Newsletter Oct 11, 2018




 The Supreme Court today asked the Centre to present before it the details of steps taken in the decision-making process leading to the award of the order for purchase of Rafale fighter plane from France, but refused to issue a formal notice to the government.

Directing the government to file the information in three sealed covers on or before October 29, a three-judge Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi directed the matter to be listed for October 30.

The Bench, including Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph, made it clear that the details sought “would not cover the issue of pricing or the question of technical suitability of the equipment”. It clarified that it had not taken into account the averments made in the two petitions filed by advocates ML Sharma and Vineet Dandha, terming these “inadequate and deficient”. “Our order is only for the purpose of satisfying ourselves in the matter,” the Bench noted.

The court refrained from issuing a formal notice after Attorney General KK Venugopal said it’s not a public interest litigation. Terming it a matter of national security, he said, “Forty questions were asked in Parliament which have only been selectively reproduced before Your Lordships… If notice is issued, it would go to PM… pleas are political in nature, filed for political gains…”

In his PIL, Sharma has alleged discrepancies in the deal. The PIL filed by Dhanda has sought a direction to the Centre to disclose details of the deal and comparative prices during the UPA and NDA governments in a sealed cover to the top court.



 The government continued to maintain silence on mounting allegations of sexual misconduct against Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar, who faced fresh charges from journalists in the still exploding #MeToo campaign.

Yesterday, author Ghazala Wahab and columnist Saba Naqvi also revealed their encounters with Akbar. Before Wednesday, Akbar had faced allegations of sexual harassment at workplace from journalists Priya Ramani, Prerna Bindra, Shuma Raha, Kanika Gahlaut and Suparna Sharma.

Veteran Congress leader Jaipal Reddy said if Brett Kavanaugh, nominee for the post of Supreme Court judge in the US, could face questions for “what he did in his youth, why should Akbar not explain his conduct?” Reddy also attacked External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj for failing to react to the matter.

“Sushma Swaraj is guilty on two counts. First, she is evading responsibility with regard to the blow delivered to women. Secondly, she is not prepared to comment on her own subordinate,” Reddy said.

Akbar is currently on a visit to Nigeria with a trade delegation. He is expected to be back by weekend.

The MeToo campaign, meanwhile, embroiled more names yesterday, and expanded further. Singer Sona Mahapatra levelled fresh allegations on musician Kailash Kher and more accusations haunted actor Alok Nath, who was first taken on for sexual harassment by television producer Vinta Nanda and actor Navneet Nishan and Sandhya Mridul.

The movement spilled over to the world of sports also with shuttler Jwala Gutta hinting at speaking in detail about the issue.

Congress student wing chief Fairoz Khan is also facing a police case for sexual harassment. After tweets yesterday alleged sexual harassment and intimidation of a J&K girl by Khan, the NSUI president, the Congress said its internal committee was hearing all sides concerned.



Clarifying his alleged statement that “BJP made tall promises in 2014 elections”, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari on Wednesday said the reports were “false and baseless”.

Attacking Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, who shared a video on Twitter saying Gadkari had proved that the BJP government was “built on jumlas and fake promises”, the minister at a press conference said: “I suggest to Rahul Gandhi that he must learn Marathi… Hire someone to learn the language.”

The video, which is part of an interview with a Marathi TV channel, shows Gadkari speaking about how the BJP never expected to come to power in 2014 and hence made tall promises.

Gadkari clarified that during the interview he had referred to an instance when senior BJP leaders of Maharashtra, including him, were considering pros and cons with regard to making electoral promise to do away with toll tax in the state. He said he had then told BJP leaders that it would be difficult to implement the promise.



Amid trade friction between China and the US, Beijing has called for India and China to deepen their cooperation to fight trade protectionism. Facing unilateralism and bullying activities, the Chinese embassy said here in a statement, China and India had more reasons to join efforts to build a more just and reasonable international order.

Making a common cause with India, which too has been at the receiving end of the Trump administration’s mercurial trade policies, China asked the US to reflect on its own practice of interfering in the internal affairs of developing countries such as China and India “under the pretext of human rights and religious matters’’. As two largest developing countries and major emerging markets, said the statement, China and India were both in the vital stage of deepening reform and developing economy, and both needed stable external environment.

“Practicing unilateral trade protectionism in the name of “national security” and “fair trade” will not only affect China’s economic development, but also undermine the external environment of India…,’’ said counselor Ji Rong, spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in India.

“President Xi Jinping and PM Modiji spoke with one voice to safeguard the multilateral trading system and free trade at the World Economic Forum in Davos respectively. This year, the two sides jointly participated in publishing the ‘Qingdao Declaration’ and the 10th BRICS Summit Johannesburg Declaration, sending a clear message against protectionism,” he said.





