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India unwrapped: Top court to rule on gay sex; Sinha, Tharoor court controversy
Photo Credit: Reuters

Jeff Bezos, the world's richest man and the founder of Amazon.com Inc., is preparing to take tourists into space next year. Back home, Indians are debating a 157-year-old law that makes same-sex relationships a criminal offence.

The Supreme Court began hearing a case this week on scrapping the controversial Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which dates back to 1861. The court will continue its hearings on the matter next week, though senior judges have indicated the ban may soon go.

The Narendra Modi-led BJP government, meanwhile, has left it for the court to decide on decriminalising homosexuality as it walks a tightrope to reconcile the changing public opinion with the sensibilities of the BJP's conservative Hindu right-wing support base.

Outside the apex court, two other politicians hogged the limelight this week--the BJP's Jayant Sinha and the opposition Congress party's Shashi Tharoor.

Sinha, the union aviation minister and son of former finance minister Yashwant Sinha, sparked a controversy after garlanding eight people who were convicted of killing a Muslim cattle trader last year and were released on bail recently.

Tharoor kicked up a row when he said that if the BJP wins the next general elections, due by May 2019, it will rewrite the Constitution and make India a "Hindu Pakistan". Not surprisingly, both parties traded barbs over the two developments.

Unaffected by politics, the stock markets continued their upward march. The benchmark BSE Sensex scaled record highs and went past the 36,500 mark.

Helping the markets scale this peak were Tata Consultancy Services Ltd and Reliance Industries Ltd. India’s biggest IT company reported a 17% rise in net profit and 10% growth in revenue on a quarter-on-quarter basis, pushing its stock higher and taking its market value to around $110 billion. Reliance, too, crossed the milestone of $100-billion market value.

Even as the markets cheered TCS and Reliance, ICICI Bank’s woes seem to continue. A report in the Mint newspaper said on Thursday as many as 1,000 bad loan accounts are under the scanner in an internal probe against chief executive Chanda Kochhar and other officials.

Kochhar has gone on an indefinite leave pending the investigation into allegations of quid-pro-quo and nepotism in a case involving her husband Deepak, his brother Rajiv and Videocon promoter Venugopal Dhoot.

The week also saw Prime Minister Modi inaugurate what is being billed as the world’s largest mobile-phone factory. The Noida, Uttar Pradesh-based Samsung factory will have the capacity to fabricate 120 million mobile handsets a year, a third of which will be exported.

The factory is a big showcase for Modi's pet ‘Make in India’ programme. And yet, as an analysis by the Hindustan Times newspaper showed, this is unlikely to solve India’s trade deficit with China when it comes to electronics, as most components will be manufactured outside the country and will only be assembled at home.

While the Modi government tom-toms the Samsung facility, his other marquee venture--the $17 billion bullet train project--is facing land acquisition hurdles and could be delayed beyond the August 2022 deadline. Moreover, the opposition Congress party has said that if it is voted to power in 2019 it will scrap the 'economically non-viable' project.

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