Morning briefing: GST bill to be tabled in Rajya Sabha today

GN Bureau | August 11, 2015

With only three days of monsoon session remaining, a desperate government late on Monday listed the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2014, for consideration and passing in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday. The Congress, however, stuck to its position that it would not let the house transact any business, except supplementary demand for grants, till external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and two chief ministers resigned. Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has issued a whip to its members to be present in the house on Tuesday.

China central bank devalues yuan after poor economic data
China devalued the yuan on Tuesday after a run of poor economic data, guiding the currency to its lowest point in almost three years. The central bank described the move as a "one-off depreciation" of nearly 2%, based on a new way of managing the exchange rate that better reflected market forces. A 2% fall in the value of the yuan is a relatively huge move for China.

India-born Sundar Pichai to lead Google as new CEO
Chennai-born Sundar Pichai has been named the new CEO of Google, as the technology giant co-founder Larry Page announced the formation of a new umbrella firm 'Alphabet', of which Google will be a part. Page announced the formation of the new parent company Alphabet in a blog post, of which he will be the CEO and Google co-founder Sergey Brin will be the President. Pichai has been named CEO of the new Google, which Page said will be a bit slimmed down.

Hazare gets threat letter asking him to dissociate from Kejriwal
Social activist Anna Hazare has received a threat letter which states that he would be "bumped off" if he does not dissociate himself from Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. The letter warns Hazare that he will meet the fate of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, who was killed in Pune two years ago.

Rs 426 cr damage being sought by govt from Nestle
The centre looks set to seek a compensation of around Rs 426 crore from Swiss food major Nestle over the alleged damages caused by Maggi noodles to Indian consumers. The consumer affairs ministry is ready to file a complaint with the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) in the next few days. The complaint, to be filed on behalf of Indian consumers, is against "unfair trade practices" and "misleading consumers" in the Maggi case.

Yogendra Yadav detained by police, alleges he was 'beaten up'
Activist Yogendra Yadav was detaind by Delhi Police later on Monday night from the site of a farmers' protest at Jantar Mantar in Delhi. Swaraj Abhiyan member Yadav tweeted a picture of himself in a torn shirt, claiming he had been beaten up, manhandled and "arrested at the Parliament Street police station".

Cong reveals Lalit Modi emails to get PM Modi
The Congress on Monday sought to drag the Prime Minister into the Lalit Modi controversy, citing purported emails from the former IPL chief claiming he was “very close” to Narendra Modi, who was then the Gujarat CM. Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal alleged that Lalit Modi had tried to help two industrial houses -- Adani Group and Videocon -- in getting IPL franchises when Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, who is the BJP chief, were president and vice-president of the Gujarat Cricket Association in 2009. The former law minister also alleged that Lalit Modi along with Gautam Adani met Narendra Modi and Shah in February 2010. “We always wondered as to why the Prime Minister is silent on the Lalit Modi controversy. So we dug a little deeper and found the reason,” Sibal said.

Muslim women want ban on oral divorce and polygamy
Almost 92% Muslim women from 10 states want ban on oral divorce and polygamy. This was revealed in a survey carried out by Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA). A little over 88% said they preferred talaq-e-ahsan (where the husband pronounces talaq and abstains from physical contact with his wife for the next three months, at the end of which the marriage is valid again if he changes his mind) to oral talaq, a unilateral divorce where there is no room for reconciliation. Around 91.2% women were also against polygamy.

Poll-bound Nitish Kumar takes to Twitter
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on Monday launched a 'Shabdwapsi' campaign against Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Twitter, in protest against his "derogatory remarks" against Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leaders. "Inspite of our repeated pleas Modiji hasn't retracted his derogatory remarks on our DNA," he wrote in his tweet launching the 'Take Back Your Words' campaign. Bihar will go to polls in November this year.

Space-grown lettuce on International Space Station's menu today

Astronauts on board the International Space Station will for the first time eat food that was grown on the orbiting laboratory after harvesting a crop of 'Outredgeous' red romaine lettuce. The astronauts will clean the leafy vegetables with citric acid-based, food safe sanitising wipes before consuming them. They will eat half of the space bounty on Tuesday, setting aside the other half to be packaged and frozen on the station until it can be returned to Earth for scientific analysis.

NASA's plant experiment, called Veg-01, is being used to study the in-orbit function and performance of the plant growth facility and its rooting "pillows," which contain the seeds. NASA is maturing Veggie technology aboard the space station to provide future pioneers with a sustainable food supplement a critical part of NASA's Journey to Mars.

No naming and shaming under black money law
The Revenue Secretary Shaktikanta Das on Monday sought to allay fears of industry about any harassment under the black money law, but asserted that the Act needs to be stringent to tackle with the issue of stashing of assets by Indians abroad. He said the revenue department would come out with more clarifications through frequently asked questions (FAQs) on the Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets Act, popularly known as Black Money Act. "Black Money Act is non-discretionary in nature. Only limited officers of the rank of commissioner are authorised with implementation of the law. Disclosures will be treated as confidential information," he told a conference of chartered accountants here. He said full confidentiality about the information disclosed will be maintained. "Black money law is not arbitrary. Non-discretionary law, in fact, is fair and transparent," he said.

ISPs seek clarity from govt on porn ban
Internet service providers (ISPs) told the Supreme Court on Monday that the "conflicting directions" from the government on banning pornographic sites have put them at the risk of being accused of violating the licence conditions and laws. The ISPs submitted they were asked to block 587 sites on July 31 but on August 4 were directed to bar only those involving child abuse. It is difficult to determine which sites to block this way, hence the government should provide the list of links to be blocked, said ISPs' counsel Meenakshi Arora. Although ISPs have written to the Department of Telecommunications, there has been no response so far; therefore the court should intervene to clarify ISPs' role, she pleaded. Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi told the ISPs that their complaint would be looked into and the issues need not be presented in the court. He invited them to discuss their problem with the DoT and not in the court.

Jain community's fast unto death traditon declared illegal by HC
The Rajasthan High Court has declared the practice of 'Santhara' or 'Sullekhana' within the Jain community as illegal. Santhara means a fast unto death. A person after taking a vow of 'Santhara' stops eating and even drinking water and awaits death. The court called the practice punishable under section 309 of the IPC as an attempt to commit suicide. The court also ordered support to Santhara by any person punishable as abetment under section 306 of the IPC.

Salman Khan is a man without brains, says Raj Thackeray

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena Chief Raj Thackeray on Monday called his his friend and actor Salman Khan as a man without brains. The remarks were in response to Salman's tweets in favour of 1993 Mumbai serial blasts convict Yakub Memon ahead of his execution on July 30. "Salman is a man without brains, while his father is a respectable man. He does not read newspapers and does not know the law and thus went on tweeting in his (Yakub's) favour. Then there are people who sent letters to the President seeking mercy for the traitor. How can anybody question a Supreme Court order," Raj Thackeray asked while speaking at a meeting in Mumbai.



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