Opposition BNP chief Khaleda Zia’s fugitive son and political heir Tarique Rahman was sentenced to life and 19 others, including a former home minister, were given death penalty by a Bangladesh court on Wednesday for their role in a plot to assassinate Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 2004.

An attack on an Awami League rally on August 21, 2004, targeted Hasina, the then opposition leader, when she was about to finish a speech in front of thousands of supporters.

While Hasina survived the attack with a partial hearing loss, her party’s women front chief and former president Zillur Rahman’s wife Ivy Rahman was killed in the blasts.

Special court Judge Shahed Nuruddin awarded the death penalty to 19 persons, including former junior home minister Lutfuzzaman Babar, ex-deputy education minister Abdus Salam Pintu and several former army intelligence officers.

Rahman and 18 others were sentenced to life. Eleven others were jailed for different terms.

Thirty-one of the 49 convicts were present in the court while others, including 51-year-old Rahman, now the acting BNP chairman as his mother is serving a five-year imprisonment in a graft case, are on the run abroad to evade justice.

Commenting on the verdict, BNP secretary-general Fakhrul Islam Alamgir expressed the party’s deep frustration saying it was a “politically motivated” verdict. “It’s a naked expression of political vengeance,” he added.



 A newspaper close to the Turkish President published photos on Wednesday of what it said was a 15-member “assassination squad” allegedly sent to target Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who went missing after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last week. Turkish officials suspect Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi consulate, allegations rejected by Saudi Arabia, which says he left the premises.

Turkey has been given permission to search the diplomatic post, an extraordinary development that shows the increasing international pressure the kingdom faces over Khashoggi’s disappearance.

The report by the Sabah newspaper, which is close to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, published images of the men apparently taken at passport control.

Khashoggi had written a series of columns for the Washington Post that were critical of assertive Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has led a drive to reform the Sunni monarchy.



Maldives strongman President Abdulla Yameen’s party on Wednesday filed a legal petition challenging his landslide election defeat last month despite major international pressure for him to step down.

Yameen conceded defeat after an official count showed joint opposition leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih had polled 16.8 per cent more votes in a surprise result. But opposition members have worried about a smooth transition of power, due on November 17.

Yameen’s supporters had complained about rigging of votes and fraudulent ballot papers, his lawyer Mohamed Saleem told reporters after approaching the top court.





The voter turnout in Kashmir again drew a sorry figure as only 3.4 per cent of the 2.20 lakh eligible voters came out to exercise their franchise in the second phase of municipal polls in the state. These figures drew a sharp contrast with the voting percentage in Jammu where 78.6 per cent of over 1.26 lakh voters turned out to give their mandate.

National Conference (NC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and CPI(M) have boycotted the polls due to the legal challenge to Article 35A of the Constitution in the Supreme Court.



More than three lakh people were evacuated from the seaside villages on Wednesday as the state government moved to batten down the hatches before cyclone Titli hits the Odisha coast. Titli, which has now intensified into a very severe cyclonic storm, is expected to make landfall between Gopalpur in Odisha and Kalingapatnam in Andhra Pradesh between 5.30am and 11am on Thursday.

The cyclone is expected to cause extremely heavy rainfall accompanied by wind blowing at a speed of up to 165 kilometres per hour in coastal Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.



Three directors of the real estate group were sent to police custody on Monday. (File)

In further trouble for beleaguered Amrapali real estate group, which is facing lawsuits by homebuyers, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered sealing of nine of its properties where account books of its 46 group companies are kept. A bench of Justice Arun Mishra and Justice U U Lalit ordered the sealing of Amrapali properties in Noida, Greater Noida, Rajgir and Buxar in Bihar and asked the keys to be handed over to the SC registrar.

The SC order came after three directors of the real estate group, who were sent to police custody on Tuesday, informed the bench that all documents relating to 46 group companies were stacked in the nine properties.

Anil Kumar Sharma, Shiv Priya and Ajay Kumar were sent to police custody after they failed to hand over all the documents related to the accounts of the companies to the forensic auditors twice — on September 12 and 26. The court clarified that it was “not arresting them” and that police presence was only till the documents are seized and handed over.



Telecom operators have approached the Department of Telecom seeking approval for new e-KYC process as an alternative to Aadhaar-based verification.

This follows the Supreme Court order restricting use of Aadhaar information by private companies including telcos and banks.

“We are proposing minor modifications to the DoT guidelines…allowing consumer application form (CAF) to be embedded with photograph and scanned images thereby digitise the end to end process for on boarding of new subscribers by making it completely paperless,” the Apex Advisory Council for Telecom in India (ACT) said in a letter to the DoT.

The return to paper-based processes should not be an option as that will reverse the steps taken by the industry towards a digital India and would result in wastage of existing investments and infrastructure, the letter dated October 5 said.



