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TV channels retrained after skipper Dhoni files Rs 100-crore defamation suit - 3/18/2014

Indian Express

The Madras High Court restrained Zee News and News Nation channels from telecasting any news linking India cricket captain M S Dhoni with the Indian Premier League (IPL) betting/fixing scam.

The interim order, effective for two weeks, was passed by Justice S Tamilvanan on a defamation suit filed by Dhoni claiming Rs 100 crore damages from the Zee Media Corporation for allegedly telecasting “malicious” news that he was involved in betting, spot and match fixing of IPL matches.

“I am of the view that there is a prima facie case and the balance of convenience is also in favour of the plaintiff. Hence interim injection granted for a period of two weeks,” the judge said in his order after perusing Dhoni’s affidavit.

He issued notice to defendants Zee Media Corporation Limited, Zee News Editor and Business Head Sudhir Chaudary, IPS officer G Sampath Kumar (who initially probed the IPL betting scam) and News Nation network private limited.

Dhoni, in his suit, submitted that the defendants had been carrying highly defamatory, scandalous and libellous false reports and statements since February 11, 2014.

The first and second defendants Zee Media Corporation Limited (Zee News) and Sudhir Chaudary, Editor and Business Head of Zee News Channel, Essel Studios, Noida, Uttar Pradesh, in collusion with the third defendant IPS officer G Sampath Kumar have been telecasting and broadcasting and posting in their websites false reports insinuating that Dhoni was involved in illegal activities of betting, match fixing and spot fixing.

Similarly, defendant no.4, News Nation network private limited (News National channel) Noida, UP, joined the tirade against Dhoni and later on went to the extent of stating that Dhoni was summoned by the Tamil Nadu police, which was also utterly false, the affidavit stated.

He charged that actions were done with an intention to project Dhoni as an object of hate and ridicule to the general public. The general public, especially IPL fans of Chennai Superkings in Chennai, have been negatively influenced by the malicious false reports, it claimed.

The sole agenda of the defendants was somehow to malign and destroy the reputation of the plaintiff in the eyes of the millions of his fans and cricket lovers all over the world.

Plaintiff has filed the suit because his fundamental right and personal rights had been breached by the telecast and broadcast of the malicious news.

He sought a permanent injunction restraining the defendants, their associations, sister concerns, agents, officers, correspondents, employees or any other person or entity in print or electronic media or via internet or otherwise from publishing/republishing or in any other manner circulating any news insinuating or denigrating his integrity and honesty as a cricketer except the publication of the news of the exact judicial order if any passed by the court.

Damages are to be paid jointly and severally by all the defendants for an amount of Rs 100 crore, the affidavit said.


Will marry when I find the right girl, says Rahul Gandhi - 3/17/2014

IT

Rahul Gandhi's marriage plans have been a perennial topic of speculation but he  says he would tie the knot only when he finds the "right girl".

This is a question that comes all the time, all the time. Right now I am engaged in fighting the elections.

Unfortunately I have not been focused on private life," he replied when asked during an interview with PTI as to when he intended to get married.

Rahul Gandhi says he would tie the knot only when he finds the 'right girl'.

"Is it two years from now, one year from now?" he was asked.

"When I find the right girl," said the 43-year-old Gandhi scion.

Question: That means you have not found the right girl?

Rahul: When I find the right girl, I will get married.

The Congress vice president, a pet lover, was asked about his other hobbies.

He replied to say that he read quite a bit, "too much non-fiction" and "too much about things related to my work" --history, geography, political affairs...a lot about the middle east, Afghanistan, Pakistan and China.

Gandhi said he did not watch as many Hindi movies as his sister Priyanka does. But he came away disappointed often with the mainstream movies of Hollywood.

He has no favourite actors or actresses. "I appreciate a good performance."




