IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


12th March, 2020


COVID-19 now a pandemic, says WHO; India confirms 60 cases

WHO comments:

-       According to its assessment, COVID-19 “can be characterised as a pandemic.”

-       Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death.

-       Pandemic: A pandemic is the worldwide spread of a new infectious disease.

-       It stretches over a larger area, infects more people and causes more deaths than an epidemic.

-       In history, there have been a number of devastating pandemics including smallpox, tuberculosis and the Black Death, which killed more than 75million people in 1350.

-       1,18,000 positive cases have been reported globally in 114 countries and more than 90% of cases are in just four countries.

-       81 countries had not reported any COVID-19 cases, and 57 countries had reported 10 case or less.

Cases in India:

-       Number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has risen to 60 in India on March 11 with two fresh positive cases — one each from Delhi and Rajasthan.

Government actions:

-       Issued a new travel advisory stating that all existing visas, except diplomatic, official, U.N./International Organisations, employment, project visas, stand suspended till April 15.

-       Visa-free travel facility granted to Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card holders is kept in abeyance till April 15 and also comes into effect from March 13.

-       Any foreign national who intends to travel to India for compelling reason may contact the nearest Indian Mission and all incoming travellers, including Indian nationals, arriving from or having visited China, Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, France, Spain and Germany after Feb 15 shall be quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days.

-       Provision for testing primarily for students/compassionate cases in Italy to be made and collection for samples to be organised accordingly.

-       International traffic through land borders will be restricted.

-       Government issued advisory that all necessary steps may be undertaken in public transport vehicles to ensure sanitation of seats, handles and bars.

-       Indian government was working with the Iranian authorities to operate some limited commercial flights for facilitating early return of the remaining Indians after testing them.

-       The Union Home Ministry, in an order on March 11, transferred some of its power to the Union Health Ministry for tackling the COVID-19 if the outbreak turns out to be a disaster of national proportions. This will allow the Health Ministry  

-       To act as coordinating and monitoring body for disaster management

-       To prepare a national plan to deal with the emergency

-       To coordinate and monitor the implementation of the National Policy

Earlier actions:

-       India has so far evacuated 948 passengers from coronavirus-affected countries. Of these, 900 are Indian citizens and 48 belonging to different nationalities.

-       People who are arriving from foreign are being quarantined at government facilities to contain the spread.

About WHO:

-       Its primary role is to direct and coordinate international health within the United Nations system.

-       Its main areas of work are health systems; health through the life-course; non-communicable and communicable diseases; preparedness, surveillance and response; and corporate services.

-       The World Health Assembly is attended by delegations from all Member States, and determines the policies of the Organization.

-       The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialised agency of the United Nations that is concerned with world public health.

-       The WHO is a member of the United Nations Development Group.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/covid-19-is-now-a-pandemic-says-who/article31043206.ece

Coronavirus | States to be asked to invoke Epidemic Disease Act: Centre

It has been decided that all States/Union Territories should be advised to invoke provisions of Section 2 of the Epidemic Disease Act, 1897 so that all advisories being issued from time to time by the Ministry/State/UTs are enforceable.

About Epidemic Disease act:

-       The Epidemic Diseases Act is routinely enforced across the country for dealing with outbreaks of diseases such as swine flu, dengue and cholera.

-       The Act, which consists of four sections, aims to provide “for the better prevention of the spread of Dangerous Epidemic Diseases.”

-       Section 2 empowers state governments/UTs to take special measures and formulate regulations for containing the outbreak.

-       Section 3 provides penalties for disobeying any regulation or order made under the Act. These are according to section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant).

-       Section 4 gives legal protection to the implementing officers acting under the Act.

Examples of Implementation:

-       In 2018, the district collector of Gujarat’s Vadodara issued a notification under the Act declaring the Khedkarmsiya village in Waghodia taluka as cholera-affected after 31 persons complained of symptoms of the disease.

-       In 2015, to deal with malaria and dengue in Chandigarh, the Act was implemented and controlling officers were instructed to ensure the issuance of notices and challans of Rs 500 to offenders.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/coronavirus-states-to-be-asked-to-invoke-epidemic-disease-act-centre/article31043653.ece


Supreme Court comes down on sexual harassment of women at workplace

Court order:

-       Sexual harassment of women at workplace is an affront to their fundamental right to equality and a life with dignity.

-       Sexual harassment at the workplace is an affront to the fundamental rights of a woman to equality under Articles 14 and 15.

-       Her right to live with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution as well as her right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.

About the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act:

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 is a legislative act in India that seeks to protect women from sexual harassment at their place of work.

Major Provisions:

-       The Act defines sexual harassment at the work place and creates a mechanism for redressal of complaints. It also provides safeguards against false or malicious charges.

-       The Act also covers concepts of 'quid pro quo harassment' and 'hostile work environment' as forms of sexual harassment if it occurs in connection with an act or behaviour of sexual harassment.

