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LIVE! Manipur govt silencing people, says wife of journalist held under NSA

15:51  Calcutta HC disallows BJP rath yatras in Bengal :  Ping pong: The Calcutta High Court’s Chief Justice bench has now quashed the single bench’s order allowing BJP’s yatra in West Bengal.

The Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government on Wednesday had approached the Chief Justice’s division bench challenging the Calcutta High Court’s single bench order permitting the BJP ‘save democracy’ Rath-Yatra in the state.

The Calcutta high court on Thursday gave the go ahead for the
Bharatiya Janata Party’s ‘Rath Yatra’ in West Bengal, quashing the state
government’s decision to refuse permission over apprehensions of
communal unrest but set some conditions.

However, the state government challenged the single bench order and the Calcutta High Court has now quashed the order.

On Thursday, the Calcutta High Court allowed the BJP to proceed with its Rath Yatra in West Bengal which is perceived as a major setback to the Mamata Banerjee government.

The Court gave permission to BJP to hold three yatras in West Bengal and directed that the administration should ensure that there is no breach of law and order.

The ball is now back with the BJP.


15:24  Manipur govt silencing people, says wife of journalist held under NSA :  The BJP-led Manipur government is using all their power to silence people, said Ranjita, wife of journalist Kishorechandra Wangkhemcha, who was arrested under the National Security Act last month for allegedly making derogatory comments against Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh.

Wangkhemcha, who was working for a local news channel in the northeastern state, had reportedly uploaded several videos last month calling Singh, a puppet of Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led central government.

In his video clips, Wangkhemcha had apparently criticised the state government for observing Rani of Jhansi’s birth anniversary and allegedly used derogatory words against the Chief Minister.

“We have filed a petition in the High Court. How did it affect the nation’s security? How can they use NSA? We don’t know what to do now. They are using all their power to silence people,” Ranjita told ANI.

“This is not the right democratic process. In a democratic country, we can criticise. Even the Chief Judicial Magistrate in the bail itself said that it is not seditious even if you use a strict language and criticise the government. NSA is far away from this. Criticism in a democratic country is much to develop. We are in a developing country so without criticism how can we develop ourselves,” she added.

“He has been in the jail for more than 20 days. He was booked under NSA after the state government failed to put charge under sedition,” Wangkhem’s lawyer Chongtham Victor told ANI.

On December 14, the state government had reportedly ordered that Wangkhemcha should be kept under detention for a year.

Image: Manipur journalist Kishorechandra Wangkhemcha


14:36  National Herald told to vacate premises in 2 weeks:  The Delhi High Court Friday dismissed the plea by Associated Journals Ltd, publisher of National Herald, challenging the Centre’s order to vacate the premises in the national capital. Justice Sunil Gaur said AJL will have to vacate the premises at ITO in New Delhi within two weeks after which proceedings under the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorized Occupants) Act, 1971 would be initiated.

The court passed the order on AJL’s plea challenging the Centre’s October 30 order ending its 56-year-old lease. In the order, the Centre and Land and Development Office (L&DO) has said that no press has been functioning in the premises for at least past 10 years and it was being used only for commercial purposes in violation of the lease deed. — PTI


13:38  From Modi Sarkar to stalker sarkar: Oppn hits out at MHA’s snoop orders :  Opposition parties led by the Congress on Friday opposed the government’s move to authorise 10 Central agencies to intercept “any information” on computers, describing it as unconstitutional, undemocratic and an assault on fundamental rights.

The parties, including the CPI(M), the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Trinamool Congress, said they will collectively oppose the Union Home Ministry’s order issued on Thursday. The BJP government, opposition leaders said, was converting the country into a surveillance state.

“From Modi Sarkar to stalker sarkar, clearly the string of losses has left the BJP government desperate for information,” the Congress said on its official Twitter handle.

The order authorises 10 Central agencies such as the Intelligence Bureau, Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate to intercept, monitor, and decrypt “any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer’.

