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LIVE! Chhattisgarh govt withdraws general consent given to CBI to probe cases

21:38  Chhattisgarh govt withdraws general consent given to CBI to probe cases:  

After West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh, the Congress-led Chhattisgarh government Thursday withdrew general consent accorded to the Central Bureau of Investigation to probe cases in the state, officials said. 


The state government has written to the home ministry and the Ministry of Personnel to convey its decision in this regard, they said. 

With this, the CBI would now require permission of the state government to conduct raids and probe in Chhattisgarh, the officials said.

Earlier, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh had withdrawn general consent accorded to the CBI to probe cases.



21:02  1984 anti-Sikh riots: SC to hear Sajjan Kumar’s appeal on Jan 14:  

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear on January 14 the appeal filed by former Congress leader Sajjan Kumar challenging the Delhi high court verdict convicting and sentencing him to life term in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case.


73-year-old Kumar had surrendered before a trial court here on December 31, 2018 to serve the sentence in pursuance of the high court’s December 17 judgement awarding him life imprisonment for the “remainder of his natural life”. 

After his conviction in the case, Kumar had resigned from the Congress party.

As per the list of business of the apex court for January 14, his appeal against the high court’s verdict is scheduled to be heard by a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi. 

The case in which Kumar was convicted and sentenced relates to the killing of five Sikhs in Delhi Cantonment’s Raj Nagar Part-I area of southwest Delhi on November 1-2, 1984 and burning down of a Gurudwara in Raj Nagar Part-II.

The anti-sikh riots had broken out after the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984, by her two Sikh bodyguards.

The high court had convicted and sentenced Kumar to spend the remainder of his life in jail for the offences of criminal conspiracy and abetment in commission of crimes of murder, promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of communal harmony and defiling and destruction of a Gurdwara.

It had also upheld the conviction and varying sentences awarded by a trial court to five others — former Congress councillor Balwan Khokhar, retired naval officer Captain Bhagmal, Girdhari Lal and former MLAs Mahender Yadav and Kishan Khokhar. 

In its judgment, the high court had noted that over 2,700 Sikhs were killed in the national capital during the 1984 riots which was indeed a “carnage of unbelievable proportions”.

It had said the riots were a “crime against humanity” perpetrated by those who enjoyed “political patronage” and aided by an “indifferent” law enforcement agency.


20:39  Government of India: CBI Additional Director, M. Nageshwar Rao will look after the duties of the Director, CBI till the appointment of a new Director, or until further orders.


20:28  Prakash Raj meets Kejriwal; AAP extends support for his political journey:  

Actor Prakash Raj, who recently announced he would contest the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, met Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal here Thursday, with the latter saying that his Aam Aadmi Party “fully supports” him.

The actor, who has been vocal about his views on the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government at the Centre, met the chief minister at his official residence in the Civil Lines.

Last week, Raj had said that he would contest the upcoming general elections from the Bengaluru Central constituency as an independent candidate.

“We need people like Prakash Raj to enter Parliament. Prakash ji, it was great meeting u today. AAP fully supports u and we agree wid ur decision to fight as an independent candidate. We need independent and non-partisan voices too in Parliament,” Kejriwal tweeted.

According to Raj, he discussed ways with the chief minister to address various issues.

“Met delhi CM @ArvindKejriwal thanked him and @AamAadmiParty for the support in my political journey. Discussed and requested to share various ways to address issues which his team has commendably done…#bengalurucentral #citizensvoice in parliament #justasking in parliament too (sic),” Raj tweeted after the meeting.

Raj has also been one of those seeking justice for his friend and senior journalist Gauri Lankesh, who was shot outside her residence in September, 2017.


20:00  Shunted from CBI, Alok Verma to be Director General, Fire Services:  

Alok Verma was shunted out as the CBI chief after a marathon meeting of high-powered selection committee led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi Thursday, officials said.


Verma, a 1979-batch AGMUT cadre IPS officer, has been removed from the high-profile post on the charges of corruption and dereliction of duty making him the first chief in the history of the agency to face such action, they said.

He will now be Director General, Fire Services. 

There were eight counts of charges against him in the CVC report presented before the Committee also comprising Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and Justice A K Sikri, appointed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi as his nominee.

The decision for the removal was taken by a majority with Kharge opposing the move, they said. 


19:20  Alok Verma removed as CBI chief after 2-hour-long select panel meeting:  

The high-powered committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi met for over two hours on Thursday and have decided to shunt out CBI Director Alok Verma, who was recently reinstated by a Supreme Court order after he was sent on forced leave by the government.


The meeting was also attended by Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge and Justice A K Sikri, who was nominated by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi to represent him.

The CBI chief and his deputy Special Director Rakesh Asthana were sent on the forced leave over two months ago to stop the “kilkenny cat fight” between them. They had accused each other of corruption.

Verma, who resumed office on Wednesday, had revoked most of the transfers done by M Nageshwar Rao, who was appointed as the interim CBI chief in his absence.


19:12  Meeting to decide CBI chief’s fate ends after 2 hours:  

The high-powered committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi met for over two hours on Thursday to decide fate of CBI Director Alok Verma, reinstated by a Supreme Court order after he was sent on forced leave by the government.


The meeting was also attended by Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge and Justice A K Sikri, who was nominated by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi to represent him.

It was not immediately clear what transpired in the meeting, called for the second consecutive day.

The CBI chief and his deputy Special Director Rakesh Asthana were sent on the forced leave over two months ago to stop the “kilkenny cat fight” between them. They had accused each other of corruption.

Verma, who resumed office on Wednesday, had revoked most of the transfers done by M Nageshwar Rao, who was appointed as the interim CBI chief in his absence.

Ahead of the meeting, Kharge said he has sought documents, including enquiry report by the Central Vigilance Commission into the matter.

“I have asked for certain documents from the government concerning the matter including the CVC’s enquiry reports,” he told reporters here on Thursday. 

He said that Verma should also be given an opportunity to appear before the committee and represent his case.

The top court had asked the government to convene the meeting within a week of its order. It had quashed the government’s unprecedented “overnight” order issued in October last year, stripping Verma of his powers and sending him on leave after he and his deputy traded corruption charges, sparking a bitter feud.



18:50  28 L litres of water pumped out of Meghalaya mine, still no change in level:  

Multi-agencies personnel used high-powered pumps to drain out 28 lakh litres of water from the main shaft, where 15 miners got trapped, but navy divers on Thursday found no change in the water level in the rat-hole mine to resume search operation, officials said. 


Rescuers using pumps from Coal India Ltd, Kirloskar Brothers Ltd and the Odisha Fire Service have managed to pump out 2.1 crore litres of water from the mines, including the main shaft and the abandoned ones in the nearby which might be interconnected to it, till Thursday, they said.

