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All should cooperate for a peaceful election: Punjab CM

(Chandigarh, Jan 4, 2016): With Punjab set to go to polls on February 4, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal appealed to political parties to cooperate with the Election Commission (EC) in conducting the elections in a peaceful and fair manner.

In a statement issued here today, the Chief Minister said that Punjabis have always upheld the lofty ideals of peace, communal harmony and brotherhood and hoped the glorious tradition would be maintained.

Punjab, together with Goa, will go to polls on February 4, the Election Commision announced today.

Irrespective of political differences, every party has a right to disseminate their ideology, the chief minister said, adding that Punjab government fully respected this and was committed to carrying out elections in a peaceful, free and fair manner.

The Chief Minister also said the state government would fully cooperate with the Election Commission in strictly implementing the Model Code of Conduct. (PTI)

Hazare is part of 'RSS conspiracy', alleges NCP

(Mumbai, Jan 4, 2016): With Anna Hazare moving the Bombay High Court seeking a CBI inquiry into the alleged "Rs 25,000 crore sugar cooperative factories scam", the NCP today dubbed the social activist as an "agent of the RSS".

NCP spokesman Nawab Malik alleged that Hazare was playing a role in the "RSS conspiracy" to defame senior NCP leaders like Sharad Pawar.

"Why is Hazare not protesting over any issue in the BJPruled Maharashtra," Malik asked.

Hazare recently moved the Bombay High Court seeking a CBI inquiry into what he termed a "Rs 25,000 crore sugar cooperative factories scam".

He filed two civil PILs and a criminal PIL seeking a CBI probe into the issue. The criminal PIL is listed for hearing on January 6 before a bench headed by Justice Abhay Oka.

The petitions alleged that fraud had been committed in governance by first burdening sugar cooperative factories with debts and thereafter selling these sick units at a throwaway price, causing loss of Rs 25,000 crore to the government, cooperative sector and members of public.

The petitions also demanded an inquiry by a Special Investigating Team (SIT) into alleged role of "politicians into the sugar cooperative scam, including NCP president and former Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar and his nephew and former irrigation minister Ajit Pawar". (PTI)

Arvind Kejriwal helping forces who want to disturb Punjab's peace, says Rahul Gandhi

SANGRUR, Feb,2,2017: Launching an allout attack against Arvind Kejriwal in the backdrop of the Maur Mandi blast+ , Rahul Gandhi on Thursday accused him of "helping" forces who want to disturb Punjab's peace and push it back to the dark days of militancy.

On the last day of the poll campaign in Punjab, Rahul addressed a gathering in Ballian village here and referred to the Tuesday night's car explosion in Maur Mandi+ , which left six dead.

The blast had occurred shortly after the "jansabha" of Congress candidate Harminder Singh Jassi, who is contesting the February 4 elections from Maur assembly seat.

"The most important thing is the atmosphere you live in. If that atmosphere gets spoiled, violence starts or anger prevails, then the work of farmers, labourers, weaker sections suffers, entire state suffers," Rahul said.

Taking a veiled dig at the ruling Akalis and the AAP, Rahul said, "from one extremist thinking, Punjab should not go to other extremist thinking. Congress is one such party which takes all sections along. We want that Punjab should rapidly progress."

"But if violence breaks, anger prevails+ , then everything will be destroyed. We have to understand that those forces, which destroyed Punjab earlier (referring to militancy period in the state), because of whom violence broke, such forces are yet again raising their head."

" Bomb blast took place+ and six people died (Maur). Arvind Kejriwal, who is Delhi's Chief Minister, is helping these forces and helping them raise their head. And this is most dangerous thing for Punjab.

"If these forces raise their head again, then entire agenda will be hijacked and Punjab will look in some other direction," he warned.

Rahul said, "So, it is necessary all of us together, be from any religion, caste or creed, we all should again stand up so that we can build a Punjab, which was known for its spirit of giving, a path as shown Guru Nanak Dev and Guru Gobind Singh."

Addressing the gathering while sitting on a cot with villagers and farmers of Ballian here, Rahul also talked about farmers issues, saying during UPA's time loans of farmers amounting to Rs 70,000 crore were waived off and promised that if Congress forms the next government in the State, the burden of state's farmers will be

Rahul is also scheduled to address poll rallies in Malwa belt later in the day, which constitute bulk of the seats in the 117member Punjab assembly.

