes amidst the report of Kashmiri students being attacked in several parts of India in retaliation to Pulwama terror attack.   -- ANI
18:04  CBI issues lookout notice against Chanda Kochhar:  
The Central Bureau of Investigation has issued lookout notices against former ICICI Bank CEO Chanda Kochhar, her husband Deepak and MD of the Videocon Group Venugopal Dhoot, officials said in New Delhi on Friday.

The move was taken nearly a week after a case was registered against Chanda Kocchar, Deepak and Dhoot, they said.

The move is to ensure that none of the accused in the case related to alleged corruption in clearing loans worth Rs 1,875 crore to the Videocon Group were able to leave the country, the officials said.

A lookout notice is an intimation to immigration authorities at all the ports of exit to intimate the investigation agency incase the accused tries to leave the country.

The immigration authorities may also detain the person if requested by the agency.

The CBI had to cut a sorry figure after its dilution of lookout circular against liquor baron Vijay Mallya led to his escape to the United Kingdom in 2016.

No summons have been issued against Chanda Kochhar to record her statement so far, they said.

It is alleged that during the tenure of Chanda Kochhar, six loans worth Rs 1,875 crore were cleared for the Videocon Group and its associated companies, in which in two cases she herself was on the sanctioning committees.

In its FIR, the CBI has also named several top honchos of the banking industry, including the present CEO of ICICI Bank Sandeep Bakshi, alleging that they were also members of the sanctioning committees whose role needs investigation.

Chanda Kochhar was on the sanctioning committee deciding two loans-Rs 300 crore to Videocon International Electronics on August 26, 2009 and Rs 750 crore to Videocon Industries Limited on October 31, 2011, the FIR has alleged.

The loans were issued in the alleged violation of laid down policies and regulations of the bank, it alleged.

Most of these loans became non-performing assets over the course, causing a loss of Rs 1,730 crore to the bank, it alleged.  -- PTI
17:43  Tejashwi lashes out at Sushil Modi for accusations about bungalow:   RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav on Friday lashed out at Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi by whom he has been accused of having spent lavishly on decorating a government bungalow which he vacated last week following a Supreme Court order. Yadav, who had preceded Modi as the deputy CM, taunted the latter for having, in the past, alleged splurge of public money on the official residence of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. He dared the BJP leader to make public details of the enormous expenditure involved in expansion of the CM house after it was vacated by his mother Rabri Devi. -- PTI
17:35  A Pakistani MP at the Kumbh Mela :  Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, a Member of the Pakistan Parliament visits the  Kumbh Mela 2019 in Prayagraj. He says, "I want to congratulate the govt of India for the way the Kumbh is being conducted this time with discipline. I have been here numerous times before but this time I have been called by the govt."
17:08  Pak not done enough to curb finances of terror groups: Watchdog FATF :  
The global terror financing watchdog Financial Action Task Force has strongly condemned the Pulwama terror attack at its plenary meeting, which just concluded in Paris today. The FATF said Pakistan has not done enough to curb the finances of terror groups like the Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba. This means Pakistan continues to remain in what is called the FATF 'grey list', making it hard for the country to get international loans, reports NDTV.

The report said the Paris-headquartered FATF will also be told through the dossier how Pakistani agencies are providing funds to the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed, which has claimed responsibility for the car bomb attack on a CRPF convoy on the Jammu-Srinagar highway last week.

The FATF blacklist means the country concerned is "non-cooperative" in the global fight against money laundering and terrorist financing. If the FATF blacklists Pakistan, it may lead to downgrading of the country by lenders like International Monetary Fund, World Bank, Asian Development Bank and European Union.
16:53  15 dead, 30 fall ill after consuming spurious liquor in Assam:  At least 15 people, including five women, have died and 30 others have fallen ill allegedly after consuming spurious liquor in a tea garden in Assam's Golaghat district, police said Friday. The victims, labourers of Salmira tea estate, fell ill after they drank the illicit brew Thursday night, the police said. Twelve of them were brought dead to the Golaghat civil hospital and three of them succumbed later. Twenty-seven of the ill have been referred to the Jorhat Medical College Hospital, the police said. The death toll is likely to increase as reports of more persons falling ill after consuming the spurious liquor are coming in, a district official said. 

More than a hundred people are reported to have consumed the liquor, suspected to have been bought from the same seller, Khumtai's BJP MLA Mrinal Saikia said. A doctor attending to the patients said that the deaths were due to consumption of spurious country liquor and the condition of most of those brought to the hospital was serious. 

Saikia said that he has directed the district administration to inquire into the matter and take immediate action against those responsible for the tragedy. All the deceased, barring one, have been identified. PTI
16:46  Rahul Gandhi treks Tirumala hills, prays at Lord Balaji temple:  
Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday offered prayers at the famous hill shrine of Lord Venkateswara at Tirumala near Tirupati.

On his arrival at the temple main entrance, Gandhi was accorded a warm welcome by the hill temple management.

