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Gauri Lankesh killing: SIT names Hindutva outfit in additional chargesheet, says it was a 5-year plot




Bengaluru | The special investigation team (SIT) probing the killing of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh has named an organised criminal syndicate inspired by the Sanatan Sanstha in its additional chargesheet filed before a court here.

In the 9,235-page chargesheet submitted before the Principal Civil and Sessions Court here Friday evening, it was also stated that the killing of Lankesh was plotted for almost five years.

A network, inspired by the literature of the Goa-based Sanatan Sanstha, had targeted Lankesh, it said.

“Sanatan Sanstha members were involved. We have named them. We have also mentioned one of its allied organisations,” a top officer in the SIT told PTI here Saturday.

However, the SIT in a press release stated, “The investigation so far has revealed that all the 18 accused were active members of an organised crime syndicate. This syndicate was formed in 2010-11 under the leadership of Dr Virendra Tawade alias Bade Bhai Sahab. One former editor of the Sanatan Prabhat provided the financial support to this syndicate.

“The members of this organisation targeted persons who they identified to be inimical to their ideology and belief. The members strictly followed the guidelines and principles mentioned in the ‘Kshatra Dharma Sadhana’, a book published by the Sanatan Sanstha.”

Reacting to the chargesheet, the Sanatan Sanstha dismissed its alleged links with the killing of Lankesh, saying none of the accused was its members.

“None of the accused is a member of the Sanatan Sanstha. So far, the SIT has not said this officially. If it has mentioned our name in the supplementary chargesheet, we will fight it legally. So far, we have not got the copy (of the chargesheet),” Chetan Rajhans, the outfit’s head of communications, told PTI over phone.

“…other than this, if any organisation indulges in maligning the name of the organisation without proof, it will face legal consequences,” he said.

Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara, who holds the Home portfolio, said the government would soon take a call on banning organisations involved in the killing of Lankesh.

“No discussion has taken place regarding the organisations involved in the case, but we will take a decision on that shortly,” he told reporters.

The Congress leader also refused to divulge information about the progress made in the investigation.

“The killer and the killed had no personal or any other enmity. Why was she killed? Because she believed in a certain ideology and wrote and spoke about that. So, it must be an ideology and it must be an organisation,” Special Public Prosecutor S Balan told PTI.

The SIT has also sought permission to investigate the case further.

The first chargesheet in the sensational case was filed in May, eight months after 55-year-old Lankesh, known for her left-leaning and strong anti-Hindutva views, was shot dead in front of her house here on September 5 last year.

As the killing triggered a national outrage and widespread condemnation, the then Siddaramaiah-led Karnataka government had constituted the SIT to probe it.

So far, 18 people have been named as accused in the case, including shooter Parashuram Waghmare and alleged masterminds Amol Kale, Sujith Kumar alias Praveen and Amit Degwekar, SIT sources said.

The gang also allegedly had links with the killings of three other rationalists — M M Kalburgi, Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare — they added.


Delhi government unearths Rs 262 crore cyber-tax fraud: Manish Sisodia




arvind kejriwal

New Delhi | The Delhi government has unearthed a cyber-tax fraud totaling Rs 262 crore committed by over 8,700 traders who were found showing fraudulent tax deposits into 13 banks since 2013, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said Wednesday.

Sisodia, who also holds the finance portfolio, said that the Trade and Taxes Department has registered a complaint with the Delhi Police’s Economic Office Wing (EOW) for registration of FIRs into the matter.

“Delhi govt Tax authorities hv unearthed a big cyber-tax fraud. More than 8000 registered dealers have been found showing fraudulent tax deposits into 13 banks. The matter has been handed over to EOW, Delhi Police. AAP govt believes in zero tolerance to any corrupt practice (sic),” Sisodia tweeted.

Earlier in the day, the deputy chief minister said that during the scrutiny of suspected fraud transactions, it was noticed that such kind of fraud had been continuing since 2013 and it was going on until it was detected by the department.

“The government has detected cyber-tax fraud of Rs 262 crore. As per our initial investigation, around 8,700 traders were involved in the fraud. It is a very serious issue that should be investigated thoroughly by probe agencies,” he said.

Sisodia also said that the traders who were found involved in this fraud had tracked bank IDs and passwords, and also showed that they have deposited tax online, but in reality, they were not depositing tax.

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Supreme Court to hear Indigo Airlines challenging Meghalaya HC order to make Umroi airport operational




Supreme Court

New Delhi | Indigo airlines on Wednesday moved the Supreme Court challenging the Meghalaya High Court direction to all commercial operators and the Ministry of Civil Aviation to urgently take a decision to start flights from Umroi airport, 30 km from capital Shillong.

The apex court was told that the high court on its own had last week taken up the matter and asked the Director General of Civil Aviation, Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation and Airport Authority of India Chairman to hold a meeting within a week on the issue of making the airport operational.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Indigo Airlines, mentioned the petition before a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, which agreed to give it an urgent hearing on Thursday.

The bench, also comprising Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph, was told that the airport was not ready for landing of big aircraft and does not have fire-fighting facilities. “The operation can’t start,” Rohatgi submitted before the bench.

The high court on December 7 had directed that the exercise for taking decision to make operational the airport has to be completed within seven days and had posted the matter for further hearing on December 14.