But, still there has been no significant drop in the water level in these mines, leaving rescuers clueless where and how to look for the diggers, they said.

Kirloskar Brothers Ltd pumps, which was operational from 7 pm Wednesday evening and continued to run for 11 hours, have pumped out 28 lakh litres from the main shaft, the official said.

Operation spokesperson R Susngi said the Navy has conducted searches in at least six mines, including in the main shaft, for the trapped diggers, but there has been no success.

According to the Navy, the water level in the entire area was totally raptured and search will continue in the adjacent mines, Susngi said.

At least 15 miners are trapped in a 370 foot-deep illegal coal mine at Khloo Ryngksan area of Nongkhlieh elaka under East Jaintia Hills district since December 13 last year.

At the vertical shaft of the mine, the water level is about 160 feet deep rendering the rescue divers from the Indian Navy and the National Disaster Response Force unable to perform safe diving as it is beyond their 100 feet diving capacity, Susngi said.

At least 200 rescuers from the Navy, NDRF, the Odisha Fire Service, State Disaster Response Fund, states Fire service and others from CIL and KBL are involved in the multi-agency rescue operations.


18:26  Spanish police make 83 arrests including 28 professional players in tennis fixing investigation


18:21  Selfie of the year! Ranbir Kapoor, Ranveer Singh, Karan Johar and more share a frame with PM Modi:  

A delegation from Bollywood consisting of Ranbir Kapoor, Ranveer Singh, Varun Dhawan, Karan Johar, Alia Bhatt, Bhumi Pednekar, Rohit Shetty, Ayushmann Khurrana, Rajkummar Rao, Vicky Kaushal, Ashwini Iyer Tiwary met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

According to the reports, a courtesy meeting turned into a very uplifting dialogue. They talked about how the industry has always played an important role in building a better nation, a better society through entertainment. 

They also spoke about various issues concerning the film industry and thanked and acknowledged PM for GST change and giving space to the industry to connect. Many interesting ideas were discussed and the young delegation is excited to contribute more with more energy for the country.

Sharing the picture, Karan Johar’s lengthy Instagram post read, “Powerful and timely conversations can bring about change and this was one of what we hope will become a regular conversation. Meeting the Honorable Prime Minister @narendramoditoday was an incredible opportunity. As a community, there is a huge interest to contribute to nation building. There is so much that we want to do. And can do and this dialogue was towards how and what ways we can do that. When the youngest country (in demography) joins hands with the largest movie industry in the world, we hope to be a force to reckon with. Together we would love to inspire and ignite positive changes to a transformative India. The film industry would also like to send a huge thanks for the GST reduction in movie ticket prices that was implemented recently! 

Thank you so much for your time, Sir!”


18:01  Sheila Dikshit new Delhi Congress chief:  

Former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has been appointed the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee president after Ajay Maken resigned from the post citing ill-health.

Maken congratulated Dikshit saying that under her leadership the Congress party will play the role of a powerful opposition against the governments in the national capital and at the Centre.

However, an official announcement of Dikshit’s appointment is yet to be made. Sources said it would be made soon and she will have a few working presidents to assist her.

Eighty-year-old Dikshit has been a three-time chief minister of Delhi. — PTI


17:41  KCR against sharing stage with Rahul, to skip Mamata’s rally:  

Telangana Rashtra Samiti chief K Chandrasekhar Rao will in all likelihood give a miss to the January 19 rally of opposition parties proposed by the Trinamool Congress in Kolkata as he does not want to share stage with the Congress, party sources said.

KCR, as he is popularly known, had recently met TMC supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as part of his renewed efforts towards forging a ‘non-Congress, non-Bharatiya Janata Party’ federal front of regional parties.

While the Telangana chief minister spoke to media after their meeting in Kolkata on December 24 last, Mamata, reportedly not in favour of excluding the Congress in the proposed grand opposition alliance, did not offer any comment.

Asked if KCR would attend the Kolkata rally, TRS deputy floor leader in the Lok Sabha, B Vinod Kumar told PTI on Thursday, “I do not know whether KCR got the invitation or not. I am not aware of it. He might have got the invitation. I do not think KCR will attend when Rahul Gandhi is attending.”

For the TRS, the Congress is the main opposition in Telangana and KCR had last year described its president Rahul Gandhi as the ‘biggest buffoon’ in the country.

The TRS returned to power last month, winning 88 seats in the 119-member Telangana assembly, pushing the Congress to a distant second position with 19 seats.

The BJP won in only one segment.

KCR had also recently met Odisha Chief Minister and Biju Janata Dal chief Naveen Patnaik seeking to drum up support for the federal front.      

Patnaik’s statement on Wednesday that his party would not align with the Congress and BJP has enthused the TRS.

“I do not think because of KCR’s visit, he (Patnaik) madesuch a statement. He took that position long back. He held the same view for a long time,” Kumar said.

He said both KCR and Patnaik have ‘same thoughts’ as both are against aligning with the two national parties.

The TRS leader said Samajwadi Party chief and former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, who could not meet KCR during the latter’s visit to Delhi recently, was expected to visit the southern state ‘any time’ to talk to the Telangana chief minister.

On Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati’s stance on KCR’s federal front, he said, “We did not discuss with her.”

The TRS sources claimed that KCR’s federal front idea was gaining traction.

“….already that idea is broached. Mayawati and Akhilesh took a stand that they are not going to ally with Congress in Uttar Pradesh. They are also fighting against the Congress and BJP, leaving only two seats for Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi,” Kumar said.

The TRS MP also cited the political scenario in some states, including West Bengal, Odisha and Telangana, where, he said, regional parties were set to take on both the Congress and BJP in triangular fights in the next Lok Sabha polls.  — PTI


17:19  Triple talaq ordinance to lapse this month; may get repromulgated:  

The triple talaq ordinance, which seeks to make the practice of instant divorce a penal offence, will lapse later this month as a bill to convert it into a law is stuck in the Rajya Sabha.

Sources in the government said the ordinance is set to be reissued, but its timing is yet to be decided.

An ordinance has a life of six months. But from the day a session begins, it has to be replaced by a bill which should be passed by Parliament within 42 days (six weeks), else it lapses.

The government is at liberty to repromulgate the ordinance if the bill fails to get through Parliament.

The ordinance will lapse on January 22, the 42nd day after the Winter Session began on December 11 last year, the sources pointed out.

“The ordinance lapses just a week before the Budget Session commences on January 31…government will push for the bill in the session.

“But whether the ordinance be repromulgated soon after it expires is yet to be decided. Another option would be to wait till the end of the Budget Session in mid February.