After quickly trekking the nearly 10 km-long steep stairway leading to the ancient hill shrine, the Congress chief paid obeisance to the presiding deity of Lord Venkateswara, a temple official told PTI.

It took about two hours for Gandhi to reach the sacred hills, the official said.

After his spiritual trek from the foot of the hill at Alipiri in Tirupati in the afternoon, the Congress president made a brief halt at a heavily guarded Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams guest house on the hill and later visited the shrine, the official said.

After prayers, Gandhi was offered sacred silk cloth, prasadam, and a holy memento, the temple official said.

He was in the temple for about 20 minutes. Tight security arrangements were put in place on the hills and all through the route leading to the hill shrine.

Later, Rahul Gandhi left the hills to address a rally at Sri Venkateswara University Stadium in Tirupati.   -- PTI

IMAGE: Congress president Rahul Gandhi welcomed at Tirupati airport. Photograph: @INCIndia/Twitter
16:13  Where is Oppn unity happening, asks Ram Madhav:  BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav Friday brushed aside talk of Opposition unity to take on his party-led NDA in the Lok Sabha elections, pointing out that there were multiple alliances in some states. "Where is the Opposition unity happening?" Madhav asked, while talking to reporters. 

"Everywhere there is more than one alliance of the Opposition," he said. "Look at UP (Uttar Pradesh), there are two," the BJP leader said, referring to the Bahujan Samaj Party-Samajwadi Party alliance and the Congress fighting separately. 

"Look at West Bengal. There are two parties," Madhav, who was in Hyderabad to attend a programme at the Indian School of Business, added. He said only Telugu Desam Party supremo and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu had deserted the NDA for "his own politics and political interests". "But, otherwise, we (BJP) are winning new partners in Assam and elsewhere," Madhav said. -- PTI
15:59  Mention of JeM in UNSC statement not a judgement: China:  China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Friday sought to downplay the scathing statement issued by the powerful organ of the world body naming Jaish-e-Muhammad in the Pulwama terror attack, saying the mention of the Pakistan-based outfit was only in "general terms" and "does not represent a judgement". 

Forty Central Reserve Police Force personnel were killed in a suicide attack by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district on February 14, sparking outrage in the country. 

The powerful UN Security Council on Thursday strongly condemned the "heinous and cowardly" terror attack. "The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the heinous and cowardly suicide bombing in Jammu and Kashmir, which left 40 Indian paramilitary forces dead and dozens wounded on February 14, 2019, for which Jaish-e-Mohammed has claimed responsibility," it said in a statement. 

Asked about the statement highlighting the role of JeM claiming the responsibility of the Pulwama attack, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters that Beijing was closely following the developments related to the terror incident. 

"Yesterday, the UN Security Council issued a press statement that mentioned that a particular organisation but only in general terms. It does not represent a judgment on the attack," Geng said. His remarks were seen as an attempt by China, without whose endorsement the UNSC statement could not have been released, aimed at placating its close ally Pakistan and play down the indictment of the JeM. China has been repeatedly blocking India and several other countries' efforts to bring about a global ban on JeM chief Masood Azhar in the UN's anti-terror 1267 committee. 

While China's endorsement of the UNSC statement was reflection of wariness on the part of Beijing to repeatedly defend JeM in the UN body, which casts a shadow on its relations with India, observers say it is to be seen what stand Beijing would take when France moves its resolution seeking to list Azhar as a global terrorist in the UN. 

France, also member of the permanent five of the UNSC, has officially announced that it would move a resolution soon in the 1267 committee seeking Azhar's listing. -- PTI
15:59  Mention of JeM in UNSC statement not a judgement: China:  China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Friday sought to downplay the scathing statement issued by the powerful organ of the world body naming Jaish-e-Muhammad in the Pulwama terror attack, saying the mention of the Pakistan-based outfit was only in "general terms" and "does not represent a judgement". 

Forty Central Reserve Police Force personnel were killed in a suicide attack by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district on February 14, sparking outrage in the country. 

The powerful UN Security Council on Thursday strongly condemned the "heinous and cowardly" terror attack. "The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the heinous and cowardly suicide bombing in Jammu and Kashmir, which left 40 Indian paramilitary forces dead and dozens wounded on February 14, 2019, for which Jaish-e-Mohammed has claimed responsibility," it said in a statement. 

Asked about the statement highlighting the role of JeM claiming the responsibility of the Pulwama attack, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters that Beijing was closely following the developments related to the terror incident. 

"Yesterday, the UN Security Council issued a press statement that mentioned that a particular organisation but only in general terms. It does not represent a judgment on the attack," Geng said. His remarks were seen as an attempt by China, without whose endorsement the UNSC statement could not have been released, aimed at placating its close ally Pakistan and play down the indictment of the JeM. China has been repeatedly blocking India and several other countries' efforts to bring about a global ban on JeM chief Masood Azhar in the UN's anti-terror 1267 committee. 

