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After court rebuff, Kejriwal faces ED grilling at his home; police, RAF deployed in area (2nd Lead)

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New Delhi, March 21 (IANS) An Enforcement Directorate (ED) team is questioning Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal at his residence in the alleged Delhi excise policy scam, recording his statement under Section 50 of the PMLA, sources said on Thursday.

The ED team, including a Joint Director, reached the Delhi Chief Minister’s residence on Thursday evening, hours after the Delhi High Court denied him protection against “coercive action” by the agency, which has issued multiple summons to him.

A large contingent of Delhi Police personnel, along with the RAF, was deployed outside the Chief Minister’s residence, as there was apprehension that AAP workers may try to reach there to stage a protest.

“We have also installed barricades near the Chief Minister’s residence to maintain law and order in the area,” said a senior police officer.

Senior officers, including Deputy Commissioner of Police (North) M.K. Meena and officers of ACP rank, are present at the spot.

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Delhi Ministers Atishi and Saurabh Bharadwaj, along with other AAP leaders, reached the CM’s residence but claimed that they were stopped from entering the house.

Atishi said that searches are going on at Kejriwal’s house, adding that the ED has come with the intention to arrest the Chief Minister.

“It’s evident how the ED, under the influence of the BJP, demonstrates disregard for the judiciary. Had they respected the courts, they wouldn’t have conducted a raid at Arvind Kejriwal’s residence today. This situation reeks of political scheming, as their main intention appears to be to arrest Arvind Kejriwal,” she said.

The ED action came after Kejriwal obtained no relief from the high court.

A division bench of Justices Suresh Kumar Kait and Manoj Jain, after hearing the arguments from both sides, declined to pass any order granting interim relief on Kejriwal’s plea.

The bench on Wednesday asked CM Kejriwal as to why he doesn’t appear before the probe agency in response to the summons.

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On Thursday, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing Arvind Kejriwal, contended that the ED’s summons lacked clarity regarding the capacity in which Kejriwal was called to appear, accusing the agency of attempting to create an uneven playing field ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

In response, ASG S.V. Raju, along with special counsel Zoheb Hossain, appearing for the ED, opposed granting interim relief (to Arvind Kejriwal), saying that the law must be applied uniformly to all individuals, regardless of their position.

He clarified that Kejriwal was summoned in his personal capacity, and not as the Chief Minister or the Aam Aadmi Party chief, as he stressed the necessity for the Delhi CM’s interrogation based on the available evidence.

The ED had issued its first summons to Kejriwal in October last year, the second in December, and the third summon to appear before it for questioning on January 3. It had summoned him for the fourth time on January 13, asking him to appear before it on January 18, before issuing its fifth summons to Kejriwal, telling him to appear before the agency on February 2.

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On February 19, Kejriwal skipped the ED’s sixth summons in connection with the excise policy case. After Kejriwal skipped the seventh summons issued on February 22, the agency issued the eighth summons asking him to appear before it on March 4. The ninth summons was scheduled for March 21.

The ED has also issued summons to CM Kejriwal in the Delhi Jal Board case.

–IANS

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Telangana snooping row: SIB team allegedly tapped phones of 1,200 people, claims arrested cop

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Hyderabad, May 29 (IANS) Phones of about 1,200 people, including political rivals, their family members and supporters, judges, journalists, and business persons were tapped by a special team in Telangana’s Special Intelligence Bureau (SIB) under the previous BRS government, according to a suspended police officer and a key accused in the sensational phone tapping case.

D. Praneeth Rao, who headed the Special Operations Team in the SIB under the supervision of then SIB chief Prabhakar Rao, made some sensational revelations in his confession before the investigating officials.

He revealed that ahead of the November 2023 Assembly elections, the team snooped on leaders of opposition parties, and their funders and intercepted the vehicles transferring money.

The confession of Praneeth Rao, a Deputy Superintendent of Police in the SIB, came to light after similar statements of former Deputy Commissioner of Police Radha Kishan Rao and Additional Superintendents of Police N. Bhujanga Rao and M. Thirupathanna.