Several Congress leaders spoke out against the order. “If anybody is going to monitor the computer, including your computer, that is the Orwellian state. George Orwell is around the corner. It is condemnable,” said the party’s leader P Chidambaram.

His party colleague Anand Sharma said the BJP government is converting India into a surveillance state through the order. “It is the ultimate assault on fundamental rights and the right to privacy. It is also in direct conflict with the Supreme Court judgement that right to privacy is a fundamental right. The government has done it by strength we collectively oppose it,” Sharma told reporters with other opposition leaders by his side. He said it gives ultimate powers to state agencies to monitor every information and intercept it through surveillance, which is unacceptable.

The Congress’ Randeep Surjewala said the government was brazenly flouting privacy laws. “Modi Govt mocks and flouts Fundamental ‘Right to Privacy’ with brazen impunity! Having lost elections,now Modi Govt wants to scan/snoop YOUR computers? ‘Big Brother Syndrome’ is truly embedded in NDA’s DNA!” he said.

Samajwadi Party’s Ram Gopal Yadav also termed the order unconstitutional and said the present government should refrain from making such moves with just a few months left for the general elections. “This government has only a few months left and it should not dig potholes for itself as a new government will be installed in the centre soon,” he said.

TMC chief Mamata Banerjee took to Twitter to criticise the order. “I have come to know that Union Home Ministry has issued an order yesterday authorising 10 Central Agencies to carry out interception, monitoring and decryption of any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource. “If it is for National Security, then only for that purpose Central Government already has the machinery. But, why all commoners will be affected? Public Opinion please…”, she tweeted.

RJD’s Manoj Jha said it was a cause of concern for not just parliamentarians, but for every Indian. “We are perpetually living in a surveillance state,” he said.

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury voiced his opposition on Twitter. “Why is every Indian being treated like a criminal? This order by a govt wanting to snoop on every citizen is unconstitutional and in breach of the telephone tapping guidelines, the Privacy Judgement and the Aadhaar judgement,” he said.

AAP’s Sanjay Singh also spoke out, saying that the order was “undemocratic and unconstitutional” and an attack on the right to privacy. He alleged that the order was a result of BJP’s recent election losses. According to the order, the subscriber or service provider or any person in charge of the computer resource will be bound to extend all facilities and technical assistance to the agencies. Failing to do so will invite seven-year imprisonment and fine. — PTI


13:28  Timeline of the Sohrabuddin case :  Following is the timeline in the alleged fake encounter case of gangster Sohrabuddin Shaikh, his wife Kausar Bi and associate Tulsi Prajapati, in which all the 22 accused, including 21 policemen, were acquitted by a special CBI court today.

1) November 22, 2005 – Sohrabuddin, Kausar Bi and Prajapati are intercepted by a police team in a bus while returning to Sangli from Hyderabad and taken into custody. Shaikh and his wife taken in one vehicle, Prajapati in another.

2) November 22 to 25, 2005 – Shaikh and Kausar Bi kept in a farm house near Ahmedabad. Prajapati sent to Udaipur where he is lodged in the prison there to face trial in cases against him.

3) November 26, 2005 – Shaikh killed in an alleged fake encounter allegedly by a joint team comprising Gujarat and Rajasthan police.

4) November 29, 2005 – Kausar Bi also allegedly killed by the police, her body burnt and disposed of.

5) December 27, 2006 – Prajapati taken from the Udaipur central prison by a team comprising Rajasthan and Gujarat police and allegedly killed in an encounter near Sarhad Chapri on Gujarat-Rajasthan border.

6) 2005-2006 – Shaikh’s family approaches Supreme Court for investigation into his encounter and also seeks to know the whereabouts of Kausar Bi. SC directs Gujarat state CID to conduct a probe in the case.

7) April 30, 2007 – Gujarat government files a report before SC stating Kausar Bi is dead and her body burnt and disposed of.

8) January 2010 – SC hands over the probe in the case to CBI.

