Evening digest: Sonia Gandhi, Rahul to appear in court in National Herald case

GN Bureau | December 7, 2015



The Delhi High Court on Monday quashed a petition by Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi seeking to quash a lower court's summons in a case related to acquiring the ownership of the now-defunct National Herald newspaper. The court also declined to grant both the Gandhis an exemption from personal appearance before the trial court in the case. As a result, they must appear in the Delhi court by 4 pm on Tuesday, reported India Today. The original complaint was filed in the lower court by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy. The Congress had loaned Rs 90.25 crore to the publisher of National Herald Associated Journals Ltd. On December 28, 2010, it had assigned this debt to charitable company Young India Ltd., in which some Congress members are directors, for Rs 50 lakh. This, according to Swamy, was a breach of trust and cheating.
 
7.2 quake strikes in Tajikistan, felt in New Delhi

An earthquake measuring 7.2 magnitude struck Tajikistan on Monday, shaking buildings as far away as New Delhi and in Pakistan, the US Geological Survey said. The quake hit around 1:20 PM on Monday.

A spokesman for Tajikistan's Emergencies Committee said it had no information so far on any casualties or damage from the quake. The quake did not affect Russian military bases in Tajikistan, RIA news agency reported, citing Russia's defence ministry.

The epicentre of the quake was 111 km (65 miles) southwest of Karakul, the USGS said, a sparsely populated mountainous area.

Stern steps on calldrop: Govt assures Rajya Sabha
Private telecom companies are increasing their customers but not improving services which are “very bad”, government said in Rajya Sabha today and while asserting that it will take “stern” steps to address the menace of mobile call dropping.

Communications minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the private telecom companies have been asked to improve the infrastructure and the government is monitoring it.

After the issue was raised by Naresh Agrawal (SP) during Zero Hour, Prasad said he shared the concern of the member and the Parliament over the problem.

“I understand the concern raised by the member on the issue and Parliament’s concern. I and my government have taken this issue very seriously...I am concerned over the issue and we are rectifying it. For last two—three years, the issue was not taken seriously. I want to assure you that the effective steps taken now by me have never been taken earlier,” he said.

“I am a strong minister and will take more stern steps to improve the services,” he said.

Fitch keeps India's rating at 'BBB-', outlook 'stable'
Fitch Ratings today affirmed India's rating at 'BBB-' -- the lowest investment grade -- with a stable outlook, saying strong medium-term growth outlook and favourable external finances balance out weak structural features, including its business environment.

"India's sovereign ratings and a stable outlook balance a strong medium-term GDP growth outlook and favourable external finances, including a strong foreign reserves buffer, with a high government debt burden and weak structural features, including a difficult - but improving - business environment," Fitch Ratings said in a statement.

BBB- is just a notch above the 'junk' status. "The stable outlook reflects Fitch's view that upside and downside risks to the ratings are balanced," it said.

The sovereign rating and outlook for a country are often referred to as key parameters by foreign investors and global bodies to gauge its investment climate.

Fitch forecast that India's GDP growth will accelerate to 7.5 per cent in the current fiscal and further to 8 per cent in 2016-17 supported by the government's beefed-up capex spending and gradual implementation of a broad-based structural reform agenda.

39 highway projects terminated

As many as 73 national highway projects are in a stalled position and around 39 of them have been terminated, government informed Rajya Sabha today."Seventy three projects are in stalled position," Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways Pon Radhakrishnan said in the House, adding that of these, about 39 projects have been terminated while the others have been reviewed or reawarded

In his written reply, he said the government has recently taken several policy measures to revive the stalled national highway projects.

Iran in talks for $4.5-billion undersea gas pipeline to Gujarat
Iran, the world's largest holder of gas reserves, today said negotiations are underway to lay a $4.5 billion undersea gas pipeline to Gujarat after India shunned an onland line passing through Pakistan. "Negotiations are under serious consideration" for a pipeline from Iranian coast via Oman Sea and Indian Ocean to Gujarat, National Iranian Gas Export Co (NIGEC) Managing Director Alireza Kameli said at the World Energy Policy Summit in New Delhi.

