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Not in favour of granting relaxation in age limit for UPSC civil services aspirants: Govt to SC

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New Delhi [India], February 9 (ANI): The Centre on Tuesday opposed in the Supreme Court granting one-time relaxation on age limit to UPSC civil service aspirants who had exhausted their last attempt in 2020 exam amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, appearing for the Centre, told a bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar that it is against granting the last attempt to candidates who have exhausted their last attempt in 2020 as it would be discriminatory to other candidates.
The Centre said that the candidates would get one more chance this year provided they are not age barred.
The Bench, after hearing arguments from counsels appearing for candidates, Centre and UPSC reserved its order on a plea the seeking an extra attempt in the UPSC exams for those candidates who had their last attempt in the preliminary exam held in October 2020. It also sought an extra opportunity to students who could not appear for civil service exams due to COVID-19.
During the hearing, ASG Raju submitted before the apex court that the UPSC prelims are “not an exam which requires more than one month’s preparation”.
He said the demand for extra chance was unwarranted as candidates were given sufficient time to prepare for the examination in 2020.
“What should be the syllabi, age or number of attempts are all matters of governmental policy. Whether to grant relaxation for age or attempt is also a matter of policy. Interference can happen if the decision is non-informed, arbitrary or capricious,” he told the apex court.
“This is not the exam where you prepare at the last minutes. People prepare for years together… My first offer remains,” ASG further said, adding that initially the government was not willing to concede the extra chance and it was later done at the suggestion of the top court.
Last week, the Centre had said that it has agreed to give an extra chance to those candidates who had exhausted their last attempt in October 2020, however, the Centre’s relaxation was subject to the condition that such candidates should not be age-barred.
The candidates who appeared for the Civil Service Examination (CSE)-2020 as their last permissible attempt will be allowed one more extra-attempt specifically limited to CSE-2021 “provide they are not otherwise age-barred from appearing in CSE-2021”, the Centre has told the court.
It has further added that the relaxation for the candidates shall be a one-time relaxation only and shall apply only for appearing in CSE- 2021 and not be treated as a precedent, it added.
Today, senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for candidates, told the Bench that “I will just enumerate the difficulties. One of them is access to the material. The material available on the internet is not sufficient at all. Coaching classes were also not there and because of the pandemic, there was a disruption in their homes. Then many were frontline workers who had to be at the frontline, duty-bound both by law and their conscience. These are some of the circumstances as to why they weren’t able to study.”
Divan said the absence of libraries and study material during the pandemic has impacted the preparation of studies. “Need for access to materials in form of libraries, coaching institutes. It’s not possible for an individual to go through all of this.”
Earlier, the Bench had asked Centre and UPSC to explain why no extra attempt can be given to civil services aspirants when such relaxation has been extended earlier.
The Centre had earlier told the apex court that no extra attempt for UPSC will be given to students who had their last attempt in October and those who could not appear due to COVID-19.
Before that, the Court was informed that the proposal to give extra change to civil service aspirants affected by the COVID-19 is under active consideration by government and UPSC.
Petitioner had earlier submitted that the Court has directed the Centre to consider grant of an extra chance considering the difficulties of COVID-19.
On September 30, the Supreme Court had directed the Central government and the UPSC to consider granting an extra chance to candidates who otherwise have their last attempt in 2020, with the corresponding extension of the upper age-limit.
The Department of Personnel and Training on October 26 had informed the Supreme Court that the issue regarding grant of extra attempt to last chance candidates was under the consideration of the authorities. (ANI)

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Telangana BJP MP blames AIMIM for Bhainsa communal clashes

