Newsletter July 20 2018





Bracing for the debate over the Opposition-sponsored no-confidence motion in Lok Sabha today, the government Thursday deferred introduction of the Bill to change the Right to Information law in Rajya Sabha after activists and the Opposition questioned the proposed amendments, saying these undermine the independence of information commissions.

In both Houses Thursday, discussions centred on measures against corruption. The Rajya Sabha passed amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act that will make giving bribes to public servants an offence. In Lok Sabha, the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill was passed.

BJP president Amit Shah reached out to parties within and outside the ruling National Democratic Alliance ahead of the no-confidence motion on Friday, aiming to defeat it with a two-thirds majority and demoralise the Opposition.

The BJP also plans to drown out the Opposition’s attack on the government by fielding a battery of speakers, with the final assault to be mounted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who will be the last speaker.

The BJP, because it has 273 MPs, will get the lion’s share of the seven hours allotted for discussion – 3 hours, 33 minutes. The Congress, with 48 MPs, will get 38 minutes.

The NDA has 312 Lok Sabha MPs and is hoping to cross that figure. “We have spoken to a number of parties outside the NDA. We are hopeful of getting new support from the south and the east,” parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar said.

The Opposition believes the debate offers a chance to “show the mirror” and “expose” the government. And the ruling party thinks the debate will reveal “all the cards the Opposition has” for the Lok Sabha polls.

For the Congress, it is not about arithmetic. Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma said: “It is not only numbers, there are issues. It is not that you want to get rid of them for a few months. Our campaign is to expose them, tell the people the truth so that they are deposed for good when the general elections are held. This is the launch of a campaign which will eventually send them packing in 2019.”


The Congress on Thursday accused the government of pressuring Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland chopper scandal, to frame UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi in return for exoneration from any charge. It alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was using investigating agencies to tarnish the reputation of opposition leaders.

According to reports, Michel was arrested in Dubai earlier this week. Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala said that Michel’s advocate Rosemary Patrizi Dos Anjos and his sister Sasha Ozemen have told India Today television channel that the “Modi government and its agencies were forcing him to sign a false confessional statement naming Gandhi in return for complete exoneration from any charge whatsoever in the AgustaWestland case”.

“Never before in the history of India has a Prime Minister been found complicit in gaining false evidence against opposition leaders to seek revenge,” Surjewala alleged.


The Lok Sabha on Thursday passed the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018, which is aimed at preventing culprits of such offences from leaving the country without being legally made accountable to the alleged fraud.

During the debate over the Bill, which lasted for little over three hours, the members from the Opposition questioned the government’s sincerity in taking any action against such offenders, whom TMC’s Kalyan Banerjee termed “Modi (Nirav, Lalit) syndicate”.

The House, however, later passed the legislation by a voice vote as Finance Minister Piyush Goyal said the government had brought an ordinance before introducing the Bill in Parliament which reflected its “aggressiveness” in acting against black money and such offenders. He also asked why the UPA government did not bring a law like this.

The minister said the proposed law gave power to the agencies to seize properties, which are not only in the name of offender, but also the ones that are “benami”.




Four days after a software engineer was lynched by a mob over child lifting rumours that were spread on social media, including WhatsApp, in Bidar in Karnataka, the Centre warned the Facebook-owned company Thursday that it could face legal action “if they remain mute spectators” when rumours and fake news are propagated through such mediums.

In a second note to the US-based messaging platform, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) asked WhatsApp to come out with “more effective solutions” to prevent such incidents of mob violence. “When rumours and fake news get propagated by mischief mongers, the medium used for such propagation cannot evade responsibility and accountability. If they remain mute spectators they are liable to be treated as abettors and thereafter face consequent legal action,” the Centre said in a statement.

The Centre said that the problems have not been adequately addressed by WhatsApp. “It has been conveyed to them in unmistakable terms that it is a very serious issue which deserves a more sensitive response,” the Centre noted.

WhatsApp has announced measures to counter the spread of rumours and unverified information, including letting only group administrators decide which members can post and labelling forwarded messages to distinguish between the messages that have been forwarded from the ones that have been created by the sender.








Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday said some forces in the United States were trying to undermine the success of his first summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, but they had managed to begin to improve the ties anyway.

Putin and Trump sat down for their first summit in Helsinki on July 16, an event that sparked a storm of criticism in the U.S. after the U.S. President refused to blame the Russian leader for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, comments he later appeared to backtrack on.

Putin, speaking to Russian diplomats from around the world assembled in Moscow, said the summit had been a success overall, but complained about what he described as ”powerful” U.S. efforts to sabotage it. “We see that there are forces in the United States that are prepared to casually sacrifice Russian-U.S. relations, to sacrifice them for their ambitions in the course of an internal political battle,” he said. Those forces appeared ready to sacrifice U.S. jobs and hurt the U.S. economy while waging their political battle.