Bangalore: Four Congress veterans ask Sonia: Why Rizwan - 3/17/2014

MN

Bangalore:Mar 17, 2014:  The Bangalore Central Lok Sabha seat continues to be a point of contention in the Congress with four prominent Muslim leaders including two former ministers, C.M. Ibrahim and Naseer Ahmed and two state ministers, Roshan Baig and Qamarul Islam, reportedly writing a letter to AICC president, Sonia Gandhi requesting her to reconsider the party decision and field a strong candidate from Bangalore Central Lok Sabha seat instead of debutant and KPYCC president, Rizwan Arshad.

The reason for this: Mr Ibrahim is said to have evinced keen interest in contesting from the seat. Rizwan Arshad had pipped veteran leader Jaffer Sharief in the race for the seat leading to an explosive situation with Sharief threatening to quit the party and the JD(S) waiting to welcome him with open hands.
Speaking to Deccan Chronicle, a senior leader said, Yes, they have written a letter to Mrs Gandhi, stating that Mr Arshad will be a weak candidat in Bangalore Central, which was once represented by former railway minnister, C.K. Jafer Sharief for a record number of times, when it was part of Bangalore North, prior to delimitation in 2009.

These leaders expect Mr Sharief to contest from Bangalore Central despite being denied the ticket to ensure that he can retain the seat for one of his grandsons later. Mr Sharief may not contest from elsewhere, instead he may opt to contest from Bangalore Central where the Congress has denied him the chance. So the decision to field a fresh face could prove disastrous for the party, the source added.

The leaders are hoping that Mr Siddaramaiah pitches in at the last minute to secure the ticket for his close aide, Mr Ibrahim by placating Mr Arshad.


How to avail tax benefits under Section 10 - 3/16/2014

NDTV

The Income Tax Act provides multiple tax exemptions to every individual. A lot of such exemptions fall under Section 10 of the Act. Following are the tax exemptions provided under Section 10:

Leave travel allowance (LTA)

LTA is exempt to a certain extent for domestic travel under section 10(5) of income tax. The exemption is subject to the LTA limit specified in the individual's salary.

Agricultural income

Income received from agriculture is totally exempt from tax if it is the only source of income in the financial year. However, if it is accompanied by income from other sources, it is taxable.

Life insurance

The payment proceeds of a life insurance policy are exempt under section 10(10D). This includes maturity amount as well as death claims.

Gratuity

Gratuity amount received by a government employee is totally exempt from tax. For others covered under payment of gratuity act, it is exempt to the least of the following:

1)      15 days salary based on last drawn salary for each year of service.
2)      Rs. 10,00,000
3)      Gratuity received

For those not covered under gratuity act, it is exempt to the least of:

1)      Half month average salary for each year of service completed.
2)      Rs. 10,00,000
3)      Gratuity received

Leave encashment

For a government employee, leave encashment upon retirement or leaving the job is tax free under Section 10. For a non-government employee, it is exempt up to least of the following:

1)      Earned leave (No. of months) multiplied by Average monthly salary
2)      10 multiplied by Average monthly salary
3)      Rs. 3,00,000
4)      Actual leave encashment received

Commuted pension

Commuted pension for government employees is fully exempt. For others, it is exempt to least of the following:

1)      If gratuity is received, up to one-third of the pension received.
2)      If gratuity not received, half of the pension received.

Compensation under VRS

Compensation received under VRS (voluntary retirement scheme) scheme upon voluntary retirement is exempt up to maximum of Rs.5,00,000.

Provident fund

Payments received from Provident Fund (PF) are exempt as part of section 10. However, PF withdrawal is taxable for less than 5 years of service. Also, EPF (Employees' Provident Fund) balance can be withdrawn only subject to few conditions.

HRA

House Rent Allowance (HRA) for an employee is exempt to the least of the following:

1)      HRA received
2)      Rent paid - 10% of salary
3)      50% of salary for Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai and 40% elsewhere.

Dividends received

Dividends announced by any company in case of mutual funds or stocks are exempt from tax in the hands of an individual, irrespective of the company paying tax on it.

Equities held for more than 1 year

Any equity instrument, share or mutual fund held for more than 1 year is free from tax at the time of sale. This is also known as long term capital gains.

Superannuation fund

Any amount received from an approved superannuation fund is exempt from tax in the hands of an individual.

