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Current Affairs - 06 April 2018

General Affairs 

Aadhaar Unable To Stop Banking Frauds, Says Supreme Court
  • Disagreeing with the centre's contention that Aadhaar has helped curb financial irregularities, the Supreme Court today said the biometric ID has been unable to stop banking frauds.

    The remark comes against the backdrop of a spate of multi-crore bank frauds, including the one linked to celebrity designer Nirav Modi, who has been accused of defrauding the state-run Punjab National Bank (PNB) to the tune of over Rs. 11,000 crore.

    Aadhaar is not a catch for all frauds, said Justice DY Chandrachud, one of the five judges hearing a clutch of petitions challenging the programme.

    "When loans are given by a bank, you know the person. The loan does not become a Non Performing Asset (NPA) unless banks are hand-in-glove. NPAs occur because banks haven't taken due diligence, which ought to have been carried out," remarked Justice AK Sikri, another judge on the constitution bench.

    Attorney General KK Venugopal agreed with the court's view, saying, "If there was due diligence at the bank level, incidents like Nirav Modi would not have happened".
    nirav modi
    Nirav Modi left India in January this year, weeks before the banking fraud was detected

    The billionaire jeweller is accused of gaining fraudulent letters of undertaking from one of the PNB branches in Mumbai to raise overseas credit from other Indian lenders.

    Defending the government's decision to link bank accounts with Aadhaar, Mr Venugopal argued that the move has prevented money laundering to the extent of thousands of crores, identified shell companies and curbed benami transactions.

    "If Aadhaar is linked to bank accounts, whenever there is a transaction it will be revealed," he submitted.

    Asserting that Aadhaar doesn't violate the right to privacy, Mr Venugopal said, "What's the use of fundamental right to privacy when people are starving?"

    His comments drew a sharp response from the court that said a person cannot give up one right to available the benefits of another.

    "If we go by your logic, can a person say give me food, clothing and shelter, and I will be your slave," asked Justice Sikri.

    The response from the attorney general was brief: "Slavery has been abolished long ago".

Regrettable That Women Not Given Their Due In Business Arena: President Kovind
  • President Ram Nath Kovind today said it was regrettable that women have not been given their due in the business arena, and asked India Inc to take determined steps towards creating gender-sensitive supply chains.

    Delivering the keynote address at the annual session of FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO) in Delhi, the President said that women constitute half our country. They contribute to our economy at work and at home, in many diverse ways. Yet, when it comes to business, it is regrettable that they have not been given their due.

    Author-entrepreneur Twinkle Khanna, producer Ekta Kapoor and scientist Tessy Thomas are among the nine extraordinary women achievers who received the FLO Icon award at a function graced by the President in Delhi.

    "We need to create conditions for more and more of our daughters and sisters to come into the workforce. We need to push harder to ensure appropriate, encouraging and safe conditions at home, in society and at the work-place to enhance the percentage of working women," President Kovind said.

    He stated that the corporate sector must take determined steps towards creating women-friendly and gender-sensitive supply chains to empower women in our economy, rather than just accommodate them.

    The President said that if more women become part of the workforce, both household incomes and our GDP will rise. We will become a more prosperous nation. Much greater than that, we will become a more equal society, he said.

    He stressed that we need to take the magic of entrepreneurship to (and facilitate the start-ups of) our sisters and daughters at the bottom of the pyramid.

    The President said that the government has taken decisive steps to promote a culture of enterprise among ordinary citizens, especially women. The Stand-Up India initiative was launched in April 2016 to encourage entrepreneurship among women, SCs and STs. About 45,000 loans have been disbursed, mainly to sole proprietors.

    "Almost 39,000 of these have gone to women an overwhelming proportion. Under the MUDRA scheme, over the past three financial years, about 117 million loans have been sanctioned," President Kovind said.

    Close to 88 million of these loans have gone to women entrepreneurs and he was happy to note that, as of December 2017, the number of NPAs in the MUDRA scheme is less than eight per cent of the loans sanctioned.

