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It is in the fitness of things that the Gwalior Bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court in a brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment titled Manohar Silawat vs The State of Madhya Pradesh in Misc. Criminal Case No. 4589 of 2020 and cited in 2022 LiveLaw (MP) 158 that was reserved on February 21 and pronounced as recently as on June 9, 2022 quashed a rape case against a man registered at the instance of his second wife as the court noted that it was a frivolous case and her version indicated false allegations against the man. It must be mentioned here that the Single Judge Bench of Justice Anand Pathak minced just no words to observe that it was vexatious and frivolous litigation just to exert pressure on the man to extract money or an attempt made by the prosecutrix (second wife) to convert domestic dispute into criminal allegations. It also merits mentioning that the Court noted that the prosecutrix had lived with the petitioner and in fact had been blessed with a boy named Harsh who is now almost 20 years old and quite bewildering it is that after 18 years she filed a complaint on which case had been registered against the petitioner. Consequently, the Court opined that it would be a miscarriage of justice if such false allegations are allowed to sustain and the petitioner is unnecessarily dragged into litigation to defend himself. Therefore, it was but natural that the Court quashed the FIR that was lodged and the entire criminal proceedings and allowed the petition that was filed by the petitioner.

At the outset, this learned, laudable, landmark and latest judgment authored by the Single Judge Bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court at Gwalior sets the ball rolling by first and foremost putting forth in para 1 that, “This petition has been preferred under Section 482 of Cr.P.C. seeking quashment of FIR registered against the petitioner and consequential criminal proceedings arising out of Crime No.207/2019 registered at Police Station Bajranggarh District Guna for offence under Sections 376, 506 of IPC.”

To put things in perspective, the Bench then envisages in para 2 that, “An FIR got registered by respondent No.2/complainant/prosecutrix on 04-12-2019 who happens to be a lady aged 41 years against the petitioner, a male aged 55 years for offence punishable under Sections 376 and 506 of IPC with the allegations that her husband Mukesh died in 1999 leaving two children. Since petitioner was issueless from his first marriage with his wife Sheela Bai, he induced her to marry so that he can maintain her children born out of first wedlock of prosecutrix and with that inducement he brought her to Bajranggarh and without her consent committed rape in the month of May, 2001 with her as a result whereof she became pregnant and out of such relation, one child namely Harsh was born. Thereafter petitioner used to have physical relationship with her continuously and when after four years she came back to Gwalior then also petitioner used to call her for intermittent payments towards her maintenance amount and used to commit rape and threatened her with dire consequences. Presently she is living with her child Harsh at Gwalior, another child born out of the wedlock of petitioner and complainant and therefore, filed this complaint against the petitioner.”

Needless to say, the Bench then states in para 3 that, “After investigation, charge-sheet was filed against the petitioner and trial is under consideration.”

On the face of it, the Bench mentions in para 4 that, “It is the submission of learned counsel for the petitioner that from the very contents of FIR, improbable event has been conceptualized by prosecutrix and case suffers from vexatious litigation just to harass petitioner. In 2001, she came in the contact of petitioner and out of their relationship, if child was born who happens to be 20 years old by now then it is highly improbable that she remained silent for such long years and after 18 years she raised her voice. Story indicates false allegations.”

What’s more, the Bench states in para 5 that, “It is further submitted that petitioner and respondent No.2 both belong to Scheduled Caste and as per their customs Natra (social customs like live-in/marriage) was performed in which with consent of his first wife Sheela Bai, he lived with both of his wives and when despite instance of prosecutrix, petitioner did not part his whole property in favour of prosecutrix, then these false allegations have been leveled.”