While China's endorsement of the UNSC statement was reflection of wariness on the part of Beijing to repeatedly defend JeM in the UN body, which casts a shadow on its relations with India, observers say it is to be seen what stand Beijing would take when France moves its resolution seeking to list Azhar as a global terrorist in the UN. 

France, also member of the permanent five of the UNSC, has officially announced that it would move a resolution soon in the 1267 committee seeking Azhar's listing. -- PTI
15:38  Blood shed by jawans in Pulwama will not go in vain: Amit Shah:  BJP President Amit Shah Friday asserted the blood shed by the soldiers in the recent Pulwama terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir will not go in vain. Stating that the NDA government had a "zero tolerance towards terrorism," Shah, addressing party workers in Ramanathapuram, also recalled the martyrdom of two CRPF jawans from Tamil Nadu who were among those killed in the dastardly attack days ago.

Addressing BJP workers for the first time after his party clinched a poll deal with the ruling AIADMK on Tuesday, he exhorted cadres to work for the victory of all the 40 alliance candidates in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. Be it the "AIADMK, PMK or the BJP," party workers should work for the victory of alliance nominees to ensure the re-election of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister, he said.

He mocked at the DMK and Congress combine over alleged corruption and asked if such an alliance will be able to deliver good governance. -- PTI
15:34  Want a piece of the PM?:   If you want to wear your heart on your shoulder, a popular sari shop in Dadar, Mumbai, serves up some visual treats. PM Narendra Damodardas Modi's face along with the achievements of this government (according to the sari's designers) is up for grabs at just Rs 1000 a piece. Apart from the PM, there are digital images of the Statue of Unity, army jawans fighting the enemy and such like. No demonetisation though which was supposed to have saved the country and ended the menace of black money. We hear 50 orders have been placed for the saris. 

Stop shoving and get in line. 
15:31  No decision on Indo-Pak World Cup clash yet: CoA:  The Committee of Administrators (CoA) running Indian cricket, on Friday, decided against taking any stand on the World Cup clash against Pakistan but said it would individually urge ICC members to "sever ties with any nation that is a terrorist hub". There has been a call to boycott the June 16 World Cup face-off against Pakistan at the Old Trafford in the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack, which killed more than 40 CRPF personnel. 

 In a meeting to address the spiralling speculation around the match, the CoA deliberated on the matter but did not take any position for now. Committee of Administrators chairman Vinod Rai and member Diana Edulji spoke about the issue after the meeting. Briefly, this is what Rai said:

-- No decision yet on India's World Cup match against Pakistan. A call will be taken later. 

-- BCCI will submit concerns on Pak to the ICC via an email. "We will express concerns to ICC. We are in talks with government on scheduled India-Pakistan clash in World Cup," Rai said. 

-- There will be no IPL opening ceremony, and the money that was to be spent on the ceremony will be donated to the families of the CRPF jawans to who died in the Pulwama encounter. 

-- The BCCI has also asked for more security for players during the ICC world cup.

-- The BCCI email also suggests to the ICC that the cricket community in the future should not play with countries from where terror emanates. 

"We'll write to ICC expressing our concerns about attacks that took place and that security of players, officials and everybody else must be taken care of. We're telling cricketing community that in future we must sever ties with nations from where terror emanates," Rai said. 

Rai added that 16th June (India vs Pakistan match in World Cup) is very far away. "We will take a call on that much later and in consultations with the government," he said.
14:52  Jammu-Srinagar NH remains closed for third day, 1700 vehicles stranded:   Over 1700 vehicles are stranded as the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway remained closed for the third consecutive day Friday due to landslides triggered by heavy rains in Ramban district of Jammu and Kashmir. Five landslides triggered by rains struck the strategic 270-km highway at Khuni Nallah, Panthiyal, Digdole, Battery Cheshma and Maroog, blocking the only all-weather road linking Kashmir with rest of the country. The highway was blocked on Wednesday.

The vehicles are stranded on the highway in Ramban, Udhampur, Jammu, Samba and Kathua districts, they said. Officials said road clearance operations are going on full swing. No traffic has been allowed to move from Nagrota area of Jammu towards Kashmir Valley in view of the closure of the highway, they said. The lurking threat of more landslides has created fear among hundreds of passengers travelling on the highway.

The Batota-Doda-Kishtwar road is also blocked at two places and work is on to clear the road, they said. The Moghal road connecting Kashmir Valley's Shopian district with Jammu region's Poonch district is closed for the past one month due to heavy snowfall. -- PTI
14:44  Yashwant Sinha says PM should he resign if he went ahead with photoshoot:  Rebel BJP leader Yashwant Sinha asks for Modi's resignation. "PM should come clean on what he was doing in the afternoon/evening of Feb 14 when Pulwama attack took place. If the NSA did not inform him immediately he has no business continuing in his post. If he did and PM still remained unconcerned then he must go."
14:26  No cricket with Pak: Congress:  Manish Tewari, Congress, has a different view from his party colleague Shashi Tharoor: Tewari, who is the party's spokesperson said, "Till the time, terrorist organisations and their bosses who are sitting in Pakistan encourage terrorist activities in India, cricket should not be played with Pakistan."