Praneeth Rao revealed that they prepared profiles of political rivals of the BRS with the help of a technological tool, provided by a private company.

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Praneeth Rao, the first to be arrested in the case which came to light in March after the Congress formed the government, stated that 17 computers and special servers were used for phone tapping. As many as 56 personnel of the SOT were used for the operation.

He reportedly confessed to doing certain unofficial works as he was indebted to Prabhakar Rao for promoting him as DSP. He was operating from two rooms allotted to him next to Prabhakar Rao’s chamber in the SIB office.

Before the 2023 Assembly elections, the team also tapped the phones of candidates of rival parties and seized money from their funders, relatives and aides. The information was passed on to police officials Radha Kishan Rao, Bhujanga Rao and Thirupathanna so they could intercept the money. The seized money was shown as hawala money so that the Election Commission did not get suspicious about the seizures.

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Praneeth Rao also revealed that the phones of dissidents within the ruling party were also tapped. He also confessed that after Congress came to power, Prabhakar Rao directed him to stop phone tapping and also allegedly directed him to destroy records before his resignation. He claimed that 50 hard discs were destroyed with a cutter in the SIB office and old servers were replaced with new ones.

When he wanted to switch off CCTV cameras in the logger room before destroying the hard discs, the in charge of CCTV cameras refused to give permission but he told him that Prabhakar Rao had given the orders and warned that if the in charge failed to obey, a memo would be issued.

Praneeth Rao stated that he destroyed the evidence between 7.30 p.m. and 8.15 p.m. on December 4, 2023. He dumped the destroyed CDs in the Musi River at Nagole and Moosaram Bagh. The CDR and IDPR equipment was burnt down. Reformatted phones and pen drivers were thrown in the Begumpet nala.

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–IANS

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Arunachal: Body of teenage girl fished out of river after 4 days

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Itanagar, May 29 (IANS) The body of a teenage girl, who drowned in the Dikrong river in Arunachal Pradesh’s Papum Pare district four days back, was fished out on Wednesday, officials said.

An official said that 14-year-old Biki Rachal had drowned in the river near the Khula Camp on May 26 after she went there for bathing.

The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel deployed a 24-member team soon after the authority asked it to locate the girl.

The NDRF team recovered the body of the girl near Dahghariya village, about 45 km downstream from the site of drowning.

–IANS

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Goa Governor greets people on the eve of Statehood Day

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Panaji, May 29 (IANS) Goa Governor P.S. Sreedharan Pillai said on Wednesday that the tourism sector is one of the main drivers of the economy of the state which has become a world-famous tourist destination because of its extraordinary beauty.

Extending his greetings on the eve of Goa Statehood Day (May 30), Pillai said, “Achieving statehood in 1987 was a milestone in the journey to maintain Goa’s distinct heritage. The tourism sector is one of the main drivers of the Goan economy.

“Goa is renowned the world over as a top tourist destination. It is endowed with rich flora and fauna. Besides, the state also has a vibrant culture and heritage. Further, the people of Goa are friendly and peace-loving. This combined with Goa’s extraordinary beauty has made it a world-famous tourist destination.”

“On this joyous occasion, let us pay tributes to the countless Goans who have worked tirelessly to shape the state’s destiny. I would like to tell them that the people of Goa will forever remain grateful to them and continue to acknowledge and recognise their struggle for achieving statehood,” he added.

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The Governor also said that over the years, Goa has transformed into a vibrant and progressive state, contributing significantly to the socio-economic fabric of the nation.

“The resilience and hard work of the people of Goa have turned challenges into opportunities, making it a shining example of development and prosperity,” Pillai said.

The Governor also urged the people of Goa to work with renewed vision, cooperation, and commitment to make Goa the most modern and progressive state in India, and thereby contribute to the national mainstream in every possible way.

–IANS

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Delhi locality's 52.9 degrees C temperature reading likely due to error, IMD checking data

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New Delhi, May 29 (IANS) The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said on Wednesday that the maximum temperature of 52.9 degrees Celsius recorded by Delhi’s Mungeshpur locality’s Automatic Weather Station (AWS) is likely to be an error and is being examined as it is close to eight degrees Celsius higher than the maximum temperature recorded in other parts of the national capital.

