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Supreme Court refuses stay on spectrum auction

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today refused to interfere with the order of telecom tribunal dismissing the pleas of Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Loop and Idea for a stay on spectrum auction, which is starting tomorrow, and extension of their licenses by another 10 years.

However, in an extraordinary urgent hearing on Sunday, a Bench comprising justices A.R. Dave and S.A. Bobde admitted the appeals filed by Airtel and Vodafone challenging the January 31 order of the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT).6 

"The appeal is admitted and hearing is expedited," the Bench said after the Centre opposed the appeals saying "any observation from you (apex court) can scare away other bidders and can take away the vibrancy of the spectrum auction".

Senior advocates Mukul Rohatgi and Abhishekh Singhvi, appearing for Airtel and Vodafone, respectively, contended that the existing licenses for the spectrum to them should be extended instead of putting them on auction.

While Rohatgi submitted that the apex court should ask the Telecom Department not to declare the result of the auction till it decides the appeals, Singhvi contended that Vodafone was having the license for 20 years since 1994, so it has the right over the spectrum and the license should be extended for another 10 years.

However, the Bench observed that "it does not mean that you should have a monopoly".

Telecom companies made arguments in the apex court identical to those before the tribunal saying they have made huge investments ranging into several crores of rupees and hence had the legitimate expectation for the extension.

Any such denial was "illegal and unreasonable," they said, adding that it would also result in the discontinuance of service to its subscribers.

The TDSAT had rejected their plea saying "the petitioners have failed to establish their right for extension in terms of the relevant provisions in their licenses, the matter ends there".

The tribunal had held that it was satisfied with the reason based on which the Department of Telecom (DoT) had denied extension and had asked telcom companies to participate in the spectrum auction starting February 3.

"Denial of extension of the licenses to the petitioners is based on good reasons as envisaged under clause 4.1 of the UAS license and the relevant provision in the CMTS license and the petitioners can claim no right for extension of their licenses under the aforesaid provisions of their licenses," TDSAT had said in its order. 

It had further observed that "any extension of the expiring licenses is bound to undermine the implementation of the policy and that is justification enough and sufficient for the government to decline the extension for the licenses".

Vodafone and Bharti Airtel are participating in the coming auction and are short-listed as eligible bidders.

Their licenses are expiring by November end this year on completion of the 20-year period as per license conditions.

However, their participation is without prejudice to their rights and contentions in the petitions pending before TDSAT as per the order passed December 20, 2013.

Loop, which operates in the Mumbai circle, has not participated in the auction process as it was waiting for the outcome of this petition.

Idea's seven licences would expire in December 2015.

Vodafone's licence is expiring for Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata circles while for Airtel it is Delhi and Mumbai circles.

Airtel, Vodafone and Loop's spectrum belong to 900 MHz band and a relatively very small portion to 1800 MHz band.

However, tribunal was not impressed with it and had said: "We would only like to observe that the holder of a UAS license has no right of allocation of spectrum beyond 6.2 MHz.

"As against that, all the petitioners have been holding, for years, spectrum far in excess of the contracted quantum and that too in the most premium band and that on payment of entry fee at rates fixed in 2001.

"Hence, we are not impressed by this submission".

The telcos have also contended that their mobile services may be discontinued and may result in a complete break-down of the mobile telephone service in the country and would leave hundreds of millions of their subscribers in the lurch.

However, the government had said that the consumer can change their operator under the Mobile Number Portability (MNP).

As per TRAI's regulations, a subscriber can port to other operators within seven working days.

"We accept the averments made in the affidavit in the hope and trust that DoT has fully gone into the technological aspects of the transitional period and arrangements are in place to ensure that there is no dislocation in the mobile telephone service in the country," the tribunal had said. — PTIBack










Modi hits back, says Cong sowing seeds of poison 

MEERUT: Narendra Modi today hit back at Sonia Gandhi over her 'zeher ki kheti' barb, saying it is the Congress which spews poison and reaps the harvest out of it with its divisive politics.

