Current Affairs 19 March 2019 Digest 1: Pramod Sawant sworn-in as Goa Chief Minister; Mukesh Ambani rescues Anil Ambani in Ericsson Payout Case

Story 1: BJP's Pramod Sawant sworn-in as 11th Goa Chief Minister; Goa gets 2 Deputy CMs

Goa Legislative Assembly Speaker and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, Pramod Sawant was sworn-in as the 11th Chief Minister of Goa in a late-night ceremony, hours after his predecessor, Manohar Parrikar was cremated with state honours.

He was given the oath of office and secrecy by Goa Governor Mridula Sinha.

Death of former Goa CM Manohar Parrikar

Former Goa Chief Minister and former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, who had been battling cancer, passed away in Panaji on March 17, 2019 at the age of 63.

He was accorded state funeral with 21-gun salute.

Goa gets 2 Deputy CMs

Along with the Chief Minister, Ramkrishna Dhavlikar of Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and Vijai Sardesai of Goa Forward Party were sworn in as Deputy Chief Ministers.

Both the Deputy CMs belong to small coalition parties backing the BJP in the coastal state.

Total 12 Ministers sworn-in in the new State Cabinet

The entire Cabinet of Manohar Parikkar has been retained in the state.

A total of 12 Ministers took oath in the new cabinet of the state, including CM Sawant and 2 Deputy CMs.

The other Ministers included four BJP Ministers, namely, Mauvin Godinho, Vishwajit Rane, Milind Naik aand Nilesh Cabral; Manohar Ajgaonkar of MGP, Rohan Khavtye (independent), Govind Gaude (independent); Vinod Palyekar and Jayesh Salgaonkar of Goa Forward Party.

Who is Pramod Sawant?

Pramod Sawant is a two-time MLA from the Sanquelim constituency of Goa.Beginning his political career as a karyakarta, Sawant rose to ranks independently with no political lineage.

Apart from his political career, Sawant is an Ayurvedic medicine practitioner. His wife, Sulakshana Sawant is the President of Goa Mahila Morcha.

What led to the late-night swearing-in of Goa CM?

With the death of Goa CM Parrikar and another BJP MLA, and resignation of two BJP MLAs who changed sides to align with the Congress, Goa’s Assembly strength was left with just 36 of the required 40 seats.

Considering the situation, the Congress approached the state’s governor with a claim to form the government in the State as it stands as the single-largest party. This demand forced the BJP to enroll-in more members to form the government in the state.

Hence in the final count, the BJP alliance showed up with a total of 21 members, more than the half-way mark of 18 members. To avoid the chances of bypolls to the vacant seats, just before 2 am on March 19, 2019, Sawant was sworn in as Chief Minster.

Story 2: RCom-Ericsson case: Mukesh Ambani rescues Anil Ambani in Ericsson Payout Case, pays Rs 458 crore dues

Just a day before the expiry of Supreme Court set deadline, the Reliance Communications (RCom) on March 18, 2019 cleared the outstanding dues by paying Rs 458.7 crore to Swedish telecom equipment maker, Ericsson.

Mukesh Ambani rescues Anil Ambani

Mukesh Ambani, Chairman of Reliance Industries Ltd, provided over Rs 450-crore help to younger brother Anil Ambani, rescuing him from the Ericsson Payout Case and saving him from a jail term.

Anil Ambani, Chairman of the Reliance Communications Ltd (RCom), thanked his elder brother Mukesh Ambani and his wife Nita Ambani for helping in paying dues to Ericsson.

Supreme Court’s ruling

On February 19, 2019, the Supreme Court held Reliance Communications (RCom) chairman Anil Ambani guilty of contempt of court for wilfully violating its order and not paying its dues of Rs 550 crore to Telecom equipment maker Ericsson.

The bench comprising Justices R F Nariman and Vineet Saran ruled that if billionaire Anil Ambani along with Chairmen of two RCom units Chhaya Virani and Satish Seth fail to pay the Ericsson's dues in four weeks, that is, by March 19, 2019, they will undergo a jail term of three months.

The apex court held that the RCom chairman, Reliance Telecom chairman Satish Seth and Reliance Infratel chairperson Chhaya Virani breached the undertaking given to the court and the related orders.

The court also directed Reliance Telecom and Reliance Infratel to pay Rs 1 crore each in four weeks to the apex court's registry or the chairman will have to undergo additional jail term of one month.

It had also directed the registry of the apex court to pay Rs 118 crore deposited by the RCom group to Ericsson.

Contempt petition by Ericsson  

The Swedish gear-maker Ericsson filed the contempt petitions alleging that RCom violated the undertaking made before the apex court to pay off the due debts worth Rs 550 crores. The company missed the two deadlines of September 30 and December 15.

Ericsson claimed that the Reliance group "wilfully and consciously" defied the Supreme Court order dated August 3, 2018 and the undertaking given before it to pay up by September-end.

The apex court on October 23, 2018 gave one last opportunity to RCom for clearing the settlement amount by setting December 15 as the deadline. However, this deadline was also missed.

The repeated failure by RCom to comply with the promise landed him in trouble when the Supreme Court held Ambani in contempt.

The company suffered another setback when the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) in March 2019 refused to free up Rs 260 crore tax refunds withheld by the banks that too had opposed release of the tax refunds.

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