Transport allowance

Transport allowance is exempt up to Rs. 800 per month i.e. Rs. 9,600 per annum. Transport allowance here means expenditure incurred for travel between place of residence and place of work.

Education and hostel allowances for children

Education allowance is exempt up to Rs. 100 per month per child for a maximum of 2 children. Hostel allowance is exempt for hostel expenditure up to Rs. 300 per month per child for a maximum of 2 children.

Interest on securities

Income from securities in the form of interest, premium, etc from certificates, bonds and deposits is exempt from tax.


It's official: Modi picked for Varanasi, Jaitley for Amritsar - 3/15/2014

TOI NEW DELHI: BJP on Saturday formally announced the candidature of its PM candidate Narendra Modi for Varanasi, potentially setting the stage for a battle royale with AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal who has vowed to challenge him in any constituency outside Gujarat.

AAP sources said Kejriwal's candidature from Varanasi is on the cards, though there was no formal announcement.

Modi was quick to launch his campaign by seeking to establish a connect with Varanasi. He tweeted to say that it was an honour for him to fight from the holy city.

The sitting MP from Varanasi and party veteran Murli Manohar Joshi has been shifted to Kanpur in apparent disregard of his resistance.

Those whose nominations were cleared include party chief Rajnath Singh who will contest from Lucknow : a decision which has been taken in defiance of the desire of sitting MP Lalji Tandon to stay put. Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley has replaced former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu in Amritsar to contest his first direct election.

The party also cleared candidates for all 7 Delhi seats, fielding new faces as well as sitting MLAs. The nominees are state unit chief Harsh Vardhan( Chandni Chowk), party spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi (New Delhi), Tughlaqabad MLA Ramesh Bidhuri (South Delhi), Mehrauli MLA Pravesh Varma ( West Delhi), Art of Living activist Mahesh Giri (East Delhi) and new entrant and Dalit leader Udit Raj ( Delhi Northwest) and Bhojpuri singer and actor Manoj Tewari ( Delhi Northeast).

Rao Inderjit Singh, who had won the Gurgaon seat on Congress ticket, will contest as BJP nominee. He will be pitted against AAP leader Yogendra Yadav. The party has selected Dr Mahesh Sharma, a sitting MLA, for Gautam Buddh Nagar seat which covers Noida.

Other important candidates includes actor Kiron Kher who will be taking on AAP's Gul Panang and Congress's Pawan Bansal in Chandigarh, Shatrughan Sinha who has been retained at Patna despite strong resistance from Bihar unit and Uma Bharti who will be fighting the Jhansi seat.

Uma's fellow Lodh leader and former UP chief minister Kalayan Singh's Etah seat has been given to his son Rajveer Singh, while Varun Gandhi will be contesting from Sultanpur as his mother returns to the family stronghold of Pilibhit.

The decision on which seat Modi will contest from in Gujarat will be taken on the Wednesday

The leadership was keen that he contested from a seat in UP, reckoning that this will be a boost for the prospects of party's candidates in the key battleground state which contributes 80 members to Lok Sabha. Varanasi is the nerve centre for east UP which accounts for 32 seats. The proximity of the city, which occupies a special significance in Sangh Parivar's scheme of things because being one of the 12 top holy spots for devotees of Lord Shiva, to Bihar only enhances its political criticality.

It is significant that Modi chose to stick to it as his second constituency outside Gujarat despite Kejriwal's declared intent to take him on, and a belated effort by Congress to the shift of Joshi as an affront to Brhamins who constitute an influential chunk of the electorate.

Although there was no immediate response from AAP to BJP's late night decision to field Modi from Varanasi, sources in the party said there was a strong likelihood of Kejriwal taking the field against BJP's PM candidate. However, sources said that the final call will be that of political affairs committee of the rookie outfit. They said the body had earlier decided that no sitting MLA will be given the LS ticket, and that it alone was competent to reverse the stand.