He said it would have been naive to expect that the summit could have resolved problems that had built up over many years in the space of a few hours, but that a start had been made. “… The path to positive changes has all the same begun,” he observed. “It’s important that a full-scale meeting has finally taken place allowing us to talk directly.”





Israel passed a “nation-state” law on Thursday declaring that only Jews have the right of self-determination in the country, stirring anger from members of the Arab minority who said it was racist and drawing an expression of concern from the EU.

The Bill, backed by the right-wing government, and passed after months of political argument and some Arab lawmakers shouted and ripped up their papers after the vote.

Largely symbolic, the law was enacted just after the 70th anniversary of the birth of the state of Israel. It stipulates “Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it”.

Palestinian leaders condemned the move.

The Bill also removes Arabic as an official language alongside Hebrew, downgrading it to a “special status” that enables its continued use in Israeli institutions. Israel’s Arab citizens number some 1.8 million, about 20% of the 9 million population.









The CBI Thursday named former Union Minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, his son Karti Chidambaram, ten other individuals, including officers, and six firms as accused in a fresh chargesheet relating to the Aircel Maxis case. It was filed in a Delhi court which has fixed the matter for consideration on July 31.

In its chargesheet filed before Special Judge O P Saini, the CBI alleged that Chidambaram and all other accused entered into a “criminal conspiracy” with others, and that he abused his official position being the Union Finance Minister form 2006 to 2012.

Soon after the filing of the chargesheet, P Chidambaram, in a tweet, said, “CBI has been pressured to file a chargesheet to support a preposterous allegation against me and officers with a sterling reputation. The case is now before the Hon’ble Court and it will be contested vigorously. I shall make no more public comment.”

The CBI said it probed how Chidambaram, who was Finance Minister in 2006, granted FIPB approval to a foreign firm when only the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) was empowered to do it. It said that during the investigation it was established that P Chidambaram “received illegal gratification of Rs 26,00,444 as quid pro quo through his son Karti Chidambaram in the company M/S Advantage Strategic Consulting Pvt Ltd controlled by him in the garb of providing management consultancy service to M/S Aircel Televentures Ltd”.

The CBI chargesheet also named as accused, among others, retired senior bureaucrats Ashok Chawla and Ashok Jha. When approval for FDI in Aircel was given by FIPB, Chawla was Additional Secretary in the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) while Ashok Jha was Secretary.

The other accused are DEA officials Kumar Sanjay Krishna, then joint secretary; Deepak Kumar Singh, then director; and, Ram Sharan, then Under Secretary.




The seer of the Shiroor Math in Karnataka’s Udupi, Lakshmivara Theertha Swamiji (55), died at the KMC Hospital in Manipal Thursday, two days after he was hospitalised for suspected food poisoning.

Lakshmivara Theertha headed the Shiroor Math, one of the eight mutts or the Ashta Maths linked to the Udupi Sri Krishna temple, and was recently at loggerheads with the seers of the other maths. The artistically inclined Lakshmivara Theertha Swamiji, who revelled in music and played the guitar, was unlike other seers of the Ashta Math in his outlook and has been opposed by seers of the other Ashta Mutts recently for a statement he reportedly made suggesting that he had sired a child. He had also reportedly said that many of the other seers had also sired children in contravention of rules of the Math.

The seer’s brother Lathavya Acharya has filed a complaint with the local police stating that he suspects foul play in the death of the seer and has demanded a high-level probe into the death.




Fearing backlash in the next General Election amid public anxiety over fears that people’s hard-earned money may be used to bail out failed banks, the Union Government has finally decided to withdraw the controversial Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance (FRDI) Bill 2017.

The proposed law, introduced in Lok Sabha in August 2017, was presently under the consideration of a joint House panel.

The major controversy was about “bail in” provision, which, some analysts said, meant creditors and depositors would have to absorb losses in case of a bank failure. This raised concerns that common people may have to bail out banks. In December, Union Minister Arun Jaitley had said that the Centre was committed to protecting the interests of depositors in state-run banks.





The Travancore Devaswom Board, which controls the Sabarimala temple in Kerala, on Thursday defended in the Supreme Court the practice of barring the entry of women in the menstruating age group of 10-50 years, saying it was prevalent in temples across the country.

“The nature of the deity and the history of the temple is such that women in the menstruating age are not allowed inside. Temples across the country do not allow women who are in their menstruating days,” senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi told a five-judge constitution bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices R.F. Nariman, A.M. Khanwilkar, D.Y. Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra.

Singhvi pleaded that the entire religious practices of the temple had been distorted out of context to give the impression that they were barbaric and medieval.

Singhvi said there were different concepts of purity and impurity across cultures and religions. “Hindus leave footwear outside temples whereas Christians enter churches with their footwear on,” he said, prompting the CJI to say: “Leaving footwear outside the temple is a regulation, but imposing a condition to debar women in a particular age group is something different.”