When Tharoor described his new book on PM Narendra Modi as “more than just a 400-page exercise in floccinaucinihilipilification”, it left the Twitterati and the literati with a difficult, near unpronounceable word.

Tharoor talked about his new book- THE PARADOXICAL PRIME MINISTER in a tweet, using the rarely used word. The book itself was relegated to the background as the word got Twitterati talking. According to the Oxford dictionary, the word is a noun and means “the action or habit of estimating something as worthless”.

“My new book, THE PARADOXICAL PRIME MINISTER, is more than just a 400-page exercise in floccinaucinihilipilification. Pre-order it to find out why!” Tharoor said in a Twitter post that had everybody reaching for the dictionary.

According to the description of the book on Amazon, “Shashi Tharoor has stitched together a compelling portrait of this paradoxical figure (Narendra Modi),” “Never before has there been such a superbly written and devastatingly accurate account of the most controversial prime minister India has ever had,” it said. Tharoor’s love for the language and propensity for little heard and little-used words is well known.

In May 2017, the MP from Thiruvananthapuram and author of 17 books got netizens talking when he described the coverage of the death of his wife Sunanda Pushkar by a news channel as an “Exasperating farrago of distortions, misrepresentations and outright lies being broadcast by an unprincipled showman masquerading as a journalist”.

In December last year, he used the word ‘rodomontade’, meaning boastful or inflated talk or behaviour. And in February this year, he introduced ‘troglodytes’ to the Twitter world in a response to Vinay Katiyar’s comment on the Taj Mahal.



Today, Singapore Airlines will fly its new Airbus A350-900 ULR (ultra-long range) from Changi Airport to Newark Liberty Airport, the commercial flight with the longest duration (18 hours, 25 minutes). The airline did fly that 16,700-km route earlier, but cancelled it for inefficiency in 2013.

Since 2003, the longest flight was Qatar Airways’ Auckland-Doha on a Boeing 777-200LR (long range) at 17 hours, 40 minutes and 14,535 km, which the Singapore Airlines flight will now upstage with the world’s first Airbus A350-900 ULR aircraft . In reviving the flight, the airline took a number of measures to make it operationally efficient and comfortable.

From 100 business class seats, the new configuration is 67 business class and 94 premium economy seats. There are also various passenger comforts, and provisions to carry 24,000 litres more fuel than the standard A350-900 aircraft. The additional weight due to the higher fuel carriage will be offset by carrying fewer passengers than other aircraft. The fuselage is made of light composite materials; the aircraft is expected to consume 25% less fuel.



In the wake of the #MeToo movement in India, actor and producer Aamir Khan and his wife Kiran Rao have put out a statement saying that they “are committed to doing any and everything to make our film industry a safe and happy one to work in”.

Here is what the statement says:

“As creative people we have been committed to foregrounding and finding solutions to social issues, and at Aamir Khan Productions we have always had a zero-tolerance policy towards sexual misconduct and predatory behaviour of any kind. We strongly condemn any act of sexual harassment, and equally we condemn any and all false accusations in such cases.

Two weeks ago, when traumatic #MeToo stories began emerging, it was brought to our attention that someone we were about to begin work with has been accused of sexual misconduct. Upon enquiry we found that this particular case is subjudice, and that the legal process is in motion.

We are not an investigative agency, nor are we in any position to pass judgement on anyone – that is for the police and judiciary to do. So, without casting any aspersions on anyone involved in this case, and without coming to any conclusions about these specific allegations, we have decided to step away from this film.

We do not want our action to reflect in any manner on the people involved in this case.

We believe that this is an opportunity for the film industry to introspect and take concrete steps towards change. For far too long women have faced the brunt of sexual exploitation. It has to stop. In this regard we are committed to doing any and everything to make our film industry a safe and happy one to work in.



Mohammad Abbas took three wickets in seven balls to push Pakistan closer to victory in the first Test against Australia here today. The right-arm medium-pacer dismissed Aaron Finch (49) and the Marsh brothers — Shaun and Mitchell — for ducks as Australia slumped from 87 without loss to finish Day 4 at 136/3. At stumps, opener Usman Khawaja was batting on a fighting 50 and Travis Head on 34.

Pakistan need seven more wickets while Australia require another 326 runs for an improbable victory to take a 1-0 lead in the two-match series.

Scores: Pakistan 482 & 181/6 dec; Australia 202 & 138/3



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 Tests are a gift. To fail the test is a misfortune. But to refuse the test is to refuse the gift, and something worse, more irrevocable, than misfortune. – Lois McMaster Bujold



If you ever go for a roller coaster ride, carry a few nuts n bolts with you.

Let the ride reach the maximum height..

Then tap the person in front of you and say: “These have come loose from your seat”

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