“If the bill is not passed, the ordinance could be reissued then,” a senior functionary explained.

A fresh bill to make the practice of triple talaq among Muslims a penal offence was introduced in the Lok Sabha on December 17 last year to replace an ordinance issued in September.

The lower house later gave its nod to the bill. But it faced stiff opposition when it was tabled for consideration.

It is now pending its approval. Under the proposed law, giving instant triple talaq (talaq-e-biddat) will be illegal and void and will attract a jail term of three years for the husband.

The fresh bill superseded an earlier bill passed in the Lok Sabha and is pending in the Rajya Sabha.

The earlier bill was approved by the lower house. But amid opposition by some parties in the upper house, the government had then cleared some amendments, including introduction of a provision of bail, to make it more acceptable.

However, as the bill continued to face resistance in the Rajya Sabha, the government issued an ordinance in September last year incorporating the amendments.  — PTI


16:30  No infiltration took place from Bangladesh in last 10 years: BJP:  

After making the issue of illegal infiltration a major poll plank in the 2014 Lok Sabha and 2016 assembly elections in Assam, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party on Thursday claimed no Bangladeshi national has illegally entered into India in the last 10 years.

BJP spokespersons claimed at a press conference here that the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill will not bring in any new foreigner into India.

“No infiltration is happening at this moment. Illegal migration happened only earlier.

“We can say that in the last 10 years, no infiltration took place from Bangladesh,” BJP spokesperson Swapnanil Barua said.

Bangladeshis are not migrating to India because of economic reasons as they now go to Europe, Gulf or other developed regions, he said.

“In Europe or Gulf, they get a minimum wage of around Rs 3,000 per day. In India, they can earn a maximum of Rs 1,000. So, why should they come here,” he asked.

Another spokesperson Mominul Awal said that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, if passed, will not bring any new Hindu Bangladeshi into India.

“There is no scope or provision to give citizenship to new people. It is only for those people who are already living here. Only they will get a scope to apply and the DC concerned will verify their applications,” he added.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which was passed by Lok Sabha two days ago, seeks to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslims, who fled religious persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan and entered India before December 31, 2014.  — PTI


16:17  Asthana aide moves HC against Alok Verma’s transfers:  

Central Bureua of Investigation deputy SP Devender Kumar Thursday moved the Delhi high court against director Alok Verma’s decision to reverse transfer orders of various officers.


The plea is likely to be listed for hearing on Friday before Justice Najmi Waziri, who has already reserved verdict on various petitions of Special Director Rakesh Asthana, Kumar and middleman Manoj Prasad seeking to quash the bribery FIR against them.

Kumar, in his application filed in the pending petition, has sought direction to the CBI to not allow Alok Verma and other retransferred officers to deal with FIR against him and others in any manner.

Verma joined the office on Wednesday, 77 days after he was sent on forced leave by the central government through a late-night order on October 23, 2018, which was set aside by the Supreme Court on Tuesday. — PTI 

16:09  GST exemption limit doubled to give relief to small businesses:  

In a bid to give relief to small businesses, the GST Council Thursday doubled the exemption limit and raised the threshold for availing the composition scheme.


The GST Council doubled the GST exemption limit to Rs 20 lakh for north eastern states and Rs 40 lakh for the rest of the country, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told reporters here.

The scope of the GST Composition Scheme, under which small traders and businesses pay a small tax based on turnover rather than value addition, was raised to Rs 1.5 crore from Rs 1 crore.

The twin move would give relief to micro, small and medium enterprises, he said.

The council also allowed Kerala to levy 1 per cent calamity cess on intra-state sales for a period of up to two years.

On including real estate and lottery under the Goods and Services Tax, the council decided for form a seven-member group of ministers after differences of opinion emerged at the meeting, he said. — PTI  


16:06  CBI officer who probed Asthana recuses himself from investigation:  

Central Bureau of Investigation deputy inspector general MK Sinha, who was supervising a probe against agency’s special director Rakesh Asthana, has recused himself from taking charge of the investigation, officials said Thursday. 


In a fresh reshuffle ordered by CBI director Alok Verma who resumed duty on Wednesday after 77 days-long forced leave, Sinha was given charge of banking, securities and frauds cell, and AC-III unit, which is probing a corruption case against against Asthana, the officials in the know told PTI, requesting anonymity.


Sinha has taken charge of BSFC unit but has offered to recuse himself from the AC-III unit which is probing the Asthana matter because of recent developments amidst an ongoing feud between Verma and Asthana, they said.


Sinha is understood to have conveyed to the CBI director that in the interest of the investigation he may not be handed over the probe, they said.


His proposal to recuse himself is being positively considered at the top level, they said. — PTI

15:41  SC reserves verdict on Maharashtra govt’s plea in Koregaon-Bhima case:  

The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its verdict on the Maharashtra government’s appeal challenging the refusal of the Bombay high court to extend the 90-day limit for filing chargesheet in the Koregaon-Bhima violence case.


A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said it would pass orders after the counsel for the parties concluded their arguments.

The top court was hearing an appeal of the state government against the Bombay high court’s order refusing to extend the time limit of 90 days by another 90 days for filing the probe report in the violence case.

The apex court had stayed the Bombay high court order. The chargesheet has already been filed by the state police before a local court in the case.

The Pune Police had arrested lawyer Surendra Gadling, Nagpur University professor Shoma Sen, Dalit activist Sudhir Dhawale, activist Mahesh Raut and Kerala native Rona Wilson in June for their alleged links with Maoists under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. — PTI

15:37  BJP’s 2-day national council from Friday:  

The Narendra Modi government’s outreach to different sections of society is likely to be a key theme for the two-day Bharatiya Janata Party national council meeting starting in New Delhi on Friday as thousands of delegates arrive for the mega event that will set the tone for the party’s Lok Sabha campaign.


BJP president Amit Shah will inaugurate the event while Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to deliver the concluding speech on Saturday, which party leaders believe will lay down its agenda for the general elections.

The passage of the bill providing 10 per cent reservation in jobs and education for economically weaker sections in the general category has boosted the saffron party’s morale after it suffered a blow in the recent assembly polls where it lost power in all three states it ruled.

The BJP believes that the bill, which will come into force after getting the President’s nod — a mere formality — will consolidate its core vote of upper castes in the Hindi-speaking states and also strengthen its appeal among political significant communities like Jats, Patidars and Marathas, among others.

A section of the party believes that anger among upper castes played a role in its loss in the recent state polls. 

Party sources said the Modi government’s measures, like granting constitutional status to the OBC Commission and strengthening the law on atrocities against Dalits and tribals, are likely to be highlighted and projected as part of its “social justice” project.