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Hyderabad (Telangana) [India], March 9 (ANI): Bharatiya Janata Party MP Dharmapuri Arvind has alleged that an All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader is responsible for the recent communal clashes that took place in the Bhainsa of Nirmal district of Telangana.
“AIMIM leader Mohammad Jabir Ahmed is the cause for communal violence in Bhainsa. They have been involved in land grabbing for a time now and when the local Hindus, whose land have been grabbed by Jabir, have been spreading the news via social media, communal violence has begun,” Arvind told ANI.
He said that there have been a series of communal clashes in Bhainsa for the last few years. “This happened only because of the inefficiency of the police department and the police department had been working under the pressure of Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and AIMIM parties in the state.”
“Nearly 10 people were injured in the recent communal clash. Two people are seriously injured and are admitted to a private hospital in Hyderabad and are in critical condition. Among those injured, most of them hail are from a journalistic background,” he added.
He further said that the police have registered cases on 100 people, out of which 50 people are Hindus and 50 Muslims.
“A similar incident took place in January 2020 and even then most of the damage occurred to the Hindus as their houses and vehicles were destroyed and damaged,” he said.
Meanwhile, Krishank, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) official spokesperson, said that Telangana has always been a peaceful state and people who are trying to disturb the communal harmony by hateful speeches will not be spared and strict action will be taken against them.
“Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao has always been very serious against the communal violence in the state. Strict action will be taken against the people resorting to the communal violence in the state and also those who are spreading rumours across social media and are creating disturbances in the society,” Krishank told ANI.
He also appealed to all the political parties not to make the Bhainsa communal violence a political issue.
V Hanumantha Rao, a senior Congress leader, told ANI that some of the political parties for their own political gains have been instigating people over communal issues.
“I hope that the Telangana government, along with the judiciary, takes firm action against those responsible for this violence and make sure that such incidents don’t take place again,” Rao said.
Several people were injured and few vehicles were torched in clashes that broke out between two groups in Bhainsa on Sunday, police said.
Section 144 has been imposed in Bhainsa town and an additional force of 600 police personnel and 40 officers from other districts has also been deployed in the town. (ANI)

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Both Houses of Parliament adjourned after Opposition ruckus over fuel prices

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New Delhi [India], March 9 (ANI): Both Houses of Parliament were adjourned till 12 noon following an uproar by the Opposition over the rising fuel prices in the country.
Rajya Sabha was adjourned till 12 noon as Opposition Members of Parliament raised slogans, demanding a discussion on fuel price rise.
Lok Sabha was also adjourned till 12 pm amid uproar in the House by Opposition over the same issue.
While commencing the Rajya Sabha session, Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh said: “During the remaining part of the Budget session, members will be seated in Rajya Sabha chambers and its gallery only, with some physical distancing. 142 seats have been made available in Rajya Sabha chamber and remaining members to sit in the gallery.”
The decision to revise the timing of both Houses was announced on Monday. Both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha were operating under curtailed hours of timing and social distancing norms amid COVID-19 induced norms.
Earlier, the Rajya Sabha was scheduled to function from 9 am to 2 pm while Lok Sabha was scheduled to function between 4 pm to 10 pm.
The second part of the Budget session of Parliament commenced from Monday with all COVID-19 precautionary measures in place. (ANI)

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Opposition parties give adjournment motion notices in Lok Sabha over fuel price rise

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New Delhi [India], March 9 (ANI): Several MPs of the opposition parties, including the Congress, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Indian Union Muslim League (IUM), Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the Shiv Sena have given an adjournment motion notice in Lok Sabha over the continuous rise of fuel prices.
Congress MP Manish Tewari gave an adjournment of business motion in Lok Sabha to discuss rising prices of petrol, diesel, and LPG.
Meanwhile, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MP Satish Chandra Mishra also gave a suspension of business notice in the Rajya Sabha over the fuel price hike. Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi did the same earlier in the day.
In the notice, the Chaturvedi requested to discuss the “issue of constantly skyrocketing fuel prices as the same are touching all-time high levels. One of the core reasons behind the current price rise is largely on account of the steep increase in the central taxes on petrol and diesel.”
As of Monday, the price of petrol in Delhi stands at Rs 91.17 per litre while that of diesel stands at Rs 81. 47, according to the Indian Oil Corporation.
Both Houses of the Parliament will commence their sitting from 11 am on Tuesday and will function as per usual timings existing before the COVID-19 situation. (ANI)

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Six held for thrashing man to death in Delhi’s Rajouri Garden