It is worth noting that the Bench then reveals in para 6 that, “Learned counsel for the petitioner filed written synopsis in which he annexed copy of application under Section 125 of Cr.P.C. filed by the prosecutrix against the present petitioner before Principal Judge, Family Court, Gwalior in which she mentioned the fact that with petitioner marriage was solemnized on 13-06-2001 through Hindu Rites and Rituals and thereafter they lived together till July, 2019 and now petitioner has removed her from his family household and therefore, she is living in her maternal home, therefore, seeking maintenance to sustain herself. Such divergent admission of facts itself renders the case doubtful. He relied upon Uday Vs. State of Karnataka, (2003) 4 SCC 46, Popular Muthiah Vs. State represented by Inspector of Police, (2006) 7 SCC 296, Deepak Gulati Vs. State of Haryana, AIR 2013 SC 2071, Dr. Dhruvaram Murlidhar Sonar Vs. State of Maharashtra and others, AIR 2019 SC 327, Pramod Suryabhan Pawar Vs. State of Maharashtra and others, AIR 2019 SC 4010.”

As we see, the Bench then observes in para 7 that, “Learned counsel for the respondent/State opposed the submissions and prayed for dismissal of this petition on the ground that trial will decide the fate of the case.”

Briefly stated, the Bench then mentions in para 8 that, “This is a case where petitioner is facing heat of trial on the basis of allegations so levelled by the prosecutrix over her for offence under Sections 376 and 506 of IPC.” Due to paucity of space the contents of the FIR are not being mentioned here in detail but the gist is that she levelled allegations of rape after giving false promises of marrying her and bearing her expenses.

Further, the Bench then lays bare in para 9 that, “Similarly perusal of application under Section 125 of Cr.P.C. filed at the instance of petitioner through synopsis indicates that marriage between the petitioner and respondent No.2 held on 13- 06-2001 according to Hindu Rites and Rituals and she lived with petitioner for 18 years and blessed with a child Harsh who is almost 20 years old by now and pursuing his study. Petitioner happens to be a Headmaster in Government School Aron, therefore, amount to the tune of Rs.40,000/- was sought for along with expenses Rs.5,000/- and counsel fee Rs.10,000/-.”

Quite forthrightly, the Bench then points out in para 10 that, “Both these allegations and submissions go in different directions. Contents of FIR reveal that for 18 years, prosecutrix lived with petitioner and in fact blessed with a boy namely Harsh who is almost 20 years old by now and after 18 years she filed a complaint on which case has been registered against the petitioner. Such delay in filing of case renders the case doubtful.” It cannot be just glossed over what the Bench has pointed out here and this is what loaded the dice in favour of the petitioner due to which the criminal proceedings were quashed against him and he stood discharged from all the serious allegations that were made by the second wife.

Most forthrightly, the Bench then enunciates in para 11 that, “When petitioner and prosecutrix lived together as a couple for 18 long years then after such lapse of time any allegation levelled by prosecutrix pales into oblivion because they are primarily motivated to exert pressure. Not only this, perusal of application under Section 125 of Cr.P.C. filed at the instance of respondent No.2 further reveals that on the one hand she levelled the allegations that they lived in live-in relationship but now she makes an application that they lived as married couple. Such divergent stand can only be availed of in case of misrepresentation of facts.”

While citing the relevant case law, the Bench then hastens to add in para 12 that, “The Apex Court in the matter of State of Haryana and others Vs. Ch. Bhajan Lal and others, AIR 1992 SC 604 laid down the different exigencies under which interference under Section 482 of Cr.P.C. can be made. Following exigencies are as under:

“(a) where the allegations made in the First Information Report or the complaint, even if they are taken at their face value and accepted in their entirety do not prima facie constitute any offence or make out a case against the accused;

(b) where the allegations in the First Information Report and other materials, if any, accompanying the F.I.R. do not disclose a cognizable offence, justifying an investi- gation by police officers under Section 156(1) of the Code except under an order of a Magistrate within the purview of Section 155(2)of the Code;

(c) where the uncontroverted allegations made in the FIR or complaint and the evidence collected in support of the same do not disclose the commission of any offence and make out a case against the accused;

(d) where the allegations in the FIR do not constitute a cognizable offence but constitute only a non-cognizable offence, no investigation is permitted by a police officer without an order of a Magistrate as contemplated under Section 155(2)of the Code;

(e) where the allegations made in the FIR or complaint are so absurd and inherently improbable on the basis of which no prudent person can ever reach a just conclusion that there is sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused;

(f) where there is an express legal bar engrafted in any of the provisions of the Code or the concerned Act (under which a criminal proceeding is instituted) to the institution and continuance of the proceedings and/or where there is a specific provision in the Code or the concerned Act, providing efficacious redress for the grievance of the aggrieved party;

(g) where a criminal proceeding is manifestly attended with mala fide and/or where the proceeding is maliciously instituted with an ulterior motive for wreaking vengeance on the accused and with a view to spite him due to private and personal grudge.””