“The Modi government has empowered every section of society. The party will naturally talk at length about it,” they said.

Its measures for farmers, besides various schemes for the welfare of the poor and economic growth will also be discussed, they said. — PTI

15:34  Pak violates ceasefire for 3rd consecutive day along LoC :  

The Pakistan army violated ceasefire for a third consecutive day on Thursday, shelling forward posts and civilian areas along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch district inviting a strong retaliation from Indian forces, officials said.


The year 2018 witnessed the highest number of ceasefire violations — 2,936 —  by Pakistan troops in the last 15 years along the Indo-Pak border.

“The Pakistani army resorted to firing and shelling on forward posts along the LoC in Poonch sector Thursday morning,” officials said, adding there were no casualties or injuries on the Indian side. 

Indian troops guarding the border retaliated strongly, he said.

On Wednesday as well, Pakistani troops had fired on and shelled the Kalal forward area in Nowshera sector of Rajouri district twice, they said.

The continuous shelling and firing on villages has set in a fear psychosis among the border dwellers. 

With the latest incident, Pakistani troops resorted to firing and shelling along the LoC in Poonch seven of first 10 days of the new year.

The Pakistani army fired on forward posts along the LoC Poonch district on Tuesday as well.


15:19  10% quota for poorer sections general category challenged in SC:  

A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the constitution amendment bill that reserves 10 per cent quota for poorer sections in the general category. 

A petition filed by a group, Youth for Equality and Dr Kaushal Kant Mishra, said the amendment violates the 50 per cent ceiling that had been laid down by the Supreme Court.

The Parliament has already passed the bill which will now go to the President for approval. 

Once its gets his ascent, it will become the law that will give economically weaker sections in the general category 10 per cent reservation in education as well as central and state government jobs. 


14:39  Mumbai: Commuters continue to suffer as BEST bus strike enters 3rd day:  

There seems to be no end to woes of lakhs of commuters in Mumbai as an indefinite strike by employees of the city’s civic transport undertaking continued for the third day Thursday.


Not a single bus of the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport plied on Mumbai roads since morning, an official said.


Commuters complained that auto-rickshaw and taxi drivers were charging much more than normal rates. Some harried commuters also appealed to the Maharashtra government to take necessary steps to end the protest.

A senior BEST official expressed hope of the stalemate getting resolved soon.


Nearly 32,000 BEST employees are on an indefinite strike since Tuesday over various demands, including higher salaries and merger of the budget of the loss-making undertaking with that of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.


The state government had moved quickly to invoke the Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act (MESMA) against the striking BEST employees, while its management asked them to end the stir and come to the negotiating table.

The BEST administration had on Wednesday cracked the whip, issuing notices to over 2,000 staffers to vacate houses provided by the undertaking. It also held dialogue with BEST workers’ union leader Shashank Rao, but it did not yield a positive outcome.

Despite the Shiv Sena-affiliated union, BEST Kamgar Sena, withdrawing from the protest, only 11 buses plied on the roads on Wednesday, an official said. — PTI

Photograph: Sahil Salvi/


14:21  PM-led panel to decide on CBI chief Alok Verma’s fate:  

A selection committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet for the second time Thursday to decide the fate of Central Bureau of Investigation Director Alok Verma, reinstated by a Supreme Court order after he was sent on forced leave by the government, officials said.


The panel’s meet held Wednesday remained inconclusive, they said, without giving further details.

The CBI chief and his deputy Special Director Rakesh Asthana were sent on the forced leave over two months ago to stop the “kilkenny cat fight” between them. They had accused each other of corruption.

Verma who resumed office on Wednesday had revoked most of the transfers done by M Nageshwar Rao, who was appointed as the interim CBI chief in his absence.


The officers, whose transfers orders have been ordered to be withdrawn by Verma, are considered to be his confidants, the officials said.


The PM-headed panel comprises the Chief Justice of India or a Supreme Court judge, and the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha as members, the rules say.

CJI Ranjan Gogoi has reportedly nominated Supreme Court judge Justice A K Sikri to attend the meet.

Gogoi was part of the bench that gave the verdict on Tuesday which reinstated Verma as the CBI director.

There’s no leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha because no opposition party had managed to get the mandatory 10 per cent seats out of the total membership. 

Mallikarjun Kharge is the Congress’s leader in the Lok Sabha.

The top court had asked the government to convene the meeting within a week of its order. It had quashed the government’s unprecedented “overnight” order issued in October last year, stripping him of his powers and sending him on leave after he and his deputy traded corruption charges, sparking a bitter feud. — PTI


14:08  Older adults more likely to share fake news: Study:  

Older adults are more likely to share links to “fake news” sites on Facebook and other platforms than younger people, a United States study has found.


The study, published in the journal Science Advances, showed that only a small percentage of Americans — less than nine per cent — shared “fake news” links on Facebook during the 2016 presidential election campaign.

However, the researchers from New York University and Princeton University in the US showed that the behaviour was disproportionately common among people over the age of 65.

“Despite widespread interest in the fake news phenomenon, we know very little about who actually shares fake news,” said Joshua Tucker, a professor at NYU.

“Perhaps most significantly, we find that sharing this type of content on Facebook was a relatively rare activity during the 2016 presidential campaign,” Tucker said.

Among the overall sample of study participants, drawn from a panel survey conducted by the polling firm YouGov, only 8.5 per cent shared links from fake news sites via Facebook.

Just three per cent of those aged 18-29 shared links from fake news sites, compared with 11 per cent of those over age 65. 

The association with age appears to be independent of respondents’ ideological or partisan affiliations.

“If seniors are more likely to share fake news than younger people, then there are important implications for how we might design interventions to reduce the spread of fake news,” said Andrew Guess, an assistant professor at Princeton University.

Researchers outlined how the correlation with age could reflect differences in more fundamental traits or skills — such as digital media literacy — that are theoretically related to social media sharing behaviour.

Exploring these possibilities, they note, should be a focus of future research.

Jonathan Nagler, a professor at NYU, said that teaching digital literacy in schools — no matter how beneficial that might be for other reasons — is unlikely to fully address the sharing of fake news if such sharing is more prevalent among older citizens. — PTI


13:53  Ashley Judd’s sexual harassment claim against Harvey Weinstein dismissed:  

A federal judge in California has dismissed Ashley Judd’s sexual harassment lawsuit against tainted Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein on technical grounds as the suit did not fall within the ambit of the statute she sued under.


According to The Daily Beast, judge Philip Gutierrez has, however, let the actor’s claims of defamation, economic interference and violation of the state’s unfair competition law stand against Weinstein.

The 49-year-old actor was one of the first actors to go on record to accuse the media mogul of sexual abuse in the explosive October 5, 2017 New York Times article.

