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SC seeks details of decision-making process on Rafale deal

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New Delhi :A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi heard the PIL seeking directions to the Centre to file in “sealed cover” the details of the agreement India has entered into with France for buying 36 Rafale Fighter Jets.
Declining to issue a notice to the government on Rafale deal, the Supreme Court on Wednesday sought details of the steps taken during the decision-making process leading up to the award of the contract to Dassault Aviation. The apex court clarified that it was not seeking any information related to pricing or suitability of the jets.
The order came from a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi on a batch of PILs, including the one seeking directions to the Centre to file in “sealed cover” the details of the agreement India has entered into with France for buying 36 Rafale Fighter Jets.
Appearing for Centre, Attorney General K K Venugopal sought dismissal of the petitions saying they were “intended to achieve political gains in the bitter fight between Opposition and ruling party”.
Earlier, the top court had adjourned to October 10 the hearing on the plea filed by lawyer M L Sharma seeking a stay on the Rafale fighter jet deal between India and France.
Sharma has claimed in his plea that the inter-government agreement to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets must be quashed as it was an “outcome of corruption” and not ratified by Parliament under Article 253 (Parliament has power to make any law for implementing any inter-government agreement) of the Constitution.
A similar plea was filed in the apex court in March this year by Congress leader Tehseen S Poonawalla, seeking an independent probe into the Rafale deal and disclosure of the cost involved in the deal before Parliament. However, the plea is yet to be listed for hearing. Poonawala had sought a direction against the Centre on why the Union Cabinet’s approval was not sought as part of the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) before signing the procurement deal with France on September 23, 2016.
AAP Rajya Sabha lawmaker Sanjay Singh had also moved the apex court through his lawyer, Dheeraj Kumar Singh, by filing a separate petition on the defence deal.
The MP has sought setting up of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) under the supervision of the apex court to probe the Rafale deal. The plea has sought that the SIT should probe the reasons for cancellation of earlier deal entered into by the UPA government for the purchase of 126 fighter jets.


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Train driver is lying, say eyewitnesses; slam statements

Amritsar tragedy

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AMRITSAR: Several eye-witnesses have slammed the locomotive driver’s statement in the Amritsar train incident that mowed down 61 onlookers and injured over 50 people participating in the Dusshera revelries .

“I was at the spot. Leave alone stopping, the train did not even slow down. It seemed as if the driver wanted to mow us down. The train passed us in a matter of seconds. Is it logically possible for us to pelt stones at the train when so many people were dead and injured around us? Is it possible for us to get our bearings after such an incident and pelt stones at a speeding train? The driver is lying,” Shailender Singh Shally, Councillor, Ward Number 46, Amritsar, said.

The clean-up operation, which resumed, continued at the site – on Monday morning.

Locals, who have been protesting against the accident, claimed that the people celebrating Dussehra at the accident spot had pelted stones at the train.

“He did not even slow down, let alone almost stopping. The train was in such speed that the accident happened in split seconds. There are hundreds of videos that show how fast the train went. There was no chance of us reacting, leave alone pelt stones. All we could hear around us was people screaming and crying,” Paramjeet Singh, another onlooker, said.

Arvind Kumar, the driver of the train which crushed 61 people to death, said that he knew that people were killed but had to keep driving for the safety of the passengers. In his statement, the driver said that he applied the emergency brakes while continuously honking yet some people came under the train.

“I saw a crowd of people around the track. I immediately applied emergency brakes while continuously blowing the horn. Still some people came under it. The train was about to stop when people started pelting stones, so I started the train for the safety of the passengers,” the train driver said.

Speaking on the incident, Minister of State for Railways, Manoj Sinha, said, “I believe that the statement of Amritsar Police Commissioner must be an authorised statement of Punjab government. He said that we (Railways) didn’t give any permission regarding the event.”

The maximum speed of the train, which was a Diesel Electrical Multiple Unit (DEMU) is 96 kmph, once brakes are applied, this kind of train stops completely in about 300 metres if empty, and in 600 metres if full, officials said. The last recorded speed of the train, according to Divisional Railway Manager (Ferozpur) Vivek Kumar, was 68 kmph, reported PTI.