    The President urged the members of FLO to see how they can make these businesses largely run by women integral to their value chains. How they can partner these start-ups as vendors, ancillaries, suppliers, distributors or in any other form.

    The President said that this is a moment of enormous opportunities for India. If our institutions and our society can be true to both the letter of the law and the spirit of justice, we can help every Indian realise her potential. And we can construct a developed India.

    "There may be disagreement, but there must be respect for the other person's dignity. Dignity and civility; order and rule of law; fairness and justice; entrepreneurship and aspirations we have to achieve all of these. We cannot pick and choose," he said.

Venkiah Naidu Corrects Rajya Sabha Records Over Anti-Corruption Bill
  • Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkiah Naidu today corrected the House records to state that a Bill to amend the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 has not been passed by the Lok Sabha yet.

    This happened Sukhendu Shekhar Roy of Trinamool Congress raised the issue through a point of order, saying Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P J Kurien should recall his statement of yesterday that the Bill he has allowed the minister to move has been passed by the Lok Sabha and transmitted to this House.

    Mr Roy said the Bill was brought to the Rajya Sabha on August 19, 2013 and was referred to a parliamentary standing committee for scrutiny.

    The panel submitted its report a year later but the legislation was referred to a Select Committee of Rajya Sabha, which submitted its report on August 11, 2016, he said, adding the government brought the Bill to the House on April 4, 2018.

    The bill was not passed by Lok Sabha.

    The TMC leader said the order passed by the Chair yesterday was under wrong premise and he should recall it.

    Correcting the record, Mr Naidu said the Bill to amend the anti-corruption law was the one reported by the Select Committee of the House.

    Opposition members protested the attempts by the government to mislead the House on the issue as some ministers had also said that the Bill had been passed by the Lok Sabha.

    But the issue was lost in the din created by other opposition parties raising issues ranging from special category status to Andhra Pradesh to the constitution of Cauvery Water Management Board.

    Mr Naidu had to adjourn the proceedings in wake of the slogan shouting by the opposition members.

    Mr Roy had yesterday sought a division of vote on introduction of the Bill. But due to din and members raising slogans from the Well, Kurien could not take up the division that could have paved the way for introducion and subsequent passage of the Bill.

Facebook's Big Focus On India Elections, Says Mark Zuckerberg
  • Facebook has deployed technology tools like artificial intelligence and thousands of people to work on security as the company's "major focus" this year is to protect the integrity of upcoming elections in several countries, including India, on its platform, its founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said.

    Terming 2018 a "big year" for elections, Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook was enhancing its security features to prevent trolls from spreading information.

    The social media giant has been slammed over a major data breach scandal by Cambridge Analytica, a British firm linked to Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

    "In the US Senate Alabama special election last year, we successfully deployed some new artificial intelligence (AI) tools that removed Macedonian trolls who were trying to spread information during the election. We now have about 15,000 people working on security and content review and we'll have more than 20,000 by the end of this year," Mark Zuckerberg told reporters during a conference call on Tuesday.

    "This is going to be a big year for elections ahead with the US midterms and elections in India, Brazil, Mexico, Pakistan, Hungary and others. This is going to be a major focus for us," he said.

    Several states like Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh are scheduled to go for polls this year and the general elections are due in a little over a year from now.

    A day earlier, Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook had taken big steps by taking down Russia's Internet Research Agency (IRA) pages that were targeting the US.

    "Since we became aware of their activity after the 2016 US elections, we've been working to root out the IRA and protect the integrity of elections around the world," he said.

    "There have been a number of important elections that we've focused on. A few months after the 2016 elections, there was a French presidential election and leading up to that we deployed some new AI tools that took down more than 30,000 fake accounts," he said.

    In German election, the company developed a new playbook for working with the local election commission on share information on threats it received, he said.

    "We have more work to do here and we're going to continue working very hard to defend against them. There's the Mexican presidential election, there are big elections in India and Brazil as well as in Pakistan and Hungary and a number of other countries and the US midterms, of course," he said.

