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News Highlights 1st June 2018

  1. Provisional estimates: Good rabi crop, an uptick in factory output lift GDP up to 7.7%

Boosted by an uptick in the manufacturing and construction sectors, and a good rabi harvest, India’s real gross domestic product (GDP) surged to a seven-quarter high of 7.7 percent in January-March, the last quarter of the 2017-18 financial year. The provisional estimates of GDP, released by Central Statistics Office (CSO) The country had recorded GDP growth of 7.1 percent in the previous financial year (2016-17). Growth is projected to rebound to 7.5 percent this year.

On Wednesday, Moody’s Investors Service cut its 2018 GDP growth outlook for India to 7.3 percent from its earlier estimate of 7.5 percent, citing surging oil prices and tighter financial conditions.

According to the latest data, GDP growth rate for all three previous quarters of 2017-18 has been revised downward from the second advance estimate released in February. The GDP growth rate for April-June has been revised lower to 5.6 percent from 5.7 percent in the second advance estimate, for July-September to 6.3 percent from 6.5 percent and for October-December to 7.0 percent from 7.2 percent estimated earlier.

The provisional estimate for Gross Value Added (GVA) — the more closely watched indicator for growth — is estimated at 6.5 percent in 2017-18, slightly higher than the 6.4 percent rate of the second advance estimate, but down from 7.1 percent in the previous financial year and the lowest in five years.

As per the new methodology followed by the CSO, the GDP is calculated by adding product taxes to the GVA at basic prices and removing subsidies.

Union Minister Piyush Goyal, said

“the 7.7 percent GDP growth in the fourth quarter of 2017-18 showed that the economy was on right track for higher growth in the future.”

Finance and Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia said that “The constant increasing trend of quarterly GDP numbers in the four quarters of 2017-18 at 5.6%, 6.3%, 7% and 7.7% indicates that the structural measures of reforms undertaken by the government are now bringing rich dividends in the form of higher GDP growth rate. What is most noticeable is the increase in the growth rate of GVA of the manufacturing sector in the last two quarters of 2017-18 at 8.5% and 9.1% at the constant price. We would like to believe that GST has given a big boost to the industrial sector,”

Sector-wise data showed that the agriculture sector recorded a GVA growth of 4.5 percent in January-March, higher than 3.1 percent in the previous quarter but lower than 7.1 percent growth in the same period in 2016-17.

Manufacturing sector GVA growth recorded an uptick at 9.1 percent in January-March, higher than 8.5 percent in October-December and 6.1 percent in January-March 2016-17. For the whole financial year, manufacturing sector’s GVA growth slowed to 5.7 percent from 7.9 percent a year ago. Agriculture sector grew 3.4 percent in 2017-18 as against 6.3 percent in 2016-17, while construction sector growth improved to 5.7 percent from 1.3 percent a year ago.

Though GVA growth for mining and quarrying sector rose to 2.7 percent in January-March from 1.4 percent in the previous quarter, it was lower than the double-digit growth rate of 18.8 percent in the corresponding period in the previous financial year.

The construction sector recorded a significant improvement, helped by a low base, with a GVA growth rate of 11.5 percent in January-March as against 6.6 percent in the previous quarter and a contraction of 3.9 percent in the last quarter of 2016-17 fiscal. Public administration, defense sector grew at 13.3 percent in the fourth quarter as against 7.7 percent in the previous quarter and 16.4 percent in previous year.

  1. India-Singapore relation ‘warmest and closest’: PM Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday hailed the “warmest and closest” relationship between India and Singapore, saying the two lions (countries) shall step into the future together.

PM Modi, who arrived in Singapore on the last leg of his three-nation tour earlier today, said that

the defense relations between the two countries are among the strongest and the two sides are building a “partnership of our age.”

“Political relations between India and Singapore are among the warmest and closest. There are no contests or claims, no irritants or doubts. It is a natural partnership from a shared vision,” Modi told the Indian diaspora at a Business and Community Event at Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre here.

PM Modi further added, “When India opened up to the world and turned to the East, Singapore became a partner and a bridge between India and ASEAN.”

Stating that India often hosts Singaporean naval ships, PM Modi said the two nations speak in one voice at international forums.

“Two lions (India and Singapore) shall step into the future together,” he said.

He said that India has moved up 42 places in ease of doing business and scrapped 1,400 outdated laws.

  1. Kerala HC couple allows Muslim teenage couple to stay together

In a landmark verdict, the Kerala High Court on Friday declined to separate an 18-year-old boy and 19-year-old girl who were in a live-in relationship, saying it cannot close its eyes to the fact that such relationships have become rampant in society.

A division bench of Justices V Chitambaresh and K P Jyothindranath pronounced the judgment while dismissing a habeas corpus petition filed by the girl’s father. The Supreme Court had recently held that an adult couple has a right to live together without marriage while asserting that a 20-year-old Kerala woman, whose marriage had been annulled, could choose whom she wanted to live with.