9) July 23, 2010 – CBI files chargesheet in the case against 38 persons including the then Gujarat Home Minister Amit Shah, the then Rajasthan Home Minister Gulabchand Kataria and senior IPS officials.

10) July 25, 2010 – CBI arrests Amit Shah in the case.

11) October 8, 2010 – A special CBI court in Gujarat rejects Amit Shah’s bail plea.

12) October 29, 2010 – Gujarat High Court grants bail to Amit Shah on a bond of Rs one lakh.

13) September 27, 2012 – SC transfers trial in the Sohrabuddin Shaikh-Kausar Bi alleged fake encounter case from Gujarat to Mumbai as sought by the CBI to ensure a fair trial.

14) April 8, 2012 – SC clubs trial in Shaikh, Kausar Bi and Prajapati encounter cases.

15) December 30, 2014 – A special CBI court in Mumbai discharges Amit Shah from the case. Fifteen other accused including Kataria and senior IPS officials also discharged subsequently.

16) November 2015 – Shaikh’s brother Rubabuddin approaches the Bombay High Court to challenge Amit Shah’s discharge in the case. The same month, he tells the HC that he does not wish to pursue the case and withdraws his petition.

17) December 2015 – Social activist Harsh Mander moves HC against Amit Shah’s discharge.

18) April 2016 – Bombay HC dismisses Mander’s petition after observing that he has no ‘locus standi’ (not an aggrieved party) in the case. Mander files appeal in Supreme Court.

19) August 2016 – SC rejects Mander’s appeal.

20) October 2017 – Special CBI court in Mumbai frames charges against
22 accused.

21) November 2017 – Special CBI Judge S J Sharma commences trial in the case. Prosecution examines 210 witnesses, of which 92 turn hostile.

22) September 2018 – Bombay HC upholds discharge granted to senior police officers D G Vanzara, Rajkumar Pandian, NK Amin, Vipul Aggarwal, Dinesh MN and Dalpat Singh Rathod.

23) November 23, 2018 – Court completes examination of witnesses and recording of statements of the accused persons under section 313 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

24) December 5, 2018 – Court closes the case for judgment on December 21, 2018 after completion of final arguments by prosecution and defence lawyers.

25) December 21, 2018 – Court acquits all 22 accused in the case after observing that proseuction failed to establish charges against them.



13:12  Michel moves Delhi court seeking separate cell in Tihar:  Christian James Michel, arrested in the Rs 3,600 crore VVIP chopper deal case, moved a Delhi court on Friday seeking to be lodged in a separate cell in Tihar Jail.

Michel, who was arrested in the UAE and extradited to India on December 4, was remanded to judicial custody till December 28 on Wednesday.

The application, filed through advocate Aljo K Joseph and Vishnu Shankar, sought a direction to the “Superintendent of Tihar Jail to allocate a separate cell to accused Christian James Michel”.

Michel is among the three alleged middlemen being probed in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper case by the Enforcement Directorate and the CBI. The others are Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa. — PTI


12:39  President meets China FM:  Wang Yi, the Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China, called on President Ram Nath Kovind, at Rashtrapati Bhavan today. The President said that India-China relations are an important part of India’s foreign policy.

And a tiny boo boo from the normally propah Rashtrapati Bhavan missives was an image of former President Pranab Mukherjee with presumably, an employee.

Sometimes it’s nice to see government wallahs are not infallible.   

12:32  Alleged AgustaWestland middleman Christian Michel moves an application before Delhi’s Patiala House Court seeking a special cell in Tihar jail. 


12:23  Sohrabuddin Sheikh case: All 22 accused acquitted :  
Sohrabuddin Sheikh case: All 22 accused have been acquitted by the Special CBI Court in Mumbai due to lack of evidence. The court says there no basis on the conspiracy theory and the evidence is not conclusive. The court said the prosecution has not been able to prove its case at all.

