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India rolls out ₹1.7-lakh-crore lockdown package

NEW DELHI, Mar 26: The Indian government on Thursday announced a ₹1.7 lakh crore package in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and countrywide lockdown, providing free food and cash transfers to support the poorest citizens who are most vulnerable during the crisis.

The food grain ration for 80 crore poor people would be doubled for the next three months, supplemented by a kg of local pulses as well, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Thursday.

The Centre would provide ₹50 lakh medical insurance cover for the next three months for about 22 lakh health workers in government hospitals fighting the spread of the virus at personal risk, including ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) workers, medical sanitary workers in government hospitals, paramedics, nurses and doctors.

The Pradhan Mantri Gharib Kalyan Yojana had been announced within 36 hours of the lockdown and it would take care of the needs of poor and migrant workers, farmers, women, pensioners, widows and the disabled, said Ms Sitharaman.

“We do not want anyone to remain hungry, so we will be giving enough to take care of their food grain requirement, protein requirement in terms of pulses. On the other hand, they should also not remain without money in hand, so several measures through DBT are being taken so that money reaches them,” she said.

Over the next three months, each person who is covered under the National Food Security Act would get an additional five kg wheat or rice for free, in addition to the 5 kg of subsidised foodgrain already provided through the Public Distribution System (PDS). One kg of pulse a household would also be provided for free, according to regional preferences. This would benefit about 80 crore people, she said.

Cash transfers -- a mix of advances via existing schemes and additional sums -- would also be given to vulnerable groups under the Pradhan Mantri Gharib Kalyan Yojana.

About 3 crore poor pensioners above 60 years, widows and disabled people would be given ₹1000 in two instalments over the next three months. The 20 crore women holding Jan Dhan Yojana accounts would get ₹500 a month over the next three months as well. The 8.3 crore poor households, which received cooking gas connections under the Ujjwala scheme, would now get free gas cylinders for the same period.

Wages were being hiked under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act scheme, from ₹182 to ₹202 a day. Although the Minister said this would provide an additional ₹2000 a worker, many States have in fact closed down MGNREGA worksites to curb the spread of COVID-19, leaving it unclear how many workers would be able to benefit.

For land-owning farmers, there is only the promise that the first instalment of ₹2000 due to them under the PM-KISAN income support scheme will be paid promptly in April, the first month of the financial year.

For small companies with 100 employees or less, of whom 90% earn less than ₹15,000 a month, the Centre will bear the cost of both employer and employee contribution (a total of 24%) to the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) for the next three months. This will benefit 80 lakh employees, and incentivise 4 lakh establishments.

In a move to provide relief to all 4.8 crore organised sector workers registered under the EPF, the scheme's regulations will also be amended to allow non-refundable advance of 75% of the amount standing to the credit of the member, or 3 months worth of wages, whichever is lower.

Collateral free loans provided for women self-help groups under the National Rural Livelihood Mission are being doubled to ₹20 lakh, potentially benefiting seven crore households.

The Centre is directing the States to use the ₹31,000 crore sitting with the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Boards to provide support to the 3.5 crore workers registered under the scheme. The States can also use the money available under district mineral funds for medical screening, testing and treatment.

Jyotiraditya Scindia Quits Congress; Set To Join BJP

NEW DELHI, Mar 10: Former Union Minister and four-time parliamentarian Jyotiraditya Scindia resigned from the Congress this morning, shortly after meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi.

He is expected to join the BJP sometime this week, days after criticising the party over violence in Delhi, and is likely to be rewarded with a Rajya Sabha seat and subsequently a berth in the union cabinet.

Shortly after his resignation 21 Congress MLAs sent letters of resignation, sources within Madhya Pradesh Raj Bhavan said. Earlier sources said 25 MLAs were ready to resign. Should these resignations be accepted, the 15-month-old Kamal Nath government will be reduced to a minority and likely be toppled. However, Mr Nath is confident his government will complete the five-year term. "There is nothing to worry about. We will prove our majority," he said late on Tuesday night.

