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Current Events 16 April 2016



16th APRIL 2016



Foreign Ministry suspends Mallya’s diplomatic passport

Within days of a request from the Enforcement Directorate, in connection with a money laundering probe in the over Rs. 900 crore IDBI Bank loan fraud case, the Ministry of External Affairs suspended liquor baron Vijay Mallya’s diplomatic passport. It has also threatened to revoke it if he doesn’t appear before the Indian High Commission in London within a week.

The External Affairs Ministry has suspended the validity of Mr. Mallya’s diplomatic passport with immediate effect for four weeks, under Section 10 A of the Passports Act,” Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said on Friday.

Section 10 A of the Act empowers the authorities to suspend passports or travel documents in certain cases. The suspension order is communicated to all the ports of entry or exit in India.

The beleaguered NRI businessman, whose ordinary passport is also rendered invalid by a Ministry order, is now left with the sole option of returning to the country on an emergency certificate issued by the Indian mission. Mr. Mallya left India on March 2, flying out of Delhi on his diplomatic passport, and is believed to be in the United Kingdom.

According to sources, the Ministry acted swiftly on the ED’s request in view of strict orders to show him no leniency, given the sharp criticism it had faced for allegedly facilitating the former IPL chief Lalit Modi’s travel to Portugal from the United Kingdom when he faced similar charges.

However, the Congress questioned the government’s sincerity. “If the government is so sensitive to the charges against Mr. Mallya, why did it let him leave the country in the first place,” spokesperson Manish Tewari asked.

Mr. Swarup said Mr. Mallya was asked to respond within one week why his passport should not be impounded or revoked under Section 10(3)(c) of the Act. The provision is invoked if the passport authority deems it necessary to suspend the document in the interest of the country’s sovereignty, integrity or security and its friendly relations with other countries, or in public interest.

“If he fails to respond within the stipulated time, it will be assumed that he has no response to offer, and the MEA will go ahead with the revocation,” he said.

ED sought revocation of Mr. Mallya’s passport.


Bhujbals laundered 4264.25 crore, says ED

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) probing charges of money laundering against former Public Works Department (PWD) minister Chhagan Bhujbal, his nephew Sameer Bhujbal, and their 51 other associates and firms, has claimed in its charge sheet that the Bhujbals and their associates laundered money to the tune of Rs 4264.25 crore.

The ED’s charge sheet filed before a special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court states that Chhagan Bhujbal has laundered money to the tune of Rs 291.71 crore, while Sameer and Pankaj had laundered Rs 359.30 crore each since March 2006. The agency states that the money has been laundered from Mumbai using various fraudulent transactions. The ED quotes the charge sheet filed by the Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), to put it on record that the scam involving the Bhujbals started as early as 1998 when M/s KS Chamankar Enterprises (the developer), and M/s P S Chamankar Associates (the architect), proposed to redevelop two plots in Andheri (West) — one owned by the State govt, and the other by the RTO.


Odd-even part 2 begins with public appeals, 'zero' peak time traffic

The second phase of the odd even vehicle rationing scheme came in force with appeals to follow its provisions from the government matched by visible compliance from Delhi's citizens.

That Friday happened to be a public holiday on the occasion of Ram Navami was also understood to be a significant reason behind the reduced volume of vehicular traffic in addition to odd even restrictions.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Transport Minister Gopal Rai took to Twitter to make public appeals asking citizens to support the initiative.

"Odd even starts today. Lets all join hands and resolve to make it a success." tweeted Mr. Kejriwal.

Mr. Rai requested citizens to follow the provisions of the scheme which aims to make Delhi "pollution and congestion free".

The Delhi Traffic Police recorded scant traffic on some of the most congested routes in the Capital such as ITO, sections of the Ring Road, Ashram, C-Hexagon near India Gate, Azadpur and Laxmi Nagar till 10:30 am.

Mr. Rai is scheduled to witness the enforcement of the scheme firsthand as he boards a DTC bus to be routed through several Central Delhi locations shortly.


NIA probes Lashkar link to Samjhauta blasts, seeks US help

Years after the National Investigation Agency arrested leaders of extremist Hindu groups in connection with the Samjhauta train blasts of 2007, its Director-General Sharad Kumar says the agency has requested the U.S. for information on a key financier of the Lashkar-e-Taiba in the case.