The Special CBI judge observed in his order that all the witnesses and proofs are not satisfactory to prove conspiracy and murder and observed that circumstantial evidence is not substantial.

The court said that the allegation that Tulsiram Prajapati was murdered through a conspiracy is not true.

The court observed that government machinery and prosecution put in a lot of effort, 210 witnesses were brought but satisfactory evidence didn’t come and witnesses turned hostile. No fault of prosecutor if witnesses don’t speak, the court said.

A court in Mumbai was hearing whether alleged gangster Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his aide Tulsiram Prajapati were killed in fake encounters in 2005.

Twenty-two people, mostly police officers from Gujarat and Rajasthan, are accused in the cases, which triggered a political storm and continued to make headlines years later.

The Central Bureau of Investigation, which probed the case, said the murders were a result of conspiracy for political and financial gains.

Of the 38 people charged, 16 people – including BJP chief Amit Shah, former top cop DG Vanzara and other police officers — were discharged. Ninety-two prosecution witnesses had turned hostile.


12:06  Sensex cracks over 400 pts, Nifty drops below 10,900:  Benchmark indices witnessed a sharp selloff in late morning trade Friday as heavyweights in realty, banking, IT and auto sectors bled as investors began booking profits in bluechip stocks.

Negative global cues amid fears of a potential US government shutdown and rising tension between the US and China, too, weighed on investor sentiment.

After plummeting over 400 points, the 30-share Sensex was trading 372.44 points, or 1.02 per cent, lower at 36,059.23 at 1100 hrs. The index had finished 52.66 points, or 0.14 per cent, lower at 36,431.67 Thursday. The NSE Nifty, too, was trading 120.25 points, or 1.10 per cent, lower at 10,831.45. Top losers include Maruti, Infosys, Asian Paints, ICICI Bank, Wipro, Bajaj Auto, Reliance Industries, HDFC and TCS, cracking up to 3 per cent. — PTI


11:46  Mumbai hospital fire: Baby girl succumbs to injuries, death toll 11:  The Mumbai hospital fire claimed its eleventh victim on Friday as a week-old baby girl succumbed to her injuries in the early hours, a civic official said. According to the official, eight other injured were in a critical condition.

“A week-old baby girl, Lalita, succumbed to her smoke inhalation injuries around 12.20 am today at the Seven Hills Hospital. With her death, the toll in the fire incident has now gone up to 11,” said a senior official of the Disaster Management Unit of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.

“Of the total number of people injured in the incident, 91 are still undergoing treatment in different hospitals in the city. Of them, eight patients are in a critical condition. They are on ventilators and battling for life,” he said.

The fire broke out in the government-run ESIC Kamgar Hospital at Marol in suburban Andheri on Monday, killing six people that day. Four others died in the last three days. About 175 people were injured in the incident.

According to officials, the 325-bed hospital did not have the fire department’s no-objection certificate, mandatory for such facilities to operate. Nearly 375 people, including patients and visitors, were in the five-floor hospital when the fire broke out, an official had earlier said.

11:40  NDTV signs over Rs 300-cr deal with Taboola:  Media firm NDTV group’s digital arm NDTV Convergence Friday said it has signed a five-year deal worth over Rs 300 crore with content recommendations engine Taboola.

“The five-year deal ties NDTV Convergence exclusively to Taboola and involves a minimum guarantee of more than Rs 300 crore for NDTV Convergence, making it one of the largest deals, not just for digital content, but for the media space in its entirety,” NDTV said in a BSE filing.

In September 2015, NDTV Convergence had first signed around Rs 100-crore deal with Taboola for three years. NDTV said this is the largest deal that Taboola has ever signed in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region.

“Taboola uses its presence on sites like NDTV to recommend content from across the internet to the audience and to offer highly-personalised native advertising,” the company added. NDTV Convergence owns and operates the flagship portal, and all other digital properties of the group. — PTI


11:29  Dogged Mamata govt moves HC over BJP’s rath yatra permission :  The West Bengal government Friday moved an appeal before a division bench of the Calcutta High Court challenging a single bench order that allowed BJP’s ‘Rath Yatra’ programme in the state.

