Morning briefing: Odd-even scheme in Delhi end today

GN Bureau | January 15, 2016

The odd and even car scheme to stem rising pollution levels in the capital will come to an end today after its 15-day trial period. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government has declared the policy a success and is mulling a second phase of the scheme. A final decision on the second phase will be taken only after the government conducts an analysis of the impact of the scheme on pollution levels. The judiciary  had lent support to the scheme by refusing to stay its operation. The supreme court on Thursday had refused to hear a public interest litigation (PIL) challenging it. Terming the plea as a publicity stunt, the apex court said that the 'odd-even' policy is being implemented for the citizens of Delhi and that everyone must cooperate with it. The Delhi high court had said that the odd-even scheme was a success to some extent as the idea had appealed to the people. A court made the observation in response to the submission of Delhi Traffic Police that the scheme was successful mainly due to the 2000 rupees fine payable for violation, and added that the Delhi government was successful in publicising the concept and making it appealing to the masses.

Maulana Masood Azhar's arrest never happened, says Jaish-e-Mohammad
After Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said Maulana Masood Azhar has been taken under "protective custody", the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) on Thursday countered the claims and said its chief was never arrested. On its Facebook page, the terror outfit declared: “Disbelievers and hypocrites across the world are celebrating our arrest, but the arrest never happened,” reports The Indian Express. In a statement in Urdu, JeM added: “Even if they happen, what difference will it make? No difference, except one. Allah willing, there will be more enthusiasm and excitement among people of the faith, and the work of jihad will gather more strength and energy.” On Thursday, Sanaullah, while speaking on DawnNews talk show 'News Eye', said that Masood Azhar was taken into protective custody by the counter-terrorism department. India says that the six terrorists who attacked the Indian Air Force (IAF) station in Pathankot in Punjab on January 02, killing seven security personnel, were Pakistanis and allied to the JeM.

Bhardwaj reveals Cong govt bid to bend SC
In a huge embarrassment for Congress, former union law minister HR Bhardwaj has claimed that he was pressurised by the previous Manmohan Singh dispensation to get a favourable judgement from the Supreme Court on the issue of President's rule in Bihar in 2005. The apex court bench comprising of five judges, with a 3-2 majority, had quashed President's rule imposed in Bihar in 2005 by UPA-I government. While divulging details about the incident, Bhardwaj said the then Chief Justice of India YK Sabharwal was a family friend, but a tough judge. He said when he met Justice Sabharwal, he couldn’t muster courage to initiate the topic.

"When President's rule was imposed (in Bihar in 2005), the Supreme Court took upfront to this and many eminent lawyers argued in the matter. My three Cabinet colleagues came to me and said you are out now, you were lucky that you survived so long. I said no problem, it is the Rashtrapati who has approved the promulgation of President's rule,” Bhardwaj said in his speech. "I took that stand. Then I thought why can't I see Sabharwal. I had access to his house, we had coffee and discussion but I could not muster the courage to tell him to help me,” he said. He made the comments while attending a function to inaugurate the Moot Court Hall of National Law University in Delhi.

Ram Madhav takes dig at Aamir Khan
BJP leader Ram Madhav Thursday denounced actor Aamir Khan's remarks on 'intolerance', saying he should not preach only to an auto-rickshaw driver about country's prestige but also his wife. Madhav also said the government will ensure that in future no need arises for 'award-wapasi', and asserted that there will be no compromise on the security of the country's borders and self respect. In an apparent dig at Khan, who recently courted controversy over his remarks on perceived intolerance in the country, Madhav said, "It will not work that you preach to an auto wallah how country's prestige has to be saved but not tell the same to your own wife". The Bollywood superstar was the ambassador for the government's 'Incredible India' tourism campaign during the UPA regime. He ceased to be the mascot for the campaign as the contract for it expired.

