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Centre issues ordinance to amend the Income Tax Act of 1961 and the Finance Act of 2019

In its boldest gambit yet to stir up the economy, the government on Friday issued an ordinance to reduce the corporate tax rate for domestic firms and new manufacturing units by 10 to 12 percentage points, effectively bringing India’s tax rates on a par with its competing Asian peers.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the effective tax rate for domestic corporates, inclusive of surcharges, would fall from 34.94% to 25.17% if they stopped availing themselves of any other tax sops.

Fillip to manufacturing

For new manufacturing firms set up after October 1, 2019, and commencing operations by March 31, 2023, the effective tax rate will fall from 29.1% to 17%. The slew of measures unveiled by Ms. Sitharaman, including the rollback of the enhanced surcharge levied on foreign portfolio investors in the Union Budget and a reduction in the Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT) rate from 18.5% to 15% for all businesses, is estimated to cost the exchequer ₹1,45,000 crore a year in foregone revenue.

Ms. Sitharaman said she was conscious of the impact of the package on the government’s fiscal arithmetic and the 3.3% fiscal deficit target for the year, but the government was betting on “more investments leading to more jobs and economic activity that would shore up revenues”. “We have issued an ordinance to amend the Income Tax Act of 1961 and the Finance Act of 2019,” she said.

Former BJP MP has confessed to ‘almost all’ the allegations made against him: SIT chief

Chinmayanand at a hospital on Friday. PTIPTI

The law student from Shahjahanpur, who has accused former Union Minister Swami Chinmayanand of raping and physically exploiting her, was on Friday charged with extortion in a case filed by him, even as the SIT probing the case arrested him.

SIT chief Naveen Arora said the former BJP MP had confessed to “almost all” the allegations made against him, barring rape. Despite the student’s complaint, Chinmayanand was not charged with rape but was arrested under Section 376 C of the IPC, which pertains to misusing authority to seduce or induce a woman to have sexual intercourse.

The complainant is a student of a college run by the former BJP MP in Shahjahanpur. Though the police did not explicitly state that her name was included in the extortion case FIR, the student featured as the fourth name among the accused in the case.

Three persons —Sanjay Singh, Sachin Sengar and Vikram alias Durgesh — allegedly directly associated with her, were arrested on charges of sending extortion messages to Mr. Chinmayanand demanding ₹5 crore from him. The police said they had confessed to making the extortion calls.

Mr. Arora told journalists in Shahjahanpur that Mr. Chinmayanand had accepted almost all the allegations against him, including his presence in the controversial videos, receiving body massages by the law student and engaging in vulgar conversation.

‘I am ashamed’

Asked if Mr. Chinmayanand had confessed to the rape charges, Mr. Arora said, “Not directly. but there are many facts that lead [to it]. And when he (Mr. Chinmayanand) said, ‘I don't have anything more to say, I am ashamed of my deeds,’ then that is more than enough,” said Mr. Arora.

Mr. Chinmayanand was also booked for stalking the law student, criminal intimidation and wrongful confinement.

On the other hand, Mr. Arora said, the SIT had “prima facie” found the “involvement” of the law student in the extortion case. The law student expressed disappointment with the SIT for not booking Mr. Chinmayanand under rape charges.

Refuting the charges of extortion against her, the complainant said, “this new angle was brought up to weaken my case against Chinmayanand.”

Aadhaar link for registration proposed

Nirmala Sitharaman at a press conference in Goa on Friday. Atish Pomburfekar The Hindu

From October 1, taking the family for a holiday is set to become a more economical affair, but the consumption of energy drinks will become more expensive, following a marathon meeting of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council that lasted nearly nine hours on Friday.

While the tax rates were tweaked up or down for several goods and services, the Council left unchanged the rates on products like automobiles and biscuits that had been clamouring for a rate rationalisation in view of falling sales.

Among many procedural changes, the Council arrived at an ‘in-principle decision’ to link Aadhaar with registration of taxpayers under GST and examine the possibility of making Aadhaar mandatory for claiming refunds.

To factor in the new Union Territories of Jannmu & Kashmir and Ladakh, suitable amendments in the Central GST Act, the Union Territories’ GST Act, and the corresponding State GST Acts have been approved, a Finance Ministry statement said after the meeting.

Supreme Court says petition raises ‘substantial issues’

The Supreme Court on Friday assigned the Jammu and Kashmir High Court’s Juvenile Justice Committee the task of inquiring into the allegations of illegal detention of children — some as young as 10 — by security forces.

The State is undergoing a period of lockdown following the reading down of Article 370.

A three-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, said it would not make any comment on the allegations for now. However, it said the petition filed by child rights activists Enakshi Ganguly and Shanta Sinha raised “substantial issues and alleged detention of children”.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta objected to the issuance of notice or mention in the order of “detention of children”, saying this would have huge and wide repercussions. However, the court did not concede the request and maintained that the panel initiate an inquiry.

At the previous hearing, the court asked the Chief Justice of the Jammu & Kashmir High Court to file a report on a statement by the petitioners’ lawyer and senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi that it was next to impossible to access the High Court because of the lockdown.

The CJI said the report filed by the Chief Justice did not support his statement. “But we have conflicting reports too. However, since the issue is about the alleged detention of children, we will ask the High Court’s Juvenile Justice Committee to inquire,” he said.

Team in IIIT, Hyderabad, tracks listening patterns as an indicator of mental health

What does it mean to ‘hide’ behind music? What could listening to music on loop indicate if it makes the listener feel worse? And could the answers to these questions be connected to mental health?

A team of music psychology researchers from the International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), Hyderabad, has been working on music listening patterns as indicators of mental health.

Prof. Vinoo Alluri from the IIIT’s Cognitive Science Lab explains that her team, comprising students Rajat Agarwal and Ravinder Singh, interacted with 300 respondents, including young adults and workers in the IT sector, as a part of the project.

The team used the ‘Healthy and Unhealthy Music Scale’ (HUMS), which asks respondents 13 questions on their engagement with music.

“‘Music helps me to relax’ is a ‘healthy association’. There are five such ‘healthy associations’ and eight are ‘unhealthy associations’. It was found that the higher the respondents score on the ‘unhealthy’ items, the higher they score on the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (if one’s score is above a threshold, the higher the risk of developing mental health issues),” Prof. Alluri said.

However, she was quick to clarify that this does not mean that music is bad for the listener. On the contrary, how one uses music indicates one’s current mental state.

The researchers also used machine learning to predict where respondents stand on the Kessler scale. Data was collected from a music streaming service which allows mining of information on what artiste or artistes the user listens to and when, over a period of time.

“After taking consent, we have users’ HUMS, Kessler measures to identify who is at high risk. We are now analysing data. Also, we know that music is beneficial in many ways. But you have to know how to regulate it if you are high risk. This is an ongoing work,” Prof. Alluri says.

ILLUSTRATION: SREEJITH R. KUMAR

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