"Sonia Gandhi has told Rahul that power is poison. Who has been in power for most of the time during the last 60 years? In whose stomach has this poison gone? Who is spewing this poison? Who is harvesting the poison? They (Congress) are the ones who sow the seeds of poison," the BJP prime ministerial candidate said at a rally here.

He said the country is seeking answers from Congress to its issues but its replies are wayward. "People are asking Sonia Gandhi why farmers are committing suicide, her reply is people are sowing seeds of poison." 

Modi's counter-attack came a day after Sonia Gandhi at a rally in Karnataka accused Modi and BJP of indulging in divisive politics by "sowing seeds of poison" (zeher ki kheti) and instigating violence in their "hunger" for power.

In his 50-minute speech, Modi attacked the Congress, ruling Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh and the AAP government in Dehi and sought a mandate in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections by projecting himself as 'chowkidar' who will guard public funds.

The BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate said that he had made Gujarat free of riots and would make UP also riot-free if his government is voted to power.

Accusing Congress of driving a wedge between states and communities, Modi referred to the Telangana issue and said that the entire Andhra Pradesh is engulfed in the fire started by the manner in which the Congress had handled the issue.

"It is because they are following a police of divide and rule. You keep sowing seeds of poison and destroying the country." He compared it with the creation of states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA Government and said that at that time celebrations had taken place. — PTIBack










Primaries aimed at ending high command culture: Maken

NEW DELHI: Rahul Gandhi’s experiment of choosing Congress candidates for Lok Sabha polls in over 15 seats with direct feedback on the lines of US primaries will continue notwithstanding some initial hiccups, a Congress functionary on Sunday indicated.

AICC Communication Department Chairman Ajay Maken also downplayed the recent decision by the party to drop two such constituencies, Chandni Chowk and North West Delhi, represented by Union Ministers Kapil Sibal and Krishna Tirath, from the list of primaries after their reservations.

He insisted that the new process is in line with the Congress vice-president’s focus on opening the system by “ending the high command culture” and empowering the grass-roots workers.

“When the elected MPs had a view point and when they asked what is the criteria of selecting two seats out of seven, the Congress vice-president, who has always believed in fair play, agreed to it that there should be a proper laid-out system even for selecting seats for the primaries,” Maken told PTI.

The ministers are learnt to have conveyed their reservations on this point to top leadership wondering as to why their constituencies were only picked up among the seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi.

Maken, however, gave broad indications that notwithstanding the initial hiccups, the process will continue as it is part of the long-terms plans to bring sweeping changes in ticket distribution and other processes in the party.

The party has on a number of occasions made it clear that the changes that have been put on hold till this Lok Sabha election will be carried out full throttle once the election exercise is over.

“Rahulji’s idea of choosing candidates through primaries is in line with his focus on opening the system. He wants to put an end to the high command culture in the party in decision making.

“After giving the power to ordinary workers to elect their officer bearers as was done in NSUI and Youth Congress, he wants that office-bearers should be empowered now and should have a say in candidate selection.

“Gandhi has said that this is a pilot project, which he wishes to extend in the whole country at a later stage. This is a powerful idea,” Maken said.

He said that the Congress vice-president thinks that while in the government functioning transparency is being brought through steps like RTI and punitive measures like Lokpal and other anti graft Bills, as far political system is concerned, it cannot be made transparent till Congress workers do not have a say in electing their candidates.

“Primaries system will empower party workers in candidates selection and people will rise up the ladder through the organisation. This will complete the full cycle of reforms in the government and political system and cleanse it.

“This is the thinking of the Congress vice-president behind the move,” Maken said, responding to questions as to why the need for this new method of candidate selection was felt now.

Under the primaries, a representative section of party workers, leaders and others, satisfying certain criteria, will decide the Congress candidate from their constituency by participating in a simple voting process.

Similarly, any eligible person satisfying the clearly laid down requirements shall be accepted as a candidate for the primaries.

Addressing the AICC meeting here on January 17, Mr. Gandhi had said “in 15 constituencies in the Lok Sabha polls, we will finalise candidates by asking party workers. They will directly elect candidates“.