    The Facebook CEO pointed out three different types of activity that required different strategies for fighting.

    Economic actors, who are basically spammers; the second are governments trying to interfere in elections, and then the third is just polarisation and sometimes lack of truthfulness in what you've described as the media, he said.

    "If we just make it so that the economics stop working for them then they'll move on to something else. I mean, these are literally the same type of people who had been sending you Viagra e-mails in the '90s. We can attack it on both sides. on the revenue side, we make it so that they can't run the Facebook ad network," he said.

    The second category are the national security type issues, Mark Zuckerberg said, adding that is the Russian election interference.

    "In order to solve that, what we need to do is to identify these bad actors...What we need to do is to just track that really carefully in order to just be able to remove it from Facebook entirely," he said.

    Mark Zuckerberg alleged that some media organisations that are sanctioned news outlets in Russia when investigated closely over time, clearly come out as organisations completely owned, controlled and operated by the IRA.

"Yogi Adityanath Threw Me Out," Dalit BJP Lawmaker Complains To PM Modi
  • A Dalit parliamentarian of the ruling BJP in Uttar Pradesh has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi complaining against Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. Chhote Lal Kharwar, 45, has alleged that he met the chief minister twice, but was "scolded and thrown out".

    Prime Minister Modi has reportedly assured him that action will be taken.

    Chhote Lal represents Uttar Pradesh's Robertsganj constituency. His complaint has emerged days after the ruling party faced massive Dalit protests across the nation, in which 11 people were killed. Dalit groups were protesting against a Supreme Court order that they feared weakened a law that protects them from atrocities.

    Chhote Lal has reportedly complained to PM Modi that he was facing discrimination by the administration in his constituency and his complaints were not being heard by his own party.

    His letter names Yogi Adityanath, state BJP chief Mahendra Nath Pandey and another leader, Sunil Bansal. He has also complained to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

    chhote lal complaint letter to pm modi
    Chhote Lal's letter to PM Narendra Modi in which he complains about Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath

    "You see, I exhausted all my options internally within the party, that is why I went to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes. You please check at the local level and see if you can find any instances of wrongdoing against me. If not, then why is this happening?" .

    In his letter, he says he had been raising instances of rampant corruption in the district administration and forest department in the Chandauli district near his constituency for nearly three years. After Yogi Adityanath came to power last year, he said, he had hoped that the situation would be remedied but nothing was done. Rather, his land was shown as encroached forest land by the administration.

    He has also written that local BJP leaders have been working against him and his brother, who is a local politician, and are colluding with rival parties.

    The MP had surfaced last year in a controversial video in which he was seen making derogatory comments against the police. He was accusing the police and officials of bias towards a rival candidate in a local election.

Business Affairs

Cryptocurrency guru arrested for bitcoin-based ponzi schemes; scam could run into Rs 13,000 crore
  • Touted as a cryptocurrency guru in India, businessman and bitcoin entrepreneur Amit Bhardwaj has been arrested for allegedly scamming investors out of Rs 2,000 crore in Maharashtra alone. One of the biggest Indian names in the digital-currency market, Bhardwaj, ran a slew of ventures, including GainBitcoin, GBMiners, MCAP and GB21.

    GBMiners was billed as the pioneer of bitcoin mining in India, the biggest in the world outside of China. Bhardwaj's book Cryptocurrency for Beginners was promoted on social media by Bollywood actors Shilpa Shetty, Neha Dhupia and Huma Qureshi. His events in Dubai were attended by celebrities like Sunny Leone and Prachi Desai. Bhardwaj, who went into a hiding almost a year ago, was arrested at the Bangkok airport on Wednesday evening and later brought to Pune to face the trial.