The announcement after a marathon meeting which cleared 58 seats for UP, also marks a belated assertion by the leadership against the much publicized rumblings of discontent over the selection of nominees by the Modi- led party. Joshi's acquiescence to the diktat to shift to Kanpur stood in stark contrast to the resistance he showed when he questioned Rajnath Singh about the reports saying that he was set to be replaced by Modi.

The leadership has also shrugged off the resistance from the sitting Lucknow MP Tandon who publicly declared that he would vacate the seat only for Modi.

Jaitley's presence in the Amritsar arena is significant for the important leader who was often taunted by his detractors for not having faced the electorate. A win will take care of a deficiency in an otherwise imprsssive CV against the backdrop of a perceived groundswell for BJP.

The next meeting of the election committee will also take up Gandhinagar seat which party stalwart L K Advani has represented since 1991. Although a strong section in the Sangh Parivar had earlier felt that it was time the former deputy PM bowed out of the LS arena, the idea was given up in view of his disinclination.

Although the shift of Joshi to Kanpur suggests that the leadership is finally getting into the assertive mode, the re-nomination of Shatrughan for Patna Saheb signals that it may not like to press its luck too far at Gandhinagar.

Security tightened at airports in major cities ahead of Lok Sabha polls 2014 - 3/15/2014

IT This has never happened before. Yes there was always tight vigil and security at the airports but not to the extent that agencies would deliberate for hours and then come out with more than 2 page long directives and assign specific duties to keep minute to minute vigil and leave no scope for any slip ups.

Neither there is a terror threat nor any specific intelligence input. Still there is a big reason for the agencies to be on top most alert and make sure directives are followed to the T. Yes, General Elections are round the corner and it is the responsibility of the airport and administrative staff to ensure that our netas do not exploit the air route to their advantage. Airports then across the country have become focus points of the security and administrative agencies. Responsibilities have been set.

Chief Nodal Officer in Delhi told Headlines Today that agencies would leave no stone unturned to ensure that there is tight security and vigil at the airports. "All the entry and exit points, cargo area, checking area, passenger movement area, landing area, hanger area, engineering section and every possible place will be under the hawk eye " he said.

It is perhaps for the first time that so many directives have been put into place. Delhi International Airport and Mumbai International Airport have had a dubious distinction of being the smuggling hub and sources at the Delhi and Mumbai Airport tell Headlines Today that specific instructions to keep vigil at many recognised points have been already given. Cargo section is one area where the agencies will keep a thorough tab realising that on many occasions the insiders have played a major role with the unscrupulous elements to airlift the smuggle.

Airport sources also say that passenger luggage will be thoroughly checked with an eye on suspicious elements. "Chartered planes would need special permission from DGCA and would also need to inform the ATC half an hour in advance before take off," said an airport official.

Let's now have a look at some of the directives that have been put into place:

1. Barring those who are exempted under the rules every passenger will have to go through the mandated security and baggage check without any exception at the operational airports. Even those travelling in charter planes and helicopters will have to go through the security and baggage check in without any exception.

2. The ATC at commercial airports will inform the Chief Electoral Officer and the District Election Officer of the travel plan of chartered aircrafts or helicopters preferably half an hour in advance.

3. ATC will keep a record of all the chartered aircrafts and helicopters flying from commercial airports. ATC will keep specifics on takeoff, landing, passenger manifest, route plan etc. ATC will prepare a copy of the details and make it available to the Chief Electoral Officer of the state and District Election Officer within three days after the day of landing and take off and the same shall then be given to the Expenditure Observer for making necessary verification during inspection. Whenever required by Expenditure Officer for necessary inspection the ATC will be ready with all the details.

4. Even those passengers (not exempted under the rules) who avail the facility of taking a vehicle near the aircraft will be screened by CISF, state, UT police without relaxation.
5. The CISF or police authorities of the state or UT on detection of cash exceeding Rs. 10 lakh or bullion weighing 1 kg or more in the baggage flying to or the poll bound states shall instantaneously inform of the same to the Income Tax Department.

