Citizens' Issues
SC extends bail to Teesta Setalvad, her husband
The Supreme Court on Thursday extended interim bail granted to advocate-activist Teesta Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand, while referring to the larger bench the questions of personal liberty and custodial interrogation.
 
An apex court bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra referred to the larger bench the issue whether non-cooperation in an investigation would entitle Gujarat Police to press for custodial interrogation of Teesta Setalvad.
 
She has been accused of alleged misuse of funds collected by NGO Sabrang Trust for setting up a museum in Gulberg Society that witnessed carnage during 2002 Gujarat riots.
 
The apex court on February 19 restrained Gujarat Police from arresting the activist and her husband.
 
The apex court bench headed by Justice Misra said the larger bench will decide the issue of anticipatory bail in relation to personal liberty, rule of law, societal interest vis-a-vis the allegations of non-cooperation in the investigation.
 

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US Fed Reserve may raise interest rates by midyear
In a move that would likely impact both emerging markets like India and advanced economies, the US central bank Wednesday dropped an assurance to be "patienta" in raising interest rates and signaled the hike could come by mid year.
 
But in a statement issued after a two-day meeting of its policy-making committee, the Federal Reserve also emphasised that it might still delay the decision to raise the rates for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis, until later this year.
 
The Fed's announcement moved the central bank to the verge of ending a period of more than six years in which it has held short-term interest rates near zero.
 
"Just because we removed the word patient from the statement doesn't mean we are going to be impatient," Fed chairperson Janet Yellen said at a press conference here at the end of Federal Open Market Committee's (FOMC) two-day meeting.
 
In a statement issued after the meeting, the committee said it will be appropriate to tighten "when it has seen further improvement in the labor market and is reasonably confident that inflation will move back to its 2 percent objective over the medium term."
 
The central bank stressed that it has not decided on the timing of the initial increase and that action is "unlikely at the April meeting."
 
"The committee anticipates that it will be appropriate to raise the target range for the federal funds rate when it has seen further improvement in the labor market and is reasonably confident that inflation will move back to its 2 percent objective," it said.
 
Striking an optimistic note about the economic outlook for the US, the committee said it "expects that, with appropriate policy accommodation, economic activity will expand at a moderate pace."
 
The stock market surged on the news. The Dow was falling over 100 points before the Fed statement and is now over 100 points higher.
 
Dropping "patienta" gives the Fed more options on when it wants to raise interest rates. While the expectation is for an initial rate hike in June, the Fed has repeatedly said that it will only take action if the economy stays healthy, CNN said.
 
"Removing the word 'patience' simply gives the Fed flexibility," it said citing Greg Valliere, chief political strategist at Potomac Research Group.
 
The key factors the Fed will be watching as it decides when to raise rates are hiring, inflation, economic growth and the increasingly valuable -- perhaps too valuable -- US dollar, CNN said.
 
Ahead of the Fed meeting, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde had warned that emerging markets like India must prepare for the impact of a rise in US interest rates.
 
In a speech at Reserve Bank of India in Mumbai Tuesday, she also warned that markets could be heading for a repeat of the 2013 "taper tantrum."
 

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Maharashtra to scrap Local Body Tax
Maharashtra Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar on Wednesday announced the scrapping of the contentious Local Body Tax (LBT) while presenting in the state assembly a Rs.198,000 crore budget for 2015-16 that has a deficit of Rs.3,070 crore and a plan size of Rs.54,999 crore.
 
The LBT is scheduled to be scrapped from August 1 and the loss of around Rs.6,875 to the civic bodies, barring Mumbai, will be compensated by enhancing the Value Added Tax (VAT) rate across the state, he said.
 
Presenting a budget with focus on infrastructure, irrigation and tackling the agrarian crises in the state, Mungantiwar refrained from imposing any significant tax burden on the people.
 
However, he announced a premium on the additional floor space index availed by builders for construction purposes.
 
An allocation of Rs.109 crore has been made for the proposed Mumbai Metro 3 Project, which is currently facing stiff opposition from the people likely to be displaced and apprehensions of cutting down many trees in the city.
 
The minister said the budget was not based on expenditure but was target-oriented and important for tribals, farmers and minorities, poor and downtrodden.
 
Among the major highlights of the proposals are: freeing 223,000 farmers who have availed private loans from moneylenders, completing on priority 38 pending irrigation projects with an allocation of Rs.7272 crore, seed bank to preserve seeds traditionally used by the farmers in the state and Rs.1,000 crore allocation for water conservation projects to combat drought under Jalyukt Shivaj Yojana.
 
Mungantiwar announced a Rs.2,413 crore project to build rural roads in the state, an Aadmar Adarsh Gaon Yojana on the lines of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's scheme of each MPs adopting villages and plans to overhaul the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation.
 
For Mumbai, an amount of Rs.100 crore has been allocated for the grand memorials for Chhatrapati Shivaji in the Arabian Sea off the city coast and another for Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in central Mumbai, free WiFi at certain places in Mumbai under a tourist promotion scheme, a 1000-bed super-speciality hospital to be constructed in the campus of Sir J.J. Group of Hospitals and constructing a war memorial for Paramvir Chakra winners.
 
The state will construct 100,000 homes costing Rs.884 crore for the poor, an amount of Rs.268 crore would be spent on the Smart Cites Project, a skill development scheme named after the late Pramod Mahajan to come up, a school of planning and architecture in Aurangabad, special schemes for minority-dominated towns of Bhiwandi, Miraj and Malegaon.
 
Women earning upto Rs.10,000 per month will be exempted from paying profession tax, a five percent tax will be levied on mixed spices, taxes on labbooks, workbooks and graphbooks for students waived off, tax on LED bulbs slashed from 12.5 percent to five percent.
 
A biometric system of monitoring attendance for students and teachers in government-aided schools has been proposed and a state-evel 'Mazi Kanya, Bhagyashree' on the lines of the centre's 'Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Scheme' will be introduced.
 
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis welcomed the budget proposals terming them as growth oriented and with many positive schemes for the farming community.
 
Maharashtra Congress President Ashok Chavan criticised the budget for making a shower of empty promises, questioned how the growth rate which stood at 8-10 percent for 15 years came down to 5.7 percent in the 138 days of the BJP-Shiv Sena rule.
 

 

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