    THE FRAUD AND ITS MODUS OPERANDI

    The cryptocurrency entrepreneur is accused of cheating investors with his bitcoin-based Ponzi schemes. Highly-placed officials involved in investigations told India Today that Bhardwaj's alleged scam could run between Rs 5,000 crore and Rs 13,000 crore. The suspect, unlike other fraudsters, used a flash drive to store the cryptocurrency investment, the sources revealed.

    According to the complainants, he harnessed celebrity popularity and his technological know-how to lure gullible middle-class investors. Bhardwaj, said a senior investigator, presented himself as an entrepreneur of a different league. His background served as a bonus for him to project his business as a smart start-up, according to the sources.

    An alumnus of Nanded's MGM College of Engineering, Bhardwaj worked with India's premiere IT firm, Infosys, before starting his own business. He launched the country's first bitcoin-based online retailer, called named HighKart. Bhardwaj was last seen in India speaking at an ASSOCHAM event in March 2017 on the "State of Cryptocurrency".

    According to police complaints, the arrested suspect had adopted a multi-level marketing (MLM) model to draw investors to bitcoins. He first launched GBMiners and, in December 2015, rolled out GainBitcoin, a bitcoin-based investment option promising monthly returns of 10 per cent. In May 2017, Bhardwaj announced the launch of his own cryptocurrency token called MCAP as a payout option to its investors. MCAP was introduced as a more lucrative alternative to bitcoin. According to complainants, terms and condition on the GainBitcoin website were changed overnight to replace bitcoin with MCAP as the only mode of payout to investors.

    Soon, the GainBitcoin website was closed down purportedly for maintenance. Bhardwaj, who had already left India, stopped entertaining phone calls from his Indian investors, the complainants allege. According to Maharashtra's minister of state for home, Ranjit Patil, the suspect swindled around Rs 2,000 crore from various cities of the state through this crypto projects.

    A SCAM WITH PAKISTANI LINKS

    But the actual size of the fraud could be much bigger, given the scale of Bhardwar's operations. His business, investigators say, grew rapidly from India to the UAE, Russia, Ukraine, Hong Kong, Indonesia to Venezuela. On March 16, India Today approached Bhardwaj for his response a series of accusations against him, but he didn't respond to the texts and phone calls.  Rather, he blocked the correspondent's number on WhatsApp.

    Intelligence sources familiar with the investigations say Bhardwaj's suspected links with Pakistanis would also be probed. "He was helped in Dubai by people with Pakistani connections. The nature and extent of their involvement is being investigated. But the fact that such a large amount of money was swindled in the form of cryptocurrency to Dubai and that our agencies were able to bring him back is a matter of great satisfaction," an intelligence official said.

    Pankaj Ghode, a consultant with the Pune police, told India Today "we are waiting to get our hands on the physical data and after that we would be able to figure out the exact number of bitcoins involved in this case. But we estimate that it could be anything between one lakh to five lakh bitcoins."

    The value of one bitcoin, as of now, stands at around Rs 4.30 lakh, fluctuations aside. Sources in the Delhi police, which is also probing the fraud, says Bhardwaj's companies collectively control almost two per cent of the world's total hash power in the cryptocurrency market.  Hash rate or hash power, in common language, is the unit of measurement for the amount of computing power bitcoin network consumes in order to be continuously operational.  
    "It's virtually impossible to estimate the exact amount of money involved in this process because it is in cryptocurrency.  But a rough calculation would put the total money between Rs 5000 crores and Rs Rs 13,000 crore," said a Delhi-based investigator familiar with the case.

    HOW FRAUD WAS UNEARTHED

    Last year, Bhardwaj joined the club of fugitives like Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallya, who fled India to escape potential arrest for financial frauds. Only a handful of investors mustered the courage to go after him when all of his schemes turned out to be phoney. Most of them chose to remain silent, fearing counter-action as their investments fell outside of the legal realm. Parvendra Singh, a Nanded-based businessman, was the first complainant in India to get an FIR registered against Bhardwaj.  "I struggled for months to explain this case to different authorities -- from talking to local police to writing to the RBI, SEBI, the HMO and the PMO. Once I learnt that he was in Dubai I went there to meet him," Singh told India Today.