Judd filed a lawsuit against Weinstein for trying to sabotage her career.

In the suit, she alleged that the producer dissuaded director Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh from working with her in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy as she had rebuffed his sexual advances.

She claimed that Weinstein “torpedoed Ms Judd’s incredible professional opportunity” to work with Jackson by telling him she was a “nightmare” to work with and should be avoided “at all costs”.

“The pathetic reality, however, was that Weinstein was retaliating against Ms. Judd for rejecting his sexual demands approximately one year earlier, when he cornered her in a hotel room under the guise of discussing business,” wrote Judd’s attorney Theodore Boutrous Jr.

“A self-described ‘benevolent dictator’ who has bragged that ‘I can be scary,’ Weinstein used his power in the entertainment industry to damage Ms Judd’s reputation and limit her ability to find work,” the complaint further read.

Gutierrez initially dismissed the sexual harassment claim in September because he was sceptical that the statue under which Judd filed the suit could be applied to her case or any other involving a “potential employer and a prospective employee”.

The judge permitted the actor to take another go at making an argument for the claim but determined Wednesday that she had not met the bar under the California law or a recently enacted amendment to the statute.

In his ruling, Gutierrez made it clear that the court is not ruling on the facts of the case, whether Judd was “sexually harassed in the colloquial sense of the term”,  but if the “plaintiff allegedly suffered falls within the scope of the California statute that she has sued under”.

The decision in the civil suit comes as Weinstein is preparing for a criminal trial in New York on multiple counts of sex abuse that is expected to go to court later this year. — PTI  


13:51  New high for ‘Magnificent Mary’, becomes world No.1 in AIBA rankings:  

The celebrated M C Mary Kom’s unprecedented sixth world title triumph has propelled her to the number one position in the International Boxing Association’s latest world rankings.


The diminutive Manipuri became the most successful boxer in world championships’ history when she claimed the 48kg category top honours in November last year in Delhi.


In the updated rankings put out by AIBA, Mary Kom is placed top of the charts in the weight division with 1700 points.


The 36-year-old will have to jump to 51kg in pursuit of her 2020 Olympic dream as 48kg is not yet included in the Games roster.


The mother-of-three enjoyed a stellar 2018, picking up gold medals at the Commonwealth Games and a tournament in Poland. She also won a silver at the prestigious Strandja Memorial in Bulgaria.


Among other Indians, Pinki Jangra is placed eighth in the 51kg category list. 


Asian silver-medallist Manisha Maun holds the same position in the 54kg category.


Former world silver-medallist Sonia Lather was placed at the second spot in the 57kg division despite enduring a disappointing 2018, during which she finished medal-less at the Asian Games. 


World bronze-medallist Simranjit Kaur (64kg), who was crowned the national champion a few days back, took the fourth position in her weight category. Following her was former world champion L Sarita Devi at the 16th spot. — PTI

13:44  Australia to play 5 ODIs, 2 T20s in India from Feb 24:  

Bengaluru will host the first match of Australia’s limited overs tour of India with a T20 International on February 24, the BCCI announced Thursday.


The second T20I will be played in Visakhapatnam on February 27, followed by five ODIs.

The first ODI will be held in Hyderabad on March 2), followed by matches in Nagpur (March 5), Ranchi (March 8), Mohali (March 10) and New Delhi (March 13).


Both T20Is will be night matches starting at 7pm, and all five ODIs will be day-night affairs, starting at 1:30 pm, according to a BCCI release.


For Australia, this tour is set to be their last international assignment before the World Cup which starts on May 30 in England. 

For India, this series will be followed by a home assignment against Zimbabwe, before the players head into the IPL ahead of the World Cup. — PTI


13:17  Can’t be out of bandwagon: Army chief on talks with Taliban:  

The army has managed the situation well along the borders with China and Pakistan and there should be no cause for concern, army chief Gen Bipin Rawat said on Thursday.


Rawat, speaking at his annual press conference, also said the situation in Jammu and Kashmir needs to be improved further.


“We are only facilitators for peace in J&K,” he said.

“We have managed the situation well along the northern and western borders,” Gen Rawat said, adding that there should be no cause for concern.  

Talking about talks with Taliban, Rawat said, “We have interests in Afghanistan. We can’t be out of bandwagon.”

On talks with Hurriyat, Rawat said, “Our position is very clear that shun the gun and stop taking support from the western neighbour. Talks can happen only if they shun violence.”


13:11  When Amit Shah joined party MPs for dinner:  Bharatiya Janata Party chief Amit Shah has a reputation in the party for being a hard taskmaster and a workaholic who has little time for recreation. 

So it surprised many in his party when they heard Shah joined some of his party colleagues for dinner at a restaurant in Delhi on Tuesday evening.   

The outside world came to know of it when BJP Rajya Sabha member Subramanian Swamy tweeted about it on Wednesday afternoon.   

‘Yesterday, hard working efficient Parliamentary Affairs Minister (Vijay) Goel took BJP MPs of Rajya Sabha, including me to dinner at a lovely Rajasthan type ITDC Haveli restaurant/hotel in Chandni Chowk. Party president Amit Shah headed the dinner table. The informality of the occasion was great,’ Swamy tweeted.   

A party member quipped how much has changed after the recent assembly poll results.

— Business Standard


13:08  PM in ‘tearing hurry’ to sack CBI chief due to Rafale: Rahul:  

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in a “tearing hurry” to “sack” Central Burau of Investigation chief Alok Verma because of the Rafale deal, Congress president Rahul Gandhi alleged on Thursday.


On Wednesday, the selection committee headed by Modi met to decide agency director Alok Verma’s fate.


Gandhi’s attack came two days after the Supreme Court quashed the government’s unprecedented “overnight” order issued in October last, stripping Verma of his powers and sending him on leave after a bitter feud with his deputy Rakesh Asthana with both charging the other with corruption. 

“1. Why is the PM in such a tearing hurry to sack the CBI Chief?

“2. Why will he not allow the CBI Chief to present his case in front of the selection committee ? Answer: RAFALE,” Gandhi said on Twitter.

The court, while reinstating Verma on Tuesday, however, made it clear that he will desist from taking any major policy decision till a high-powered committee considers the issue of “divestment of power and authority”.

The outcome of the meeting, which took place at the prime minister’s residence at Lok Kalyan Marg, was not known.

Following the apex court verdict on Tuesday, Gandhi said no one can save the prime minister from the Rafale investigation and the entire nation would know “without a shadow of doubt” that he took Rs 30,000 crore of people’s money and gave it to his “friend” Anil Ambani. — PTI

12:38  Hubble’s most advanced camera shut down: NASA:  

The operations of the Hubble Space Telescope’s most technologically advanced camera have been suspended after it encountered a hardware problem, NASA said.