Most significantly, the Bench then minces no words whatsoever to hold quite upright in para 13 that, “Here, it appears that from the very perusal of contents of FIR, no offence is made out and perusal of charge-sheet and different statements further substantiates the arguments of petitioner. Besides that, it appears to be vexatious and frivolous litigation just to exert pressure over petitioner to extract money or an attempt made by prosecutrix to convert domestic dispute into criminal allegations. It would be miscarriage of justice if such false allegations are allowed to sustain and petitioner is unnecessarily dragged into litigation to defend himself.”

Most remarkably, the Bench then after analyzing everything goes on to hold in para 14 that, “On the basis of cumulative analysis, perusal of charge-sheet and nature of allegations, no case for trial is made out. From the very contents of FIR and attending circumstances, case appears to be frivolous one and hence FIR registered at Crime No.207/2019 at Police Station Bajranggarh District Guna for offence under Sections 376, 506 of IPC and consequential criminal proceedings are hereby quashed. Petitioner stands discharged from all allegations.”

Finally, the Bench then concludes by bringing the curtains down on this notable judgment and holding aptly in para 15 that, “Petition stands allowed and disposed of.”

All told, we thus see that the Single Judge Gwalior Bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court has very rightly quashed the FIR that was lodged against the husband by the second wife after an inordinate delay of 18 years. The Court has cited the right reasons and relevant case laws to substantiate its valid stand as discussed hereinabove. There can be just no denying or disputing it!

Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate.

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Govt extends date for submission of R&D proposals



The Government has extended the deadline for submission of proposals related to R&D scheme under the National Green Hydrogen Mission. The R&D scheme seeks to make the production, storage, transportation and utilisation of green hydrogen more affordable. It also aims to improve the efficiency, safety and reliability of the relevant processes and technologies involved in the green hydrogen value chain. Subsequent to the issue of the guidelines, the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy issued a call for proposals on 16 March, 2024.

While the Call for Proposals is receiving encouraging response, some stakeholders have requested more time for submission of R&D proposals. In view of such requests and to allow sufficient time to the institutions for submitting good-quality proposals, the Ministry has extended the deadline for submission of proposals to 27th April, 2024.

The scheme also aims to foster partnerships among industry, academia and government in order to establish an innovation ecosystem for green hydrogen technologies. The scheme will also help the scaling up and commercialisation of green hydrogen technologies by providing the necessary policy and regulatory support.

The R&D scheme will be implemented with a total budgetary outlay of Rs 400 crore till the financial year 2025-26. The support under the R&D programme includes all components of the green hydrogen value chain, namely, production, storage, compression, transportation, and utilisation.

The R&D projects supported under the mission will be goal-oriented, time bound, and suitable to be scaled up. In addition to industrial and institutional research, innovative MSMEs and start-ups working on indigenous technology development will also be encouraged under the Scheme.

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India, Brazil, South Africa to press for labour & social issues, sustainability



The Indian delegation also comprises Rupesh Kumar Thakur, Joint Secretary, and Rakesh Gaur, Deputy Director from the Ministry of Labour & Employment.

India, on Thursday, joined the G20’s two-day 2nd Employment Working Group (EWG) meeting under the Brazilian Presidency which is all set to address labour, employment and social issues for strong, sustainable, balanced and job-rich growth for all. India is co-chairing the 2nd EWG meeting, along with Brazil and South Africa, and is represented by Sumita Dawra, Secretary, Labour & Employment.

