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No Bail For P Chidambaram; May Influence Witnesses, Says Delhi High Court

Former Union Minister P Chidamabaram might influence witnesses, the Delhi High Court said today, denying him bail in the INX media case. Mr Chidamabaram has been in Delhi's Tihar jail since last month after the Central Bureau of Investigation finished questioning him in the case.

P Chidambaram had argued that the allegations against him were not grave in nature and carry only up to 7 years' punishment.

The Central Bureau of Investigation -- which arrested him in the case in August -- contended that the "gravity of the offence has nothing to do with punishment provided... the gravity is to be judged by the impact the offence has on the society, economy, financial stability and integrity of the country".

In its order, the High Court said there is no chance of tampering of evidence, but there is a possibility that Mr Chidambaram can influence witnesses in the case.

P Chidambaram had signed off on a huge infusion of foreign funds into the firm as the finance minister in 2007. The agency has accused his son Karti Chidambaram of receiving kickbacks in the matter.

The INX Media was co-founded by Peter and Indrani Mukerjea, who are currently in jail in the case involving the murder of Indrani's daughter Sheena Bora.

Indrani Mukerjea has turned approver in the case against the Chidambarams and the investigative agencies have based their case on her testimony.

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in whose cabinet Mr Chidambaram was the finance minister, has questioned how he could be held responsible for a collective decision.

A dozen officers, including six secretaries to the government, examined and recommended the proposal. Mr Chidambaram, he said, approved the unanimous recommendation.

"If the Minister is liable for approving a recommendation, the whole system of government will collapse," he said.

Do you agree with Delhi High Court Decision?

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PM Narendra Modi, Imran Khan to face off at 74th UNGA session today

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistan counterpart Imran Khan are going to share the stage at the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Friday. This would be the first time after abrogation of Article 370 that the two leaders would be sharing the same platform.

The 74th UNGA session will start around 9:00 pm IST on Friday. There will be 112 heads of state, nearly 48 heads of government and over 30 foreign ministers present during the General Debate at UN headquarters in New York.

Tensions between India and Pakistan spiked after the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir on August 5. This decision evoked strong reactions from Pakistan, which downgraded ties with India and expelled the Indian ambassador.

Pakistan has been trying to internationalise the Kashmir issue after India withdrew the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.  However, New Delhi has asserted the abrogation of Article 370 was an 'internal matter' of India.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi boycotted Dr S Jaishankar's opening statement at the SAARC Council of foreign ministers, saying Pakistan will not engage with India until and unless it lifts the 'siege' in Kashmir.

However, Jaishankar, in a veiled attack on Pakistan stated, "Elimination of terrorism in all its forms is a "precondition" for fruitful cooperation in South Asia."

US on India-Pakistan spat over Kashmir

US President Donald Trump said he discussed Kashmir with the top leadership of India and Pakistan during his meetings with them and offered to help the two nuclear-armed neighbours with "arbitration or mediation".

"With respect to Pakistan and India, we talked about Kashmir. Whatever help I can be, I said, I offered, whether it's arbitration or mediation or whatever it has to be," Trump said in his opening remarks, offering to mediate for the fourth time.

Trump said he will "do whatever he can, because, they are at very serious odds right now and hopefully that will get better".

"You look at the two gentlemen heading those two countries, two good friends of mine. I said, fellows work it out, just work it out. Those are two nuclear countries, gotta work it out."

Do you think their face-off will settle down things?

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How P Chidambaram's legal team plans to rescue former Finance Minister

Senior Congress leader and former Finance Minister has been untraceable since 4:30 pm on Tuesday following the developments in the INX Media case. Earlier on Tuesday, the Delhi High Court dismissed Chidambaram's anticipatory bail plea. Following this, teams of CBI and ED officials reached his residence separately but were unable to find Chidambaram, who is also said to have switched off his phones. The ED issued a look-out circular in connection with the case.

However, the Congress leader's counsels are trying to rescue the former Finance Minister from this situation and have approached the Supreme Court. Sources close to his son Karti Chidambaram have told that the legal team will base their case in the Supreme Court on 10 arguments.

