QBullet: EC Gives Clean-Chit to PM Modi; Nirav’s Bail Plea Denied
1. PM Modi’s Address to Nation on ‘Mission Shakti’ Did Not Violate Poll Code: EC
The Election Commission of India (EC) on Friday, 29 March, gave a clean chit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his address to the nation announcing the success of ‘Mission Shakti’. Stating that the Prime Minister’s address has not violated the Model Code of Conduct (MCC), the poll watchdog said that public broadcasters – Doordarshan and All India Radio – were not used to air the speech.
“The source was the play out of the video as received from news agency Asia News International. Doordarshan subscribes to the news agency ANI which provides the visuals of news events round the clock.
This arrangement is continuing since a long time,” the poll watchdog said, in response to a letter sent by CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury.
2. London Court Rejects Nirav’s Bail Plea Again
A UK judge refused fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi’s second application for bail in a London court on Friday, 29 March, after hearing the Indian government’s arguments that he had threatened to kill a witness, had destroyed evidence and even tried to buy citizenship in the remote south Pacific island chain of Vanuatu, near Fiji — though his application was declined.
Delivering her verdict, chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot said:
“There are allegations of substantial fraud on the bank in India of up to US$2 billion (approximately Rs 14,000 crore). The government of India has, very unusually for a case of fraud, alleged that interference of witnesses has taken place and that evidence has been destroyed. I am conscious of his right to bail but I find the conditions of bail do not allay my fears, so no bail.”
3. Hardik Patel May Not Contest LS Polls as Court Refuses to Stay Conviction Order
The Gujarat High Court on Friday, 29 March, rejected Patidar community leader Hardik Patel’s plea for a stay on the sentence awarded to him in a rioting case, narrowing his chances of making his electoral debut as a Congress candidate in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. His plea was challenged by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government on Tuesday.
The 25-year-old, who earlier this month joined the Congress, has a few more days to move to the Supreme Court. 4 April is the last date for filing of nominations for the polls in Gujarat, to be held in the second phase of elections.
“My only crime is that I have raised voice against the BJP. I will campaign for the Congress and we will form the government,” Hardik wrote on the microblogging site Twitter.
4. Khalistani on Kartarpur Panel, India Stalls Meet
India has decided to postpone the 2 April meeting with Pakistani officials to finalise modalities to open the Kartarpur corridor for pilgrims. The move comes in the wake of Pakistan appointing a Khalistan supporter to a committee on the initiative alongside reports of other anti-India elements being associated with it.
The corridor is intended to allow Indian Sikhs to visit Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara, which marks the final resting place of Guru Nanak.
India also expressed dissatisfaction with Pakistan over the latter’s “indifference” to some of the proposals it made, including allowing 5,000 pilgrims every day to visit the gurdwara.
5. EC Tells SC: More VVPAT Checks Can Delay Counting by Six Days
Maintaining it was in favour of continuing the existing system of random checking of VVPAT slips from one EVM per assembly segment for the Lok Sabha and assembly polls, the Election Commission has told the Supreme Court that increasing it to 50 per cent “shall enlarge the time required for counting to about six days”.
The EC’s affidavit in court came in response to a petition by 21 political parties, which had sought directions to the poll body to randomly verify at least 50 per cent of electronic voting machines (EVMs) using voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) slips in the assembly and general elections starting next month.
6. His Licence Cancelled, Chemist Kills Drug Officer in Punjab
A 36-year-old woman officer of the Punjab government’s Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) wing was shot dead inside her office near Mohali on Friday, 29 March, by the owner of a pharmacy whose licence she had cancelled following a raid 10 years ago. The assailant committed suicide minutes later, shooting himself in the head after being cornered by a mob at the gate, police said.
Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh has ordered a probe into the incident.
The officer, Neha Shoree, was a resident of Panchkula and posted as the state FDA’s Zonal Licensing Authority since 2016. Police said Shoree’s six-year-old niece was present in her office in Kharar during the shooting.
7. Unpaid, Jet Pilots to Go on Strike from 1 April
Jet Airways pilots have threatened to go on strike from 1 April. The embattled carrier has not paid salaries to its pilots, aircraft maintenance engineers and senior management for the past four months. It has also not got any interim funding from lenders.
The strike may be averted only if a firm commitment on the payment of salary to the pilots is made in the next two days and some dues are immediately cleared, said sources.
“A part of the expected interim funding from SBI was supposed to be auctioned on 29 March. The fund transfer has not taken place,” National Aviators’ Guild, the union of Jet Airways’ Indian pilots, wrote to its members late on Friday, 29 March.
8. India Gives Intel on Pakistan F-16 to US
India has shared critical evidence with the US that the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) indeed used F-16 fighters in its attempted strike on 27 February in Jammu and Kashmir’s Nowshera sector as a counter to the Indian Air Force (IAF) strike on a Jaish-e-Mohammed training camp in Balakot, Pakistan, the previous day.
South Block officials said on condition of anonymity that this evidence – call signs associated with PAF F-16s, and specific details of the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air To Air Missile (AMRAAM) used by the intruding fighting falcons – were shared with the US through institutionalised intelligence channels.
The PAF lost one F-16 aircraft that day in a dogfight with a Russian MiG-21 Bison flown by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. The details in the recovered expended missile correspond to the consignment lot sold by the US to Pakistan, the officials added.
9. ‘Terror Apologists’: At UN, India Blasts Pakistan Inaction
India has called on the UN Security Council to ensure the implementation of counter-terror sanctions, saying “apologists for terrorists” or member-states that support them will continue to make excuses for their inaction.
No countries were named when India’s permanent representative Syed Akbaruddin made the appeal during an open debate at the Security Council on preventing the financing of terror, but he called out a “serial offender” for its support to terrorism – a thinly veiled reference to Pakistan.
“Terrorists are going to be ever more creative in finding ways to violate the rulebook,” he said. “Also the unfortunate reality is that states who are apologists for terrorists will continue to provide alibis to justify their actions and inaction too, as was done by a serial offender,” Akbaruddin said.