After interacting with local villagers, Rahul also sat on a mat and shared food with them.

From Sangrur constituency, Congress has fielded its former MP Vijay Inder Singla, who was also present.

Global ransomware attack: India stays on high alert

New Delhi, May 15 (PTI) Indian computer systems largely escaped a global ransomware attack as the government and companies installed security patches to gain an upper hand against the first wave of an unrivalled global cyber attack.

Over two lakh computers in at least 150 countries are said to have been infected, according to Europol, the European Union's law enforcement agency. In India, only a few isolated incidents in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu were reported.

National Informatics Centre, which manages government websites, and the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing installed security patches issued by Microsoft to immunise their Windows systems.

Also, guidelines were issued to enable large IT networks to tackle the threat.

"There is no major impact in India unlike other countries. We are keeping a close watch. As per the information received so far, there have been isolated incidents in limited areas in Kerala and Andhra Pradesh," Information and Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters here.

He said a cyber coordination centre will start operating from next month to take precautions against such attacks.

India's cyber security unit CERTIn said it has received formal reports of just five "incidents" across locations like Delhi and Tamil Nadu.

"It is nothing major, but we are still watching. The next couple of days, we will be on alert on this," Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERTIn), director general, Sanjay Bahl told PTI.

India is on high alert, monitoring critical networks across sectors like banking, telecom, power and aviation to ensure that systems are protected against the attack that has claimed victims in more than 150 countries over the weekend.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) asked banks to follow the instructions issued by CERTIn to prevent the attack. A few ATMs running on old Microsoft Operating System remained nonoperational as part of precautionary measures.

CERTIn has issued list of dos and don'ts and webcast on how to protect networks from the global ransomware attack.

India Inc has also been on the vigil against 'WannaCry', which has claimed victims in over 150 countries like Spanish telecom firm Telefonica, US' logistics major FedEx and Russia's interior ministry.

Auto maker Nissan, which saw its systems being impacted globally, said the RenaultNissan alliance plant in Chennai came under attack but its India team has responded and there is no major impact on business.

"Normal production operations are underway at our RNAIPL plant in Chennai," Nissan India said in an emailed statement.

Indian IT companies like Infosys and Wipro are also monitoring their systems and taking necessary precautions to ensure business continuity for their clients.

"The Indian IT industry should be better placed than others (in handling the situation). We have not come across any significant impact yet," Nasscom President, R Chandrasekhar said.

Hackers possibly used techniques stolen from the US National Security Agency to encrypt files within affected computers, making them inaccessible, and demanded USD 300 ransom.

"WannaCry is just the tip of the iceberg and organisations need to reassess the security programme and strengthen detection, prevention and response capabilities to counter such attacks," Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India Partner Shree Parthasarathy said.

GSTN, the company set up to provide the IT infrastructure for GST rollout, will not be impacted by the WannaCry ransomware attack as its systems do not run on Microsoft software, its CEO Prakash Kumar said.

Meanwhile, IT Secretary Aruna Sundararajan said the IT Ministry along with CERTIn is closely monitoring the situation and reiterated that no large scale incidents were reported in public and private sectors.

Report by various security solutions firms over the weekend had claimed that India is amongst the countries worst affected by the 'WannaCry' outbreak, accounting for about five per cent of the attacks.

Kulbhushan Jadhav case: ICJ to pronounce verdict on Thursday on India's appeal seeking suspension of death sentence given by Pakistani court

The Hague: The International Court of Justice will pronounce its verdict on Kulbhushan Jadhav on Thursday.

According to news agency PTI, the verdict will be out at 3.30 PM.

Earlier, India and Pakistan on Monday crossed swords at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over Kulbhushan Jadhav's case with New Delhi demanding the immediate suspension of his death sentence and Islamabad accusing it of using the world body as a stage for "political theatre" through a "misconceived" plea.

The two neighbours who last faced off at the ICJ 18 years ago when Islamabad sought its intervention over the shooting down of its naval aircraft India took the Jadhav case to the world court, accusing Pakistan of violating the Vienna Convention and conducting a "farcical trial" for convicting Jadhav without a "shred of evidence".