Tharoor today stirred the Pulwama pot when he said he wanted India to play cricket with Pakistan in the upcoming world cup. "We should not make cricket a substitute for other actions that our government should be able to take," he said. 
14:15  Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey won't appear before Parl panel on Feb 25:  Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey will not appear before the Parliamentary panel on IT on February 25, and instead the company is sending its Head of Public Policy Colin Crowell. 

The Parliamentary panel on Information Technology had summoned Twitter head Jack Dorsey to appear before it on February 25, and had refused to meet "junior officials" of the microblogging site during its meeting on February 11. 

The meeting had been called against the backdrop of growing concerns about safeguarding citizens' data privacy and the possibility of social media platforms being used to interfere in the upcoming elections. 

"We thank the Parliamentary Committee for its invitation to hear Twitter's views on 'Safeguarding citizen rights on social/online news media platforms'. These are issues for all Internet services globally. 

"Colin Crowell, Global Vice President of Public Policy for Twitter, will meet with the Committee on Monday," a Twitter spokesperson said in an e-mailed statement on Friday. Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the government has been warning social media platforms of strong action if any attempt was made to influence the country's electoral process through undesirable means. -- PTI
13:56  Two suspected Jaish terrorists arrested in UP:  The Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terrorist Squad has arrested two alleged Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists from Deoband in Saharanpur district, Director General of Police O P Singh said on Friday. The two men arrested are Shahnawaz Ahmad Teli from Kulgam and Aquib Ahmad Malik from Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir. Both were involved in recruiting members for the JeM, the DGP told reporters. Asked whether the two men were involved in the February 14 Pulwama terror attack, Singh said, "It's difficult to tell whether they came here before the Pulwama attack or after that. The probe is on."

He added, "Two weapons and live cartridges were seized. Of the two,  Shahnawaz is said to be a grenade expert. We will seek transit remand and investigate when they came here from Kashmir and who is funding them and what was their target. We are in touch with the J&K Police."
13:02  Rahul calls out 'prime time minister' over photoshoot after Pulwama attack :   In a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday said the "prime time minister" continued shooting for a film till even three hours after news of the Pulwama terror strike came in. There was an ocean of pain in the country's hearts and in the homes of martyrs and he was smiling and doing a photoshoot in the waters, Gandhi said on Twitter with the hashtag 'PhotoShootSarkar'. 

"Even after three hours of the news of the 40 jawans being martyred in the Pulwama terror strike, the prime time minister continued with a film shooting," the Congress president tweeted in Hindi. 

On Thursday, the Congress cited media reports to allege that Modi continued shooting for a film in the Corbett National Park on February 14 for "self propagation", and stayed put till the evening despite the attack on a CRPF convoy in south Kashmir's Pulwama district in the afternoon that day.

Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, addressing a press conference, also claimed the prime minister continued to "have tea and samosas at seven o'clock in a PWD guest house when every single Indian household didn't eat food (that day)". 

The BJP's Twitter handle responded saying it was fake news. "Rahul Ji, India is tired of your fake news. Stop sharing photos from that morning to shamelessly mislead the nation. Maybe you knew in advance of the attack but people of India got to know in the evening. Try a better stunt next time, where sacrifice of soldiers isnt involved." 

Image: One of the pictures tweeted by the Congress president of the PM at Corbett national park. 
12:45  Rahul, Vadra Jr in Tirupati:  Tirupati: Congress President Rahul Gandhi and Raihan Vadra en route Sri Venkateswara Swamy Vaari Temple. 
12:41  Stop sending our soldiers home in coffins!:  "The bottom line is that disproportionate losses should be avoided at all cost and terrorists should be denied tactical successes that act as opium for them to become bold to achieve perceived victory. This is a long war and instead of rushing to achieve quick success, the objective should be not to give any success to the terrorists in terms of casualties and freedom of movement. 'Every soldier martyred by terrorists in combat is a moral victory for them," says Brigadier Narender Kumar (retd).  Read the incisive column here 
12:34  J-K govt moves SC for transfer of Pak terrorists to Tihar jail:   The Jammu and Kashmir government on Friday moved the Supreme Court seeking the transfer of seven Pakistani terrorists from Jammu jail to Tihar prison here on grounds that they were allegedly indoctrinating local prisoners. 

A bench of Justices L N Rao and M R Shah sought a response from Centre and the Delhi government on the plea. Jammu and Kashmir government's standing counsel Shoaib Alam said terrorists belonging to various organisations need to be shifted out of Jammu jail as they were involved in the indoctrination of local prisoners. If not Tihar, they can be shifted to other high security prisons in Haryana and Punjab, he said. To this, the bench said it will hear the matter and asked Alam to ensure that a copy of the notice is served to the seven terrorists also.