Firstly, both the cases - Aircel-Maxis case and INX Media - pertain to events that transpired in 2006-06 and 2007-08 for alleged amounts of Rs 26 lakh and Rs 10 lakh respectively. The pecuniary limit under the PMLA at that point was Rs 30 lakh. According to the sources, the amounts were received by companies that had neither P Chidambaram nor Karti Chidambaram as shareholders or directors and no public funds were involved.

Chidambaram's legal team is expected to highlight the transactions under question are bona fide transactions and in normal course of business would have no relation to FIPB or any government processes. The legal team is likely to claim the transactions are duly accounted, audited and disclosed in the books of all accounts and all statutory returns are registered and repeatedly scrutinised by the Income Tax department and other investigative agencies.

They would also point out that the CBI and ED have conducted search and seizure operations on four various dates in the residences and offices of the father-son duo. No incriminating information or undisclosed assets were ever found. Both of their assets and liabilities are publicly-available information as both of them are Members of Parliament. They do not own any assets other than those that have been declared in their income tax returns and election affidavits.

P Chidambaram and Karti's full cooperation with CBI and ED on numerous operations would also be brought up as they had provided all the information and documents requested from them.

CBI has not filed a chargesheet and no cognizance has been taken despite the FIRs lodged in 2012 and 2017. Neither is Chidambaram nor any senior official of the FIPB were named as accused.

The legal team is also likely to point out that the ED's case and their claims suffer from inconsistencies. No money trail has been established or linked to P Chidambaram or Karti. Karti has always maintained that he never met Indrani or Peter Mukerjea and this has been corroborated by Peter Mukerjea.

Moreover, the Delhi High Court in its order on March 23, 2018 had observed that no public official has attributed any role to either Chidambaram or his son.  The officials, in their statements recorded before the CBI and ED have categorically stated that they were never prevailed upon by Karti or any of his associates to impact their decision and that they were never approached or influenced to scuttle the probe against INX.

They are also likely to raise the point that if the Judge felt that the case was a very serious offence and if P Chidambaram was the 'kingpin', then why was the judgment reserved for seven months from January until August. P Chidambaram was never summoned by the agencies during this period.

Chidambaram's legal team further intends to emphasise that P Chidambaram and Karti Chidambaram have been on bail since March 2018. There have been no allegations that they have attempted to tamper with evidence, influence witnesses or are a flight risk. The Supreme Court has deemed it fit to allow Karti to travel abroad on many occasions.

Do you think P. Chidambaram is a corrupt politician?

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"Closed Consultation" At UN Security Council Today Over India's J&K Move

The UN Security Council will meet today to discuss India's decision to revoke Article 370, which gave special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir after Pakistan wrote a letter on the issue to the world body.

China, Pakistan's closest ally, has asked for "closed consultations" in the UN Security Council, which will meet at 10 am local time (7:30 pm IST) to discuss the matter.

A UN diplomat had told news that China had asked for closed consultations on the Security Council agenda item 'India Pakistan Question'. "The request was in reference to the Pakistani letter to the UN Security Council President," the diplomat said.

The Council's schedule said "Security Council consultations (closed) India/Pakistan", listed for 10 am.

Closed meetings are not open to the public and no verbatim record of statements is kept. Consultations are informal meetings of the Security Council members and are not covered in the Repertoire.

The Repertoire, mandated by the UN General Assembly, provides comprehensive coverage of the Security Council's interpretation and application of the United Nations Charter and its own Provisional Rules of Procedure since 1946. Its primary purpose is to provide member states, including those elected to serve on the Security Council, the United Nations system, academics and others with a source of information regarding the evolving practice of the UN Security Council.

According to UN records, the last time "the Security Council addressed the dispute between India and Pakistan over the territories of Jammu and Kashmir" under agenda item 'The India-Pakistan question' was in 1964-65. Then, by a letter dated January 16, 1964, the representative of Pakistan had requested the President of the Council to "convene an immediate meeting" of the Council to consider the Kashmir situation.

India had asserted that the Pakistani request was "a propaganda move." The issue of Kashmir was also raised under a separate agenda item 'Situation in the India/Pakistan subcontinent' in 1969-1971.

Following India's decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan formally called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss India's move, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said.