6. The law enforcement agencies like the CISF, state police and the Income Tax Department shall have their own internal Standard Operating Procedures in place in such a way that the entire procedure right from detection to seizure or release at the airport is captured by Circuit TVs/ Video Cameras. For this purpose CCTVs shall be placed at all commercial airports in place where the cash or bullion is detected, counted, seized and also in the interrogation chamber of the Law Enforcement Agencies including the Income Tax Department. Such recording will be preserved by the airport operator/ Authority for a period of 3 months and be made available when required by the Election Commission/CEO.

7. At remote airports/helipads the flying squads or the state authority of state or UT police in coordination with the pilot of the aircraft shall carry out the screening/ physical checking of the baggage coming out of the aircraft (except the hand held purses by ladies). Any unauthorised arms, contraband goods, cash exceeding Rs. 50,000 belonging to any candidate, agent or party functionary shall be investigated and considered for seizure as per the orders of the Supreme Court. However it is clarified that the body frisking of the passenger will not be done at the time of disembarkation at remote airports and airfields unless there is specific information about unauthorised arms or contraband goods, etc being carried by the person.

8. At remote airports and helipads applications will have to be made by the candidate himself or by the political party to the District Election Officer at least 24 hours before landing mentioning the details of travel, place of landing in the district and names of passengers in the aircraft and helicopter so that the DEO can make adequate arrangement for the security, law and order issue and also to make available the coordinates of the helipad. On receipt of such application the DEO shall issue permission on the same on priority basis.

9. Every candidate shall also inform the Returning Office concerned in writing within five days after the landing of aircraft or helicopter in his constituency about the hiring charges paid/ payable to the company owing/leasing the aircraft/helicopter, the names of passengers and political party (if the party has borne the expense for hiring)

10. Passengers, crew, baggage transported in General Aviation/chartered/private aircrafts and aircrafts owned or hired by state governments shall be emplaned through the normal pre embarkation security check procedure as is applicable to the scheduled flight. Similarly normal disembarkation channel shall be followed and exit of such passengers and baggage shall not be allowed through any other gate of the airport. Movement of exempted category passengers is to be coordinated in advance for the smooth passage but their hold baggage will be screened.

11. Baggage (except the handheld purse or pouch by any passenger), crew in respect of General Aviation/chartered/Private Aircrafts and aircraft owned or hired by state governments shall be screened/ physically checked randomly by the CISF/ASG shall arrange to deploy additional manpower, if necessary for the duty.

Sources tell Headlines Today that this time round special emphasis has been put in the cargo section and the loaders at the airports would be minutely watched. As has happened in the past smuggle often goes out from the cargo area. Sources also say that extra vigil has also been put into place for without specific information extra checking and frisking also leads to human rights violation. Custom officials have also been apprised of this aspect as well.

With CCTVs in place, CISF and police on highest alert, checks at every stage and point of the airports you can expect the airports to be safest zones. One can only hope that our netas and their associates will not indulge in any unscrupulous activity or bring disrepute to the electorate as such. Let this massive exercise of democracy be a huge success in its truest sense.

Pankaj.upadhyay@aajtak.com




UK 2013: Almost 21 per cent drop in study visas issued to Indians - 3/12/2014

IT

United Kingdom witnesses a 21 per cent drop in number of study visas issued to Indian students in 2013 with only 13,608 Indian nationals having been issued study visas. Reasons for the decrease in number of students applying for United Kingdom study visas vary from stringent policies, depreciating currency and a surge in number of high quality institutes within India. 
 
Replying to a query on the reasons for the dip in the visas granted, British High Commissioner to India James Bevan said. "I don't think anyone has one single answer to that. Some of it may be to do with myths. They think that there is a limit on the number of Indians who can come to Britain to study, they think it is difficult to get a student visa, they think that they cannot work after study,"

In 2013, Britain received 14,762 applications across all education sectors, which was 27 per cent lower than the same received in 2012, with the university sponsored applications which constitute a bulk of the category, falling by 7 per cent to 12,832.

Notably, the dip in numbers came after Anuj Bidve, a native of Maharashtra's Pune, was shot dead by a local factory worker near Manchester on December 26, 2011.