US police officer acquitted in Indian grandfather assault case
In a jolt to a paralysed Indian grandfather's bid to seek justice, an American police officer who brutally assaulted him has been acquitted by a US court after two mistrials could not establish his guilt beyond doubt. Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala threw out the case against Alabama police officer Eric Parker, who faced up to 10 years in prison for using excessive force against 58-year-old Sureshbhai Patel in the February 6 incident last year. Parker knocked Patel down to the ground when he was walking on a lane near his son's home in Alabama, an incident that left him partially paralysed and angered the Indian-American community. A team of three federal prosecutors had twice tried Parker last year for the takedown of Patel.

Both trials ended with a deadlocked jury. Haikala, yesterday filed a 92-page opinion, ending with, "The Government has had two full and fair chances to obtain a conviction; it will not have another." Parker still faces a state charge of misdemeanour assault in Limestone County. "Two juries have communicated as much after lengthy deliberations that produced thoughtful questions and, ultimately, deadlock. The Court has no reason to expect a different result in a subsequent trial given the totality of the evidence that the parties have provided," the judge said. Federal prosecutors had filed a motion yesterday arguing against acquittal, stating that a reasonable jury could view the video and listen to testimony and decide Parker intentionally used excessive force in slamming Patel onto the ground.

Coal imports fall in April-December due to low demand
India's coal imports declined almost 7 per cent during the April-December period as power plants stocked up adequately on the fuel with improved domestic supplies. Imports by state and central sector thermal power companies fell 40 per cent, although the purchases from overseas by private companies increased 5 per cent from the year-earlier period. The nation imported 124 million tonnes of coal during the nine-month period compared with 132 million tonnes a year earlier. NTPCBSE -1.15 % was the largest importer among state-owned utilities, bringing in about 7 million tonnes of coal compared with 12 million tonnes previously. Public sector companies imported 19.88 million tonnes of coal, while in the corresponding period a year earlier, the volume was 33.2 million tonnes. The private sector's coal imports increased to almost 104 million tonnes from 99 million tonnes.

Food regulator FSSAI issues new rules for ensuring quality imports
India's food regulator issued new rules for importing products, seeking to address concerns over the entry of sub-standard items and simplify the process by setting shelf-life norms and relaxing labelling guidelines, reports Economic Times. No food article will be allowed unless it has 60% of its shelf life remaining when it is cleared from customs, according to the new rules. Companies must register with the Directorate General of Foreign Trade and possess a valid import-export code, apart from an FBO licence to import food.

This is a new clause in the regulations, which were uploaded on the website of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India. The Food Safety and Standards (Import) Regulations, 2016, will come into force when they are notified by publication in the Official Gazette, the FSSAI said. The regulator addressed two key issues raised by the food industry by easing labelling requirements and introducing a redressal procedure. "Any food importer aggrieved by one or more of the following orders of the authorised officer may file a review application to the review officer against such order," according to the provisions uploaded on Thursday. Importers will be allowed to affix a single, non-detachable sticker to rectify labelling errors related to the name and address of the importer, the FSSAI logo and licence number and the symbols for nonvegetarian and vegetarian food items. The earlier rules didn't allow such errors to be corrected.

Aadhaar not mandatory for DBT scheme, clarifies RBI
Use of Aadhaar cards and seeding of bank accounts with those numbers are purely voluntary and not mandatory, RBI said in a clarification on the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) Scheme. "... in view of the Supreme Court's interim orders dated August 11, 2015 and October 15, 2015... on usage of Aadhaar, it is hereby clarified that use of Aadhaar card and seeding of bank accounts with Aadhaar numbers is purely voluntary and it is not mandatory," RBI said in a communication to banks.

UN downgrades India GDP forecast for 2016 to 7.5% from 8.2%
United Nations has downgraded its GDP growth forecast for India for 2016 to 7.5 per cent from 8.2 per cent estimated earlier, largely due to slow progress in implementing reform policies. In 2015, India is expected to see better growth compared to China, but the higher rate is due to a change in the methodology of computing GDP in recent years rather than an increase in the growth rate. According to a report by United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the potential for even higher economic growth in some other major economies in the region has been held back due to slow progress in implementing reform policies. ESCAP economists believe, China is expected to grow at 6.5 per cent in 2016, lower from 6.8 per cent estimated earlier. In case of India, the 2016 GDP is likely to be around 7.5 per cent lower from 8.2 per cent earlier.



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