“The maximum temperature in Delhi-NCR varied from 45.2 degrees to 49.1 degrees Celsius in different parts of the city, Mungeshpur reported 52.9°C as an outlier compared to other stations. It could be due to an error in the sensor or the local factor. IMD is examining the data and sensors,” an IMD statement read.

Earth Sciences Minister Kiren Rijiju earlier posted on X that the temperatures were not official.

“Temperature of 52.3 degrees Celsius in Delhi is very unlikely. Our senior officials in IMD have been asked to verify the news report. The official position will be stated soon,” Kiren Rijiju wrote.

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IMD DG M. Mahapatra said the temperature looked abnormal when compared with all other stations. A team has been sent to the AWS to check the data.

The reading of the Safdarjung centre is considered the official temperature of Delhi which stood at 46.8 degrees Celsius.

AWSes are automatic weather stations where the observations are made and transmitted automatically. No other AWS, including Pragati Maidan, IGNOU, Ayanagar, Pitampura, Najafgarh, on Wednesday reported 50+ temperature.

“Maximum temperature of today, i.e. 29th May, 2024 has fallen over Delhi at many places compared to yesterday. It has rained at many places in Delhi resulting in further fall of temperature. Heat wave conditions will reduce during next 2-3 days due to gradual fall in temperature in association with approaching western disturbance, rainfall/thunderstorm and southwesterly wind blowing from Arabian Sea to northwest India,” according to an IMD statement.

–IANS

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'Hamar Kashi, Hamar Vikas' organised at Varanasi's NaMo ghat; over 1,500 artists participate

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New Delhi, May 29 (IANS) A one-of-its kind ‘Hamar Kashi, Hamar Vikas’ was organised at Varanasi’s NaMo ghat on Wednesday to motivate the locals and seek their participation and contribution in the ‘Viksit Kashi’ dream and also in the shared vision for developed India.

More than 1,500 participants, including more than 50 senior artists, art faculty, art students, professionals, first-time voters, women, and general attendees, came together to show their support for the initiative.

The workshop with the theme “Hamar Kashai Hamar Vikas” saw senior artists painting on easels and canvases, art faculty and students working on long-running canvas.

The event also featured a diverse array of folk artists from Varanasi, including dancers, musicians, potters, and sculptors, who showcased their unique talents.

Their art not only captured the essence of Viksit Kashi but also promoted the “Vocal for Local” initiative, highlighting the rich cultural heritage and local craftsmanship of the region.

The participants, enamoured with the vibrant program, pledged to contribute to the vision of Viksit Kashi through their artistic skills.

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Many of the participants spoke to IANS and shed light on the importance and the reason behind such a workshop.

Harsh Vardhan Sharma, a retired professor from Jammu said that the event provided a platform to the artists to showcase their vision of Viksit Bharat and how they could enthuse and encourage the younger lot and instil in them a curiosity and desire to work towards ‘Viksit Kashi and Viksit Bharat’.

“Many local artistes participated in the workshop and shared their experience of changes and transformation of their city by drawing painting on the canvas,” he said.

Claiming that he has been a regular visitor to Varanasi for the past 35 years, he said that never before he saw the city shining bright with such cleanliness and hygiene and credited Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led dispensation for the same.

“Earlier, Indians looked at the Western world with awe and astonishment, but today, the global powers are looking up to Bharat. This is just the beginning of Bharat’s rise,” he said.

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Adwait Gannayak, one of the organisers said that more than 7,000 artistes are likely to accumulate to showcase their vision of Viksit Bharat via their artworks.

He said that the purpose behind the event was to combine the strengths of traditional and contemporary artists and create a framework for robust growth, and added that Kashi will become the key centre of Vishwaguru, the role that the country has envisaged for itself and set to achieve in the near future.

The lively ambience at Namo Ghat and the active participation of artists and attendees indeed made for an impactful event on the journey towards Viksit Kashi.

–IANS

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