After hearing the arguments of the two sides, the court said it will issue its order on India's request for provisional measures "as soon as possible".

"The date on which this order will be delivered at a public sitting will be duly communicated to the parties," the court said.

India demanded the immediate suspension of Jadhav's death sentence, expressing fears that Pakistan could execute him even before the hearing at the ICJ was over.

India made a forceful submission as the ICJ began hearing the case of the 46yearold former Navy officer who was arrested on March 3 last year and sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of espionage and subversive activities.

"Jadhav has not got the right to get proper legal assistance and the right to consular access. There is an immediate threat to him to be executed even before a decision is passed," joint secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs Deepak Mittal told the court in his opening remarks.

Representing India, lead attorney Harish Salve said, "The execution of the death sentence cannot be done while this court is hearing the appeal. Else, it will be a violation of the Vienna Convention."

Following India's arguments, Pakistan, in its submission before the the UN's highest judicial body, said India's application on Jadhav, who was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of espionage and subversive activities, was "unnecessary and misconceived" and must be dismissed.

India has seen it fit to use the International Court of Justice as a stage for "political theatre" but "we will not respond in kind", Mohammad Faisal of the Pakistan Foreign Office said in his opening remarks in response to India's submissions earlier in the day.

The ICJ also denied permission to Pakistan to play a purported "confessional" video of Jadhav at the public hearing here.

Representing Pakistan, lawyer Khawar Qureshi said India has sought to persuade this court that Pakistan intends to execute Jadhav within days.

"Simply by referring to the clemency process available as a right to commander Jadhav. A period of 150 days is provided for in this regard which even if started on April 10, 2017, which is the date of conviction at first instance, could extend to well beyond August 2017.

"There is also of course the potential for the writ petition of the High Court to be invoked as we believe India must be well aware," he said.

Earlier, Salve said Pakistan had denied India its 16 requests for consular

"The graver the charges, the greater the need for continued adherence of the Vienna Convention. Jadhav has been in judicial custody without any communication with his family," he said.

The rights of Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations are sacrosanct, Salve said, citing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) that recognises that no one can be arbitrarily deprived of their lives.

India had not been given the copy of the charges filed against Jadhav, Salve said.

"The need for a wholesome compliance is greater when charges are serious. We want appropriate legal representation for Kulbhushan Jadhav," he said.

Not just had all requests for consular access fallen on "deaf ears", the trial was conducted without providing Jadhav his rights. Pakistan did not even respond to Jadhav's mother's pleas to see her son.

Human rights treated as "basics" all over had been thrown to the wind by Pakistan and the trial had been vitiated, India argued.

Though Pakistan says Jadhav has the right to appeal, twostar generals will hear his mercy plea, Salve stressed, questioning the impartiality of the process.

India asserted that it wants the ICJ to annul Jadhav's death sentence and for Pakistan to ensure that no action is taken that may prejudice the rights of India or of Jadhav.

On India invoking the Vienna Convention, Qureshi said, "The Vienna convention article 36 which adopted to set up standards of conduct particularly concerning communications and contact with nationals of the sending state which would contribute to the development of the friendly relations among nations...the observation we made immediately is this is unlikely to apply in the context of a spy, terrorist send by a state to engage in acts of terror."

Jadhav, the latest flashpoint in the tensions between Pakistan and India, was sentenced last month. On May 8, India moved the ICJ against the death penalty, alleging violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. On May 9, the highest court in the UN gave Jadhav a lease of life.

India, in its appeal to the ICJ, had asserted that Jadhav was kidnapped from Iran where he was involved in business activities after retiring from the Indian Navy. However, it denies that he has any connection with the government.

Pakistan claims to have arrested Jadhav from its restive Balochistan province.

Bring law to address triple talaq issue, suggests Supreme Court

(New Delhi, May 17,2017):The Supreme Court on Wednesday suggested that the government could put in place a law to deal with issues including triple talaq instead of waiting for it to decide on the matter judicially, and wondered whether it is possible to give the Muslim woman the option to oppose instant divorce.

