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Govt nudges Air India to bid for Haj operations, tender extended

Pulling out aircraft from its operational schedule means adverse impact on connectivity and reduction in frequency.



Air India Flight

New Delhi, Feb 4 : The government has nudged sale-bound Air India to bid for undertaking Haj operations, which will force the airline to pull out some of its airplanes from its already set schedule that will lead to flight disruptions.

Official sources said that the Air India has not been keen to carry out Haj operations as it will either require the carrier to put its grounded jets into operation or take out a few aircraft from the schedule.

“The Aviation Ministry wants Air India to participate in the bid for Haj operations,” an official said.

While in the first case the cash-starved airline would have to garner funds to fix engine and maintenance issues, in the other case its schedule would get affected. In other words, going with either of the two options would mean overlooking its commercial interests. The poor financial health of the carrier can be gauged from the fact that it last month delayed the salary payments of the staff.

Air India has 30 of its aircraft grounded with 15 either not operating or not part of Air Operators Certificate (AOC). Unavailability of aircraft for operations is among the reasons for the national carrier’s falling market share in the domestic market.

Pulling out aircraft from its operational schedule means adverse impact on connectivity and reduction in frequency.

An official said that while government makes payment for Haj operations, it becomes an operational nightmare for the carrier given the enormity of the task. In the past, the airline had to take out its plane from scheduled operations and deploy them for Haj operations to ensure the integrity of the commitment.

“Air India is generally compelled to undertake the operations as part of national responsibility,” said a former Air India official.

As the last date for submitting the bid for Haj operations has expired, the Civil Aviation Ministry has extended the date and time of receipt of bids “till further communication”.

Meanwhile, the government has invited preliminary bid to sell Air India and its low-cost subsidiary Air India Express. It has sweetened the deal to ensure the airline is sold to a private party in the second disinvestment attempt in the past two years.

(Nirbhay Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])


JP Morgan in Supreme Court: Attachment of properties by ED illegal

On May 22, the Supreme Court allowed the ED to attach properties of J.P. Morgan in Amrapali case, after the agency detected Rs 187 crore as proceeds of crime.




JP Morgan Building

New Delhi, May 27 : J.P. Morgan India on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that it has not committed any wrongdoing and the attachment of its properties by the Enforcement Directorate is “blatantly illegal”, as it has no role in the Amrapali Group housing scam.

The ED had informed the Supreme Court that it has attached Rs 187 crore assets of multinational firm for its alleged role in siphoning of Amrapali Group home buyers’ money.

A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and U.U. Lalit asked the ED to file a short reply on the grievance raised by J.P. Morgan India.

J.P Morgan India, represented by senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, said the attachment of its properties was blatantly illegal as it does not have a penny worth of investment in Amrapali group. Instead, it was J.P. Morgan Singapore and Mauritius which have put the money in the real estate firm, he added. He contended that on Tuesday, ED attached the account of the firm, according to the apex court direction, to recover the money.

The bench noted it was concerned with the contention raised by a firm, which has branches all over the world and sought the ED’s short reply on the application before the next date of hearing.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, representing SBICAP, contended before the bench that the financial institution is examining the funding of stalled housing projects of Amrapali Group. The court replied that it will hear SBICAP next week and listed the matter on June 3.

Additional Solicitor General Vikramjeet Banerjee, representing the Centre, said that the Ministry of Finance has empowered SBICAP, the fund manager, for seed funding. He urged the top court not to issue any general direction.

The bench asked Noida and Greater Noida to be more accommodating regarding the rate of interest, and if they were to remain inflexible, then it would be adverse for the real estate sector. “If you give some relaxations then all housing projects will go through,” it added.

The top court reserved the order on the issue of Floor Area Ratio (FAR), the interest levied by the Noida and Greater Noida authorities and the financing for unsold inventories.

On May 22, the Supreme Court allowed the ED to attach properties of J.P. Morgan in Amrapali case, after the agency detected Rs 187 crore as proceeds of crime.

A bench comprising Justices Mishra and Lalit ordered attachment of the property of the company along with personal properties of its directors under section 5 of Prevention of Money Laundering Act. Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain, representing the ED, contended before the bench that the officials of the agency have established the money trail, and the top court should modify its December 2019 order and allow the agency to attach the properties of J.P. Morgan and its directors.

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Maharashtra Covid-19 deaths zoom to 105 on Wednesday, cases cross 55K

Meanwhile, the number of people sent to home-quarantine increased from 485,623 to 499,387 — a jump of 13,764 — and those in institutional quarantine went up from 33,545 to 35,107, a spurt of 1,562.




Coronavirus India PTI

Mumbai, May 27 : Maharashtra on Wednesday notched a new high of 105 Covid-19 deaths, from Tuesday’s previous high of 97 fatalities, with the number of cases shooting above 55,000, health officials said here.

The figures include a whopping 64 deaths in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region alone, besides 2,190 new cases recorded across the state.

This comes to roughly one death every 14 minutes, and an average 91 new cases recorded every hour, in the state.

Maharashtra has been recording 90-plus fatalities and over 2,000 new patients for the past two days consecutively, with the last highest figure of infections being 3,041 cases on May 24.