However, the telescope will continue to perform science observations with its other three active instruments, while the Wide Field Camera 3 anomaly is investigated, the US space agency said in a statement.


The Hubble Wide Field Camera 3 was installed by spacewalking astronauts during Servicing Mission 4 in 2009.

NASA said that the camera is equipped with back up electronics that can be called to action should they be needed to recover the instrument.

Hubble is the first major optical telescope to be placed in space, providing an unobstructed view into the universe.

Launched in 1990, the world’s first space telescope helped confirm the theory that the universe is expanding, lending credence to the Big Bang theory.

Hubble has made more than 1.3 million observations since its mission began in 1990, taking pictures of stars and galaxies of as it whirls around the Earth. 

 Astronomers using Hubble data have published more than 15,000 scientific papers, making it one of the most productive scientific instruments ever built. — PTI

12:35  4.6 magnitude earthquake hits Ladakh region:  

A 4.6-magnitude earthquake hit Jammu and Kashmir’s Ladakh region Thursday, officials said.


The quake occurred at 8:22 am with its epicentre at 34.39 degrees north and 78.21 degrees east — 63.6 km north of Leh and 193.1 km east of Kargil — in Ladakh region, officials of the Disaster Management Department said.

They said no loss of life or damage to property was reported so far. — PTI 


12:29  Terms like chest-thumping nationalism, jingoism used to shame people: Kangana:  

Declaring that passion for the country should be proclaimed loudly, actor Kangana Ranaut says terms such as “chest-thumping nationalism” and “jingoism” are being used to shame people these days.


Ranaut, who spoke on nationalism during the launch of a song from her new film Manikarnika, said she agreed with lyricist Prasoon Joshi and writer Vijayendra Prasad who articulated the same views.  

“Nowadays, words like chest-thumping nationalism and jingoism are used for shaming. When we used these words on our set, Prasoon sir and Vijayendra Prasad would tell us, ‘Yes, it’s chest-thumping. So, why not?’ So, how passionate you are, that’s how your passion will be,” Kangana told reporters at an event along with Joshi and Prasad on Wednesday. 

“How beautifully Prasoon sir said, one should not be shamed for whichever kind of love one has. Flags of various colours are being waved, so what’s bad in our tricolour? We should not be ashamed about it,” she added. 

Echoing her, Joshi said love for the country had become “uncool” today. 

“I don’t know who has done this but someone has made love for the country uncool. They are like, ‘What’s this nationalism?’ Whatever love we have for someone, it should remain cool. 

“I feel hurt when youngsters question the need to show it. We need to. When there’s love, there is a need to express. I have been wanting to start this hashtag, ‘deshprem jatao’,” he said. 

The writer-lyricist said there are several ways to express love for the country but one must “show” it.

“By writing a poem or making a painting… you have to show it. If you have love, you need to show it. Wear it on your sleeves,” he added. 

Asked for her reaction on the downside of hyper nationalism, including beating up people who do not stand up for the national anthem, Kangana seemed to digress and said, “Like Prasoon sir said, love is love. If you love your partner and you never want your partner’s company, it’s up to you.” 

The actor said the Constitution of India is “a promise we have all made with each other” and is not a gift from God that has “fallen from heaven”.

“That promise needs to be owned. It needs to be shown that we own it. It is not something to be internalised,” she added. 

Joshi said one should not express love for the country according to “convenience”.

“You say, ‘I will sit alone in a room and tell people when they ask me about it’. No. If you love someone, then saying it a little bit, showing it a little bit… Of course in your own way but one should express it. It is important. 

“It reflects in the eyes, in your gestures, in your hugs and touches. Don’t base the love for your country on convenience. As far as you are cognisant of it and honest about it, don’t make it convenient. If you are hiding behind convenience, I have a problem,” he added. 

Manikarnika, on the life of Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi, is scheduled to release on January 25. — PTI 


11:58  NCW sends notice to Rahul over remark on Sitharaman:  

The National Commission for Women has issued a notice to Congress President Rahul Gandhi  over his recent remark on Union defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

“We have asked explanation from Rahul Gandhi for why he said what he said yesterday in tweets. The statement was pathetic, sexist and misogynistic. That is why we have sent him a notice. He has to explain what does he mean when he is trying to talk low of women,” NCW Chairperson Rekha Sharma said.

Gandhi on Wednesday while addressing a rally at Jaipur, Rajasthan said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi got a woman to defend him in Parliament on Rafale fighter jet deal.

He was referring to Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharamans speech in Lok Sabha last week.

“The watchman with a 56-inch chest ran away and told a woman, Sitharaman ji, defend me. I wont be able to defend myself, defend me,” he said.

“For two-and-a-half hours, the woman could not defend him. I had asked a straight question — answer yes or no — but she couldnt answer,” the Congress chief said, using the word mahila for a woman in his speech in Hindi.

In his public meeting a few hours later in Agra, Modi accused Congress leaders of insulting the countrys women.

11:33  Trump threatens imposition of national emergency over border wall issue:  

United States President Donald Trump has threatened to impose a national emergency which will empower him to go ahead with his plan to construct a barrier, concrete or steel, along the southern border with Mexico to prevent flow of illegal immigrants into the country.

Trump on Wednesday said imposing a national emergency is the last option and threatened to use it if the Democrats do not allocate USD 5.7 billion funding for his controversial US-Mexico border wall plan.

He argued that the current situation, wherein people are entering the country illegally and there is a massive smuggling of drugs, poses a national security threat.

“I have the absolute right to impose national emergency if I want,” Trump said.

To a question why he did not declare this option during his prime-time address to the nation on Tuesday night from the Oval Office, the president said, “Because I think we might work a deal and, if we don’t, I may go that (national emergency) route.”

A wall along the US-Mexico border was one of Trump’s signature campaign promises. Trump wants USD 5.7 billion to build the wall, even though he said repeatedly during his campaign that he would make Mexico pay for the structure.

The Democrats are refusing to allocate the money, arguing that a wall would be costly and ineffective. Mexico has rejected Trump’s demand to pay for the border wall. — PTI


11:04  Ayodhya hearing deferred again after judge exits case:  

The Supreme Court today said that a new bench will be constituted to hear the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land title dispute case after one of the members of a five-judge Constitution bench recused himself from the case.

A five-member bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi with Justices S A Bobde, N V Ramana, U U Lalit and D Y Chandrachud was set up for hearing the matter on a batch of petitions.

However, Justice UU Lalit has recused himself from hearing the case. 

The apex court now will hear the matter on January 29.


