QBullet: Govt Uses OSA Threat to Defend Rafale Deal in SC & More

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India
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Attorney General KK Venugopal made some controversial arguments in the Supreme Court during the hearing on the Rafale review petitions.
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1. Defending Rafale Deal, Govt Unveils New Weapon: Official Secrets Act

Claiming in the Supreme Court that documents related to the Rafale fighter deal were “stolen” from the Ministry of Defence, the government Wednesday threatened to invoke the Official Secrets Act and initiate “criminal action” against two publications which ran reports on the basis of these documents, and a lawyer.

Attorney General K K Venugopal, who made this submission before a three-judge bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph, initially did not name the publications but later said “documents in the possession of The Hindu and ANI are stolen documents”.

2. Looking at Minds, Hearts and Healing: SC on Possible Ayodhya Dispute Mediation

Observing “we have no control over what happened in the past… and so we cannot undo that”, a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court Wednesday reserved its order on whether or not to refer the Ayodhya title dispute for mediation. In favour of giving “healing” a chance, the bench said if there was to be mediation, it may ask the parties involved to suggest names of possible mediators.

The bench, comprising Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer, is hearing appeals against the September 30, 2010 order of the Allahabad High Court which ordered a three-way division of the disputed 2.77 acres of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site, giving a third each to the Nirmohi Akhara sect, the Sunni Central Wakf Board, UP, and Ramlalla Virajman.

3. Jaish-E-Mohammed Does Not Exist in Pakistan, Says Military Spokesperson

Jaish-e-Muhammed which claimed responsibility for the Pulwama attack does not exist in Pakistan, the military’s spokesperson has said, days after Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi admitted that the terror outfit’s chief is present in the country.

 Major General Asif Ghafoor, the official spokesperson of the Pakistan Armed forces.
Major General Asif Ghafoor, the official spokesperson of the Pakistan Armed forces.
(Photo Courtesy: Twitter)

The already sour relations between India and Pakistan have worsened after Pakistan-based JeM claimed responsibility for the February 14 Pulwama attack that left 40 CRPF personnel dead.

(Source: Hindustan Times)

4. BJP MP, MLA Exchange Blows Over Name on Foundation Stone, Video Goes Viral

An angry argument between two BJP lawmakers over the name on the plaque for a local project escalated into a fist fight in Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday, all of it captured on a video recorded on a mobile phone. The widely-circulated video, which has provoked taunts from Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav, comes as a huge embarrassment to the ruling BJP that has summoned the two lawmakers to Lucknow.

The meeting had been convened by the Sant Kabir Nagar district planning board to discuss some projects at the district headquarters.

(Source: Hindustan Times)

5. Ensure There Is No Meddling in Polls: Parliamentary Panel to Social Media Platforms

The Parliamentary Panel on Information and Technology has directed social media platforms – Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram – to ensure that their platforms are not used to incite violence or meddle in the upcoming general election.

This is the panel’s third meeting with social media platforms. The last meeting was with Twitter officials.

“We asked them to ensure their platforms aren’t used to create division in society, incite violence, pose threat to India’s security or let foreign powers meddle in Indian elections,” said Anurag Thakur, chairman of the committee.

(Source: The Hindu)

6. I-T to Assess 80k Big Cash Depositors During Demonetisation

Over 80,000 taxpayers who had deposited significant amounts of cash during the demonetisation period but failed to respond to initial notices sent by the income tax (I-T) department and furnish their tax returns for the financial year 2016-17 will now be subject to a ‘best judgement’ assessment. In a 5 March notification addressed to its senior cadre, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has laid down the standard operating procedure (SOP).

Earlier, the I-T department had issued notices to around 3 lakh individuals under Section 142(1), requiring them to provide details relating to their cash deposits and also to furnish their I-T returns for 2016-17. In 87,000 cases, the I-T department received no response (or in technical terms, the notices were non-complied with). The CBDT has exhorted that the best judgement assessments should be completed by 31 March, or latest by 30 June.

7. IAF Rebuts ‘Satellite Image’ Report, Says Intended Targets Were Hit

Amid conflicting claims of “satellite evidence” on whether India did strike the Jaish-e-Mohammed camp at Balakot in Pakistan, the Indian air force( IAF) maintained that it had hit the intended targets and that precision ‘Spice’ bombs had pierced the roofs of identified buildings and exploded inside.

The Reuters image (pip) shows that the Madrassa that IAF Airstrike has claimed to hit is still standing.
The Reuters image (pip) shows that the Madrassa that IAF Airstrike has claimed to hit is still standing.
(Photo: AP/The Quint)

A Reuters report on Wednesday, 5 March referred to images produced by Planet Labs Inc, a San Francisco-based private satellite operator, showing at least six buildings on the site of the Jaish camp on 4 March. The report claimed the image was virtually unchanged from an April 2018 photo and had no signs of a bombing. “There are no discernible holes in the roofs of buildings, no signs of scorching, blown-out walls, displaced trees around the madrassa or other signs of an aerial attack,” the report said. It quoted Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Non-proliferation programme at Middlebury Institute of International Studies, who “confirmed” that the satellite picture showed the structures in question.

8. Seat-Share on Table as Rahul Gandhi Meets Deve Gowda, Bengal Leaders

A day after the Congress decided against an electoral alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party for the Lok Sabha elections in Delhi, party chief Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday began efforts to seal seat-sharing deals in two other states — Karnataka and West Bengal.

Rahul drove to JD(S) chief H D Deve Gowda’s residence here and had a nearly two-hour meeting to iron out differences.

Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi. (Photo: PTI)
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi. (Photo: PTI)

9. Indian-Origin Dentist Killed in Sydney, Suspect Ex-Boyfriend Dies in Head-On Crash

An Indian origin dentist in Sydney who went missing on Sunday was found stabbed to death on Tuesday, 4 March night, police said.

Police found the body of Dr Preethi Reddy (32), in a suitcase in her car. The body had multiple stab wounds. The New South Wales police said they are investigating the circumstances surrounding the woman’s death. She worked at Glenbrook Dental Surgery in the Blue Mountains, about 70km west of Sydney.

Police said that Preethi stayed at a hotel on Market Street in Sydney’s CBD on Sunday with her ex-boyfriend, who was killed in a head-on collision with a truck on the New England Highway, south of Tamworth on Monday, 3 March night.

32-year-old Indian-origin dentist Preethi Reddy.
32-year-old Indian-origin dentist Preethi Reddy.
(Photo Courtesy: The News Minute)

(Source: Hindustan Times)

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