A day after the Pulwama attack on February 14, the Jammu and Kashmir government moved the apex court to shift a Lashkar-E-Taiba terrorist out of Jammu jail. -- PTI
12:12  India, S Korea sign 7 pacts, Modi honoured with Seoul peace prize:  India and South Korea signed seven agreements on Friday to enhance cooperation in key areas, including infrastructure development, media, start-ups and combating trans-border and international crime, during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the country. Modi, who is on a two-day visit to South Korea to strengthen India's strategic ties with the country, was accorded an official reception at the Blue House, the executive office and official residence of the South Korean President Moon Jae-in Seoul. 
He also met First lady Kim Jung-sook. 

The memorandum of understandings were signed after the two leaders held "constructive" talks on enhancing bilateral cooperation in a number of areas including trade, investment, defence and security. 

Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said that seven documents between India and South Korea were signed/exchanged in the presence of the two leaders on cooperation in media, start-ups and police among others. 

An MoU was signed between Korean National Police Agency and the Ministry of Home Affairs to enhance cooperation between the law enforcement agencies of the two countries and combat trans-border and international crimes. 

Another agreement was signed for releasing a joint stamp, commemorating Princess Suriratna (Queen Hur Hwang-ok), a legendary Princess of Ayodhya, who went to Korea in AD 48 and married King Kim-Suro. A large number of Koreans trace their ancestry to the princess.

The two sides also signed an agreement to continue operations of Korea Plus organisation that facilitates investments by Korean companies in India. Korea Plus was operationalised in June 2016, and comprises representatives from the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Energy of South Korea, Korea Trade Investment and Promotion Agency (KOTRA) and Invest India.

Modi is visiting South Korea on the invitation of President Moon. This is his second visit to the Republic of Korea since 2015 and second summit meeting with the South Korean president. The Prime Minister was awarded the Seoul Peace Prize on the occasion. The PM said, "This award does not belong to me personally but to the people of India, the success India has achieved in the last 5 years, powered by the skill of 1.3 billion people."
-- PTI
12:01  If you're headed to Shimla :  The National Highway 5 blocked at several places in the Kinnaur district after heavy rain last night. This is the gate at the Shimla-Kinnaur entry which was damaged after a boulder fell on it. 
11:53  5 Army men still trapped in avalanche in Kinnaur:  Himachal Pradesh: Operation to rescue five Army personnel trapped in an  avalanche at Namgya in Kinnaur district has been resumed. Over 200 persons of the Army, ITBP, local police and District Disaster Management are deployed in the rescue operation. 

Image: File pic
11:27  Tharoor: Feckless govt did not even declare national mourning! :   Update: Shashi Tharoor adds to his earlier statement demanding India play Pakistan in the Cricket World Cup in June. "Our government did not even declare national mourning wants to cancel a match 3 months from now? Is that a serious response to 40 lives taken in cold blood? BJP wants 2 divert attn from its own fecklessness & inept handling of the crisis.We need effective action, not gesture politics."
11:25  Boycotting Pak in WC means defeat without fight: Tharoor :   Congress MP Shashi Tharoor weighs in on statements made by former cricketers Harbhajan Singh and Sunil Gavaskar on whether India should play Pakistan at the cricket World Cup in June. Tharoor said that the height of the 1999 Kargil War, India played Pakistan in the cricket World Cup, and won. "To forfeit the match this year would not just cost two points: it would be worse than surrender, since it would be defeat without a fight," he said. 

Harbhajan Singh has once said that India must sever all ties with Pakistan in the wake of the Pulwama terror attack on February 14 when 40 Central Reserve Police Force jawans were martyred. India and Pakistan are scheduled to face-off in the 2019 ICC World Cup in Manchester on June 16.

"One mistake will not correct the other one. Since we played in 1999 does not mean we should go ahead and do it again. We need to stand with our government and our soldiers. This is the time to talk and have a discussion which is far, far bigger than the World Cup. World Cup is not everything. Our country comes first, our soldiers come first and our government comes first. Cricket is not our first priority, our priority is our nation," Harbhajan told India Today.

Sunil Gavaskar had said yesterday, that said India will be the ones to lose out if they concede their Cricket World Cup match to Pakistan in Manchester. Instead, Gavaskar said, India should play Pakistan, beat them and ensure they did not qualify for the semifinals.
11:23  SC asks 11 states to take action against assault on Kashmiris :  The Supreme Court Friday directed chief secretaries and DGPs of 11 states to take "prompt" and necessary action to prevent incidents of threat, assault and social boycott of Kashmiris in the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack. 

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi also directed that police officers, who were earlier appointed as nodal officers to deal with incidents of mob lynching, would be now responsible to deal with cases of alleged assault on Kashmiris. 