"We may or may not (decide the issue), but you do," said the constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar to Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi as the latter urged the court to step in a situation where there is no legislation.

Noting the government's insistence that the court should first rule against instant triple talaq and then it would bring a law, the bench asked why the government was not making a law instead of asking the court to decide the matter.

Besides the Chief Justice, the other judges on the bench are Justice Kurian Joseph, Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman, Justice Uday Umesh Lalit and Justice S Abdul Nazeer

As the court made it clear that the government could not shun its responsibility, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said, "I will do what I have to do. The question is what you (court) will do."

Earlier in the morning, the bench asked the All India Muslim Personal Law Board if it was possible to give the woman the option, before she gives her consent to nikaah, that the marriage she was entering into would not be dissolved through instant triple talaq.

The court suggested whether a clause can be added on the Nikaah Nama to say that the marriage can't be dissolved by the husband by pronouncing instant triple talaq.

As Rohatgi referred to the Vishakha guidelines that were framed by the top court to protect women at the workplace in the absence of any law, Justice Kurian said that it was in the domain of a statute and not the constitution.

In an obvious comparison to the steps taken to reform Hindu practices, when the Attorney General referred to the abolition of Sati, infanticide and Devadasi system, Justice Kurian said that all those (abolitions) were legislatively decided.

"Did the court do it? No, legislation got rid of it," Chief Justice Khehar observed.

The court described the issue before it as something not between the majority and the minority communities but an intraminority issue of tussle between Muslim men and women which he said was a tussle between haves (men) and havenots (women).

Describing instant triple talaq as a "pernicious practice", the AG urged the court to "step in as a guardian of the fundamental rights".

He further argued that even under Article 25 of the Constitution which guarantees right to propagate and practice religion, the core religious values were subject to part III of the Constitution spelling out the fundamental rights.

Recalling the horror and trauma at the time of Partition, AG said that Article 25 was incorporated in the Constitution to assure everyone that the core values of their religious beliefs would not be touched by the State.

Senior counsel Indira Jaising, appearing for one of the petitioners challenging the constitutional validity of triple talaq, in her rejoinder arguments said that the court was looking at the issue in the context of 67 years when fundamental rights came into force and not 1,400 years since the birth of Islam.

Telling the court that the impact of the divorce was civil involving her maintenance and shelter, Jaising said the court should address the social consequences of divorce as women lose everything.

Citing equality before law and equal protection of law under Article 14, Jaising said the State is obliged not to recognise any discrimination between men and women on the grounds of religious beliefs and practices.

The bench in the morning asked the All India Muslim Personal Law Board if it was possible to give the woman the option that the marriage would not be dissolved through triple talaq and whether their advisory would be followed by the Qazis on the ground.

"You can incorporate this option in the Nikaah Nama before she gives consent to nikaah to say no to triple talaq," Chief Justice Khehar asked the AIMPLB.

Responding to the suggestion, Senior counsel Yusuf Hatim Muchchala said the advisory of the AIMPLB is not binding on the Qazis to follow.

However, Muchchala, who is also a member of the Executive Committee of the AIMPLB, referred to a resolution passed by the AIMPLB conclave at Lucknow wherein the Board asked the community to boycott the men who take recourse to instant triple talaq.

The conclave took place on April 14, 2017.

He told the bench that they would consider the suggestion in all humility and look at it. The suggestion to AIMPLB by the court came in the course of the hearing of a batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of triple talaq.

AIMPLB, has in the course of its submissions while saying that triple talaq was permissible, described it as a "sin" and "undesirable". The AIMPLB has said that the community needed time to change and reform itself on its own without any outside interference or dictate.

Narendra Modi cabinet approves 10 nuclear reactors for power generation

(New Delhi, May 17,2017): The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the setting up of 10 indigenous Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) for nuclear power generation.

"The cabinet has approved to install 10 indigenously built PWHRs," Union Minister Piyush Goyal said at a press conference after the Cabinet meeting presided over by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Goyal, who is Union Power and Coal Minister, said the new PWHRs will generate 7,000 MW power. At present India generates 6,780 MW from nuclear power.

Goyal also said that nuclear reactors, which will produce 6,700 MW, are under implementation and these are expected to be completed by 202122.

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