In dramatic developments this Holi morning, Jyotiraditya Scindia met Modi and Amit Shah. Shortly after, he posted a letter of resignation on his Twitter account. In the letter, dated March 9 and addressed to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Mr Scindia said: "...this is a path that has been drawing itself out over the last year". He wrote: "My aim and purpose remain the same... to serve the people of my state and country, I believe am unable to do this anymore within this party".

Minutes later the Congress hit back by expelling the 49-year-old former Guna MP from the party. In a terse statement from General Secretary KC Venugopal, the Congress said Scindia was expelled "with immediate effect" for "anti-party activities". Supporters of Scindia say the Gandhis did not make any attempts to reach out to him.

Scindia had reportedly been unhappy with Congress leadership for quite some time. Once close to the Gandhi family, he had been passed over for chief ministership in 2018 after he showed support of only 23 MLAs, despite making a sizeable contribution to the Congress' unexpected Assembly polls win. In August, he was one of a few opposition leaders who supported the centre over its Article 370 move.

As the drama unfolded today, senior Congress leader and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot ripped into Scindia, saying he had betrayed the "trust of the people and the ideology" and was a leader with "self-indulgent political ambitions". However, Scindia was backed by his aunt and Madhya Pradesh BJP MLA Yashodhara Raje, who welcomed his "ghar waapsi (homecoming)".

Veteran Congress leader and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh, who led a "rescue" operation last week after 10 MLAs were allegedly held hostage by the BJP at a resort near Delhi, hit out at a "conspiracy" to unseat the government. Singh, who had alleged MLAs had been offered Rs 35 crore, also accused BJP leader and former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan of lying.

Kamal Nath-led Congress govt in MP stares at collapse as 22 MLAs resign

BHOPAL, Mar 10: The Congress government in Madhya Pradesh led by Kamal Nath stared at a collapse on Tuesday as 22 MLAs of the party submitted their resignations to the assembly Speaker, dealing a blow to the wafer-thin majority of the ruling combine in the state.

If the resignations are accepted, the effective strength of the MP assembly will come down to 206, leaving the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with a slender majority beyond the halfway mark of 103 with its 107 MLAs.

The current effective strength of the MP assembly is 228, with two seats lying vacant. While the Congress has 114 MLAs, there are 107 legislators of the BJP. The seven others are two MLAs from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), one from the Samajwadi Party (SP), and four independents. These seven support the Nath government, giving it a narrow majority of six.

Tuesday’s developments came shortly after Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia resigned from the party. He earlier met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the presence of Union home minister and former BJP president Amit Shah.

A Congress leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said 22 MLAs emailed there resignation letters to state assembly speaker N P Prajapati.

“I will look into the resignation letters as per the rules,” the Speaker said.

One of the resignation letters read: “I hereby resign from my position in the state assembly with effect from March 10, 2020.” All 22 letters appeared to be drafted in a similar fashion.

The state assembly’s principal secretary AP Singh said: “Since the state assembly office is closed today due to Holi we will look into the resignation letters only on Wednesday.”

An official from the MP Raj Bhavan said on condition of anonymity earlier that the resignations of 19 Congress MLAs were also addressed to Governor Lalji Tandon. It wasn’t immediately clear if the three other resignation letters had also been received by the Raj Bhavan.

Seventeen of these MLAs include the six ministers who went incommunicado on Monday. They were said to have been flown to Bengaluru. Two other Congress MLAs were already in Bengaluru, according to people aware of the developments.

A news agency released a photo of 19 MLAs holding up their resignation letters on Tuesday afternoon.

A delegation of BJP leaders led by the Leader Opposition, Gopal Bhargava, met the Speaker at his official residence in Bhopal on Tuesday evening.

Reacting to the developments, the state Congress president’s media coordinator Narendra Saluja said, “The entire country is seeing how the BJP is involved in anti-democratic activities blatantly. They are trying to hijack mandate with the help of muscle and money power.”

Former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan denied allegations of trying to destabilise the government and added that the developments were “an internal matter of the Congress.”