    The investor barged into a tightly-guarded Dubai event attended by a number of business people and Bollywood celebrities. "They had given codes to the invitees on WhatsApp groups and barred anybody from carrying mobile phones," Singh said. The next day, he went to meet Bhardwaj at his plush office. Singh also recorded his conversation with Bhardwaj, who allegedly bragged "it's easy for me. I can buy 150 police stations with Rs 150 crore. There won't be a single FIR". Singh returned to India and launched a campaign for Bhardwaj's arrest, using WhatsApp groups to reach out to other investors and government officials.

    Investor Yuvraj Pawar from Pune took a different route. Apart from writing to the PMO and other agencies, he approached MLAs to raise the matter in the state assembly. That prompted Maharashtra minister Ranjit Patil to inform the house about a look-out notice for Bhardwaj. Patil also announced the issue would be probed by the Enforcement Directorate. The ED registered the case under the anti-money laundering law on the basis of an FIR filed at Pune's cyber crime cell. So far, 8 people have been arrested in connection with the scam.  

    INVESTORS' STRUGGLE FOR JUSTICE

    In Kolkata, a merchant navy officer, Rajiv Kumar, struggled for months to get heard for losing investments to Bhardwaj's fraudulent ventures. "When I first approached the police in Kolkata, I was treated as a suspect. I was questioned for hours and was eventually told that I should register an FIR at my home town," he told India Today.

    In Delhi, businessman Guru Diwan, who had invested Rs 1.75 lakh in Bhardwaj's cryptocurrency platform, didn't file any police complaint. "There are hundreds of people like me in the city who are scared to file a complaint," he told India Today.  

FM Arun Jaitley suffering from kidney-related ailment, may undergo transplant
  • Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday evening tweeted that he is suffering from a kidney ailment and may have to undergo a possible transplant. The 65-year-old BJP leader said he was working from a controlled environment from home. "I am being treated for kidney related problems & certain infections that I have contracted. I am therefore currently working from controlled environment at home. The future course of my treatment would be determined by the doctors treating me."

    Jaitley had skipped office since Monday and even oath of office after being re-elected to the Rajya Sabha, was taken to AIIMS for diagonostic tests, PTI reported. Jaitley had recently cancelled his visit to London, where was scheduled to go for the 10th India-UK Economic and Financial Dialogue. Jaitley had also undergone a bariatric surgery in 2014, in which he was treated for weight gain due to his diabetic condition.

    A source at AIIMS said the minister is likely to undergo kidney transplant and it is learnt that formalities for a donor kidney have been completed. The minister did not elaborate on the ailment, but said he is "currently working from controlled environment at home. The future course of my treatment would be determined by the doctors treating me".

    Depending on doctors' advice, he may be admitted to the Cardio-Neuro Tower at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) here. The centre is housed in a separate building and is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment. He is likely to be operated by nephrologist Dr Sandeep Guleria from Apollo hospital, also brother of AIIMS director Randeep Guleria, who is a family friend of Jaitley. The minister, however, has not yet been hospitalised but has been advised to avoid going out in public for fear of catching infection.

    Sources said Jaitley's present condition may be fallout of the bariatric surgery he had undergone soon after the BJP government came to power at the Centre in 2014. That surgery was first performed at Max Hospital, but he then had to be shifted to AIIMS because of complications. 
    Though he has not been attending office since Monday, he is clearing files from his residence, they said. The minister, who suffers from chronic diabetes, had heart surgery several years ago. He is a key member of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Cabinet and presented his fifth and the present NDA governments final full budget on February 1.

PNB scam: Gokulnath Shetty remanded to ED custody till April 11
  • A special court in Mumbai remanded former Punjab National Bank (PNB) official Gokulnath Shetty to Enforcement Directorate (ED) custody till April 11. He allegedly played a key role in the Rs 13,700-crore loan fraud while working as the deputy manager at PNB's Brady House branch.