10:55  Mark Tully on meeting PMs, dictators, militants:  
‘Of all the PMs of India, I had the closest relationships with Morarji and Rajiv.’

Mark Tully, the most famous foreign correspondent in India, remembers some encounters with prime ministers, dictators and militants, here.


10:43  Where are the jobs, asks Shiv Sena on 10% quota:  

A day after Parliament approved 10 per cent reservationto general category poor, the Shiv Sena on Thursday wondered where will the jobs come from and warned that if it is an election-driven move, then it will prove costly.

The Maratha community has been given reservation in Maharashtra, but the question still remains that where are the jobs, the Sena said.

The Parliament had on Wednesday approved amending the Constitution to provide 10 per cent reservation to general category poor in government jobs and education.

“When those in power fail on the twin fronts of employment and poverty, they have to play the reservation card,” the Sena said in an editorial in party mouthpiece Saamana.

“If this decision has been taken for votes, it will prove costly. After 10 per cent reservation, what about employment? Where will you get the jobs from?” it asked.   

In India, the population of those over 15 years of age is increasing by 13 lakh every month. Employing minors below the age of 18 years is a crime, but child labour continues unabated, said the Uddhav Thackeray-led party, which is an ally of the ruling BJP at the Centre and in Maharashtra.

Around 80 to 90 lakh new job opportunities are needed every year to balance the employment rate in the country, but this calculation has been unstable for a while now, it noted.

“In the last two years, job opportunities have decreased instead of increasing and about 1.5 crore to two crore jobs have been lost due to decisions like demonetisation and GST implementation. There is a feeling of helplessness among youth,” the Marathi publication said.

In 2018, 2.8 crore people applied for 90 lakh jobs in Railways. Besides, for 1,137 positions in Mumbai Police, over four lakh people applied and many of the applicants had more educational qualifications than required, the Sena claimed.

“After the government’s 10 per cent reservation, will the eligible youth be able to gain anything? The prime minister, who had advised youth to fry ‘pakodas’ (snack), had to eventually give 10 per cent reservation to the economically backward classes,” it quipped. — PTI


10:27  Chidambaram takes dig at govt over Kashmiri IAS officer’s resignation:  

Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Thursday took a dig at the BJP-led central government over the resignation of IAS officer Shah Faesal, saying the world will take note of “his cry of anguish and defiance”.


In a series of tweets, the former home and finance minister claimed whatever Faesal, the first Kashmiri IAS topper, had said was an indictment of the Narendra Modi government.


“Though sad, I salute Mr Shah Faesal IAS (now resigned). Every word of his statement is true and is an indictment of the BJP government. The world will take note of his cry of anguish and defiance,” he said.


Faesal has resigned from the civil services. 


He had Wednesday attributed his decision to the “unabated killings in Kashmir”, the central government’s “lack of sincere” efforts to reach out to the Kashmiris and the “marginalisation of the Indian Muslims”.

Chidambaram said that not long ago “legendary police officer” Julio Ribeiro, a former DGP of Punjab and a former commissioner of Mumbai Police, had stated the same thing, but there was “not a word of reassurance from the rulers”.


“Such statements from our fellow citizens must make us hang our heads in regret and shame,” he said.

On the Modi government, Ribeiro had said the country needed inclusive development and not just for some sections.


He had also said he “felt threatened, not wanted, reduced to a stranger in his own country” and that he never felt that he belonged to a different religion. — PTI


09:56  Bulandshahr violence: BJP youth wing leader arrested:  

Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha member Shikhar Agarwal, a key suspect in the mob violence in Bulandshahr’s Siyana, was arrested early Thursday, police said.


Agarwal was held from the adjoining Hapur district by the Bulandshahr police, a senior official said.


“He was arrested this morning. We are interrogating him and produce him in the local court later today,” Additional Superintendent of Police (Bulandhshahr city) Atul Kumar Srivastava told PTI.


Police Inspector Subodh Kumar Singh, 44, and civilian Sumit Kumar, 20, were killed of bullet shots during the mob violence on December 3. 


An FIR against 27 named people and 50 to 60 unidentified people was registered at the Siyana Police Station for the violence that was witnessed at Chingrawathi police post after cattle carcasses were found strewn outside nearby Mahaw village.


On January 3, the police had arrested local Bajrang Dal leader Yogesh Raj, also a key suspect in the case. 

So far, over 35 people have been arrested in connection with the violence, including Army jawan Jeetender Malik, Prashant Nat who allegedly shot the inspector dead and Kalua who had attacked him with an axe, the police said.– PTI

09:44  No trust between US and Russia: Russian minister:  

Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said there was no trust between Russia and the US and that Washington has not expressed any willingness to solve the election-meddling issue through an “inter-agency process”.


“Because there is no such thing as trust between Moscow and Washington, we cannot just take as something granted of what we hear from Washington on these issues,” he said during a panel discussion at the Raisina Dialogue 2019 in New Delhi.


“And like Mueller’s investigation, we haven’t seen anything during these two years that underpin claims of US officials that Russia is ‘guilty’,” he added.

Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s one-time presidential campaign chairman, admitted in a court filing in the US on Tuesday that he provided 2016 campaign’s polling data to a Russian, who has ties with intelligence agencies.


“I understand that many in the US strongly believe in Russia’s wrongdoing with regards to election meddling, hacking or whatever,” Ryabkov said.


“We have offered countless times to this (Trump) administration and a dozen of times to the Obama administration to deal with it in a very pragmatic manner, to go through inter-agency process, to deal with IP addresses with individuals and institutions. The answer is no. Or, alternatively, there is no answer” he said.


The findings of the US special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia meddling in the 2016 election are yet to come out.


While discussing matters related to Iran and Syria, Ryabkov on Wednesday said that notions of “regime change” and “unilateral action” should not be discussed lightly.


“It’s striking for me to be present in this room and kind of listen to a debate where notions of regime change and imposition of unilateral sanctions are being kicked around as something generally acceptable, very normal, very usual, very standard,” Ryabkov said.


“The chances for yet another regime change are being discussed by think-tankers, politicians, in a sober quiet and cold manner. Something is wrong in the mindset of the people today. But let’s limit my comments to this,” he added. — PTI 


09:34  World’s richest couple Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie to split :  

Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, are getting a divorce after 25 years of marriage.

The two published a joint statement on Wednesday on the Amazon CEO’s Twitter account stating that the two will get a divorce but continue to cherish each other as friends

“After a long period of loving exploration and trial separation, we have decided to divorce and continue our shared lives as friends,” the couple said in the statement.

Expressing their gratitude, the two further wrote, “We feel incredibly lucky to have found each other and deeply grateful for every one of the years we have been married to each other. If we had known we would separate after 25 years, we would do it all again.”