In a letter to the governor earlier in the day, chief minister Kamal Nath recommended sacking from his cabinet six ministers who resigned as MLAs. The Raj Bhavan official said the governor was in his hometown, Lucknow, and was yet to take a decision on the chief minister’s letter.

The ministers who turned in their resignation letters include Tulsi Silavat, Pradyumn Singh Tomar, Mahendra Singh Sisodiya, Govind Singh Rajput, Imarti Devi and Prabhuram Chauhdary.

Reacting to Tuesday’s developments, former principal secretary, state assembly, Bhagwandev Israni said: “The MLAs must have sent the resignation letters to the Governor to suggest to him that the Congress government has been reduced to a minority now. However, as far as resignation of an MLA from the state assembly is concerned, it’s not the governor but the Speaker of the state assembly who is authorised to accept or reject the resignation letter of an MLA. The Governor can decide on the resignation of a minister from the state cabinet, not the assembly.”

Israni added, “The speaker can’t take a decision on a resignation letter which has not been submitted to him personally. In the absence of a formality required for submitting the resignation letters, an MLA will continue to enjoy his status of MLA.”

“Hence, technically, the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh continues to enjoy majority till these resignation letters are not submitted formally and accepted by the Speaker,” he said.

Veteran Congress leader and MLA Bisahulal Singh also announced he was resigning from the Congress. He made the announcement in presence of BJP national vice-president Chouhan in Bhopal. Singh added that he had decided to join the BJP. The development came just days after Bisahulal Singh expressed faith in the leadership of chief minister Kamal Nath.

The 17 MLAs going incommunicado on Monday came exactly a week after 10 MLAs, including six from the Congress, left for Delhi. The Congress alleged that it was the result of poaching attempts by the BJP. Drama followed at a Gurugram resort and four of the 10 MLAs were later flown to Bengaluru. The remaining MLAs returned after two days. Of the four in Bengaluru, two returned to Bhopal later.

‘Undemocratic’: High Court roasts UP govt on posters of anti-CAA protesters

LUCKNOW, Mar 9: The Allahabad High Court on Monday ordered Lucknow’s District Magistrate and Commissioner of Police, to remove hoarding with photographs and addresses of alleged anti-CAA protestors, put up by the Uttar Pradesh at various places in the state capital.

The court said the state’s action amounted to “violation of Article 21 of Constitution” and “amounts to unwarranted interference in privacy of people”.

The court also said that privacy was “intrinsic component” of Part III of Constitution of India that lays down our fundamental rights relating to equality, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of movement and protection of life and personal liberty.

“These fundamental rights cannot be given or taken away by law and laws. All the executive actions must abide by them,” the bench headed by chief justice of Allahabad high court, justice Govind Mathur, and justice Ramesh Sinha, said.

“In the instant matter the act of the district and police administration of Lucknow is alleged to be in conflict with the right of life and liberty,” the court said.

The bench also said, “The advocate general (of the state) also failed to satisfy us as to why placement of the banners is necessary for a democratic society for a legitimate aim.”

On Sunday, appearing on behalf of the state government, advocate general Raghvendra Pratap Singh had contended that the court should not interfere in such matters by taking suo moto cognizance of the government action, which was taken against those persons who damaged public and private property.

Singh had termed the act of the state government, of putting up the hoardings, as a “deterrent” so that such acts are not repeated in future.

The Court in its order observed, “The object as disclosed to us is only to deter the people from participating in illegal activities. On asking, learned Advocate General failed to satisfy us as to why the personal data of few persons have been placed on banners though in the State of Uttar Pradesh there are lakhs of accused persons who are facing serious allegations pertaining to commission of crimes whose personal details have not been subjected to publicity. As a matter of fact, the placement of personal data of selected persons reflects colourable exercise of powers by the Executive.”

The Bench while directing authorities to remove hoardings observed, “Where there is gross negligence on part of public authorities and government, where the law is disobeyed and the public is put to suffering and where the precious values of the constitution are subjected to injuries, a constitutional court can very well take notice of that at its own. The court in such matters is not required to wait necessarily for a person to come before it to ring the bell of justice. The courts are meant to impart justice and no court can shut its eyes if a public unjust is happening just before it.”