"Such instances are very, very rare. Britain is a very safe country for everybody including students, specially Indian students," Bevan said, assuaging any concerns.

According to PTI, Bevan gave a slew of statistics which show the country's importance when it comes to granting of visas by the UK, including occupying the top rank among all the countries in the visas issued.

In 2013, Britain issued a total of 400,000 visas to Indians, which is 5 per cent higher than previous year and Bevan said he expects the growth to continue.

Over 90 per cent of the applications get the visas, he said, clarifying that Britain does not look at India as a high risk country as some reports had stated.

"We look at each country on its merit. In each country, there might be some category of high risk individuals, but that would apply worldwide. India is not seen as a high risk country," he said.

On the controversy over having a visa bond, Bevan said that the proposal has been junked. "There will not be a visa bond," he said.


India joins the search for missing Malaysian jet - 3/12/2014

NDTV Malaysia's military has traced what could have been the jetliner missing for almost five days to an area south of the Thai holiday island of Phuket, hundreds of miles from its last known position, the country's air force chief said on Wednesday.

After a series of at times conflicting statements, the latest revelation underlined that authorities remain uncertain even where to look for the plane, and no closer to explaining what happened to Malaysia Airlines light MH370 or the 239 people on board.

The flight disappeared from civilian radar screens shortly before 1:30 a.m. on Saturday, less than an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur, as it flew northeast across the mouth of the Gulf of Thailand bound for Beijing. What happened next is one of the most baffling mysteries in modern aviation history. (Read here)

Malaysian air force chief Rodzali Daud told a news conference that an aircraft was plotted on military radar at 2:15 a.m., 200 miles (320 km) northwest of Penang Island off Malaysia's west coast.

It was not confirmed that the unidentified plane was Flight MH370, but Malaysia was sharing the data with international civilian and military authorities, Rodzali said.

"We are corroborating this," he added. "We are still working with the experts, it's an unidentified plot."

AGONISING WAIT

According to the data from Rodzali, if it was the missing plane it would have flown for 45 minutes and lost only about 5,000 feet (1,500 metres) in altitude.

There was no word on which direction it was headed and still no clue what happened aboard, prolonging the agonising wait for news for hundreds of relatives of those on board. (Read here)

A position 200 miles northwest of Penang, in the northern part of the Strait of Malacca, would put the plane roughly south of Phuket and east of the tip of Indonesia's Aceh province and India's Nicobar island chain.

Indonesia and Thailand have said their militaries detected no sign of any unusual aircraft in their airspace.

The position is hundreds of miles west of the point where the Boeing 777-200ER dropped off air traffic control screens. Malaysia has asked India for help in tracing the aircraft and New Delhi's coastguard planes have joined the search. (Indian Air Force on standby for Malaysian plane search operations)

Authorities however are continuing to search around both locations - at the last known position of the plane over the Gulf of Thailand and around the radar plotting site where the Malacca Strait meets the Andaman Sea.

In total, the search is over 27,000 square nautical miles (93,000 sq km), an area the size of Hungary or Indiana.

Until now, there has been no confirmed sighting of the plane or any debris.

A dozen countries are helping Malaysia in the search, with 42 ships and 39 aircraft involved, Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said.

"My heart reaches out to the families of the passengers and crew," he said. "And I give you my assurance we will not reduce the tempo and that we will not spare any effort to find the missing plane."

CONFUSING INFORMATION

Malaysia has been criticised for giving conflicting and confusing information on the last known location of aircraft.

Earlier on Wednesday, air force chief Rodzali had denied saying military radar had tracked MH370 flying over the Strait of Malacca.

Vietnam briefly scaled down search operations in waters off its southern coast, saying it was receiving scanty and confusing information from Malaysia over where the aircraft may have headed after it lost contact with air traffic control.

Hanoi later said the search - now in its fifth day - was back on in full force and was even extending on to land. China also said its air force would sweep areas in the sea, clarifying however that no searches over land were planned.

"As long as the plane is not found, we would continue doing our mission," Vo Van Tuan, spokesman for Vietnam Search and Rescue Committee, told reporters in Hanoi.