Moving the appeal before the division bench comprising Chief Justice Debasish Kargupta and Justice Shampa Sarkar, the state government expressed urgency and sought an immediate hearing.

The court granted leave to the state government to move the appeal and asked it to serve copies of its appeal to respondent, the BJP, following which the hearing would commence.

A single bench presided over by Justice Tapabrata Chakraborty Thursday allowed the BJP’s ‘Rath Yatra’ programme, setting aside the denial of permission for the yatra by a panel of three senior most officers of the state government.

On December 6, a single judge bench of the HC had refused permission to the BJP to hold the ‘Rath Yatra’, which was scheduled to be flagged off by BJP chief Amit Shah from Cooch Behar in North Bengal on December 7.

The party had then approached the division bench. The division bench had on December 7 asked the state chief secretary, the home secretary and the director general of police to hold a meeting with three representatives of the BJP and take a decision on the ‘yatra’ by December 14.

After parleys with the BJP team, the three officers refused permission for the rallies on December 15 on the grounds that it might lead to communal tension. The state BJP had moved the court again challenging the government’s denial of permission to its programme. PTI


10:50  Sajjan Kumar has to surrender by Dec 31, says court dismissing delay plea :  1984 anti-Sikh riots case: Delhi High Court dismisses Sajjan Kumar’s plea which sought more time to surrender. The HC says it sees no ground for granting extension of time to Sajjan Kumar to surrender.

Former Congress leader Sajjan Kumar had approached the Delhi High Court Thursday seeking time till January 31 to surrender in connection with a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case in which he was recently sentenced to life imprisonment.

Kumar, who was directed by the high court on Monday to surrender before authorities by December 31, sought more time saying he has to settle family affairs.

Advocate Anil Sharma, representing Kumar, said they need some more time to file appeal before the Supreme Court challenging the high court’s verdict and Kumar has to settle his family matters relating to his children and property.


10:43  Here’s what Rahul did in Shimla :  Congress President, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra visited the Institute for Children with Special Abilities in Shimla yesterday.  Rahul is on holiday in Shimla. 

10:32  Pakistan man deported from US for human smuggling :  A Pakistani citizen has been deported from the US for his role in smuggling individuals from South Asia, some with suspected ties to terrorist organisations, into the country. Sharafat Ali Khan, 33, was the Brazilian-based facilitator of an alien smuggling organisation.

On Monday, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Enforcement and Removal Operations officers removed him from the country following an investigation by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, with assistance from the FBI, into the alien smuggling scheme. He was turned over to Pakistani authorities Wednesday. — PTI


09:56  No interest in being 2019 PM face: Gadkari :  “No there is no chance. I am happy where I am right now”, said Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari while responding to a question on probability of him becoming the Prime Ministerial candidate face in the 2019 elections, replacing Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

According to media reports, the head of a government organisation in Maharashtra has written to the RSS, demanding Gadkari be allowed to lead the BJP if it wants to win the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

In an exclusive interview to ANI Gadkari said, “No there is no chance. I am happy where I am right now. I have to complete Ganga work first, building of Express Highway Access Control in 13-14 countries and I also want to make roads for Chaar Dhams and other works. I am happy doing these works and want to complete it.”

09:51  Sensex, Nifty turn choppy on weak global cues:  Benchmark indices opened on a choppy note Friday on negative global cues amid fears of a potential US government shutdown and rising tension between the US and China. After falling over 100 points in opening session, the 30-share Sensex was trading 14.82 points, or 0.04 per cent, higher at 36,416.85.

The index had finished 52.66 points, or 0.14 per cent, lower at 36,431.67 Thursday. The NSE Nifty, too, was trading 2.25 points, or 0.02 per cent, lower at 10,949.45. Domestic and other Asian stocks followed Wall Street that fell sharply after US President Donald Trump’s demand for border wall funds pushed the federal government closer to a shutdown.

