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IT sleuths search Karnataka minister’s house, resort suite in Bengaluru

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Bengaluru, Aug 2: Income Tax sleuths on Wednesday conducted searches at the residence of Karnataka Power Minister D.K. Shivakumar in the city and at a luxury suite he was staying in at a private resort here where 44 Gujarat Congress MLAs have been housed.

“Our state investigative wing is conducting searches at the residence of a Karnataka Minister (Shivakumar) and the room he is staying at a resort (Eagleton) near Bengaluru where some MLAs from another state (Gujarat) are put up,” said Income Tax Joint Commissioner S. Ramesh in a statement here.

The searches were being conducted under Section 132 of the Income Tax Act as an evidence gathering exercise in compliance with the statutory requirements, he said.

“The search is the continuation of an investigation, which has been in progress for a considerable period of time,” asserted Ramesh.

He maintained that the timing of the search was decided well in advance, and that it had nothing to do with Gujarat Congress MLAs being brought to Karnataka.

“Our search team has no concern with the MLAs and there is no contact between the team and the MLAs. The minister’s room alone was being searched,” Ramesh said.

The Congress has slammed the raids and termed it as political vendetta.

Ahead of the searches, security was stepped up at the minister’s residence and at the resort and vehicles coming out of the two places were checked.

The IT sleuths brought Shivakumar to the city from the resort to question him on the documents and a huge haul of cash that was found in his residence.

The search at the Minister’s posh residence in the city’s upscale northwest suburb and his deluxe room at the resort caught the ruling party in Karnataka unaware and led to condemnation.

“It’s a political vendetta by a desperate party (BJP) and its governments in the state (Gujarat) and in New Delhi to frighten the opposition members,” party’s state unit spokesman Dinesh Gundu Rao told reporters here.

The Congress had flown its 44 Gujarat lawmakers from Ahmedabad on July 29 and lodged them in the Eagleton resort at Bidadi, 30km from here, ostensibly to prevent the BJP from poaching them ahead of the August 8 Rajya Sabha poll in which its senior leader Ahmed Patel is contesting for a fifth term from Gujarat.

The resort is located in the Bengaluru Rural Lok Sabha constituency, represented by Congress lawmaker D.K. Suresh, younger brother of Shivakumar, a lawmaker from the Kanakapura assembly segment in the district.

Patel, also political secretary to party President Sonia Gandhi, filed nomination in Ahmedabad on July 26. He needs 47 preference voters in the first round for re-election. It also has the support of two NCP lawmakers.

The party’s high command directed Shivakumar and Suresh to look after the needs of the Gujarat legislators, who are likely to stay at the resort till August 7 before flying back to Ahmedabad for the crucial voting on August 8.

Ironically, the ruling BJP in Gujarat has fielded Balwantsinh Rajput, who quit the Congress as Chief Whip, to contest against Patel.

BJP National President Amit Shah and Union Textiles and Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani are the two other candidates in the fray for four of the 11 Rajya Sabha seats from the state.

IANS

India

Loya issue ‘serious’, will examine all matters, says SC

Matter is serious. Let us look at full records. Let it never be on our conscience that we did not look at what we should have.

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cbi judge death mystery

New Delhi, Jan 22 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Monday said the controversy surrounding the death of Special CBI court judge B.H. Loya is “serious” and it will look into the circumstances leading to his death in November 2014.

Judge Loya was holding the trial into the staged shootout deaths of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and two others.

“Matter is serious. Let us look at full records. Let it never be on our conscience that we did not look at what we should have,” the bench said as it directed all the parties to file whatever material they have relating to Loya’s death and the circumstances leading to it and set the next hearing for February 2.

Senior counsel Dushyant Dave, appearing for the Bombay Lawyers Association, and Indira Jaising, appearing for an intervener, said that the records being produced by the Maharashtra government were not complete as they pointed to some documents they had accessed through RTI.

“There is no question of restricting the records. Prepare a compilation of the record,” Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said allowing both the sides to file whatever documents they had in their possession.

The bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M.Khanwilkar and Justice Chandrachud also transferred to itself two petitions pending before the Bombay High Court and its Nagpur bench relating to the matter.

At the outset of the hearing, Dave objected to senior counsel Harish Salve, appearing for Maharashtra, saying that it was “not fair” for him to appear for the state government after appearing for BJP President Amit Shah, and that he has “done enough damage to the institution” and “there is a conflict of interest”.

He sought the appointment of amicus curiae to assist the court, but the court was not moved.

“We are on the circumstances leading to the death of Judge Loya. Let us not comment who is appearing for whom,” said Justice Chandrachud.

In a face-off between Dave and Salve, Dave said: “Entire institution is trying to protect one man – Amit Shah and Amit Shah alone” whom he described as “politician of great excellence”.

At this, Salve objected, saying: “What is this Amit Shah, Amit Shah. You are blaming somebody in the court behind his back. You can’t caste aspersion on somebody. You can’t jump three steps and pass comments just because he happens to be a prominent politician.”

As in the course of the arguments, Dave raised the pitch, the court intervened, saying that all the counsel appearing in the matter should assist it to “examine the documents objectively” and assuring that it would order the probe if needed.

As Dave, at one point, said that “as of today, it is a natural death”, Justice Chandrachud said: “If as on today, it is a natural death, you can’t cast aspersions. Let us look at the material objectively, so that we are not blamed that we did not look at the material dispassionately.”

In another face off between the rival lawyers, Jaising objected to Salve saying that the confidentiality of whatever material they will share with the counsel for petitioners and interveners be maintained and not shared with media, noting that it is like seeking a gag order against media.