"We should always keep up hope, there can be miracles, humans can survive for a long time in difficult conditions. We must not give up hope that the missing people are still alive."

NOTHING RULED OUT

In the absence of any concrete evidence to explain the plane's disappearance, authorities have not ruled out anything. Police have said they were investigating whether any passengers or crew on the plane had personal or psychological problems that might shed light on the mystery, along with the possibility of a hijacking, sabotage or mechanical failure.

The airline said it was taking seriously a report by a South African woman who said the co-pilot of the missing plane had invited her and a female companion to sit in the cockpit during a flight two years ago, in an apparent breach of security.

"Malaysia Airlines has become aware of the allegations being made against First Officer Fariq Ab Hamid which we take very seriously. We are shocked by these allegations. We have not been able to confirm the validity of the pictures and videos of the alleged incident," the airline said in a statement.

The woman, Jonti Roos, told Reuters that she and her friend were invited to fly in the cockpit by Fariq and the pilot between Phuket and Kuala Lumpur in December 2011.

"I thought that they were highly skilled and highly competent and since they were doing it that it was allowed," Roos said. "I want to make it clear, at no point did I feel we were in danger or that they were acting irresponsibly."

Hugh Dunleavy, the commercial director of Malaysia Airlines, told Reuters there was no reason to blame the crew.

"We have no reason to believe that there was anything, any actions, internally by the crew that caused the disappearance of this aircraft," he said.

The Boeing 777 has one of the best safety records of any commercial aircraft in service. Its only previous fatal crash came on July 6 last year when Asiana Airlines Flight 214 struck a seawall on landing in San Francisco, killing three people.

U.S. planemaker Boeing has declined to comment beyond a brief statement saying it was monitoring the situation.


Malaysia air force chief denies saying lost plane tracked to west - 3/11/2014

NDTV newsKuala Lumpur:  Malaysia's air force chief has denied saying military radar tracked a missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner over the Strait of Malacca, adding to the mystery surrounding the fate of flight MH370, which vanished on Saturday with 239 people aboard.

Malaysia air force chief denies saying lost plane tracked to west
A massive air and sea search now in its fifth day has failed to find any trace of the Boeing 777, and the last 24 hours have seen conflicting statements and reports over what may have happened after it lost contact with air traffic controllers. (Speculation widens over missing jet's fate as search area expands)

Malaysia's Berita Harian newspaper on Tuesday quoted Air Force chief Rodzali Daud as saying the plane was last detected by military radar at the northern end of the Strait of Malacca at 2.40 a.m. on Saturday, hundreds of kilometres off course.

"I wish to state that I did not make any such statements," Rodzali said in a statement on Wednesday. The air force chief said he had merely repeated that military radar tracking suggested the plane might have turned back.

A senior military officer who had been briefed on the investigation told Reuters on Tuesday that the aircraft had made a detour to the west after communications with civilian authorities ended. (Malaysia jet changed course at time of disappearance, officials say)

"It changed course after Kota Bharu and took a lower altitude. It made it into the Malacca Strait," the officer said.

Malaysian authorities have said previously that flight MH370 disappeared around 1.30 a.m., roughly midway between Malaysia's east coast town of Kota Bharu and southern Vietnam, about an hour after it took off from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing.

The Strait of Malacca, one of the world's busiest shipping channels, runs along Malaysia's west coast, while Kota Bharu is on the northeast coast.

After the comments from the officer, a non-military source familiar with the investigations said the reported detour was one of several theories and was being checked.

If the plane had made such a detour it would undermine the theory that it suffered a sudden, catastrophic mechanical failure, as it would mean it flew at least 500 km (350 miles) after its last contact with air traffic control.

A spokesman for the Malaysian prime minister's office said on Wednesday he had not been informed by the military of evidence showing the plane had recrossed the Malay Peninsula to reach the Malacca Strait.

"The people I checked with were not aware of that," spokesman Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad told Reuters.