“As the train passed, I heard people screaming and shouting. There was no stone pelting. I don’t understand why the driver would make up such a thing. Will people who are seeing their loved ones lying in pools of blood leave them and pick up stones to hit the train?

“Anyway, the speed of the train was such that even if people wanted to pelt stones, by the time they collected them, the train would have disappeared from sight. He is lying,” Ajay Goenka, who was present at the spot, said.

Local police too corroborated the claims of the eyewitnesses and said that not just the train was travelling at a high speed, there were no reports of stone pelting at the site of the incident on October 19.

After more than 40 hours on Sunday of the Amritsar train accident in Punjab, the train services resumed on Sunday after the Punjab police removed protesters from the railway tracks.

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Call records, WhatsApp messages: How CBI built case against its Special Director Asthana

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New Delhi: In a major development, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) booked its second-in-command Special Director Rakesh Asthana for allegedly accepting bribes .

But building the case against Asthana was not easy.

The CBI started the probe following the arrest of a Dubai-based middleman Manoj Prasad on October 16, 2018.

The investigative agency intercepted nine phone calls immediately after middleman Manoj Prasad was held in the alleged bribery case against Asthana, to allege that there was panic after the middleman’s brother, Somesh Prasad got “wind” of the arrest, officials said Sunday.

Call data analysis shows that the phone calls were allegedly exchanged between Asthana and a senior officer of another intelligence agency, who wanted to confirm the details of the middleman’s arrest.

Prasad reportedly came to know his brother’s arrest on October 16 and immediately called his contact, the senior officer of the intelligence agency on the same day. A call was then made by the officer to Somesh within a minute, claims CBI.

Next day, the intelligence agency officer allegedly called Asthana to purportedly know the situation.

Three more calls were exchanged between the two, the agency claimed.

The calls were also exchanged between the senior officer and the wife of middleman Prasad among others, an officer claimed.

The sources claimed that call data records show that four calls were exchanged between Asthana and the senior officer on October 17, 2018, a day after the arrest.

In addition to the call exchanges, CBI is also depending heavily on the Whatsapp messages recovered from Manoj Prasad’s phone.

The CBI registered the case on the basis of claims made by businessman Sathish Sana, probed by him in a separate case, that he was asked to pay a bribe of Rs 5 crore by Manoj Prasad, an investment banker based in Dubai to get relief from repeated summons and a clean chit in the case, they said.

Satish also claimed that he was being harassed by the CBI officers to pay more.

Interestingly, Asthana, the second-in-command in the agency, had intimated the cabinet secretary nearly two months ago that Sana had allegedly paid a bribe of Rs 2 crore to CBI Chief Alok Verma to get relief in the case.
The CBI is now defending Director Verma, terming the charges as “false and malicious”.

In his letters to the Cabinet Secretary and Central Vigilance Commission, Asthana had written about 10 cases of alleged corruption and irregularities against the CBI Director Alok Verma, levelling serious corruption charges in some of them.

One of the case pertained to Sathish Sana, a businessman facing probe in a corruption case involving meat exporter Moin Qureshi in which Asthana had alleged on August 24 that Sana paid Rs two crore to Verma to get relief in the case.

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Rahul takes dig at PM Modi-Anil Ambani, tweets iconic ‘Sholay’ song

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New Delhi: Congress president Rahul Gandhi used a popular song from Bollywood blockbuster ‘Sholay’ to target Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his “proximity” to industrialist Anil Ambani.

Rahul Gandhi used the hit song, “Ye dosti hum nahin todenge”, from the film, using the pictures of PM Modi and Ambani, whose company, according to the Congress chief, had received the offset contract worth Rs 30,000 crore in the Rafale deal.

The 17-second video uploaded by Rahul Gandhi on Twitter only shows the smiling faces of PM Modi and Ambani with the song playing in the background.

Rahul Gandhi has been attacking the prime minister over alleged corruption and favouritism in the Rafale fighter jet deal with a French firm.

According to the Congress chief, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government has renegotiated the deal by leaving out the State-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), which was set to get the offset contract as per the deal negotiated by the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

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