With 105 fatalities, the state death toll has touched 1,897 and the total number of coronavirus patients increased from 54,758 to 56,948 now.

The Health Department said the state now had 37,125 active cases — swelling by 1,947 over Tuesday’s 35,178.

However, the doubling rate has improved from last week’s 11.5 days to 14.7 days now with a 31.5 percent recovery rate.

Of the total 105 fatalities today, 32 were recorded in Mumbai alone, taking the city deaths up from to 1,097 now, while the number of Covid-19 positive patients here shot up by 1,044 cases to touch 34,018.

Mumbai’s congested Dharavi slum continued to be a major red-hotspot with 18 new cases, taking the total number of infectees to 1,639 and figure of deaths climbing to 61.

Of Mumbai’s 32 deaths, besides one from Gujarat, there were 23 fatalities in Thane (Thane City, Navi Mumbai), 10 in Jalgaon, nine in Pune, eight in Raigad, six in Akola, four in Aurangabad, three each in Nashik and Solapur, two in Satara, and one each in Nagpur, Nandurbar and Palghar.

They comprised 72 men and 33 women, and nearly 63 per cent of them suffered from other serious ailments such as diabetes, hypertension, heart problems and asthma.

On the positive side, 964 fully cured patients returned home on Wednesday, taking the number of those discharged to 17,918.

Maharashtra Police recorded one more death of a policeman, taking the total toll to 21, besides the total infectees increased by 75 to touch 1,964, comprising 233 officers and 1,741 personnel.

The MMR continued to cause grave concerns with 1,290 Covid-19 deaths and positive cases shooting to 43,466.

Though trailing a distant second after Mumbai, Pune Division fatalities touched 350, besides 7,688 patients.

The next major area of concern is Nashik Division with 121 deaths and 1,765 positive cases, followed by Aurangabad Division with 58 fatalities and 1,572 cases, and finally Akola Division with 40 deaths and 857 cases.

Latur Division has eight deaths and 284 cases, Kolhapur Division seven deaths and 651 patients, and finally Nagpur Division with 10 deaths and 612 cases.

Meanwhile, the number of people sent to home-quarantine increased to 582,701 with a high jump of 15,079, and those in institutional quarantine went up to 37,761, a spurt of 2,561.

The state’s containment zones increased from 2,562 to 2,684 on Wednesday and 17,119 health teams have carried out a survey of a population of around 68 lakhs in the state.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at [email protected])

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‘We take all matters seriously’: SC on fake news on Tablighi Jamaat

On April 13, a bench headed by Chief Justice Bobde and comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao and M.M Shantanagoudar said: “We will not gag the press.”




Tablighi Jamaat

New Delhi, May 27 : The Supreme Court on Wednesday, directing the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) be made a party to the pleas alleging a section of media was demonising the Muslim community in connection with the Nizamuddin Markaz incident in Delhi, said: “We take all matters seriously.”

The statement came from a bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy as counsel representing Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind (JUH), urged the top court to take the matter seriously. The bench said that “don’t repeat that these matters are serious”.

The bench issued notice to the Centre and the Press Council of India (PCI) and asked the authorities concerned to respond on the matter within two weeks.

“The petitioners (JUH and others) are directed to implead the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) as party respondent in the array of parties. Issue notice to all the respondents as also the newly added respondent(s). Let copies of these writ petitions be served upon the respondents by the petitioners during the course of the day. Mr. K.M. Nataraj, learned Additional Solicitor General appearing for the respondent(s)-Union of India, prays for and is granted two weeks’ time to file reply affidavit,” it said.

The next hearing on the matter is scheduled on June 15.

Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, representing the Muslim clerics body, contended before the bench that fake news damage the secular fabric of the nation and broadcast of such news make outs offences under the law. “Why is the government silent,” he submitted. As he urged the apex court to take action against the media organizations, the bench asked the PCI what action it has taken.

The apex court told the Centre’s counsel that do not let people instigate, as these things later become law and order issues. The bench also sought specific reply on the alleged violation of the Cable Television (Regulation) Act by the news channels.

On April 13, a bench headed by Chief Justice Bobde and comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao and M.M Shantanagoudar said: “We will not gag the press.”

The observation from the apex court came on a plea by JUH seeking direction to the Centre to stop the dissemination of fake news and take strict action against the sections of the media spreading bigotry and communal hatred in connection with Nizamuddin Markaz. The bench, which heard the matter through video conferencing, asked the petitioners to implead the PCI as a party in the case and posted the matter for further hearing after two weeks.

The pleas, filed through advocate Ejaz Maqbool, said: “By communalising the issue and demonising the entire Muslim community, the actions of the media pose a serious threat to the life and liberty of Muslims across the country. The demonisation is also an infringement of the right to live with dignity which is also covered under Article 21 of the Constitution.”

As the petitioner’s counsel claimed reports from certain sections of the media constantly talked about Tablighi spreading coronavirus in the country, the bench replied: “We think you should add the Press Council of India as a party to the case. It is a necessary party to this case, implead them, thereafter we will hear this.”

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