Justice Nariman felt that the notification issued by the Sabarimala temple board imposing the age restriction could have been worded better to refer to women who are of reproductive age instead of specifying an age bracket of 10 to 50 years. “What happens to a woman who stops menstruating at the age of 45?” he asked.

Singhvi replied that age was not the issue but agreed that the decades-old notification could have been worded better.

Senior counsel K. Parasaran, also appearing for the board, submitted that devotees don’t have the right to change the character of the deity according to their convenience.




In the world of academia, getting published in an international research journal is almost the holy grail, it helps bump up the CV for hiring and helps in the competition for tenure or promotion. It takes rigorous research, an original contribution, exhaustive peer or expert reviews, and dogged persistence.

But then, there’s also an easy way — pay and get published.

An investigation by The Indian Express shows that India has emerged as one of the biggest markets for a business in which over 300 publishers manage what are called “predatory journals” that claim to be international and publish papers for a listed “charge” or “fee” that ranges from $30-$1,800 per piece.

From a plush office in the heart of Hyderabad, home to one of the world’s largest such publishers, to a one-room, one-man, one-laptop office at Richha in Bareilly, The Indian Express found that most of these publications exist online, claim to have a list of experts as editors, and employ minimal or no editorial checks before publication.

Hyderabad-based OMICS is, in fact, facing legal action by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the US for fraudulent claims — a charge the company denies.

“These so-called predatory journals have brought a bad name for the country and also for many of its sincere researchers,” says S C Lakhotia, professor emeritus at Banaras Hindu University.




Telecom regulator TRAI on Thursday came out with stringent regulations to control the menace of unsolicited calls and messages, complaints against which have been on the rise.

It has once again put the onus of stopping of these unsolicited calls and messages from tele-marketers on the access providers, who will not only have to maintain a record of the complaints but also act against such marketers by not only putting a usage cap but in the eventuality disconnecting the number and blacklisting the sender.

New regulations provide the subscriber with complete control over their consent and the ability to revoke the consent already granted, at their option, it said.




The RBI yesterday said it will shortly issue new 100-rupee banknotes under the Mahatma Gandhi (New) Series, coloured lavender and smaller than the existing one.

Bearing the signature of RBI Governor Urjit R. Patel, the new banknote has the motif of Rani ki Vav or the Queen’s stepwell, a structure in Patan, Gujarat, that is on the Unesco’s World Heritage List.

The note has other designs and geometric patterns aligning with the colour scheme of lavender, both at the obverse and reverse.

The RBI said all the banknotes in the denomination of 100 issued in the earlier series would continue to be legal tender.




The income tax department has allowed referral kickbacks paid to doctors by private hospitals, nursing homes and diagnostic centres and spending on advertisements by doctors as expenses despite such expenditure being disallowed and unethical, a parliamentary panel said on Thursday.

The public accounts committee for the Union finance ministry’s department of revenue has cited an audit that found that in 19 instances in eight states, income-tax officers had in contravention of provisions allowed such expenses.

A 2012 circular from the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) had said that expenses incurred by pharmaceutical companies on doctors were inadmissible as the Medical Council of India had prohibited them under its ethics rules for doctors.





The rupee on Thursday took a 43-paise knock to close below the 69-level for the first time at a record low of 69.05 against the US currency as upbeat comments on the US economy by the Federal Reserve chairman drove the greenback higher against global currencies.

The rupee had touched an all-time intra-day low of 69.10 on June 28.

This is the biggest single-day fall since May 29.





Sensex 36,351 (-22), Nifty 10,957 (-23), Trading Value NSE (Rs.crores) 27,888

Nasdaq 7,825 (-29) Dow 25,065 (-135), S&P 2,804 (-11)

US$-Rs. 68.73 GBP-Rs. 89.52, Euro-Rs. 79.92, UAE Dhm-Rs.18.71, Can$-Rs. 51.97, Aus$- Rs. 50.65

GBP 0.76 /US$, Euro 0.85 /US$, Jap.Yen 112.74 /US$, Aus$ 1.35 /US$, Sing 1.36 /US$, Bang Taka 83.40 /US$, Can$ 1.32 /US$, Mal Ring 4.06 /US$,

Pak Re 127.63 /US$, Phil Peso 53.55 /US$, Russian Rouble 63.36 /US$, NZ$ 1.48 /US$, Thai Baht 33.38 /US$, Ukraine Hryvnia 26.21 /US$

Bitcoin – USD 7,250

Dollar Index 94.94 Brent Crude 72.63 BDI 1688

Gold world Spot Price USD/aoz 1,218 India (Rs. per gm 24k/22k) 2965 / 2877, Silver (Rs. Per KG) 41,600



Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities… because it is the quality which guarantees all others. – Winston Churchill


One guy wrote on his Facebook status: “Last night, even after having 7 drinks I felt confident to drive, but l acted responsibly & took an Uber.”

He got 400 Likes and 40 Comments. But the best comment was: “Hey, where the hell did you go to in an Uber??? The party was at your place!!!

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