Mallya’s jet to be auctioned in May

The Service Tax Department has decided to auction an “exotic and luxurious” aircraft used by Vijay Mallya to recover dues from the now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines.

The 25-seater Airbus (A319-133CJ VT-VJM MSN 2650), which bears Mallya’s initials, will go under the hammer during the e-auction scheduled on May 12 and 13. Prospective buyers can inspect the aircraft now stationed at Mumbai airport between April 2 and May 10.

The Department through its selling agent MSTC Ltd, a mini-ratna company with expertise in auctions, has issued a public notice inviting online global bids.

“The aircraft is a corporate jet having a seating capacity for 25 passengers and six crew exclusively designed for exotic and luxurious use. The aircraft has attractive exterior and interior layout and design,” the notice said.

Kingfisher Airlines could not be contacted for its comments.

In the aviation market, experts said, the A319 corporate jets could cost USD 70-90 million based on the customisation and interior design.

Service Tax Department had impounded Mallya’s personal jet, five ATR planes and two helicopters in 2013. Kingfisher had stopped operating since September 2012.

Earlier this month, the Service Tax Department had approached Bombay High Court seeking its intervention in two cases related to recovery of dues from Mallya and Kingfisher Airlines. The High Court had deferred the case to March 28.

Mallya has run into further trouble recently following heightened probe over loan default of around Rs 9,091 crore. His surprise leaving of the country on March 2 added to the mystery, just before a consortium of banks approached Supreme Court seeking a ban on his foreign travel.

The loan default issue had also rocked the Parliament with the Rajya Sabha Ethics Committee deliberating the issue, as Mallya is an MP.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Mar 24, 2016)

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Govt to monitor foreign students

Foreign students planning to bunk classes or exams beware – Your ‘progress report’ and attendance sheet will now reach Indian government every six months!

The Union Home Ministry has now asked all academic institutions, including Universities, to submit the result of semester examinations of all foreign students as well as their attendance record every six months.

According to a gazette notification issued last Friday, the institutions have also been asked to cite whether these students are eligible for continuing the course after giving details of their conduct during the period of assessment.

These and other new stipulations form part of the Foreigners (Amendment) Order, 2016 notified last week.

Every University and Educational Institution will have to furnish information of foreign students enrolled within 24 hours of granting him or her admission. The institution should also inform the authorities within 24 hours of their arrival in the country.

The institutions also need to inform authorities about student’s exit from institution or course within 24 hours.

According to the latest available figures, there are 39,517 foreign students in 2013-14 with Karnataka accounting for 13,075.

The latest rules also have instructions for hotel operators on dealing with foreign visitors. The hotels will require furnishing details of a foreign guest, including his or her signature, on arrival at its premises within 24 hours.

The hotels should also record the visitor’s name and nationality as well as the purpose of visit, proposed duration of stay, whether employed in India and address to which the visitor is proceeding.

“Every particular, other than the signature of the keeper of a hotel or a visitor, which is required to be recorded in the said register, shall be recorded by the keeper of the hotel in English language, if he is so able, or otherwise, in an Indian language.

 If a visitor does not understand English language, it shall be the duty of the keeper of the hotel, if so requested, to explain to the visitor the requirements of the government order,” it said.

The notification said ‘hotel’ includes any boarding-house, club, ‘dak-bunglow’, rest house, hostel, paying guest house, ‘sarai’, rented accommodation, hospital, or other premises of like nature, furnished or unfurnished, where lodging or sleeping accommodation is provided for reward.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Mar 23, 2016)

Funds for Police: States and Centre

Most states cry hoarse over lack of central funds but when it comes to spending the money allocated, it seems they look the other way.

The latest utilisation certificates on the money allocated under Modernisation of Police Forces (MPF) show that states have not spent Rs 566.98 crore allocated in 2013-14 for which figures are available now with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). The utilisation certificated for 2014-15 is due only on April this year.