The White House said Trump will not travel to Florida Friday for the Christmas holiday if the government is shutting down. More than 8,00,000 federal workers will be facing furloughs or forced to work without pay if a resolution is not reached before funding expires at midnight Friday. — PTI


09:34  Mahagathbandhan is ‘majboori’: Gadkari:  

Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said that the reason behind Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) of opposition parties is their “majboori” (helplessness), while adding that such an alliance is a game of compromises, compulsions and limitations.

Gadkari asserted that it is the might of the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi that has compelled political rivals “those who used to avoid each other to hug each other.”

Gadkari’s statement comes on a day when disgruntled RLSP chief Upendra Kushwaha joined the Bihar mahagathbandhan with Congress and Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD as its partners. Kushwaha accusing the BJP leadership of being arrogant severed allies with the NDA on Thursday.

“The meaning of Mahagathbandhan is – politics is a game of compromises, compulsions and limitations. When a party comes to know that they alone cannot defeat the other party, then they forge an alliance. No one comes in an alliance with happiness, they come due to helplessness,” he said.

“The strength of the BJP and Modi ji is big, hence, the Opposition is thinking of an alliance. Those who earlier used to avoid each other are now hugging each other. The reason behind their friendship is our (BJP) strength. We are going ahead on the basis of our strength,” he added.

A similar remark on the grand alliance was passed by BJP national president Amit Shah, who referred to ‘Mahagathbandhan’ as an ‘illusion’.



09:10  Modi government authorises 10 agencies to monitor computers, phones:  

The ministry of home affairs has issued an order authorising 10 central agencies to intercept, monitor, and decrypt any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer.

The agencies are the Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, Enforcement Directorate, Central Board of Direct Taxes, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Bureau of Investigation; National Investigation Agency, Cabinet Secretariat (R&AW), Directorate of Signal Intelligence (For service areas of Jammu & Kashmir, North-East and Assam only) and Commissioner of Police, Delhi.

According to the order, the subscriber or service provider or any person in charge of the computer resource will be bound to extend all facilities and technical assistance to the agencies and failing to do will invite seven-year imprisonment and fine.

The MHA gave the authorisation under 69 (1) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 which says that the Central government can direct any agency after it is satisfied that it is necessary or expedient to do so in the interest of the sovereignty or integrity of India, defence of India, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to above or for investigation of any offence.

08:41  15 students admitted to hospital after commotion at fest in Mumbai college:  

Fifteen students were injured following a “commotion” during a function at Mithibai College in suburban Vile Parle on Thursday evening, a civic official said.

While initial reports suggested that there was a stampede, an official of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation said it was not a stampede but a minor incident caused by panic.

Boys from the neighbourhood thronged the college auditorium during a singing performance and some students complained of suffocation which led to people running helter-skelter, said the official from the BMC’s Disaster Management Unit.

Injured students were taken to the nearby hospital.



08:23  Don’t fall in love over Facebook: Hamid Ansari tells youngsters:  

Having spent almost six years in a Pakistani jail, software engineer Hamid Nihal Ansari’s advice to youth is simple: Don’t fall in love over Facebook.

He should know. It was on Facebook that he fell in love with a girl from Pakistan, went there to prevent her ‘forced’ marriage and before he could meet her, was arrested and jailed.

That was six years ago. As he reached his home in suburban Mumbai, he was in a reflective mood.

“Never hide anything from your parents. Only your parents stand by your side in testing times. And never resort to any illegal means to go to any place,” Ansari told the media.

Asked what advice will he give to people who fall in love on Facebook, Ansari said, “Don’t take (that) risk. Don’t fall in love. Don’t fall in love by trusting (what is on) Facebook.”