    Shetty was arrested on Thursday by the ED after the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court on April 3 approved the agency's plea for his custody in connection with the PNB fraud case. Absconding diamantaires Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi have been named as the prime accused in this multi-crore bank fraud case.

    "He was remanded to EDs custody till April 11," PTI quoted an ED official.

    While seeking Shetty's custody, special prosecutor Hiten Venegoankar today told judge MS Azmi that Shetty apparently played a key role in the execution of the illegal transactions and was a key conspirator and actor in laundering of money. The complaint filed by PNB in this case claimed that Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi had colluded with bank officials to get loans through fraudulent Letters of Undertaking (LoU).

    As Modi and Choksi had left the country, "it is imperative for the ED to examine the accused in custody and confront him with the documents and statements of the other suspected persons," stated the ED application.

    The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had arrested Shetty, along with single window operator Manoj Kharat and Hemant Bhat, an authorised signatory of Nirav Modi Group, in February. The arrests were made based on the FIR filed by PNB with the central agency in January. He was later remanded in judicial custody.

    According to the CBI, the firms owned by Modi and Choksi obtained the LoUs fraudulently in connivance with some PNB officials. These LoUs were used to obtain credit from overseas banks, resulting in a loss of over Rs 13,700 crore to PNB.

Standard deduction of Rs 40,000 allowed on pension from ex-employers, says I-T Department
  • Pensioners can also avail the standard deduction of Rs 40,000 that was extended to salaried persons under Budget 2018-19, the taxman has clarified. The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has said that taxpayers who receive a pension from their ex-employers are also eligible for the same standard deduction as salaried persons.

    The statement comes in the light of representations received by the CBDT as to whether a taxpayer, who receives a pension from his/her former employer, shall also be eligible to claim this deduction.

    "The pension received by a taxpayer from his former employer is taxable under the head 'salaries'. Accordingly, any taxpayer who is in receipt of pension from his former employer shall be entitled to claim a deduction of Rs 40,000 or the amount of pension, whichever is less, under Section 16 of the (I-T) Act," CBDT said in a statement.

    Without changing the income tax rates and slabs, the government had introduced the Rs 40,000 standard deduction for salaried employees and pensioners in Budget 2018-19. This deduction has been introduced to replace the exemption in respect of transport and medical expenses that was given till 2017-18.

    In 2017-18, no tax was applicable on Rs 19,200 of transport allowance and medical expenditure of up to Rs 15,000. This has now been subsumed into the new standard deduction of Rs 40,000.

    The standard deduction in income tax was discontinued from the assessment year 2006-07 but was re-introduced in 2018-19 Budget.

    The standard deduction, however, will not be extended to family pension, which is pension received by the legal heirs after the pensioner passes away. The family pension is taxed under the heading income from other sources.

RBI status quo cheers Dalal Street: Sensex rises 577 points, Nifty closes 196 points higher at 10,325 as banking stocks gain
  • The Sensex and Nifty closed over 1.5% higher after interest rate sensitive stocks extended gains on Reserve Bank of India's (RBI) first monetary policy announcement for this fiscal today. The central bank kept repo rate and reverse repo rate unchanged at 6% and 5.75%, respectively.

    While the Sensex closed 1.75% or 577 points higher at 33,596 level, the Nifty ended the day 1.94% or 196 points higher to 10,325 level.

    Brokers said the RBI's decision to keep repo rate unchanged at 6 per cent was largely in line with market expectations and bolstered trading sentiments.

    The 10-year govt bond yield fell 1.71% to 7.170 after RBI lowered retail inflation target for the first half of current fiscal to 4.7-5.1 per cent on sharp moderation in food price rise and likelihood of a normal monsoon.

    In its bi-monthly policy review in February, RBI had projected inflation in the 5.1-5.6 per cent range in the first half of 2018-19.

    The dovish tone of the policy also suggested the RBI will keep rates on hold this year.  This also led to a fall in bond yields.