The Indian delegation also comprises Rupesh Kumar Thakur, Joint Secretary, and Rakesh Gaur, Deputy Director from the Ministry of Labour & Employment. India has pointed out that the priority areas of the 2nd EWG at Brasilia align with the priority areas and outcomes of previous G20 presidencies including Indian presidency, and commended the continuity in the multi-year agenda to create lasting positive change in the world of work. This not only sustains but also elevates the work initiated by the EWG during the Indian Presidency.

The focus areas for the 2nd EWG meeting are — creating quality employment and promoting decent labour, addressing a just transition amidst digital and energy transformations, leveraging technologies to enhance the quality of life for al and the emphasis on gender equity and promoting diversity in the world of employment for inclusivity, driving innovation and growth. On the first day of the meeting, deliberations were held on the over-arching theme of promotion of gender equality and promoting diversity in the workplace.

The Indian delegation emphasized the need for creating inclusive environments by ensuring equal representation and empowerment for all, irrespective of race, gender, ethnicity, or socio-economic background. To increase female labour force participation, India has enacted occupational safety health and working conditions code, 2020 which entitles women to be employed in all establishments for all types of work with their consent at night time. This provision has already been implemented in underground mines.

In 2017, the Government amended the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961, which increased the ‘maternity leave with pay protection’ from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for all women working in establishments employing 10 or more workers. This is expected to reduce the motherhood pay gap among the working mothers. To aid migrant workers, India’s innovative policy ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ allows migrants to access their entitled food grains from anywhere in the Public Distribution System network in the country.

A landmark step in fostering inclusion in the workforce is the e-Shram portal, launched to create a national database of unorganized workers, especially migrant and construction workers. This initiative, providing the e-Shram card, enables access to benefits under various social security schemes.

The portal allows an unorganized worker to register himself or herself on the portal on self-declaration basis, under 400 occupations in 30 broad occupation sectors. More than 290 million unorganized workers have been registered on this portal so far.

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India to spend USD 3.7 billion to fence Myanmar border



India plans to spend nearly $3.7 billion to fence its 1,610-km (1,000-mile) porous border with Myanmar within about a decade, said a source with direct knowledge of the matter, to prevent smuggling and other illegal activities. New Delhi said earlier this year it would fence the border and end a decades-old visa-free movement policy with coup-hit Myanmar for border citizens for reasons of national security and to maintain the demographic structure of its northeastern region.

A government committee earlier this month approved the cost for the fencing, which needs to be approved by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet, said the source who declined to be named as they were not authorised to talk to the media. The prime minister’s office and the ministries of home, finance, foreign affairs and information and broadcasting did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Myanmar has so far not commented on India’s fencing plans. Since a military coup in Myanmar in 2021, thousands of civilians and hundreds of troops have fled from there to Indian states where people on both sides share ethnic and familial ties. This has worried New Delhi because of risk of communal tensions spreading to India. Some members of the Indian government have also blamed the porous border for abetting the tense situation in the restive north-eastern Indian state of Manipur, abutting Myanmar.

For nearly a year, Manipur has been engulfed by a civil war-like situation between two ethnic groups, one of which shares lineage with Myanmar’s Chin tribe. The committee of senior Indian officials also agreed to build parallel roads along the fence and 1,700 km (1,050 miles) of feeder roads connecting military bases to the border, the source said.

The fence and the adjoining road will cost nearly 125 million rupees per km, more than double that of the 55 million per km cost for the border fence with Bangladesh built in 2020, the source said, because of the difficult hilly terrain and the use of technology to prevent intrusion and corrosion.

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However, Stock highlighted the enormity of the challenge, noting that between 40% and 70% of criminal profits are reinvested, perpetuating the cycle of illicit financial activity.

In a press briefing held on Wednesday, Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock unveiled alarming statistics regarding the extent of undetected money laundering and illegal trade transactions plaguing the global banking network. Stock revealed that over 96% of the money transacted through this network remains undetected, with only 2-3% of the estimated USD 2-3 trillion from illegal trade being tracked and returned to victims.

Interpol, working in conjunction with law enforcement agencies and private financial sectors across its 196 member countries, is committed to combating the rising tide of fraud perpetrated by illicit traders. These criminal activities encompass a wide spectrum, including drug trafficking, human trafficking, arms dealing, and the illicit movement of financial assets.