The officers have been asked to submit a compliance report by March 16, when the court will hear the matter again. The court also directed the state government not to place such banners on the road side containing personal data of individuals without authority of law.

On Saturday, the court had taken suo motu cognizance of the putting up of hoardings, and asked the district magistrate and divisional commissioner of Lucknow to inform it about the law under which such posters/hoardings were put on the streets of Lucknow.

On Sunday, the bench had pulled up the state government for putting up the hoardings and termed it as an ‘insult of state and its public.’ It said the act was “highly unjust” and that it was an absolute “encroachment” on the personal liberty of the persons concerned.

On Thursday, the police had put up several hoardings across Lucknow, identifying those accused of violence during the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in December last year.

The hoardings carry the names, photographs and residential addresses of the accused and have sparked fear among those named.

The accused have also been asked to pay for the damage to public and private property within a stipulated time or have their properties seized by the district administration.

Congress team submits report on Delhi violence to Sonia Gandhi

NEW DELHI, Mar 9: A five-member Congress team submitted its report on the Delhi violence to party chief Sonia Gandhi on Monday.

The team — comprising senior leaders Mukul Wasnik, Kumari Selja, Tariq Anwar, Shaktisinh Gohil and Sushmita Dev — had visited several riot-affected areas in the national capital in the past few days.

Gandhi had formed the team on February 28 and asked it to assess the situation in the riot-hit areas and submit its report.

Last week, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi led a party delegation to a riot-affected area in Delhi.

Gandhi, along with senior leaders KC Venugopal, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Randeep Singh Surjewala, Mukul Wasnik, Kumari Selja, K Suresh and Gaurav Gogoi, visited a private school and a mosque and saw shops that were vandalised and burnt in the violence in Brijpuri area of northeast Delhi.

Arun Modern Public Senior Secondary School, which is over 32 years old, suffered massive damage and the Congress delegation went around the gutted classrooms and surveyed the burnt busses.

Another delegation of Congress leaders from Kerala and other states also visited different areas in northeast Delhi.

Gandhi later told reporters, “This school is the future of India and here hatred and violence has devastated it, burnt it down. No one has benefited from this act. Violence and hatred are the enemies of development and whatever is happening today, India is being divided, torched. ‘Bharat Mata’ does not benefit from such actions.”

He urged all to unite and work together to take the country forward.

“It is a time of pain. When violence occurs in the capital, it tarnishes the reputation of the country all over the world. Brotherhood, unity and love have been the strength of the country. That has been damaged. Such politics has not just damaged this school but has also hurt our country and Bharat Mata. Our reputation all over the world, which is essential for the future, has been torched here,” he added.

The Delhi Police later advised Gandhi not to go beyond the Brijpuri Nullah.

Delhi riots toll rises to 53

NEW DELHI, Mar 5: The Delhi Police on Thursday arrested suspended Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) councillor Tahir Hussain from a Delhi court where he had come to surrender, ending an eight-day-long search launched after he was booked for murder and abduction of Intelligence Bureau (IB) staffer Ankit Sharma in Chand Bagh during communal riots in northeast Delhi last week.

The special investigation teams (SITs) probing the riots cases took Hussain into custody after the Rouse Avenue court dismissed his plea, seeking to surrender before it by saying that the relief sought by him was outside the court’s jurisdiction. The court said that as per the provisions of 177 Criminal Procedure Code (Ordinary place of inquiry and trial), the offence shall ordinarily be inquired into and tried by court within whose local jurisdiction it is committed.

“In the instant case, the offence has been committed within the jurisdiction of PS Dayalpur, which falls within the jurisdiction of Karkardooma Court. The reason given in the application for moving this application does not justify the conduct of the applicant to choose this forum for seeking the reliefs,” the judge said.

The Karkardooma Court, where Hussain’s anticipatory bail application was moved on Wednesday, also rejected the request on Thursday, observing that nobody had appeared from his side. The court had on Wednesday issued notice to the police on the anticipatory bail plea and kept it for hearing on Thursday.