The bench asked the Union Ministry of Home Affairs to give wide publicity to nodal officers so that they can be approached by those facing such incidents. 

"The chief secretaries, the DGPs and the Delhi Police Commissioner are directed to take prompt and necessary action to prevent incidents of threat, assault, social boycott etc. against Kashmiris and other minorities," the bench also comprising Justice Sanjiv Khanna said. 

Former J-K CM Omar Abdullah reacts to the SC directive, tweeting, "Grateful to the Hon Supreme Court of India for doing what our elected leadership in Delhi should have been doing. The union HRD minister was busy living in denial & a Governor was busy issuing threats. Thank goodness the Hon SC stepped in."
10:56  IOC 'suspends discussions' with India for hosting global events :   The denial of visas to Pakistani shooters in the Delhi World Cup has jeopardised India's chances of hosting the Olympics or any global event with the International Olympic Committee suspending all such discussions with the country and recommending that no big tournament be awarded to it. 

India denied visas to Pakistani shooters for the World Cup that starts on Saturday in the wake of the Pulwama terror attack, which killed 40 CRPF personnel. As a result, the IOC revoked the two Olympic quotas on offer in the men's 25m Rapid Fire Pistol competition of the event. 

However, the bigger repercussion was the world body's declaration that it would not engage with India on discussions to host major events. The country aspires to host the 2026 Youth Olympics, the 2032 Summer Olympics and the 2030 Asian Games. 

The Indian Olympic Association has already sent an expression of interest to the IOC for the 2032 Games and the bidding process for the 2026 showpiece is expected to start next year. 

The IOC said its stand against the country will remain until clear "written guarantees are obtained from the Indian government to ensure the entry of all participants in such events in full compliance with the rules of the Olympic charter." 

"This situation (at the ISSF World Cup) goes against the fundamental principles of the Olympic charter, in particular the principles of non-discrimination...," the IOC stated after a meeting of its executive board in Lausanne on Friday evening. 

"As a result, the IOC executive board also decided to suspend all discussions with the Indian NOC and government regarding the potential applications for hosting future sports and Olympic-related events in India...," it added. 

The world body also urged the international federations to neither award nor hold sports events in India until the "guarantees are obtained." The Indian Olympic Association expressed helplessness but did say that the current situation does not look good for the country's sporting future. "We have tried our best but ultimately it is the government (which has to grant visas). It is a dangerous situation for all sport in the country," IOA Secretary General Rajeev Mehta told PTI in Delhi. 

"In addition to not being able to host events in India, there may be problems for our athletes to take part in international events. We will approach the government again so that the situation does not reach that far. 

"It is a violation of Olympic Charter and the country's image has been lowered. If the Indian government does not give guarantees within 15 to 20 days, another letter may come from IOC," he added. Besides their aspiration to host the Olympics, India already have the hosting rights of the 2021 men's world boxing championships. -- PTI
10:40  Sensex, Nifty start on a tepid note:   Benchmark indices started on a negative note Friday as investors turned cautious after the release of the minutes of RBI's last policy meet, in which governor Shaktikanta Das argued the need to look at growth concerns. Besides, subdued cues from other Asian markets too weighed on investor sentiment here. 

The BSE Sensex was trading 75.24 points, or 0.21 per cent, lower at 35,823.11. Similarly, the 50-share NSE Nifty fell 25.95 points, or 0.24 per cent, to 10,763.90. In the previous session, the 30-share index settled 142.09 points, or 0.40 per cent higher at 35,898.35. The broader Nifty gained 54.40 points, or 0.51 per cent, to 10,789.85. Top losers in the Sensex pack in morning trade include Kotak Bank, Tata Steel, L&T, RIL, Axis Bank, NTPC, Tata Motors, HDFC Bank, HDFC and ITC, falling up to 3.39 per cent.  - PTI
10:40  Sensex, Nifty start on a tepid note:   Benchmark indices started on a negative note Friday as investors turned cautious after the release of the minutes of RBI's last policy meet, in which governor Shaktikanta Das argued the need to look at growth concerns. Besides, subdued cues from other Asian markets too weighed on investor sentiment here. 

The BSE Sensex was trading 75.24 points, or 0.21 per cent, lower at 35,823.11. Similarly, the 50-share NSE Nifty fell 25.95 points, or 0.24 per cent, to 10,763.90. In the previous session, the 30-share index settled 142.09 points, or 0.40 per cent higher at 35,898.35. The broader Nifty gained 54.40 points, or 0.51 per cent, to 10,789.85. Top losers in the Sensex pack in morning trade include Kotak Bank, Tata Steel, L&T, RIL, Axis Bank, NTPC, Tata Motors, HDFC Bank, HDFC and ITC, falling up to 3.39 per cent.  - PTI
10:18  UNSC strongly condemns 'heinous and cowardly' Pulwama attack:  The powerful UN Security Council has strongly condemned the "heinous and cowardly" Pulwama terror attack by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed and underlined the need to hold perpetrators of these "reprehensible acts" of terrorism accountable and bring them to justice. 