FACTS

In his petition, the girl’s father alleged that his daughter was in the illegal custody of the boy. Both the girl and the boy are Muslims and hail from Alappuzha district. Dismissing the plea, the bench said it cannot close its eyes to the fact that live-in relationships have become rampant in society and such partners cannot be separated by the writ of habeas corpus.

The bench, while considering the fact that she stayed with the boy for quite some time and she is a major, allowed her to continue living with the youth.

The Supreme Court has held that live-in relationships were now even recognized by the legislature and they had found a place under the provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

The observations came while the apex court was hearing a plea filed by one Nandakumar against a Kerala High Court order annulling his marriage with Thushara on the ground that he had not attained the legal age of marriage.

Prohibition of Child Marriage Act states that a girl can’t marry before the age of 18, and a boy before 21. The high court had also granted the custody of Thushara to her father after noting that she was not Nandakumar’s “lawfully wedded” wife.

A bench of justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan said their marriage could not be said to be “null and void” merely because Nandakumar was less than 21 years of age at the time of marriage. The apex court had also clarified that a court cannot interfere in the marriage of two consenting adults and cannot annul the marriage in a habeas corpus (a writ requiring a person under arrest to be brought before a judge or into court, for securing the person’s release) petition.

  1. Delhi High Court grants interim bail to firm’s director in coal scam case

The Delhi High Court Friday granted interim bail to a director of Gondwana Ispat Ltd, who was convicted and sentenced to four years in jail in a case relating to the allocation of a coal block in Maharashtra.

Justice S P Garg granted the interim relief to Ashok Daga till July 23, while directing him to deposit Rs 1-crore fine amount imposed on him by the trial court.

The interim bail was granted to the convict in the coal scam case after senior counsel Mohit Mathur submitted that Daga’s daughter was in a family way and as the delivery could happen any time now, he wished to be with her.

CONTENTIONS OF CBI

Senior Advocate R S Cheema, appearing for the Central Bureau of Investigation, said he has no objection to Daga being granted the interim relief till the next date of hearing if the convict deposits the fine amount.

Justice Garg directed Daga to deposit the fine amount within three weeks and also asked him to furnish a personal bond of Rs 50,000 and a surety of the like amount.

It listed the matter for July 23 when the court will hear his pending regular bail plea. The court had earlier sought the response of the CBI on the appeal by Daga challenging his conviction and sentence in the case. He has also sought suspension of his jail term till the pendency of his appeal.

The CBI had said in its charge sheet that it had found during the probe that Daga had made “unsubstantiated claim even towards the financial preparedness and the tie-up regarding iron ore with the Odisha government”.

According to the CBI, on April 22, 2000, Daga had applied to the Ministry of Coal (MoC) for allotment of the Ekarjuna Extension coal block in Maharashtra to set up a washery- cum-sponge iron plant of 60,000 tonnes per year capacity in Warora area. This application was rejected.

A trial court had on May 1 awarded the four-year jail term to Daga while imposing the fine of Rs 1 crore on him and Rs 60 lakh on the firm. The convict has been in custody since April 27 after the court had held that he and the company were guilty of cheating and criminal conspiracy in getting the Majra coal block in Maharashtra allocated to the firm.

CHARGES

The director and the company were convicted under sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and 420 (cheating) of the IPC and also for the substantive offense under section 420 of the IPC. Gondwana Ispat Ltd (GIL) was allocated the Majra coal block in 2003 and an FIR was lodged against it in 2014.

On September 25, 2001, Daga applied for allotment of Warora West coal block in Maharashtra to set up 1.2 lakh tonne per annum washery-cum-sponge iron plant. The CBI had said that in continuation of its earlier application, GIL requested the MoC to consider the allotment of Majra-Belgaon coal blocks, having an extractable reserve of 8 to 10 million tonnes as an alternate to the Warora North coal block.

The MoC, in its 18th Screening Committee meeting held on May 5, 2003, considered the application of GIL and Chandrapur Ispat Ltd for allocation of Majra-Belgaon coal block.

The agency had said that based on the documents and representation submitted by the company, the ministry on October 29, 2003, reserved Majra coal block for GIL subject to certain conditions.

The CBI had said that after the allocation of the coal block in 2003, Daga had given an undertaking to the MoC that he will install a plant or carry out its extension and develop the coal mine, but he sold off the company to Nand Kishore Sarda while earning a huge profit in October 2005.

  1. IPL betting case: Actor Arbaaz Khan summoned by Thane Police

Actor-turned producer Arbaaz Khan was summoned by Thane Police Friday in connection with an IPL betting case, news agency ANI reported. Khan has been directed to appear before the police for a joint investigation on Saturday.