Sensex closes 108 points down; Nifty at 7,765
Extending losses for the fourth straight session, the S&P BSE Sensex ended the day 108 points lower, while broader CNX Nifty settled below its key 7,800-mark. Markets fell as cigarette maker ITC slumped over 6 per cent to log its biggest fall in nine months, while oil producers slipped after OPEC left output targets unchanged.

Sensex, the 30-share index, ended at 25,530.11, down 108 points, while Nifty, the 50-share index, closed at 7,765.40, down 16.50 points. Market breadth remained negative with 16 of the 30 Sensex components ending the day in red.

Massive landslide blocks Chandigarh-Manali highway in Mandi
A massive landslide occurred at the Chandigarh-Manali national highway 21 near Dwada, nearly 25 kms from Mandi at about 9.30 am on Monday. No casualty has been reported so far.

The site of the landslide was near the Larji hydro power project reservoir where as many 25 students of Hyderabad Engineering College were washed away in the Beas river in June 2014.

Acting swiftly, the public works department (PWD) deployed JCB and bulldozers to clear the debris and said that restoring vehicular traffic may take another 24 hours, only if more landslides did not occur.

Government orders quick issue of I-T refunds under Rs 50000

The CBDT, on Monday said it has directed the Income Tax department to expedite issuance of pending refunds which are below Rs 50,000 as part of its drive to significantly reduce taxpayer grievances.

The status of outstanding refunds was reviewed recently. Following the review, the Central Board of Direct Taxes has issued directions to its field formations to expedite the issue of pending refunds below Rs 50,000 for assessment years 2013-14 and 2014-15 in all such cases which have not been selected for scrutiny.  The field formations and the Central Processing Centre at Bengaluru have been directed to complete the process as early as possible, the policy-making body of the tax department said in a statement today.

Acid attack survivors under disabilities act?
The Supreme Court on Monday directed state governments to consider acid attack survivors under the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.

A bench led by justice M.Y. Eqbal also directed the Bihar government to compensate one such survivor by paying Rs.10 lakh.

The court’s orders came in a writ petition filed by non-profit Parivartan Kendra, which sought adequate rehabilitation and free medical treatment for acid attack victims and the regulation of sale of acid. The organisation also sought higher compensation for the Bihar-based acid attack survivor.

On inadequate compensation to survivors, the court asked Parivartan Kendra to approach individual state governments in contempt of the apex court verdict dated 18 July 2013 in which it laid down guidelines to regulate the retail sale of acids. Survivors were to be given Rs.3 lakh as compensation under the guidelines.

Government sets up team for policy directives on startup ecosystem
The government has constituted a team which will assist in policy formulations for creating a conducive ecosystem for start-ups, Parliament was informed today.

Besides, the Centre has also appointed a consulting agency to help the team in its work, Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha.

After the ambitious 'Make in India' drive, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Independence Day speech had announced a new campaign 'Start-up India, Stand up India', aimed at promoting entrepreneurship in the country.

Replying to a separate question, she said that India has imported electronics goods worth Rs 1,32,976.76 crore during April-September this year, against Rs 2,29,615.17 crore in 2014-15.

Corruption Bill referred to select committee
A crucial bill on checking corruption was today referred to a Select Committee after members in Rajya Sabha raised objections over certain clauses, arguing that these overlap with the provisions of the Lokpal Act and more clarity was needed on these.

The Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2013, pending before the Rajya Sabha for long, provides for more stringent punishment for the offences of bribery, both for the bribe giver and the bribe taker by amending the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. It seeks to enhance penalty for graft to a maximum of seven years from five years now, among other new provisions to check the menace.

When the bill was moved in the House on December 3, Opposition parties including Congress and Samajwadi Party had advocated caution on the measure saying the new law, instead of checking the menace, will increase corruption and make elected representatives more vulnerable.

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