Forty Central Reserve Police Force personnel were killed in a suicide attack by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district on February 14, sparking outrage in the country.

"The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the heinous and cowardly suicide bombing in Jammu and Kashmir, which left 40 Indian paramilitary forces dead and dozens wounded on February 14, 2019, for which Jaish-e-Mohammed has claimed responsibility," the UN Security Council said in a statement on the 'Suicide Bombing in Jammu and Kashmir' on Thursday.  -- PTI
09:59  How we are pushing Kashmir to the brink: Omar has some questions:  Omar Abdullah, who had delivered one of the finest moments of the republic by declaring in the Lok Sabha in 2008 that "I am a Muslim and I am an Indian, and I see no distinction between the two', on Thursday confronted India with a telling testimony on the state of the nation a decade later.

"An environment is being created today where you are forcing those who never looked at the (Kashmir) issue through (the prism of) the two-nation theory. They are forcing us to think whether that was a right or wrong decision," Omar told a news conference in Srinagar against the backdrop of attacks on Kashmiris in several parts of the country after the Pulwama massacre.

Omar's words mark a seminal moment in the history of India. The two-nation theory, propounded by Muhammad Ali Jinnah as the cornerstone to create Pakistan, essentially holds that Muslims and Hindus are two separate nations by every definition. Jammu and Kashmir, the only Muslim-majority state in India, is a repudiation of that argument.  Read the report here. 
09:40  Have not joined Congress: Surgical strikes commander Lt Gen DS Hooda refutes rumours:  
Lt General D S Hooda (retired), who was the commanding officer during the 2016 surgical strike, has denied reports of having joined the Congress.

I have not joined the Congress party, Hooda said when asked whether he had joined Congress, which has asked him to prepare a report on national security.

Hooda was the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Northern Command during the terror attack on Uri army camp and the subsequent surgical strike in September 2016.

The Congress has on Thursday roped in Hooda to prepare a "vision document" for the country's security, more than two months after the former army commander said the surgical strike was "overhyped and politicised".

"The Congress president (Rahul Gandhi) is setting up a Task Force on National Security to prepare a vision paper for the country,"' the Congress said in a statement here.

It added that Hooda will lead the Task Force and prepare the paper in consultation with a select group of experts. 

-- ANI
09:21  3 kg beef can be traced but not 350 kg RDX, asks Congress leader:  
Delhi Congress working president Haroon Yusuf created a controversy by alleging that three kg beef could be traced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi but not 350 kg RDX, referring to the Pulwama terror attack in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed.
Senior BJP leader and Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad termed the statement "scandalous and irresponsible"
"@narendramodi Ji can trace 3 kg of beef but cannot trace 350 kg of RDX #ModiFailsNationalSecurity(sic)," Yusuf alleged in a tweet.
He later defended his tweet.
"What I have said is reality. Can you deny it? Lynching was done for polarisation. You can catch 3 kg beef, kill innocents, but not 350 kg RDX. Isn't Modi informed by security agencies," Yusuf said.
Delhi BJP vice president Rajiv Babbar claimed Yusuf's remarks exposed the Congress's "double face".

"They can not even wait for a few days and have started defaming security agencies. This exposes their double face. They claim solidarity with the government in all-party meeting and soon start seeking political gains through their shameful comments," Babbar alleged.

Delhi BJP Minority Morcha president Mohammad Haroon termed Yusuf's statement "very objectionable".

"The Pulwama attack shocked the nation and in the meantime Yusuf has issued very objectionable statement against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and tried to give it a communal colour," he alleged.

Yusuf's statement is an attempt to "divide" the country on "communal lines", he claimed.

-- PTI
08:41  Encounter breaks out in J-K's Baramulla:  
An encounter broke out between terrorists and security forces in Sopore township of Jammu and Kashmir's Baramulla district on Friday morning, police said.
Acting on specific input, the security personnel launched a cordon and search operation in the Warpora area of Sopore, they said.
A senior official said the search operation turned into an encounter after the terrorists fired at the search party of the security men, who then returned fire.

The exchange of fire was on and further details were awaited, he added. 

-- PTI
08:27  Olympic body punishes India for declining visas to Pak team after Pulwama:  
All the 16 Olympic quotas allotted to New Delhi World Cup were withdrawn owing to denial of visas to Pakistani shooters in the wake of the Pulwama terror attack. 
This was announced by the International Shooting Sport Federation president Vladimir Lisin during his address to the season-opening World Cup at the Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range. 
Pakistan shooters' participation in the tournament became the bone of contention since the terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir's  Pulwama killed more than 40 CRPF personnel last Thursday.