Besides Indigo, other operators were also represented by their advocates before the high court. The brief hearing also witnessed lighter moments when the bench told Rohatgi that he will now be identified as as Indigo’s counsel. “You will have tremendous disadvantage,” the CJI said indicating there would be lot of requests to him.

When Rohatgi mentioned the matter, the CJI asked him “Who are you?”  He replied “I am Indigo.”

“We are always going to remember you are Indigo. You may have tremendous disadvantage since you are Indigo,” Justice Gogoi said evoking quick response from Rohtagi that “I will get it fixed if there are difficulties”.

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J&K Bank Under Siege

Ali Azar



J&K Bank

At a time when the banking sector is heavily in focus for all the wrong reasons and a valiant effort is being made to cleanse it of all its wrong-doing over decades, every move is scrutinized with greater detail in a sector that is in the midst of a massive overhaul. The sector has seen it all – new regulations such as IBC, mergers, bailouts, scandals, scams, swindles; basically the whole lot, or so we thought. The latest to come our way from the stables of the beleaguered industry is a little known but hotly contested takeover by the government of Jammu and Kashmir Bank.

The state of Jammu and Kashmir is special in so many ways – from it being granted autonomous status by virtue of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution to being famous for its beautiful mountainous landscape and numerous shrines to being the only Indian state to have a Muslim majority, one thing is for certain; Jammu and Kashmir does it differently. Keeping in tune with this theme, the state’s premier institution and its only listed company; Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Bank is indeed an example of this uniqueness. J&K Bank, incorporated in 1938 is the only bank in the country to be majority owned and controlled by the state government instead of the central government. 59.3% of this bank by virtue of its shareholding belongs to the government of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, in all public sector banks, it is the central government that holds a majority stake, as banking is a central subject. The Srinagar headquartered bank is classified as an “old private sector bank” even though the government owns a majority stake. The important implications of this structure is that financial control of J&K Bank lies within the authority of the state and the bank does not come under the auspices of the right to information act (RTI Act) and central vigilance commission (CVC), an apex body created to address governmental corruption.

On the fateful day of 22nd November 2018 the State Administrative Council (SAC) under the chairmanship of Governor Satya Pal Malik approved an eyebrow-raising decision when it announced that J&K Bank Ltd. would be made into a public sector undertaking thereby becoming accountable to the state legislature and being brought under the purview of RTI Act and CVC. The announcement drew a tremendous amount of flak and kicked up a political storm with all major political parties from the valley including former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP), National Conference (NC) and Peoples Conference (PC) voicing their discontentment. Further, The Kashmir Economic Alliance (KEA), a collection of trade unions in the valley has threatened a statewide agitation if the decision was not rolled back.

But what is the big deal in converting an organisation whose majority is already held by the government into a public sector unit and make them more accountable and transparent? If one ponders into the realm of the unsaid the answers are not very difficult to stumble upon. For a bank whose network comprises 924 computerised branches spread over 24 states across the country and controls over 60% loans and deposits in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the bank is a treasure trove for any political party that is given the keys to its financial machinery. Extending questionable loans and advances is well within the realm of any political party. The bank is also not a stranger to accusations of lack of transparency in its operations with the latest being a controversy triggered by an appointment of 582 candidates believed to be politically motivated. In the light of these facts and to ensure that the bank is being managed under the supervision of the centre, just as all other PSUs are, it can perhaps be concluded that Governor Satya Pal Malik’s intention to bring the bank within the centre’s control is bona fide. But in the corridors of Indian politics things are seldom what they are projected to be.

The circumstances under which this decision was made is also a matter of contention. After BJP broke its alliance with PDP in Kashmir and Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti resigned, President Ram Nath Kovind imposed Governor’s rule in the state on June 20th 2018 for the eighth time in its history. Kashmir being Kashmir, the element of uniqueness is not far behind. In normal cases, in a situation where the state government collapses for lack of majority, President’s rule is imposed. In Kashmir, an additional layer is provided by virtue of its separate constitution. Therefore, Governor’s rule is imposed for a period of 6 months and only after this period of 6 months; the state is placed under President’s rule. It is within this 6 month window when the Governor, who is a BJP leader and is not answerable to the joint forces of the PDP and BJP, attempted to take control of the crown jewel of the state, J&K Bank. It is feared that once the bank becomes a PSU, there are concerns that it will be open to interference by centre on issues of recruitment, lending and loan settlement. Besides, the track records of PSU banks in the country is not desirable, with most of them being mismanaged and loss-making and are placed under various lending restrictions (PCA framework etc). Further, some were even of the opinion that the governor was beyond his authority in making such a decision, as usually, no major operational decision is taken under governor’s rule and the governor, in this case, was thought to be acting like the Chief Minister.

After prolonged protests from various quarters of the state including political parties, unions, separatist leaders, trade and industry bodies and employees, Governor Satya Pal Malik decided against this takeover and announced that “no changes are being made here or announced” and this decision would be kept on the back burner for now, to the relief of many concerned parties. Although for now this controversial decision was reversed, facts surrounding the incident still beget the question, what was the intention of this move and who would be the ultimate benefactor?

After prolonged protests from various quarters of the state including political parties, unions, separatist leaders, trade and industry bodies and employees, Governor Satya Pal Malik decided against this takeover and announced that “no changes are being made here or announced” and this decision would be kept on the back burner for now, to the relief of many concerned parties. Although for now this controversial decision was reversed, facts surrounding the incident still beget the question, what was the intention of this move and who would be the ultimate benefactor?


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