Before being caught, Hussain had given an interview to India Today in which he claimed to be “innocent” and alleged that he was being framed as part of “some conspiracy”. Hussain said he was ready to undergo a “narco-analysis (test)” and cooperate the police in their probe. He said he has faith in police and the judiciary and that the police would do a “fair investigation”.

The police officials took Hussain to the crime branch’s office in Sunlight Colony where he is being interrogated in connection with IB officer’s murder case and two more cases of alleged firing, pelting of stones and petrol bombs from his Chand Bagh house on February 24 and 25. A man named Ajay Goswami, the complainant in the attempt to murder case, had sustained a bullet injury in his back during the firing.

“We have arrested Hussain and are interrogating him to ascertain his role and the exact sequence of events leading to the murder of the IB staffer, whose body with multiple stab wounds was recovered from a drain in Chand Bagh on February 26,” said a senior crime branch officer.

Another officer associated with the SITs said Hussain’s interrogation will be videographed. “Investigators will confront him with the videos of violence from his house and the presence of petrol bombs, empty bottles, sticks and other incriminating materials that were recovered by the police and forensic team,” the officer said.

Special commissioner of police (crime and intelligence) Praveer Ranjan said Hussain will be produced in the city court on Friday.

On Thursday afternoon, Advocate Mukesh Kalia, appearing for Hussain, submitted that there is a grave apprehension of threat to his life and therefore he has not surrendered before competent court as there is “charged environment” in Karkardooma District court. He said Hussain has no connection or involvement in the FIR registered by the police and he is being falsely implicated.

Considering the gravity of the situation, Hussain wishes to surrender before the court, he said.

The court said the Delhi High Court has specifically made a division of the jurisdictions, be that of the police stations or the courts district-wise and work has been allocated accordingly.

It said: “This court is a special designated court dealing with the matters of MPs/MLAs. The high court has designated this court as special court to deal with cases on fast track with endeavour to dispose of the same within one year as its objective.

“The applicant does not fall in the aforesaid category, hence this application cannot be even entertained by this court.” The court further said that the relief sought by Hussain does not fall within the domain or jurisdiction of this court, “hence, no such relief can be granted. In view of the observations, the application deserves to be dismissed”.

As the court dismissed Hussain’s plea, a Delhi Police team, which had already arrived, arrested him and took him into custody.

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had suspended Hussain soon after the case of murder in the IB staffer’s death was registered and he was allegedly linked to it.

Police registered 701 cases, including 47 under the Arms Act, till Thursday in connection with the last week’s communal violence, which had so far claimed 53 lives and left over 400 others injured. A total of 1,820 people have either been arrested or detained so far.

Trouble For Congress In Madhya Pradesh As MLA Hardeep Singh Dang Resigns; 3 More Missing

BHOPAL, Mar 5: One of the four missing Congress MLAs from Madhya Pradesh has sent his resignation letter to state assembly Speaker NP Prajapati. In the letter, Hardeep Dang said despite getting the people's mandate for a second time, he is constantly being ignored by the party. "None of the ministers are ready to work as they are part of a corrupt government," his letter read.

Hardeep Dang was one of the 10 MLAs who were allegedly spirited away by the BJP in an effort to bring down the government on Tuesday. The Congress said it managed to recover six of the MLAs from a hotel in Gurgaon, near Delhi, after a late-night rescue operation on Tuesday.

Hardeep Dang, Raghuraj Kansana, Bisahulal Singh and Independent member Shera Bhaiya remained missing. There were rumours that they were ensconced at a five-star hotel in BJP-ruled Karnataka, which, last year, saw the Janata Dal Secular-Congress government crashing after 15 rebels crossed over to the BJP.

"I have received information about Hardeep Singh Dang's resignation. I have not yet received any letter from him or discussed the matter in person. Until I meet him personally, making comments over it will not be appropriate," Chief Minister Kamal Nath said.