The summon against the actor came after a bookie, Sonu Jalan, was arrested by the Thane anti-extortion cell from Kalyan Tuesday, on charges of betting. Jalan has been sent to police custody till June 2.

Pradeep Sharma, senior inspector of the anti-extortion cell, had said, “We have booked him (Jalan) on betting charges. But we are, in a way, trying to trace his underworld connections to Dawood Ibrahim. It has come to our notice that Jalan assisted Dawood in fixing matches.”

According to Sharma, Jalan had just returned from Dubai after meeting a Dawood aide. “He even has links in Pakistan, Afghanistan and other countries. We are interrogating him about these links and about his money.”

Jalan also used to work for Mumbai-based businessmen, “Jalan was close to several high-profile people. In case, other law-enforcement agencies want his custody, we will help,” an officer had said.

  1. Rival Koreas agree to military, Red Cross talks for peace

North and South Korea on Friday agreed to hold military and Red Cross talks later this month on reducing tensions and resuming reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

The rivals also agreed at a meeting of senior officials at the border village of Panmunjom to establish a liaison office at the North Korean border town of Kaesong and hold sports talks on fielding combined teams for some sports at the Asian Games in August, as they continue to take steps toward reconciliation.

South Korea says building trust with North Korea is crucial amid a US-led diplomatic push to persuade the North to give up its nuclear weapons.

The high-level meeting between the Koreas followed talks in New York between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and senior North Korean envoy Kim Yong Chol on a possible summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

American delegations are also meeting with North Koreans at Panmunjom and in Singapore as part of efforts to plan the summit, which may take place June 12 in Singapore.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry said the Koreas agreed to set up the liaison office at a factory park in Kaesong that had been jointly operated by the countries until the South shut it down in February 2016 after a North Korean nuclear test. The Koreas agreed to hold the military talks at Panmunjom on June 16 and the Red Cross talks on June 22 at the North’s Diamond Mountain resort.

The talks between sports officials were set for June 18 at Panmunjom, the ministry said.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who met with Kim Jong Un twice in the past two months, has said progress in inter-Korean reconciliation will be a crucial part of international efforts to resolve the nuclear standoff with North Korea because the North won’t give up its nuclear program unless it feels its security is assured.

Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the North Korean agency that deals with inter-Korean affairs, told Cho at the start of the meeting that the rivals should work on building “trust and consideration for each other” to carry out the agreements forged at the recent inter-Korean summits.

When Moon and Kim met for their first summit at Panmunjom on April 27, they spoke of vague aspirations for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and permanent peace, which Seoul has tried to sell as a meaningful breakthrough that increases the chances of successful nuclear negotiations between Trump and Kim.

But relations chilled when North Korea canceled an inter-Korean meeting and threatened to walk away from the summit with Trump because of the South’s participation in regular military exercises with the United States and comments from US officials.

Trump canceled the summit, then said it may still take place, shortly before Kim and Moon met again and agreed to resume high-level talks between their countries.

Talking to South Korean reporters ahead of today’s meeting, Ri seemed irritated when asked whether North Korea sees its grievances as resolved, saying reporters must ask questions that “meet the demand of changing times.” When asked about the potential Trump-Kim meeting, Ri replied: “Go fly to Singapore to ask that question. This is Panmunjom.”

  1. Pakistan’s ex-chief justice Nasirul Mulk takes oath as caretaker Prime Minister

Former chief justice Nasirul Mulk today took oath as Pakistan’s seventh caretaker prime minister until general elections on July 25 to oversee the second-ever democratic transition of power in the country ruled by the powerful army for much of its life since it gained independence 70 years ago.

President Mamnoon Hussain administered the oath to 67-year-old Mulk, who was unanimously nominated for the post by both the government and opposition, with former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi describing the retired judge as a someone whose appointment “no one would object to”

Last week, Leader of the Opposition Khursheed Shah made the announcement at a press conference here which was attended by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq.

The present government will complete the tenure on May 31 and the caretaker government will remain in office until a new government is elected. The caretaker administration will not make any major decisions.

The oath-taking ceremony comes hours after the third National Assembly in a row managed to complete its five-year constitutional term.

However, it is only the second National Assembly under the civilian rule which completed its tenure, as the one which came into existence in 2002 continued to function under the former President Pervez Musharraf.

The three National Assemblies have elec­ted seven prime ministers over the last 16 years, the report said.

Justice Mulk is one of the seven judges who signed a restraining order on November 3, 2007, when Musharraf imposed emergency and forcibly sent the judges home.

The job of the caretaker prime minister is to keep the country running between the dissolution of parliament and the new government being sworn in.

Mulk was born on August 17, 1950, in Mingora, Swat, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. He worked as lawyer and judge for several years before his appointment as the 22nd Chief Justice of Pakistan in 2014.

In its 70-year-long history, the country experienced its first democratic transition of power in 2013, when Pakistan Peoples Party handed over the power to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which had won the general elections.

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