Stock emphasized the urgent need to establish mechanisms for monitoring transactions within the global banking network. Currently, efforts are underway to engage banking associations worldwide in setting up such a framework. However, Stock highlighted the enormity of the challenge, noting that between 40% and 70% of criminal profits are reinvested, perpetuating the cycle of illicit financial activity. The lack of real-time information sharing poses a significant obstacle to law enforcement agencies in their efforts to combat money laundering and illegal trade.

Stock underscored the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in exacerbating this problem, citing its use in voice cloning and other fraudulent activities. Criminal organizations are leveraging AI technologies to expand their operations and evade detection on a global scale. Stock emphasized the importance of enhanced cooperation between law enforcement agencies and private sector banking groups. Realtime information sharing is crucial in the fight against illegal wealth accumulation.

Drawing inspiration from initiatives such as the “Singapore Anti-Scam Centre,” Stock called for the adoption of similar models in other countries to strengthen the collective response to financial crimes. In conclusion, Stock’s revelations underscore the pressing need for concerted action to combat global financial crimes. Enhanced cooperation between public and private sectors, coupled with innovative strategies for monitoring and combating illicit transactions, is essential to safeguarding the integrity of the global financial system.

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FM defends Atal Pension Scheme, highlights guaranteed returns



Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman defended the Atal Pension Yojana (APY) against Congress criticism, asserting its design based on choice architecture and a guaranteed minimum 8% return. She emphasized the scheme’s opt-out feature, facilitating automatic premium continuation unless subscribers choose otherwise, promoting retirement savings. Sitharaman countered Congress allegations of coercion, stating the APY’s guaranteed returns irrespective of market conditions, supplemented by government subsidies.

Responding to Congress’s claim of scheme misuse, Sitharaman highlighted its intended beneficiaries – the lower-income groups. She criticized Congress for its alleged elitist mindset and emphasized the scheme’s success in targeting the needy. Sitharaman accused Congress of exploiting vote bank politics and coercive tactics, contrasting it with the APY’s transparent framework. The exchange underscores the political debate surrounding social welfare schemes, with the government defending its approach while opposition parties raise concerns about implementation and efficacy.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s robust defense of the Atal Pension Yojana (APY) against Congress criticism highlights the ongoing debate over social welfare schemes in India. Sitharaman’s assertion of the APY’s design principles, including its opt-out feature and guaranteed minimum return, underscores the government’s commitment to promoting retirement savings among lower-income groups. The Atal Pension Yojana, named after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was launched in 2015 to provide pension benefits to workers in the unorganized sector. It aims to address the significant gap in pension coverage among India’s workforce, particularly those employed in informal and low-income sectors. The scheme offers subscribers fixed pension amounts ranging from Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 5,000 per month, depending on their contribution and age at entry, after attaining the age of 60. Sitharaman’s response comes after Congress criticism alleging the APY’s inefficacy and coercive tactics in enrolment.

Congress General Secretary Jairam Ramesh described the scheme as poorly designed, citing instances of subscribers dropping out due to unauthorized account openings. However, Sitharaman refuted these claims, emphasizing the APY’s transparent and beneficiary-oriented approach. The finance minister’s defense focuses on three key aspects of the APY: Choice Architecture: Sitharaman highlights the opt-out feature of the APY, which automatically continues premium payments unless subscribers choose to discontinue.

This design element aims to encourage long-term participation and ensure consistent retirement savings among subscribers. By simplifying the decision-making process, the scheme seeks to overcome inertia and promote financial discipline among participants. Guaranteed Minimum Return: Sitharaman underscores the APY’s guarantee of a minimum 8% return, irrespective of prevailing interest rates. This assurance provides subscribers with confidence in the scheme’s financial viability and incentivizes long-term savings.

