Morning
Brief: Key GST Tax Rates Finalised; Rs 5 Lakh Crore For Highway Projects; Prabhu
For Safety Cess GST Council finalised tax rates for 1,211 items. (NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)

Good Morning, Swarajya Readers! Here's What You Need To Know Today.

GST Council Finalises Key Tax Rates: Srinagar was host to the 14th GST Council meeting during which tax rates for 1,211 items were decided. "There is no increase in taxes of the items considered today. In fact, for many of them, taxes have come down," Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said. Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia said that an overwhelming 81 per cent of items will attract tax of 18 per cent or below. Only 19 per cent of items will be taxed at the highest rate of 28 per cent, he said. The two-day meeting will take up the exemption of essential services on Friday. They backed the 1 July deadline for rolling out the unified indirect tax.

SC Reserves Verdict In Triple Talaq Case: The Supreme Court today (Thursday) asked Muslim bodies how can a practice like triple talaq be a matter of "faith" when they have been asserting that it is "patriarchal", "bad in theology" and "sinful". A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar also reserved its verdict on a number of pleas challenging the constitutional validity of triple talaq among Muslims after hearing parties including the Centre, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, the All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board and various others for six days in summer vacation.

Ambitious Highway Projects: Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari has said that the Union government has set an ambitious target of awarding Rs 5 lakh crore worth of highway contracts. In the last two years of its tenure the government is expected to award contracts totalling about 50,000 km. The contracts will be for 44 economic corridors and 10 expressways, and would include the 'chardham' connectivity programme, northeast connectivity programme and the borders-linking projects."My ministry's vision is that a freight vehicle should move on highways without restrictions and should be able to do at least 400 km per day. It will have very positive impact on the logistics industry.”

Paytm Raises $1.4 Billion From SoftBank: In one of the largest funding rounds by a single investor in the Indian startup ecosystem, Paytm has raised $1.4 billion from SoftBank Group. Paytm founder and chief executive Vijay Shekhar Sharma said the company is at an inflexion point in its journey. “ We believe that we have a great opportunity to bring financial inclusion to half-a-billion Indians.” Paytm plans to invest about around Rs 10,000 crore over the next three to five years towards enabling half-a-billion Indians to join the mainstream economy. “As a part of this vision, the company will soon launch the Paytm Payments Bank,” it added.

Railways May Impose Safety Cess: The Indian Railways is considering imposing safety cess on train tickets for strengthening accident prevention measures. Railway minister Suresh Prabhu said, “We have to raise safety funds and the people will also have to give some support. We are considering all options”. This means passenger train tickets could see a marginal hike. The cess could be fixed at less than 2 per cent of the total fare amount, officials said. The railways operates 19,000 trains daily and carries an estimated 23 million passengers, a number equal to the population of Australia, on its network of tracks running to nearly 64,000 kilometres.

Pakistan Ordered Not To Execute Kulbhushan Jadhav: In a case that brought temporary reprieve for Kulbhushan Jadhav the International Court of Justice ordered Pakistan not to execute the former Indian Navy officer convicted by a military court of alleged espionage and terrorism. The ICJ rejected Islamabad’s argument that the UN’s top legal body did not have jurisdiction in the case. India has welcomed that decision. External affairs ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said the order was “unanimous, clear and unambiguous” and would help remedy the violation of Jadhav’s rights. He noted the ICJ’s order was internationally binding. However, the ICJ has no means to enforce its rulings and they have sometimes been ignored.

Karti Chidambaram Leaves For UK Following CBI Raids: Congress leader Karti Chidambaram yesterday left for UK two days after his home was raided by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The son of former Union minister P Chidambaram, left for London along with a friend by an international carrier, airport sources said. The CBI had on Monday registered a case against him in connection with alleged irregularities in granting the Foreign Investment Promotion Board clearance to INX Media in 2007 when P Chidambaram was the finance minister. Sources said, he had left for UK on a scheduled visit.

Lieberman Frontrunner For FBI Director’s Post: President Donald Trump said Thursday that he is "very close" to naming a new Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director to replace the one he fired more than a week ago. When asked whether former Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman was a top candidate for the job. Trump responded, "He is”. Trump has said he could name a director before he leaves the country on Friday on his first overseas trip as president. Trump interviewed three other potential FBI director candidates: former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating, former top FBI official Richard McFeely and Andrew McCabe. McCabe became acting director after Trump fired James Comey as director last week.

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SWARAJYA SPECIAL

In GST Implementation, A Real Test For Prime Minister Narendra Modi: Prime Minister Modi carried the weight of demonetisation fallout deftly based on his personal credibility and brand. GST roll-out will require an encore performance.

We hope you enjoyed reading our morning brief. Have a great day ahead!

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