    Public sector banks which have a majority exposure to government bonds gained substantially as lower bond yield leads to a rise in their profitability. According to a report by India Ratings report on February 13, 2018, a rise in bond yields would lead to a considerable fall in the banks' treasury income in the March quarter, with a spillover effect in FY19.

    Banking stocks led the charge on Dalal Street with the BSE bankex rising 749 points or 2.78% to 27,693 level.

    All 10 components of the index ended in the green. Bank of Baroda (5.72%), SBI (4.66%) and ICICI Bank (3.52%) were the top gainers on the index.

    Bank Nifty too rose 2.61% or 630 points to 24,759 level.

    Jaikishan J Parmar, Research Analyst at Angel Broking said, "The good news for the markets could be that the MPC has maintained its neutral stance in the policy. That means the RBI may not be too inclined to hike repo rates unless the US Fed opts for 4 rate hikes in 2018. The MPC has maintained GDP growth projections for 2018-19 at 7.4% and the GVA at 7.2%.

    It needs to be remembered that the actual inflation trajectory will depend on the monsoons, Kharif output and oil prices. The MPC has guided inflation at 5.1% in the first half of the fiscal and 4.6% for the second half of the fiscal. The government is wary about rate hikes as it would negatively impact its borrowing program. While the vote was 5:1 in favor of status quo on rates, greater details will emerge only when the MPC minutes are made public in the third week."

    SBI (4.66%), Tata Steel (3.67%) and ICICI Bank (3.52%)  were the top Sensex gainers.

    Metal stocks too hit new highs with the BSE metal index rising 4.14% or 543 points to 13,653 level.

    Auto stocks too extended gains with Hero MotoCorp (3.11%), and MRF (3.02%)  and Exide Industries (2.45%)  rising the most on the BSE auto  index.

    The index closed 1.76% or 439 points higher at 25,323 level.

    All 19 BSE sectoral indexes closed higher.

    Market breadth was positive with 2,070 stocks closing higher against 631 closing in the red.

    Global markets 

    The fears of trade conflicts that had escalated with China's tariff plans on some US products in response to the similar moves by the United States turned into the hope of trade talks. President Donald Trump's top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, suggested the US tariffs won't be implemented if China lowers barriers to trade. Japan's Nikkei 225 surged 1.6 percent to 21,667.83 and South Korea's Kospi jumped 1.5 percent to 2,442.40. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 advanced 0.7 percent to 5,803.50. Stocks in Singapore surged and markets in other Southeast Asian countries were also higher. Markets in mainland China and Hong Kong were closed for holidays.

    European markets were trading sharply higher today with shares in Germany leading the region. The DAX was up 1.57% while France's CAC 40 was up 1.56% and London's FTSE 100 rose 1.16%.

    US stock markets finished higher on Wednesday after a sharp plunge in the previous session. The Dow Jones industrial average advanced 1 percent to 24,264.30. The S&P 500 index climbed 1.2 percent to 2,644.69. The Nasdaq composite rose 1.5 percent to 7,042.11. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gained 1.3 percent to 1,531.66.

General Awareness

Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.
NCLT

  • Context: The government is planning to have more benches of the National Company Law Tribunal on the basis of case load, amid rising number of insolvency cases coming up before the NCLT.

    Background:

    Currently, there are 11 NCLT benches in different parts of the country, including two in the national capital.

    About National Company Law Tribunal:

    What is it? National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) is a quasi-judicial body that will govern the companies in India. It was established under the Companies Act, 2013 and is a successor body of the Company Law Board.

    Powers: NCLT will have the same powers as assigned to the erstwhile Company Law Board (which are mostly related to dealing with oppression and mismanagement), Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR)(revival of sick companies) and powers related to winding up of companies (which was available only with the High Courts).

    Background: The setting up of NCLT as a specialized institution for corporate justice is based on the recommendations of the Justice Eradi Committee on Law Relating to Insolvency and Winding up of Companies.

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