The Kamal Nath government has 120 MLAs -- four over the majority mark of 116 in the 230-member assembly. Of them, 114 are from the Congress, two from the BSP, one from the Samajwadi Party and four independents. The BJP has 107 MLAs and two seats are currently vacant. If the three other missing MLAs resign, it would bring down the number in the assembly to 224 and the majority mark to 113.

Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh -- who hinted at such a possibility earlier this week -- said the BJP was "offering Rs 25-35 crore" to the MLAs.

Insisting that the government was safe, the party alleged that it was part of the BJP's annual effort to increase the numbers in Rajya Sabha, where they are in minority.

Claiming later that the BJP was trying to bring 14 MLAs on its side, senior Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala said: "The Congress government stopped mafias - land mafia, chit fund mafia, extortion mafia... This had been going on for 15 years". The BJP "conspiracy" to destabilise the government was because "they thought they will be behind bars", he said.

The BJP has denied the allegations. "They should think why people are so angry that they don't want to stay with them," said senior state BJP leader Narottam Mishra.

UN body moves Supreme Court over CAA, India says our internal matter

NEW DELHI, Mar 3: The UN human rights chief has approached the Supreme Court in connection with the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), prompting New Delhi to say on Tuesday that no foreign party has locus standi on issues related to the country’s sovereignty.

The UN body wants to file an intervention application in the top court. The plea is expected to be filed today.

External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said India’s permanent mission in Geneva was informed on Monday evening by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, about the intervention application.

“The CAA is an internal matter of India and concerns the sovereign right of the Indian Parliament to make laws. We strongly believe that no foreign party has any locus standi on issues pertaining to India’s sovereignty,” Kumar said.

He added, “We are clear that the CAA is constitutionally valid and complies with all requirements of our constitutional values. It is reflective of our long standing national commitment in respect of human rights issues arising from the tragedy of the Partition of India.”

Kumar further said India is a democracy governed by the rule of law. “We all have utmost respect for and full trust in our independent judiciary. We are confident that our sound and legally sustainable position would be vindicated by the Supreme Court,” he said.

Last week, Bachelet had expressed serious concern at the CAA and riots in Northeast Delhi and called on India’s leadership to prevent further violence.

Shortly after it was passed by Parliament in December last year, the United Nations human rights office had described the CAA as “fundamentally discriminatory in nature”, and had called for it to be reviewed.

The government said that the CAA was aimed at protecting minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, but the UN body noted that the law “does not extend the same protection to Muslims, including minority sects”.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) too appealed to the Trump administration for action. It had earlier asked the Trump administration to consider sanctions against India’s top leadership if the law was approved.

Fadnavis’s review petition dismissed by Supreme Court, will have to face trial

NEW DELHI, Mar 3: In a huge blow to former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, the Supreme Court has rejected his review petition that wanted the top court to cancel criminal proceedings against him for failure to disclose two pending criminal cases against him in an election affidavit.

“We find no ground to interfere in the review petitions. The same are dismissed,” a three-judge bench of the top court comprising justices Arun Mishra, Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose has ruled in the one-line verdict delivered.

The Bharatiya Janata Party leader had challenged the 2019 verdict of the Supreme Court that declined to interfere with the criminal proceedings against him for the affidavit filed for the 2014 elections.

Before the judges concluded oral arguments, senior lawyer Mukul Rohatgi who represented the former Maharashtra chief minister had pleaded with the top court to revisit their verdict. “This will seal my fate. It is an important question as it affects Article 21,” Rohatgi had told the bench.

Bombay High Court lawyer Satish Ukey had set the case in motion back in 2014 when he filed a complaint alleging that Fadnavis failed to disclose details of two criminal cases pending against him in his election affidavit and demanded that he should be prosecuted.

The two cases against Fadnavis pertained to alleged cheating and forgery that had been filed in 1996 and 1998, respectively,

Satish Ukey did not get far. First the Sessions Court in May 2016, and later the Bombay High Court in May 2016 ruled that there was no need to prosecute Fadnavis under section 125A of the Representation of People Act that deals with the penalty for filing false affidavit.