The government’s commitment to subsidizing any shortfall in actual returns further strengthens the attractiveness of the APY as a retirement planning tool. Targeting the Needy: Sitharaman defends the predominance of pension accounts in lower income slabs, arguing that it reflects the scheme’s successful targeting of its intended beneficiaries – the poor and lower-middle class. She criticizes Congress for its alleged elitist mindset and suggests that the party’s opposition to welfare schemes like the APY stems from a disconnect with the needs of marginalized communities. Sitharaman’s rebuttal also addresses broader political narratives surrounding social welfare policies in India.

She accuses Congress of exploiting vote bank politics and coercive tactics, contrasting it with the transparent and inclusive framework of the APY. The exchange underscores the ideological differences between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress, with each side advocating for their vision of social welfare and economic development. In addition to defending the APY, Sitharaman’s remarks shed light on the broader challenges and opportunities facing India’s pension sector.

Despite significant progress in expanding pension coverage through schemes like the APY, the country still grapples with issues such as financial literacy, informal employment, and pension portability. Addressing these challenges requires a multifaceted approach involving government intervention, private sector participation, and civil society engagement.

As India strives to achieve its vision of inclusive and sustainable development, initiatives like the APY play a crucial role in promoting economic security and social equity. Sitharaman’s defense of the scheme underscores the government’s commitment to addressing the needs of vulnerable populations and ensuring their financial well-being in the long run.

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Regulatory steps will make financial sector strong, but raise cost of capital



India’s financial system regulator, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), is demonstrating a serious commitment to improving governance and transparency at finance companies and banks, with the RBI’s recent measures aimed at curtailing lenders’ overexuberance, enhancing compliance culture and safeguarding customers.

While the global ratings firm has appreciated the RBI’s “diminishing tolerance for non-compliance, customer complaints, data privacy, governance, know-your-customer (KYC), and anti-money laundering issues”, it has cautioned that increased regulatory risk could impede growth and raise the cost of capital for financial institutions. “Governance and transparency are key weaknesses for the Indian financial sector and weigh on our analysis. The RBI’s new measures are creating a more robust and transparent financial system,” says S&P Global Credit Analyst, Geeta Chugh. “India’s regulator has underscored its commitment to strengthening the financial sector. The drawback will be higher capital costs for institutions,” Chugh cautions.

The RBI measures include restraining IIFL Finance and JM Financial Products from disbursing gold loan and loans against shares respectively and asking Paytm Payments Bank (PPBL) to stop onboarding of new customers. Earlier in December 2020, the RBI suspended HDFC Bank from sourcing new credit card customers after repeated technological outages. These actions are a departure from the historically nominal financial penalties imposed for breaches, S&P Global notes.

Besides, as the global agency points out, the RBI has decided to publicly disclose the key issues that lead to suspensions or other strict actions against concerned entities and become more vocal in calling out conduct that it deems detrimental to the interests of customers and investors. “We believe that increased transparency will create additional pressure on the entire financial sector to enhance compliance and governance practices,” adds Chugh. The global agency has also lauded the RBI’s recent actions demonstrating scant tolerance for any potential window-dressing of accounts.

These actions include the provisioning requirement on alternative investment funds that lend to the same borrower as the bank finance company. Amidst the possibility of some retail loans, such as personal loans, loans against property, and gold loans getting diverted to invest in stock markets and difficulty of ascertaining the end-use of money in these products, S&P Global underlines the faith of market participants that the RBI and market regulator, the Securities and Exchange Board of India, want to protect small investors by scrutinizing these activities more cautiously.

On the flip side, at a time of tight liquidity, the RBI’s new measures are likely to limit credit growth in fiscal 2025 (year ending March 2025). “We expect loan growth to decline to 14 per cent in fiscal 2025 from 16 per cent in fiscal 2024, reflecting the cumulative impact of all these actions,” says Chugh. The other side of the story is that stricter rules may disrupt affected entities and increase caution among fintechs and other regulated entities and the RBI’s decision to raise risk weights on unsecured personal loans and credit cards may constrain growth. Household debt to GDP in India (excluding agriculture and small and midsize enterprises) increased to an estimated 24 per cent in March 2024 from 19 per cent in March 2019. Growth in unsecured loans has also been excessive and now forms close to 10 per cent of total banking sector loans.

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