Mr. Gandhi has been saying in internal party meetings that if the experiment works, it would be expanded everywhere in times to come.

To a question as to why the party has limited this exercise to 15 or 16 constituencies, Mr. Maken said that the required infrastructure to carry it out in a large number of seats needs to be built first.

“The biggest reason we could not have more primaries is that the structure, which needs to carry out this entire process, is still under construction and the biggest constraint is lack of a very large number of trained man-power to carry out such an elaborate exercise.”

AICC general secretaries Gurudas Kamat and Mr. Maken have requested Mr. Gandhi to include their seats North West Mumbai and New Delhi in the list of primaries.

Their requests came after Chandni Chowk and North West Delhi were dropped.

Earlier the constituency of AICC secretary Meenakshi Natarajan in Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh was included in the list after she requested for it.

Since two seats have already been included from Maharashtra, chances are that Mr. Kamat’s request may not be accepted while one more seat from Delhi other than Mr. Maken’s can find inclusion in the list of primaries as the leadership wanted two seats from Delhi for the experiment.

Congress, which was ruling Delhi for 15 years lost power in this assembly election and even its Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit lost to Arvind Kejriwal of AAP, who is now Chief Minister. Congress is supporting the Kejriwal government.

There is a view in the Congress leadership that while the Dikshit government did carry out development work, the connect with masses was somewhere lost. — PTIBack










Seat-sharing issue with Cong to be resolved in 10 days: Pawar

NEW DELHI: The seat-sharing issue with Congress will be resolved in next 10 days and the ongoing talks are "cordial", NCP chief Sharad Pawar said on Sunday amid signs of strain in ties between the two parties which are out to drive a hard bargain for the Lok Sabha polls.

The remarks from Pawar, who is the NCP chief and Union Agriculture Minister, came close on the heels of party leader Praful Patel saying that NCP was losing patience over the "delay" by Congress and that "options are open".

Patel, a Union minister, reportedly gave a three-day deadline to Congress, but Pawar today denied any "ultimatum".

"Seat-sharing with INC to be resolved in next 10 days. Talks are on in cordial manner, Praful Patel hasn't given any ultimatum to INC," the Maharashtra strongman said on micro blogging site Twitter.

In an earlier tweet, Pawar said the nation needed a stable government and NCP's discussions with Congress are on in a "friendly manner".

He also saw no impact of Arvind Kejriwal's AAP in the Lok Sabha polls.

NCP is the second largest constituent of the Congress-led UPA.

Congress had downplayed Patel's "options are open" warning noting that the two parties are in alliance mode for the past 15 years and some tough bargaining was bound to be there at the time of seat sharing.

Patel had barely days earlier urged the political class to accept the judicial pronouncement regarding Narendra Modi on Gujarat riots, remarks which were seen as a sign of NCP going soft on the BJP PM candidate. The comment came even as Pawar slammed media reports that he met Modi as "baseless and mischievous".

NCP is in alliance with the Congress and sharing power in Maharashtra since 1999 though Pawar parted ways with Congress on the issue of Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin.

NCP is part of the UPA at the Centre for the past 10 years.

Maharashtra has 48 Lok Sabha seats. — PTIBack










AIADMK, CPI announce alliance for LS polls

CHENNAI: Attempting to form a "secular and democratic alternative" to dethrone Congress from power at the Centre, AIADMK and CPI on Sunday announced their decision to enter into an alliance ahead of the coming Lok Sabha polls.

Addressing the press at her Poes Garden residence here along with CPI leaders A.B. Bardhan and Sudhakar Reddy, AIADMK chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa said, "AIADMK and CPI have decided to enter into an alliance to face the upcoming Lok Sabha elections together."

Senior CPI leader Bardhan said "I endorse whatever she has said. Our alliance will lead to victory. We will succeed."

To a query on the increasing clamour among AIADMK cadres to project Jayalalithaa as their Prime Ministerial candidate, Bardhan said "If we succeed in the election, as I said the prospects RPT prospects will open up."