Ansari was arrested in Pakistan in 2012 for allegedly entering that country from Afghanistan reportedly to meet a woman he had befriended online. Pakistan slapped espionage charges against him. He was repatriated on Tuesday and handed over to India at the Wagah-Attari border.


07:52  US Defence chief James Mattis resigns over differences with Trump:  

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis will be “retiring, with distinction,” in February, President Donald Trump has said, a day after he ordered American troops to rapidly withdraw from war-torn Syria in an abrupt decision criticised by many as premature.

In his resignation letter, Mattis told Trump it was the “right time” for him to step down because the US president deserved a defence secretary “whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects.”

“The end date for my tenure is February 28, 2019, a date that should allow sufficient time for a successor to be nominated and confirmed as well as to make sure the Department’s interests are properly articulated and protected at upcoming events to include Congressional posture hearings and the NATO Defense Ministerial meeting  in February,” he said.

The 68-year-old Pentagon chief did not mention if he was resigning specifically over the troop withdrawal decision, which has surprised US allies and several lawmakers.

Analysts say the withdrawal of troops will please US enemies by clearing the way for Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime, Russia and Iran. Mattis had warned that removing ground forces from the Middle Eastern country would be a “strategic blunder”.

After Mattis sent his resignation, Trump announced he will be “retiring” in February.

“General Jim Mattis will be retiring, with distinction, at the end of February, after having served my administration as secretary of defense for the past two years,” the president said.

“During Jim’s tenure, tremendous progress has been made, especially with respect to the purchase of new fighting…,” he said on Twitter.


00:56  Verdict in Sohrabuddin Shaikh encounter case likely today:  

A special Central Bureau of Investigation court in Mumbai is likely to pronounce on Friday the verdict in the sensational Sohrabuddin Shaikh-Tulsiram Prajapati alleged fake encounter case of 2005 in which 22 persons, most of them policemen, are on trial.

The case has attracted much attention as Bharatiya Janata Party chief Amit Shah, who was Minister of State for Home in Gujarat at the time of the incidents, was one of the accused before being discharged in 2014.

During the trial, as many as 92 prosecution witnesses turned hostile.

After the final arguments were wrapped up earlier this month, Special judge for CBI cases S J Sharma had said he will pronounce the verdict on December 21.

Most of the accused are junior-level police officials from Gujarat and Rajasthan. The court earlier discharged, for want of evidence, 16 of the 38 persons charge-sheeted by the CBI.

These included Amit Shah, the then Rajasthan home minister Gulabchand Kataria, former Gujarat police chief P C Pande and former senior Gujarat police officer D G Vanzara.

According to the CBI, Shaikh, an alleged gangster with terror links, his wife Kausar Bi and his aide Prajapati were abducted by Gujarat police from a bus when they were on their way to Sangli in Maharashtra from Hyderabad on the night of November 22 and 23, 2005.

Shaikh was killed in an alleged fake encounter on November 26, 2005 near Ahmedabad. His wife was killed three days later and her body was disposed of, the CBI said.

A year later, on December 27, 2006, Prajapati was also shot dead by Gujarat and Rajasthan police in an alleged fake encounter near Chapri on Gujarat-Rajasthan border.

The case was initially probed by the Gujarat CID before the CBI took over in 2010. The Supreme Court in 2013 directed that the trial be shifted to Mumbai from Gujarat on the central agency’s request to ensure a fair trial.

The prosecution examined 210 witnesses, of which 92 turned hostile.

Even as the trial has wound down to a close, two prosecution witnesses applied to the court Wednesday that they be re-examined.

One of them, Azam Khan, an aide of Shaikh, claimed in his plea that accused Abdul Rehman, a former police inspector who had allegedly fired on Shaikh, threatened Khan that if he did not depose as told, he would be framed up in false cases.

His wife was also threatened, Khan claimed. Another witness, Mahendra Zala, a petrol pump owner, has alleged that the prosecution did not furnish to the court his statement recorded before a magistrate.

The court will decide both pleas Friday.  — PTI

Source: Rediff