HUGE INTERNATIONAL SEARCH

A huge international search operation has been mostly focused on the shallow waters of the Gulf of Thailand off Malaysia's east coast, although the Strait of Malacca has been included since Sunday.

Navy ships, military aircraft, helicopters, coast guard and civilian vessels from 10 nations have criss-crossed the seas off both coasts of Malaysia without success. (Timeline: The hunt for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370)

In the absence of any concrete evidence to explain the plane's disappearance, authorities have not ruled out anything. Police have said they were investigating whether any passengers or crew on the plane had personal or psychological problems that might shed light on the mystery, along with the possibility of a hijacking, sabotage or mechanical failure. (Terrorism cannot be ruled out in missing Malaysia Airlines jet: CIA)

"Maybe somebody on the flight has bought a huge sum of insurance, who wants family to gain from it or somebody who has owed somebody so much money, you know, we are looking at all possibilities," Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said at a news conference on Tuesday.

The airline said it was taking seriously a report by a South African woman who said the co-pilot of the missing plane had invited her and a female travelling companion to sit in the cockpit during a flight two years ago, in an apparent breach of security.

"Malaysia Airlines has become aware of the allegations being made against First Officer Fariq Ab Hamid which we take very seriously. We are shocked by these allegations. We have not been able to confirm the validity of the pictures and videos of the alleged incident," the airline said in a statement.

The woman, Jonti Roos, said in an interview with Australia's Channel Nine TV that she and her friend were invited to fly in the cockpit by Fariq and the pilot between Phuket, Thailand, and Kuala Lumpur in December 2011. The TV channel showed pictures of the four apparently in a plane's cockpit.

The Boeing 777 has one of the best safety records of any commercial aircraft in service. Its only previous fatal crash came on July 6 last year when Asiana Airlines Flight 214 struck a seawall on landing in San Francisco, killing three people.

U.S. planemaker Boeing has declined to comment beyond a brief statement saying it was monitoring the situation.

India to build 200 low-cost airports in next 20 years - 3/10/2014

NDTV ndia plans to build 200 low-cost airports in the next 20 years to connect tier-II and tier-III cities, said a civil aviation ministry official.

This will be one of the focus areas of India Aviation 2014, the country's largest civil aviation exhibition and conference beginning in Hyderabad on Wednesday.

The event with the theme "Enhancing air connectivity" will have special session on 'looking beyond metros'.

G Ashok Kumar, joint secretary, civil aviation, told reporters in Hyderabad on Monday that low-cost, small and no-frills airports would be built in tier-II and tier-III cities, which are expected to spur the development of the aviation sector in the second phase.

"As the operating and service costs at the major airports are phenomenally high, there are plans to build small no-frill airports. They will have the basic infrastructure and will be like upgraded high class railway stations," he said.

The non-metro airports in India presently accounts for only about 30 percent of the total air traffic, but is expected to rise to 45 percent in the next few years.

The government also plans to construct 15 additional airports in the country under the Greenfield Airport Policy, by identifying the most suitable low cost viable model.

Airports Authority of India plans to invest Rs.1,500 crore in the development of non-metro airports during the 12th Plan.

India is planning to invest over $120 billion in the development of airport infrastructure; improvement in connecting infrastructure; development of world class air navigation services infrastructure and other related activities to improve the air connectivity.

India, one of the fastest growing aviation market in the world, currently ranks ninth but is expected to become the third largest after US and China by 2020.

Indian airport system is poised to handle 336 million domestic and 85 million international passengers by 2020, from the current level of 121 million domestic and 41 million international passengers.

According to International Air Transport Association's (IATA) Airline Industry Forecast 2012-2016, India's domestic air travel market would be among the top five globally, experiencing the second highest growth rate at CAGR of 13.1 percent.

"About 400 aircraft are currently operational in the country and by 2020 the number is expected to reach 1000 aircrafts," said Ashok Kumar.

According to him, there is a huge opportunity for MRO sector (Maintenance, Repair & Overhaul sector).

"Civil aviation is a highly-regulated sector. This is a good opportunity and we are focusing for India to emerge as a MRO hub," he added.

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