It was learnt that the International Olympic Committee is deliberating on the matter and a decision of its Executive Board is likely to be issued at 10 pm local time of Switzerland (02:30 IST Friday), officials said. 
"The International Olympic Committee informed us this World Cup will not be included in the competitions for Olympic quotas. In this case, the quotas will be distributed in another World Cup. No one can be discriminated and we have to follow the IOC decision as part of the IOC family," Lisin said during his address. 
National Rifle Association of India president Raninder Singh, though, said that they are still looking for a resolution so that the quotas for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are not withheld. 
"Nothing is cancelled as of now. The status as of now is we don't know. We are waiting. There are meetings that are going on where the position is being assessed by the IOC and the government. Everyone is working very hard but it is a very peculiar position. It is very unprecedented scenario and it is unfortunate," Raninder said.

Denied visas in the wake of the Pulwama terror attack, the Pakistan's shooting federation on Wednesday wrote to the international body, asking it to drop the two 25m rapid fire pistol quotas for 2020 Olympics.  
Pakistan had applied for visas for two shooters in the rapid fire category as the event in New Delhi also serves as a qualifier for the 2020 Olympic games. 

-- PTI
07:56  Farmers' march to Mumbai suspended after talks with Maharashtra govt:  
A leading farmers' organisation announced suspension of its ongoing protest march from Nashik to Mumbai over agrarian concerns after talks with the Maharashtra government.

The All India Kisan Sabha, backed by the CPI-M, announced suspension of the 180-km march from Nashik to Mumbai after a three-and-a-half hour meeting of its representatives with state ministers Girish Mahajan and Jaykumar Rawal.

The farmers had embarked on the march on Thursday morning, but it was called off later.

"The meeting (held Thursday) yielded positive results. We will suspend the march today," AIKS president Ashok Dhawale said after the meeting between the two sides at Ambebahula village in Nashik.

This is the second time in the last one year that farmers were on the roads to protest against the "betrayal" of peasants by the BJP governments at the Centre and in the state.

Earlier, they had planned to launch the march on Wednesday but it was deferred by a day allegedly after the state police stopped scores of farmers approaching Nashik from districts like Thane, Palghar and Ahmednagar.

In a late night meeting on Wednesday, the AIKS had asked the government to give its assurances in writing, a demand Mahajan agreed to. Mahajan had held parleys on behalf of the Devendra Fadnavis dispensation. 

The AIKS, however, had decided to proceed with its march from Nashik till the government kept its word. 

-- PTI
00:27  Pak asks ICJ to 'dismiss' India's claim for relief to Jadhav:  
Pakistan on Thursday asked the International Court of Justice to 'dismiss or declare inadmissible' India's claim for relief to Kulbhushan Jadhav, who is on a death row in the country.

Jadhav, 48, a retired Indian Navy officer, was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of 'espionage and terrorism' after a closed trial in April 2017.

His sentencing evoked a sharp reaction in India. India on Wednesday questioned the functioning of Pakistan's notorious military courts and urged the top United Nations court to annul Jadhav's death sentence, which is based on an 'extracted confession'.

Making the final submission in the ICJ on the last day of the hearing, Pakistan's counsel Khawar Qureshi said, "India's claim for relief must be dismissed or declared inadmissible."

"India's claim for relief (in the Jadhav case) remains as far fetched now as it was then (May 8, 2017)," he told the judges in his concluding remarks.

Closing the arguments, Pakistan's Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan said, "India seeks relief which they cannot claim from this court."

Asserting that the military court in Pakistan works according to the Constitution, he asked the ICJ to 'dismiss India's request' in the case.

Khan also assured the court that the process of judicial review in Pakistan was robust and Jadhav can avail it if he chooses.

"Jadhav has been charged with terrorism for which an FIR has been registered with the police that is a civilian agency.

"The military courts have sufficient proof of espionage and the said military court on the available evidence and the judicial confession proceeded to convict him despite he being given the option of going for a judicial review, he has refused to do so," Khan told the court.

He said India claims consular access, "surely (it) was not allowed for good reason in terms of the agreement of 2008, specially for the reason that commander Jadhav being involved in espionage."

Khan also raked up the Kashmir issue and said Pakistan was awaiting India's response on Samjhauta train blast case and has sought evidence on his country's role in the Pulwama terror attack.

After his submission, ICJ top judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf adjourned the hearing and said a date for the judgement would be announced later.

On Wednesday, Harish Salve, who was representing India in the case, said that the time has come for the ICJ to make Article 36 a potent weapon for protecting human rights.

On Pakistan's military courts, he said the International Commission of Jurists and European Parliament have criticised their functioning and added that anything diluting provisions of Vienna Convention must fail.

India moved the ICJ in May 2017 for the 'egregious violation' of the provisions of the Vienna Convention by Pakistan by repeatedly denying New Delhi consular access to Jadhav.

The four-day hearing in the Jadhav case opened Monday amidst heightened tensions between India and Pakistan following one of the worst terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad terror group that killed 40 CRPF soldiers.  -- PTI

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