As Justice Chandrachud said that “He is not saying gag the press. He is just saying …”, Jaising countered: “It means the same.”

As she said that court should not pass any order on Salver’s plea, the CJI asked if the court had said anything.

“Did we utter a word? Did we say gag? You can’t say order of the court. We are just discussing the matter,” he told Jaising asking her to withdraw her statement and apologise. She complied.

However, Dave said that if two judges in the Loya matter can address a press conference, why can’t the nation discuss it. He said that if the matters of Shashi Tharoor and P. Chidambram can be discussed in the media, then why not the Loya matter.

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Analysis

India’s growing rich-poor divide: Richest 1% gross 73% wealth in 2017

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India’s richest, just 1 per cent of its 1.3 billion people, grossed 73 per cent of the wealth generated in 2017 while the wealth of the poorest half of Indians — some 67 crore — rose by only one per cent, according to a report by Oxfam.

The report, launched on Monday ahead of the gathering of some of the world’s richest at the World Economic Forum here, said the wealth of India’s elite went up last year by Rs 20,913 billion — an amount equivalent to the government’s total budget in 2017-18.

The Davos event is being attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Oxfam India has urged him to ensure that the “economy works for everyone and not just the fortunate few” in line with the government’s ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ slogan.

“It is alarming that the benefits of economic growth in India continue to concentrate in fewer hands. The billionaire boom is not a sign of a thriving economy but a symptom of a failing economic system,” said Nisha Agrawal, CEO of Oxfam India.

“Those working hard, growing food for the country, building infrastructure, working in factories are struggling to fund their child’s education, buy medicines for family members and manage two meals a day. The growing divide undermines democracy and promotes corruption and cronyism.”

The report, ‘Reward Work, Not Wealth’, has also found that India’s top 10 per cent of population have 73 per cent of the total wealth in the country.

“Indian billionaires’ wealth increased by Rs 4,891 billion – from Rs 15,778 billion to over Rs 20,676 billion,” it said, adding the amount of Rs 4,891 billion was sufficient to finance 85 per cent of the budget on health and education in all Indian states.

It said India added 17 new billionaires last year, raising the number to 101. But 37 per cent of the these billionaires inherited the wealth from their families.

It said 51 billionaires out of the total 101 were aged 65 or above.

“If we assume that in the next 20 years, at least Rs 10,544 billion will be passed on to the inheritors and on that if 30 per cent inheritance tax is imposed, the government can earn at least Rs 3,176 billion.”

This will be sufficient to finance six crucial services — medical and public health, family welfare, water and sanitation, housing, urban development and labour and labour welfare in the country.

The report said at least one in every two workers in the garment sector in India were paid below the minimum wage. By those standards, the report said, “it will take 941 years for a minimum wage worker in rural India to earn what the top paid executive at a leading Indian garment firm earns in a year”.

Oxfam called upon the government to promote “inclusive growth by ensuring that the income of the bottom 40 per cent of the population grows faster than of the top 10 per cent” to close the income gap.

“This can be done by encouraging labour-intensive sectors that will create more jobs; investing in agriculture; and effectively implementing the social protection schemes that exist.”

It said the government must also seal the leaking wealth bucket by taking stringent measures against tax evasion and avoidance.

The income gap can also be reduced by “taxing the super-rich by re-introducing inheritance tax, increasing wealth tax, reducing and eventually do away with corporate tax breaks and creating a more equal opportunity country by increasing public expenditure on health and education”, it said.

The charity said the government must also bring data transparency, produce and make available high quality data on income and wealth and regularly monitor the measures it takes to tackle the issue of rising inequality.

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Business

Gross NPA may rise to Rs 9.5 lakh crore by March: Study

“Fiscal 2018 marks beginning of third phase of ARCs which promises to change the landscape as new regulations and other changes kick-in.”

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NPA

Gross non-performing assets (NPA) in Indian banks are expected to rise to Rs 9.5 lakh crore by March, from Rs 8 lakh crore in March last year, said a ASSOCHAM-Crisil joint study.

Stressed assets in March 2018 are expected to be at Rs 11.5 lakh crore, the report titled “ARCs headed for a structural shift,” said.

“High level of stressed assets in the banking system provides enormous opportunity size for asset reconstruction companies (ARCs) which are an important stakeholder in the NPA resolution process,” ASSOCHAM said in a statement quoting the study.

It, however, said that owing to capital constraints, growth of ARCs is expected to come down significantly.

“While growth is expected to fall to around 12 per cent until June 2019, however the AUM (assets under management) are expected to reach Rs 1 lakh crore, and that is fairly sizeable.”

The study added that with banks expected to make higher provisioning over and above the provisions made for stressed assets, they may sell the assets at lower discounts, thus increasing the capital requirement.

The study also said that effective implementation of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code would be a remedy to the challenge of prolonged litigation and it can help improve the recovery rate of stressed assets’ industry further.

Power, metal and construction sectors contribute the bulk of stressed assets. According to an analysis of 50 stressed assets (forming nearly 40 per cent of stressed assets in the system), sectors like metal, construction and power form nearly 30 per cent, 25 per cent and 15 per cent respectively, while other sectors together form the remaining 30 per cent.

The report stated that 2018 would see a structural shift in the stressed assets’ space as increased stringency in banks’ provisioning norms for investments in security receipts (SRs) is likely to result in more cash purchases.

“Fiscal 2018 marks beginning of third phase of ARCs which promises to change the landscape as new regulations and other changes kick-in.”

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