The Centre had released Rs 917.74 crore while states except nine — Jammu and Kashmir and eight north-east states — in 2013-14 while states added their share as per 60:40 ratio. The nine states were allocated funds under a 90:10 ration in which the Centre released the majority share.

Maharashtra tops the list for having the highest amount of unspent money at Rs 139.79 crore followed by Assam Rs 117.36 crore and West Bengal Rs 75.71 crore. Karnataka has just Rs 3.25 crore unspent money in this category while Madhya Pradesh, another top non-spender, has Rs 43.71 crore and Andhra Pradesh Rs 33.29 crore.

There are five states — Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Odisha, Punjab and Nagaland — that spent the whole amount allocated to it. Uttar Pradesh was received the highest central allocation at Rs 176.08 crore.

With the new fiscal approaching, the Union Home Ministry has now written to state governments asking it to submit utilisation certificates for the unspent money as well as that for 2014-15.

Though the budgetary allocation for the scheme has not been communicated by Ministry of Finance, the letter said it expects the allocation under non-plan head would be around Rs 595 crore.

However, the MHA has prepared a tentative allocation under non-plan head comes to Rs 520.25 crore while the state share could come up to Rs 290.84 crore, taking the total to Rs 811.09 crore. As per the plan, Uttar Pradesh would get the highest central allocation of Rs 58.60 crore followed by Maharashtra at Rs 43.69 crore.

Jammu and Kashmir may get Rs 37 crore followed by Karnataka Rs 35.58 crore and Tamil Nadu Rs 32.31 crore.

The states have been also told that their allocation would depend on the utilisation certificates it submit on previous funds cleared for it.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Mar 21, 2016)

Modi to rule India till 2026: Rijiju quotes Nostradamus

French seer Nostradamus’s prediction made in 16th century is all what Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju needs to believe that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in for a long haul in power in Delhi.

In a Facebook post on Thursday (Mar 18), he exclaimed “prediction of Nostradamus 450 years ago of Modi Era: How” and went on to say how the French man predicted this in 1555. The post was titled Amazing facts in bold letters.

“French prophet Nostradamus wrote that from 2014 to 2026, a man will lead india, whom initially, people will hate but after that people will love him so much that he will be engaged in changing the country’s plight and direction,” the post, which also had photograph of Modi with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and ministers like himself, said.

“A middle aged superpower administrator will bring golden age not only in India but on the entire world. Under his leadership India will not only just become the Global Master, but many countries will also come into the shelter of India,” the post quoted Nostradamus as saying.

Nostradamus has published ‘The Prophecies’, which is a compilation of his long-term predictions. However, a section of academics do not give much credence to the predictions made by Nostradamus.

Critics says that believers pay attention only to those part of his writing while leaving out portions that do not subscribe to their theory.

Mar 18, 2016

Sedition law “very wide”, needs “some amendments”: Govt

Admitting that the sedition law is “very wide”, the Union Home Ministry on Wednesday (Mar 16) acknowledged the need for “some amendments”, amid demands from Opposition in Rajya Sabha for scrapping the provision.

A careful reading of the provision also shows that anybody who speaks against the Government established by the law can be booked under the sedition law, Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said during Question Hour.

He also said that it is often found that the sedition charge is found to be violative of Article 19(1)(a) which deals with ‘freedom of speech and expression’.

Rijiju, however, rejected the charge that the provision was being rampantly used, saying that except for one case involving Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students, most of the cases have been registered outside Delhi.

Responding to JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav’s demand for all-party meeting, Home Minister Rajnath Singh agreed to consult all parties on the scrapping of the issue but he wanted all of them to wait till Law Commission submits its recommendations.

To a question by Shiv Sena’s Anil Desai who favoured a strong sedition law, Rijiju said it was a “very important as well as a very big question” but flagged previous Law Commission reports that said the provision was “defective”. However, he said, the Commission has not sought for its deletion.

“The total provision in the section, we will find that it is very wide. That means, if you read carefully, it says that anybody who speaks against the Government established by the law can be booked under the sedition law. So, this sedition law also has been brought under the scrutiny, that there must be some amendment to it, because the meaning is very wide,” he said.

Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said half of the parties of the country would be anti-national if there is a ban on speaking against the government, if one goes by the definition of the provision. He also wanted to know whether those engaged in “communal divide” would also be brought under the ambit of sedition law.

Referring to the JNU case, he said the subject was sub judice and hastened to add that he was not “defending the action of the Delhi Police” but “just barely stating the facts”.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Mar 17, 2016)

‘This is not a market…You are becoming a laughing stock’

“This is not a market … You should not behave as if it is a market … You are becoming a laughing stock.”

An angry Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P J Kurien on Tuesday (Mar 15) had a tough time during Zero Hour, as Congress MPs created ruckus accusing the government of not fulfilling promises made to Andhra Pradesh after its bifurcation.

Kurien made these remarks as Congress MPs Subbirama Reddy and Renuka Chowdhury sought to persuade CPI(M) MP Sitaram Yechury not to raise the issue of a sting operation against Trinamool Congress leaders till they get a response from the government.

Amid the ruckus, Kurien told Reddy who first went to Yechury, “this is not a market … You should not behave as if it is a market.” The Congress MPs from Andhra Pradesh were in the Well. Congress MP Digvijay Singh was seen asking Reddy not to disturb Yechury.

While the din was continuing, Yechury had walked in to the House and sought to speak on the issue though it was raised by his party MPs earlier. When he sought government response whether it would probe the sting operation, the Congress MPs who were already in the Well requested him to wait for some time but he did not yield.

Later, when Choudhary went to Yechury to plead with him, Kurien said she should not behave like this. “I will request you to come to the Chair and control. I have no objection, if Renuka Chowdhury is coming to the Chair and controlling them. If you can do that, I will be very happy,” Kurien then said.

He also had some tough words for CPI(M) MPs like Ritabrata Banerjee that he would take action against him. However, Yechury and others were pacified when Kurien said they could raise the issue on Wednesday after giving a notice.

Though he could manage to convince CPI(M) MPs, the Congress members were continuing their protest in the Well. At one point of time, an exasperated Kurien told the protesters repeatedly, “you are becoming a laughing stock.”

Kurien wondered why they were protesting despite Finance Minister Arun Jaitley responded to their queries and assured that the Centre will fulfil all commitments made towards Andhra Pradesh in ‘letter and spirit’.

He also threatened to take action against KVP Ramachandra Rao for howling in the House. “The whole country is watching. What impression will they get about the Rajya Sabha?”

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Mar 16, 2016)

Indian negotiating teams not adequately equipped: Par Panel

Indian delegations negotiating international treaties are not adequately equipped compared to developed countries, a Parliamentary panel has found.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances and Law and Justice said the country needs to send equally capable negotiating team full of experts in domain and legal knowledge so that they can instantly interpret provisions of negotiations.

The report quoted a Department of Commerce official saying that it is a “sad reality that our negotiating teams are not only small but also stretched”.

The panel headed by Congress MP E M Sudarsana Natchiappan said it has been the experience at the occasion of negotiating bilateral or multilateral treaties, “developed countries are seen to be represented by large number of legal experts while Indian delegation is not supported by matching number of legal experts”.

Suggesting the setting up of a new ‘Department of International Law’ to work as a nodal agency for creating a pool of legal experts to negotiate and draft international treaties, the report said delegations are not adequately equipped to the extent what other countries do.

During the meetings of the panel, some members expressed apprehension about how equipped the present set-up of negotiations is. Some MPs felt that the country is “lagging behind” in the international parameters.

One of the members, who was not named in the report, said, “very often we have experienced that we are ill-equipped. We are not on a par with other advanced nations as far as promotion of our interest is concerned, whether it is in trade or commerce or whether it is in laws.”

The report said the Committee felt that an institutional capacity would address the immediate need of experts in reporting in international fora and the multilateral and bilateral talks. The need of the hour is to streamline the existing mechanism of handling all issues relating international cooperation and international legal obligations, it added.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Mar 16, 2016)

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