Jayalalithaa intervened to say "All that will come later. Our aim is to win all 40 seats in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry."

"Our slogan for the elections is Peace, Prosperity, Progress," she said, replying a query on what would be the issues her alliance would project for the polls.

Reddy said the alliance is a "secular and democratic alternative" to win the elections.

The AIADMK general secretary also said that CPI (M) leader Prakash Karat would meet her tomorrow.

Left parties in Tamil Nadu have remained with the ruling AIADMK in Tamil Nadu since the 2011 Assembly polls, while Manidhaneya Makkal Katchi and Puthiya Thamizhagam have left the alliance and joined hands with the DMK.

Today's announcement emerges as a possible Third Front in Tamil Nadu politics for the coming Lok Sabha elections, with BJP already announcing its alliance with MDMK, while Congress is attempting to have partners.

BJP is also trying to rope in PMK and actor-politician Vijayakant's DMDK.

DMK, which faced the 2009 Lok Sabha polls with Congress, left the alliance over the Sri Lankan Tamils issue early last year and is presently attempting to rope in DMDK.

DMDK, which was a major ally of AIADMK in 2011 Assembly polls, parted ways with the ruling government and is likely to announce its decision on alliance at its conference near Villupuram later today.

Vidithalai Chiruthaigal Katchi quit UPA along with DMK over the Sri Lankan Tamils issue and has remained with that party. — PTIBack










AAP to come up with its 'corrupt list' for states

NEW DELHI: After its ‘corrupt list’ targeting national politicians, the Aam Aadmi Party says it will release a list of leaders at the state-level with corrupt, criminal or dynastic background and field candidates against them.

“We will release the list of leaders at the state level. There are many leaders in different states whose names have not been announced by the party but are symbols of corruption, criminalisation of politics and dynastic politics.

“There are legislators who would be contesting Lok Sabha elections from Maharashtra. Some are ministers in the state while others are just MLAs. We would be releasing a similar list of such leaders,” Subhash Ware, a senior AAP leader from Maharashtra, said.

Party sources said with Assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana to be held just after the Lok Sabha elections, the party would be focusing on these two states in a big way.

AAP has already issued a list of leaders across political parties, including Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and BSP supremo Mayawati, apart from several UPA ministers against whom it would be fielding candidates in the Lok Sabha polls.

In Maharashtra, the party is expected to field candidates against Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule, former Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, whose name cropped in the stamp paper scam, or his son Sameer, depending on who contests the Lok Sabha polls.

AAP has already announced Vijay Pandhare, former engineer with the state government who helped unearth the irrigation scam, as a potential candidate from Nashik, currently represented by Sameer.

In Haryana, the party has also short-listed potential candidates against Congress MP Deepender Singh Hooda, son of Chief Minister Bhupinder Hooda, from Rohtak. — PTIBack











Manipuri women assaulted in South Delhi

NEW DELHI: Two Manipuri women were allegedly assaulted by some men who hurled racist abuses at them in South Delhi's Kotla Mubarakpur area. The victims have accused the police of being reluctant to register an FIR.

The incident, which occurred on January 25 evening, came to light following uproar over the death of a student from the north-east, Nido Taniam, who was allegedly assaulted by shopkeepers on January 29.

The police today said a case has been registered in connection with the alleged assault on the two women from the north-east but no arrest has been made so far.

According to the police, the women, identified as Tharmila Jajo and Chonmila, were beaten up by a group of men who were in their late 20s.

The women in their complaint said that one of the assaulters had tied the leash of his dog to Chonmila's boots.

She panicked and in a bid to get rid of the dog, she started kicking the animal.

Seeing this, the men started beating her up. When her friend Jajo tried to intervene, she too was allegedly thrashed by the men who made racists comments against them, the police said.

The victims alleged that none of the locals came to help them and when they reached the police station to lodge an FIR, policemen were initially reluctant to register a case.

The case was registered only the next day after leaders of some north-east outfits intervened.

The police said they have recorded the victims' statement and are investigating the case.