Mr Qureshi sent a formal letter to the president of the UN Security Council, Polish Ambassador Joanna Wronecka, through Pakistan's Permanent Representative at the UN Maleha Lodhi to convene the meeting. Mr Qureshi said the letter will also be shared with all members of the UNSC.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi had also air-dashed to Beijing for consultation with the Chinese leadership on the issue of raising the Kashmir issue at the UNSC. He had also said that China backed Pakistan on the issue and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told him he believed "China will stand up for justice on the Kashmir issue".

During his bilateral meeting with China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Monday in Beijing, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar conveyed that the decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir was an internal matter for India.

He said the issue related to changes in a temporary provision of the Constitution of India and was the sole prerogative of the country.

Mr Jaishankar noted that the legislative measures were aimed at promoting better governance and socio-economic development and there was no implication for either the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan or the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.

"India was not raising any additional territorial claims. The Chinese concerns in this regard were therefore misplaced," he said.

Mr Jaishankar told Mr Wang that these changes had no bearing on Pakistan as it was an internal matter.

After India revoked Jammu and Kashmir's special status on August 5 and announced the bifurcation of the state into two union territories of J&K and Ladakh, Pakistan announced that it will approach the UN Security Council against New Delhi's decision.

India has categorically told the international community that its move to scrap Article 370 of the Constitution removing the special status to Jammu and Kashmir was an internal and sovereign matter and has also advised Pakistan to "accept the reality".

Will Pakistan move the UN security council with China's support over Jammu & Kashmir?

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Sushma Swaraj Cremated With State Honours. PM, Top Leaders Present

Sushma Swara, former foreign minister and BJP veteran who died on Tuesday evening, was cremated with state honours this afternoon in the presence of top leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP patriarch LK Advani among others. Ms Swaraj's death due to a cardiac arrest has left political leaders and her legions of admirers in grief. PM Modi turned emotional this morning as he paid homage to Ms Swaraj, easily one of India's most-admired political leaders.

Her body was kept at the BJP headquarters for party workers and leaders to pay tributes and then moved to the Lodhi Crematorium where all top leaders paid their respects.

Ms Swaraj died at Delhi's All India Institute Of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) where she was taken at around 9 pm on Tuesday.

Political leaders across party lines as well as people on social media expressed shock and grief at her sudden death. President Ram Nath Kovind visited Ms Swaraj's home in central Delhi's Jantar Mantar Road to pay his last respects. He interacted with her husband Swaraj Kaushal and other family members. Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Home Minister Amit Shah also paid tribute.

Sonia Gandhi of the Congress was seen hugging Ms Swaraj's daughter Bansuri. Her son Rahul Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh too visited Ms Swaraj's home.

BJP veteran LK Advani and his daughter Pratibha, who have had a long association with Ms Swaraj, were seen in tears. 

Mr Advani, 91, said in his tribute he could not recall a single year when she missed bringing his favourite chocolate cake on his birthday. "Sushmaji was someone who I have known and worked with since the beginning of her illustrious innings in the Bharatiya Janata Party. When I was the president of the BJP in the 1980s, she was a promising young activist who I had inducted into my team", Mr Advani said.

Among other VIPs who visited Ms Swaraj's home was former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and BSP chief Mayawati, former Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, BJP lawmaker Hema Malini and yoga guru Ramdev.

Remembering the veteran politician, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a tweet last night, said a "glorious chapter in Indian politics has come to an end".

Top ministers such as Rajnath Singh, Nirmala Sitharaman, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Smriti Irani, Harsh Vardhan, Prakash Javadekar, Ramesh Pokhriyal were among those who visited the hospital last night.

"India grieves the demise of a remarkable leader who devoted her life to public service and bettering lives of the poor. Sushma Swaraj Ji was one of her kind, who was a source of inspiration for crores of people," the PM tweeted.

Ms Swaraj was one of the most senior woman leader of the BJP. Ms Swaraj leaves a legacy of an easily-accessible politician who helped the Indians abroad in distress with her quick response on Twitter to requests for help when she was the foreign minister. Even banal or joking requests drew a response from Sushma Swaraj.

The 67-year-old had not been keeping well lately, which is why she had not contested the Lok Sabha election earlier this year and opted out of PM Modi's new government. She had a kidney transplant in 2016.

With the death of Sushma Swaraj, is it an end of era for Indian politics?

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