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Three dead as 40 blasts rip through chemical factory, tremors felt 12km away

Monitor News Bureau

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Mumbai :At least three people were killed and 15 injured when a series of blasts and a fire ripped through a chemical plant of a pharmaceutical company in Maharashtra’s Boisar near Mumbai late .
According to preliminary reports, the blasts occurred in 25 drums containing 200 litres each of solvent at Novephene Specialities’ plant in Boisar MIDC at around 11:15 pm.
Three unidentified bodies were found in nearby factory of Arti Drugs when firemen entered the premises for cooling operations, Palghar SP?Manjunath Singe said.
The 15 injured, three of whom are critical, have been admitted in three hospitals in Boisar, Singe said, adding that the number of casualties could go up.
Palghar district collector Prashant Narnaware, who reached the site early on Friday, said 40 blasts heard from the plant. Police, fire, revenue and health personnel were at the spot carrying out rescue operations.
“It is clear that the said unit did not follow any safety precautions and due to an exothermic reaction, the blast occurred in the solvent drums. We are probing and the guilty will be charged under relevant sections of the IPC and we may recommend the government to cancel the manufacturing licence of the guilty units,”?Narnaware said.
Four surrounding chemical units — belonging to Prachi Industries (manufacturing iodine), Bharat Rasayan, Arti Industries (manufacturing vitamins), Unimax and others — were either partially or completely destroyed.
Tremors of the blasts could be felt 12km from the spot in Palghar, Mahim, Boisar and surrounding areas. Doors and glass panes of nearby houses were shattered.
Eyewitnesses said the explosion, “sounding like a huge bomb”, happened when many were preparing to retire for the night.
However, scared and shaken by the explosion, many feared it was an earthquake and hundreds rushed out on to the streets and sat there.
At least 25 fire tenders from Vasai, Bhiwandi, Palghar, Tarapur Atomic Power Station (TAPS), Reliance Thermal, Dahanu, Thane and Palghar have been pressed into service.
As a precautionary measure, roads have been cordoned off, and power to 57 industrial units (20 high tension (HT) units and 37 low tension (LT) units) near the spot have been cut off as the two 11 KV each feeders have been shut, said an MSEDCL official.
SP Singe said the directorate of industrial safety and health (DISH), Vasai, will ascertain the cause of the fire and submit a report to the Boisar MIDC police, who have registered a case of accident.
Collector Narnaware said he had conducted meetings with concerned departments like MIDC and MPCB and instructed them to ensure safety.
Tarapur MIDC has around 1,100 chemical units which store hazardous and flammable chemicals. “DISH has failed to take corrective measures and hence, we will be forwarding a report to the state government to conduct an inquiry into these lapses,” he said.
Novaphene Specialities’ head office is located in Dahisar and is owned by the Shah Group which has been manufacturing acid chlorides, reagents, personal cosmetic care, pharmaceutical intermediates and other products for the past five decades.


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National

SC verdict on pleas seeking Rafale judgment review on Thursday

Press Trust of India

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New Delhi, November 13: The Supreme Court is scheduled to pronounce on Thursday its verdict on petitions seeking a review of its judgment giving a clean chit to the Modi government in the Rafale fighter jet deal with French firm Dassault Aviation.

On May 10, the apex court had reserved the decision on the pleas, including one filed by former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan, seeking a re-examination of its findings that there was no occasion to doubt the decision-making process in the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets.

A Bench, comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph, is likely to pronounce verdicts on three review petitions filed by the trio, lawyer Vineet Dhandha and Aam Aadmi Party lawmaker Sanjay Singh.
On December 14, 2018, the apex court dismissed the petitions seeking an investigation into the alleged irregularities in the Rs 58,000 crore deal.

 
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National

SC upholds disqualification of 17 Karnataka MLAs; they can contest Dec 5 bypolls

Agencies

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New Delhi, November 13: The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the order of former Karnataka Assembly speaker disqualifying 17 MLAs.

The SC, however, stroked down portion of Speaker’s order, which said MLAs would be disqualified till end of tenure of 15th Karnataka Assembly.

The SC verdict has paved way for disqualified MLAs to contest December 5 bypolls in Karnataka.