Mr. Kumar said he had gone to the U.S. “to pursue pending requests under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT). The case of LeT financier Arif Qasmani was one of them, and we have asked them [U.S. authorities] to send further details of Qasmani’s role in the Samjhauta blasts.”

Mr. Kumar’s statement comes on the heels of a series of moves by the NIA to review cases of “Hindu terror” between 2006 and 2008. Sixty-eight people, mostly Pakistanis, were killed in the Samjhauta train blasts in February 2007, and the explosives were traced to Indore. In the 2008 Malegaon blasts, the NIA opposed the discharge of nine Muslim youths last week, despite its charge sheet having named Abhinav Bharat, an extremist group.

However, officials spoke to denied any move to soften the case against RSS leader Aseemanand in the Samjhauta case by making enquiries about Arif Qasmani, who was designated a global terrorist by the U.N. 1267 Sanctions Committee.

“The first request on Qasmani was sent by us in 2011 and we are following it up with the U.S. authorities,” Mr. Kumar said.

A U.S. charge sheet in 2009 and the U.N. citation in 2010 accused Qasmani of funding the Samjhauta blasts as well as the 2006 train bombings in Mumbai.

Even after the U.S. named him, the NIA filed a charge sheet in 2010 in the case against eight accused, including Aseemanand.

He was granted bail on August 28, 2014, by the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The government decided not to challenge his bail. But he remains in Ambala Jail as he is also an accused in the Hyderabad Mecca Masjid and Ajmer Dargah blasts in 2007.

S.K. Handa, public prosecutor, NIA, told FRom Panchkula in Haryana that it would be “difficult” to shift the blame from Aseemanand to the LeT at this point. “We have not been given any new information; but at this point of time, it would be difficult to wipe out the evidence on record. Only a few witnesses, who were close friends or relatives of the accused, have turned hostile, while much of the material evidence remains uncontested.”

According to a charge sheet by the NIA, “Aseemanand, with an intention to give a fitting reply to the perceived persecution by Hindus by the members of the Muslim community, propounded a bomb ka badla bomb theory.”

The case is under trial at a court in Panchkula, and 19 witnesses have turned hostile so far.


ISRO to launch 21 satellites in one shot

While the seventh and last of the regional navigation spacecraft is due to be launched on April 28, space agency Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has lined up a record-making feat towards the end of May. It (ISRO) will put in orbit 21 small and mostly foreign commercial satellites along with a larger Indian spacecraft.

The primary passenger on the PSLV-C33 launcher will be the Earth observing, high-resolution Cartosat-2C, weighing around 700 kg.

Offering a resolution of about 60 cm, Cartosat-2C is touted to be the best Indian eye yet in the sky. It will cater to the country’s military requirements. Its camera, among other functions, can spot objects that are 60 cm wide or long - roughly an arm’s length, from its orbit of around 600 km.

As far as multiple launches go, the PSLV has launched 10 spacecrafts including eight small foreign ones in April 2008. Then, too, the main passenger was Cartosat-2A, another defence enabler, giving pictures of 80 cm resolution of the ground below. Last December, a PSLV also, took up six small Singapore satellites into orbit in one go.

NASA holds the 2013 record for placing the highest number — 29 — of mostly small customer satellites in orbit on a Minotaur launcher.

Multiple launches need multiple interfaces between the rocket and the spacecraft, and coordination with operators of each spacecraft.

ISRO Chairman A.S.Kiran Kumar said such missions must be planned meticulously by timing the release of each customer satellite carefully without affecting the others.

The launch team must ensure that one spacecraft does not get into the path of the other. The needs of each customer and its spacecraft must be accounted for.

Such many-in-one flights add to ISRO’s capability to service more and more small satellites commercially, said an ISRO official familiar with the launch process. “It speaks for the versatility of the vehicle which could accept so many spacecrafts at once,” he said.

3 Indian varsities

According to secondary sources, the small satellites are of masses ranging from one kg to 130 kg. Three are from Indian universities – the 12-kg NIUSAT from the Noorul Islam University in Kanyakumari; the 2-kg SathyabamaSat; and the 1-kg Swayam from Pune’s College of Engineering.

According to the ISRO official, considering the global demand for launching small satellites, packing many of them into one PSLV optimises a globally scarce service. Otherwise, satellite operators would have to wait for the next PSLV or look for another launcher.


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