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New Delhi [India], March 9 (ANI): Six people have been arrested in connection with the killing of a 32-year-old man which took place on Monday night in the Rajouri Garden area of the national capital, the police have informed.
According to the police, there was a quarrel between the deceased’s neighbours as they all were creating ruckus and nuisance by using unparliamentarily language and when the deceased and his mother objected to this, they started beating them.
“Rupesh, his brother Mukesh, his father Rajbahadur and uncle Rajbir came to pacify them but in meanwhile the accused namely Puneet, Deepa and Ravinder called their friends and all of them assaulted him (Rupesh) and his other family members with lathis with an intention to kill them,” the police said.
The police further said that the deceased was declared brought dead by the GGS hospital. The other family members also sustained injuries.
A case has been registered under Sections 302/307/341/323/147/149/34 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) at the Rajouri Garden Police Station and an investigation is underway.
The six people who have been arrested are Ravinder, Tarun, Anita, Priyanka, Deepa and Gaurav.
“Efforts are being made to apprehend the remaining accused persons,” the police added. (ANI)

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Air India Employees Consortium disqualified from AI divestment process

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By Ashoke Raj
New Delhi [India], March 9 (ANI): Air India Employees Consortium, which participated in the Air India divestment bid, was disqualified from the divestment process by the Transaction Advisor to the Government of India (Ernst & Young LLP) on Monday.
AI Employees Consortium submitted an ‘expression of interest’, last year, to participate in strategic divestment of the national carrier Air India. The Government of India has informed the AI Employees Consortium by an email on Monday that their submission for the Air India disinvestment acquisition process is not fulfilling the eligibility.
Transaction Advisor to the Government of India said that the three reasons for the disqualification of the ‘Expression of Interest’ of the employees are non-submission of required three years audited financial statements for foreign consortium member, non-submission of information or details by interested bidders for investments in offshore companies, which forms a substantial part of the net worth of the foreign consortium member and the foreign consortium member not being an appropriately regulated foreign investment fund as defined in the Preliminary Information Memorandum.
Meenakshi Malik Air India commercial Director informed AI employees in a letter, “As of late last night, I have seen an email from the Transaction Advisor to the Government of India (Ernst & Young LLP), informing the Employees of Air India that we have been unsuccessful in qualifying to the next phase of the ‘Disinvestment Acquisition process’. ”
Further, Meenakshi Malik stated in an emotional letter to AI employees, “Dear all, While I write to you with a heavy heart on the outcome of our bid to acquire Air India, I cannot help but be filled with a great sense of pride and admiration for the sincerest efforts we have made over the last few months, together.”
“As of late last night, I have seen an email from the Transaction Advisor to the Government of India (Ernst & Young LLP), informing the employees of Air India that we have been unsuccessful in qualifying to the next phase of the ‘Disinvestment Acquisition process’,” further read the letter.
Divestment of Air India still under process and the Aviation ministry informed the media recently that, “divestment process is going very smoothly”. (ANI)

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Tamil Nadu polls: Kamal Haasan’s MNM finalises seat-sharing deal, to contest 154 seats

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New Delhi [India], March 9 (ANI): Actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan’s party Makkal Needhi Maiam (MKM) has finalised the seat-sharing arrangement with its alliance partners for the upcoming Tamil Nadu polls and they will be contesting on 154 out of 234 assembly seats.
On the remaining 80 seats, its two alliance partners — All India Samathuva Makkal Katchi (AISMK) led by R. Sarathkumar and T.R. Paarivendhar’s Indhiya Jananayaga Katchi (IJK) — will contest on 40 seats each.
However, Hassan has not released the seat-sharing arrangement officially.
The MNM had secured around four per cent votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, with its share going as high as 10 per cent in the urban areas. Dr R Mahendran, MNM vice-president and its candidate from Coimbatore, had secured 1.45 lakh votes or 11.6 per cent of the total vote share the constituency.
The assembly elections in Tamil Nadu will be held in a single phase on April 6 and the counting of votes will be done on May 2.
Polls will be held for 234 seats in the state with the Congress-DMK and BJP-AIADMK alliance being the major groups contesting against each other. (ANI)

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