But Ukey did not give up and approached the Supreme Court.

A three-judge bench led by then Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi set aside the Bombay high court clean chit in September 2019, holding that the two verdicts were not legally tenable. The trial court was told to resume the case against Fadnavis who was Maharashtra chief minister when the verdict was delivered.

Kejriwal discusses Delhi violence with Modi, demands action against guilty

NEW DELHI, Mar 3: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as a courtesy call after his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) won Assembly elections in the national capital. This was the first meeting between the leaders after AAP trounced BJP in the elections.

“I had sought time from PM. We discussed what has happened in the last few days in Delhi. A lot of rumours were spread and Delhi Police personnel played a good role to stem these rumours,” Kejriwal said after meeting the Prime Minister.

But he also said that if the police were more efficient “like they were while stoping the rumours”, many lives could have been saved.

“I appealed to the PM and he also agreed that no such things should recur in future. I said action should be taken against whoever is responsible for the riots, however powerful or from whichever party,” said Kejriwal.

Last week, Delhi saw its worst riots in over three decades in which 46 people have been killed and more than 200 injured. Protesters for and against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act or CAA clashed on the streets and torched vehicles and houses in some localities like Jafrabad, Maujpur and Yamuna Vihar.

After days of mayhem and rioting, an AAP councillor was blamed by the local of inciting the mob and leading them during violence. He was also accused by the family of an Intelligence Bureau (IB) official of murder. Twenty-six-year-old Ankit Sharma was killed during the arson and body dumped in a drain.

The AAP councillor Tahir Hussain, however, denied all the allegations against him and said in a video that he had to leave the Chand Bagh area due to violence. But the party suspended him after the FIR was registered and the police have declared him absconding.

The two leaders also discussed the city’s preparedness for coronavirus, which has spread to nearly 60 countries and killed more than 85,000 people. The city reported its first case of coronavirus on Monday after a person who had visited Italy tested positive for Covid-19.

Modi May Quit Social Media

NEW DELHI, Mar 2: Prime Minister Narendra Modi's surprise announcement of going off social media from Sunday has created quite a flutter on social media. Twitter exploded within minutes of the unexpected tweet that has left everyone speculating.

"This Sunday, thinking of giving up my social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & YouTube. Will keep you all posted," PM Modi tweeted. The tweet was liked over 25,000 times within half an hour.

Soon after, Opposition leaders' reactions started pouring in. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was one of the first to comment and said, "Give up hatred, not social media accounts."

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor also responded to the Prime Minister. He said the abrupt announcement may have led many to speculate whether this is the first step towards banning social media in the country.

The PM's abrupt announcement has led many to worry whether it's a prelude to banning these services throughout the country too. As @narendramodi knows well, social media can also be a force for good & for positive & useful messaging. It doesn't have to be about spreading hate.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala had a request for the Prime Minister soon after the tweet. Respected Modi ji, Earnestly wish you would give this advise to the concerted army of trolls, who abuse-intimidate-badger-threaten others every second in you name! Sincere Regards, Citizens of India.

He was soon followed by colleague Alka Lamba who called the move a "big relief". "Foreign leaders will just miss your congratulatory messages in different languages," she tweeted.

Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis' wife Amruta also replied on Twitter saying that she will "follow the path" of Modi, indicating that she too will quit social media.

Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram's son Karti too replied to the Prime Minister saying that the move was "appreciated." "The toxicity of this medium is a bane," he tweeted.

Gujarat politician Jignesh Mevani also had something to say to the Prime Minister. He asked Modi why was he quitting social media after the much publicised "Digital India" programme of the BJP government.

He also urged the Prime Minisrter to stop following accounts of hate-mongering people who disrespect women instead of quitting social media.

Modi, who is a social media celebrity with millions of followers on various platforms, did not elaborate the reason behind his sudden change of mind.

This Sunday, thinking of giving up my social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & YouTube. Will keep you all posted.

The Prime Minister's tweet to his whopping 53.3 million followers has kept everyone guessing. He posted the announcement on his Facebook and Instagram accounts as well.


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