The Capital has witnessed protests over the death of 19-year-old Taniam, son of Arunchal Pradesh Congress MLA and Parliamentary Secretary in Health and Family Welfare Department Nido Pavitra.

He died after he was allegedly beaten up by some shopkeepers in Lajpat Nagar in South Delhi following an altercation sparked by their taunts on his hairstyle. — PTIBack 











Cargo ship sinks off Yemen killing 12 Indian sailors

ADEN: A cargo ship sank off the coast of Yemen killing 12 Indian sailors onboard, the Yemen Interior Ministry said on Saturday.

The ship, which was carrying car tyres and car parts, ran aground on Thursday night but the incident did not come to the attention of Yemeni security until 10 hours later, its statement said.

Heavy winds and high waves prevented the rescue of the Indian sailors.

The ship was owned by a Yemeni and was on its way from the United Arab Emirates to Al Mukalla port in Yemen.

It sank off the coast of Al Shehar town in Yemen's southeastern Hadramout province, the ministry said. — ReutersBack










Sahara group to hire 56,000 employees 

NEW DELHI: Sahara group, whose legal battle with SEBI continues in Supreme Court over refund of over Rs 20,000 crore to investors, has made a surprise announcement of plans being afoot to hire over 56,000 new employees this year along with investments to the tune of nearly Rs 32,400 crore.

In three-page newspaper advertisements, the group has invited applications for senior positions across business verticals within and outside country and said that these more than 56,000 new jobs need to be filled by the end of 2014.

At the same time, it has also claimed that the group, which calls itself Sahara India Parivar, is “committed to creating four lakh salaried positions in next three years.”

The businesses for which job applications have been invited include FMCG & retail, dairy, poultry, luxury real estate and lifestyle, food factory, low-cost housing, CSR, education and even cruises (Sahara Water Homes).

Besides job details, the group also disclosed specific investment targets for at least four business verticals and these investments total to an amount of Rs 32,394 crore.

For its ‘Luxury Retail: Sahara Global Mastercraft Ltd’ business, the group said that an investment of Rs 1,400 crore would be made over five years, while Rs 5,172 crore would be invested in Food & Beverages and Entertainment: QSR (Quick Service Restaurants).

Its ‘International Business: Macedonia (Europe)’ business is expected to see an investment of Rs 13,922 crore in dairy project and Rs 9,600 crore in hospitality project.

Further, healthcare would seen an investment of Rs 2,300 crore for 5-7 years, according to the public notice.

The group also claimed a huge asset base with a market value of “Rs 1,52,518 crore” and a land bank of 36,631 acres.

This massive recruitment drive comes at a time when the group is caught in a legal battle with SEBI, which had charged it of raising over Rs 24,000 crore through various “illegalities” in issuance of certain bonds through two firms.

These two firms — Sahara India Real Estate Corp Ltd (SIREC) and Sahara India Housing Investment Corp Ltd (SHIC) — were asked to refund the money to investors, while the Supreme Court also asked the group to comply with SEBI orders.

Sahara group later deposited Rs 5,120 crore with SEBI and claimed that it was way above the outstanding amount due to be returned to investors as more than Rs 20,000 crore were already refunded directly.

The Supreme Court has refused to allow Sahara Group chief Subrata Roy to leave the country till the companies provide details of refunding Rs 20,000 crore to investors.

The apex court last week asked the group to furnish all the documents to reveal the source of Rs 22,885 crore which it claims to have refunded to the investors.

Besides, the group was directed to place all documents including the bank statements sought by SEBI before February 11 when the court would take up the case for further hearings. — PTIBack











Lokpal chief, members appointment likely by Feb-end

NEW DELHI: The chairperson and members of anti-corruption body Lokpal may be appointed by this month-end as the government has decided not to withdraw the advertisement seeking nominations for these posts despite a demand from BJP.

The government will not withdraw advertisement and accept applications for the Lokpal till Friday, the last date for receiving nominations, a senior official of the Ministry of Personnel said.

The advertisement was put out following all procedures. After scrutiny, the names of shortlisted candidates will be put up before a selection committee headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, "The selection may be completed by this month-end," the official said.