The couple also said that they are looking forward to working together as “parents, friends, partners in ventures and projects, and as individuals pursuing ventures and adventures.”

Jeff and MacKenzie have four children. — ANI


09:10  SC’s 5-judge Constitution bench to hear Ayodhya title suit today:  

A five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the politically sensitive case of Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land title dispute in Ayodhya today.


The bench will be headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and also comprise of Justices S A Bobde, N V Ramana, U U Lalit and D Y Chandrachud.


A three-judge bench of the top court had on September 27 last year, by 2:1 majority, refused to refer to a five-judge constitution bench for reconsideration of the observations in its 1994 judgement that a mosque was not integral to Islam. The matter had arisen during the hearing of the Ayodhya land dispute.


When the matter was last taken up on January 4, there was no indication that the case would be referred to a constitution bench as the apex court had simply said that further orders in the matter would be passed on January 10 by “the appropriate bench, as may be constituted”.


The newly set up five-judge bench comprises not only the incumbent CJI but the four judges who are in line to be CJI in the future.


Justice Gogoi’s successor would be Justice Bobde followed by Justices Ramana, Lalit and Chandrachud.


As many as 14 appeals have been filed in the apex court against the 2010 Allahabad high court judgement, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77-acre land be partitioned equally among the three parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.

The apex court on October 29 last year had fixed the matter in the first week of January before the “appropriate bench”.


Later, an application was moved for according an urgent hearing by advancing the date, but the top court had refused the plea, saying it had already passed an order on October 29 relating to the hearing of the matter.

The plea for early hearing was moved by the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha which is one of the respondents in the appeal filed by legal heirs of M Siddiq, one of the original litigants in the case.


Various Hindutva organisations have been demanding an ordinance on early construction of Ram temple at the disputed site.


Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had suggested that any decision on an ordinance on Ram temple in Ayodhya can happen only after the completion of the judicial process. — PTI


08:56  Sidhu gets enhanced security cover, bullet-proof vehicle: Report:  

The Punjab government is learnt to have increased the security cover of Cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu in the wake of threats issued to him, sources said Wednesday.


A bullet-proof vehicle has also been provided to Sidhu by the state government, the sources close to Sidhu said.


In November 2018, the Congress had sought the Central Industrial Security Force security cover for Sidhu citing “growing threat perception” to his life.


Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala had written a letter to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in this regard as Sidhu was to campaign outside Punjab for the party. — PTI  

08:54  Randeep Surjewala Cong’s candidate for Jind bypoll:  

The Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress on Wednesday announced the names of their candidates for the by-election in Haryana’s Jind assembly constituency scheduled to be held on January 28.


Krishan Middha, the son of late Indian National Lok Dal MLA Hari Chand Middha, will be the BJP’s candidate, while Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala will be its nominee for the bypoll.


Krishan Middha, whose father’s demise in August had necessitated the bypoll, had recently joined the saffron party. He was the frontrunner to contest as the BJP candidate from this constituency.


“After discussion and taking various factors into account, the BJP’s Central Election Committee has decided that Krishan Middha, the son of late Hari Chand Middha, will be the party’s candidate for the Jind bypoll,” Haryana BJP president Subhash Barala told reporters earlier in the day.


Meanwhile, the INLD and the recently floated Jannayak Janata Party said they would announce the name of their candidates on Thursday.

After his name was announced, Middha exuded confidence about his win.


“The BJP will get one more MLA, this time from Jind,” he said.


Jind was represented by his late father, who was two-time MLA from here. The BJP is yet to taste a win from this constituency.

However, senior INLD leader and Leader of Opposition Abhay Singh Chautala said, “This seat was with our party MLA. But his son chose to join the BJP and people of the constituency know that he has betrayed them.”

 “We will be announcing name of our party candidate on Thursday and he will win by at least a margin of 25,000 votes,” Chautala claimed.

 The Election Commission had on December 31 announced that the bypoll to the Jind assembly seat would be held on January 28 and the results will be out on January 31. — PTI


08:30  Trump walks out of meeting with Democrats, calls it ‘waste of time’ :  

United States President Donald Trump has walked out of a meeting with top Democratic leaders, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Senator Chuck Schumer, after they refused to allocate a whopping USD 5.7 billion funding for his controversial US-Mexico border wall plan.

Trump was furious that Pelosi said no when he asked the Democratic leaders on Wednesday would they support the move to fund the border wall within the next 30 days if he ends the partial government shutdown that has crippled many offices.

“Just left a meeting with Chuck and Nancy, a total waste of time. I asked what is going to happen in 30 days if I quickly open things up, are you going to approve Border Security which includes a Wall or Steel Barrier? Nancy said, NO. I said bye-bye, nothing else works (sic)!” a furious Trump tweeted.

The sharp differences between the Trump administration and the opposition Democrats over border security has resulted in a partial government shutdown, which entered its 19th day on Wednesday, making it the second-longest in history after the 21-day shutdown in 1995-96.

The Democrats are refusing to allocate the money, arguing that a wall would be costly and ineffective. Mexico has rejected Trump’s demand to pay for the border wall.

The president’s walkout from the meeting at the White House on Wednesday afternoon opens a new phase of political uncertainty in the US.

Talking to reporters after Trump’s walkout from the meeting, Pelosi and Schumer asserted that under no circumstances the Democrats are willing to fund a border wall.

Blaming Trump for the partial government shutdown that has badly hit the functioning of the federal government, the two leaders indicated that their party is not going to change its stand over the issue.

The Democratic party enjoys a majority in the House of Representatives.

Vice President Mike Pence, who made a rare media appearance at the White House stake out location along with the other Congressional Republican leaders, said their doors are still open for the Democratic party leaders to come up with their own proposal.

However, Trump has made it clear that there will be no moving forward without funding approval for a wall. In recent days, the president has showed signs of some flexibility by proposing a steel barrier instead of a 30-foot-high concrete wall. — PTI


00:04  India to receive S-400 in due time, without any delays, assures Russia:  

Russia has said there will be no delays in the delivery of the S-400 air defence systems to India and a payment mechanism for the deal is being worked out.


Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the missile systems will significantly enhance India’s air defence capability.

Last week, the government informed Lok Sabha that it will start receiving the missile systems from Russia from October next year and the deliveries will be completed by April 2023.

India inked an agreement with Russia in October last year to procure a batch of the missile systems at a cost of Rs 40,000 crore. India went ahead to seal the deal notwithstanding the US’ warnings against it.

There were apprehensions about the payment mechanism for the deal in the wake of the US sanctions against Russia.

“India would receive the systems as agreed upon in due time, without any delays. And, your (India’s) national security will be enhanced substantially,” Ryabkov told reporters.


Source: Rediff