 

The SC said if elected in bypolls, these disqualified Karnataka MLAs can become ministers or hold public office.

The SC deprecated the manner in which these disqualified Karnataka MLAs directly approached it without first moving high court.

The top court said that its verdict was based on facts and circumstance of case and does not interfere in Speaker’s power to disqualify members.

The SC had reserved its verdict on petitions challenging the then Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar’s decision to disqualify 17 Karnataka MLAs before the crucial trust vote that led to fall of HD Kumaraswamy government in the state.

A Bench headed by Justice NV Ramana reserved its order after hearing counsel for the petitioners i.e. disqualified MLAs, Kumaraswamy and new Speaker V Hegde Kageri and others.

The decision eventually led to the fall of Congress-JD(S) government headed by HD Kumaraswamy, who was forced to resign after losing a trust vote. Thereafter, BS Yediyurappa-led government was formed in the state

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UK court set to hear Nirav Modi’s new bail application today

Press Trust of India

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London: A UK court is set to hear a new bail application on Wednesday filed by fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi, who is fighting extradition to India on charges of nearly USD 2 billion Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud and money laundering case.

The 48-year-old is expected to be produced before Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London to make another attempt at being let out on bail until his trial in May next year.

He has been in custody at Wandsworth prison in south-west London, one of England’s most overcrowded prisons, since his arrest in March. “The bail application is at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday November 6. The grounds cannot be made public until the hearing,” said a spokesperson for the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which represents the Indian government in the extradition proceedings in court. Modi has reportedly claimed anxiety and depression in his latest application, with earlier bail applications at the court being rejected by Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot, and then also on appeal at the High Court in London, as he was deemed a flight risk.

 

His legal team has previously described their client’s experience in prison as “damaging” and offered stringent electronic tag and other conditions akin to house arrest at his posh Centrepoint apartment in the West End of London in an attempt to persuade the judge to grant bail.

“His experience in custody has been vivid and damaging…he is willing to abide by any bail conditions imposed by the court because Wandsworth is unliveable and makes the effective preparation of his case virtually impossible,” his barrister Clare Montgomery had told Judge Arbuthnot earlier in the year. They had also doubled the initial bail bond offer of 1 million pounds to 2 million pounds in an attempt to sway the court. However, Arbuthnot had concluded that Modi was wanted in connection with a “large fraud” and the doubling of security was “not sufficient to cover a combination of concerns that he would fail to surrender”.

In June, Modi’s legal team took his appeal against that ruling to the Royal Courts of Justice in London, where a judge was told about the diamond merchant’s troubled state of mind in “confidential” documents. “The circumstances he has had to endure at Wandsworth have been personally difficult and the confidential exhibits reflect the experience that has marked him deeply. The reality is that he is not the cold-blooded hardened criminal as claimed by the government of India but a jewellery designer from a long line of diamond dealers, and regarded as being honest, careful and reliable,” Montgomery told the High Court, adding that a number of individuals were willing to offer sureties and substantial sums to back up the claim that Modi is not a man who plans to run.

But in her judgment, Justice Ingrid Simler concurred with the Chief Magistrate that there were “substantial grounds” to believe that Modi would fail to surrender as he does possess the means to “abscond”. After considering all the material “carefully”, the judge said she found strong evidence to suggest there had been interference with witnesses and destruction of evidence in the case and concluded it could recur if he was let out of prison.

There are no strict limits on the number of times Modi can apply for bail, but he would have to produce substantially modified grounds in a new application. He has meanwhile continued to appear via videolink before the magistrates’ court in London, appearing in a standard prison-issued grey tracksuit and mostly freshly shaved and upbeat. His next routine 28-day appearance required under UK law is listed for November 11, a date that still remains on the court’s lists.

At a hearing last month, Judge Nina Tempia had confirmed that his extradition trial is scheduled between May 11 and 15 next year, with the case management hearings set to begin from February next year. Modi has been behind bars at Wandsworth prison since his arrest on March 19 on an extradition warrant executed by Scotland Yard on charges brought by the Indian government.

During subsequent hearings, Westminster Magistrates’ Court was told that Modi was the “principal beneficiary” of the fraudulent issuance of letters of undertaking (LoUs) as part of a conspiracy to defraud PNB and then laundering the proceeds of crime.

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