The Ministry of Personnel had last month put out an advertisement in newspapers calling applications from eligible candidates for chairperson and eight members of Lokpal by February 7.

Following this, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley questioned its legality and asked the government to withdraw it.

The Prime Minister rejected Jaitley's contention and said the advertisement was within the prescribed rules notified recently by the government.

"May I, at the outset, assure you that the advertisement issued in this regard is strictly in terms of the provisions of the (Lokpal) Act and the rules framed thereunder," Singh had said in his letter to Jaitley.

The Prime Minister's reply prompted Jaitley to write again to him contesting the government's claim.

"I seriously contest the position on basis of which you have been advised.... I would, therefore, urge you to kindly reconsider the position that the government has taken in this regard. How these positions are to be filed up is a discretion only of the Selection Committee and not the Search Committee," he said in his recent letter.

Of the advertised posts for members in the Lokpal, four are for judicial and the remaining for non-judicial.

The PM-led selection committee has as members Lok Sabha Speaker, leader of opposition in Lok Sabha, Chief Justice of India or a judge of the apex court nominated by him and an eminent jurist, who could be nominated by the President or any of the members.

The chairperson and members shall be appointed by the President after obtaining the recommendations of the selection committee.

The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, provides for the establishment of a Lokpal for the Union and Lokayuktas for the states to inquire into allegations of corruption against public functionaries.

President Pranab Mukherjee had given his assent to the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill on January 1 this year.

The Bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha on December 17, 2013, and by the Lok Sabha the next day. — PTIBack
















Centre to hike dearness allowance by 10 pc for second time

NEW DELHI: The Centre is likely to announce next month a hike in dearness allowance by 10 per cent to 100 per cent, benefiting about 50 lakh employees and 30 lakh pensioners.

It would be the second double digit DA hike in a row. The government had announced a hike of 10 per cent to 90 per cent in September last year, effective from July 1, 2013.

According to an official source, the preliminary assessment suggests that dearness allowance hike will not be less than 10 per cent and would be effective from January 1 this year.

He said the exact percentage hike in DA could be calculated only when the revised all-India Consumer Price Index for Industrial Workers (CPI-IW) for December is released on February 28.

According to the provisional data released by the government on January 31, the retail inflation for factory workers for the month of December stood at 9.13 per cent.

As per practice, the government uses CPI-IW data of the past 12 months to arrive at a quantum for the purpose of any DA hike. Thus, the retail inflation for industrial workers between January 1 to December 31, 2013 would be used to take a final call on the matter.

"It would be 10 per cent this time and would be announced in March," Confederation of Central Government Employees President K.K.N. Kutty told PTI.

"Besides, raising DA to 100 per cent, the government should revise the pay and merge DA with basic pay", he said.

As per practice, the DA is merged with basic pay when it breaches the 50 per cent mark. DA merger helps employees as their other allowances are paid as a proportion of basic pay.

Kutty informed the Central government employees would go on a two-day strike from February 12 and demand pay revision which would be possible through constituting the 7th Pay Commission. The government has announced setting up of the Commission last year.

He said: "This DA hike won't help much as actual rise in the cost of living is about 300 per cent as on January 1, 2014. But they would pay us 100 per cent as DA." — PTIBack










Hizb commander held in Anantnag 

Srinagar: A self-styled commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen outfit has been arrested by security forces in Anantnag district of Kashmir.

"Mubarak Ahmad Wani, alias Major Saqib, divisional commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen, was arrested based on specific intelligence in a joint operation yesterday," an Army spokesman said today.

An AK rifle, a pistol and some ammunition were recovered from his possession, the spokesman said.

Wani had joined militancy in 2001 when he had crossed the Line of Control to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to get arms training, he said.

The spokesman said he returned to the Valley in 2007 and was subsequently arrested the same year.

After serving a two-year detention, Wani was released and rejoined the militant ranks in 2010. He was again arrested the same year and released the next year.

Wani was recycled into militancy last year and had been operating as divisional commander of the militant outfit. — PTI 



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