-       The definition of "aggrieved woman", who will get protection under the Act is extremely wide to cover all women, irrespective of her age or employment status, whether in the organized or unorganized sectors, public or private and covers clients, customers and domestic workers as well.

-       An employer has been defined as any person who is responsible for management, supervision, and control of the workplace and includes persons who formulate and administer policies of such an organization under Section 2(g).

-       While the "workplace" in the Vishaka Guidelines is confined to the traditional office set-up where there is a clear employer-employee relationship, the Act goes much further to include organizations, department, office, branch unit etc. in the public and private sector, organized and unorganized, hospitals, nursing homes, educational institutions, sports institutes, stadiums, sports complex and any place visited by the employee during the course of employment including the transportation. Even non-traditional workplaces which involve tele-commuting will get covered under this law.

-       The Committee is required to complete the inquiry within a time period of 90 days. On completion of the inquiry, the report will be sent to the employer or the District Officer, as the case may be, they are mandated to take action on the report within 60 days.

-       Every employer is required to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee at each office or branch with 10 or more employees. The District Officer is required to constitute a Local Complaints Committee at each district, and if required at the block level.

-       The Complaints Committees have the powers of civil courts for gathering evidence.

-       The Complaints Committees are required to provide for conciliation before initiating an inquiry, if requested by the complainant.

-       The inquiry process under the Act should be confidential and the Act lays down a penalty of Rs 5000 on the person who has breached confidentiality.

-       Penalties have been prescribed for employers. Non-compliance with the provisions of the Act shall be punishable with a fine of up to รขโ€šยน 50,000. Repeated violations may lead to higher penalties and cancellation of license or deregistration to conduct business.

-       Government can order an officer to inspect workplace and records related to sexual harassment in any organization.

Challenges in the Implementation of act:


-       However, employers often receive complaints that claim to be about sexual harassment but actually are complaints of general harassment.

-       There is time bound on the filing of the complaint. Under the law there is 3 month requirement and committee can extend it to further 3 months. This is a big challenge.

-       Definition of workplaces is continuously changing. Whether office party or non-official informal social media groups will be considered as workplace is difficult to ascertain.

-       Composition of Internal complaint committee is also an issue as committee will not take actions against a senior employee.

-       The Act and the Rules do not provide any specific guidelines relating to what will qualify as evidence in a case of sexual harassment. Most instances of sexual harassment take place in private, which may not result in any written evidence or first-hand witnesses.

-       The Act and Rules do not contain any provision to address anonymous complaints. But in a patriarchal society like India, anonymous complaint should be allowed to file.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/sc-comes-down-on-sexual-harassment-of-women-at-workplace/article31043725.ece


Role of Lieutenant Governor and elected government intertwined, rules Madras High Court

High Court observations:

-       Role of Puducherry’s Lieutenant Governor and that of an elected government in the Union Territory were intertwined as per law.

-       They were expected to act in unison and not in division.

Supreme Court judgement on relationships between LG and elected government in case of Delhi:

-       Lt Governor is just an “administrator” and administrative head in a limited sense, and that he is bound by the “aid and advice” of the Council of Ministers.

-       He has no independent powers of his own.

-       He has to either go by the advice of ministers, or comply with the orders of the President on matters referred to him.

-       He cannot interfere in every case, there is no need of his concurrence in each matter.

-       He can refer matters to the President only in exceptional situations and not in a “routine or mechanical manner”.

-       The CJI held that “any matter” in Article 239AA(4) does not mean “every matter”.

-       The Lt Governor has to employ “constitutional objectivity” and exercise this power in the rarest of rare situations for valid reasons.

-       The Lt Governor does not have the power to change every decision or differ with every decision of ministers.

-       The CJI explicitly held that the Lt Governor’s difference of opinion with ministers should never be based on a perception of a “right to differ”, but should be based on “constitutional trust”.

-       Ministers must keep in mind that Delhi is not a state and the Lt Governor is not a titular head; rather, he enjoys the powers of an administrator.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/role-of-lieutenant-governor-and-elected-government-intertwined-rules-madras-high-court/article31044052.ece

Forcible dispossession of a person’s property a human right violation: Supreme Court

Court observations:

-       Forcible dispossession of a person of his private property without due process of law is a human right violation.

-       Right to property is both a human right and a constitutional right — the latter under Article 300A of the Constitution.

-       Some amount of property right is an indispensable safeguard against tyranny and economic oppression of the government.

-       Property itself is the seed bed which must be conserved if other constitutional values are to flourish.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/forcible-dispossession-of-a-persons-property-a-human-right-violation/article31043719.ece


‘Go for peace deal with or without NSCN (I-M)’

Naga Groups comment:

-       Advised government to go for the final agreement even if the NSCN (I-M) refuses to come on board.

-       The NSCN (I-M) has been adamant about getting a separate flag and constitution as part of the peace deal.

-       They have distributed the status paper among our people, which is acceptable to them

Government argument:

-       The Centre wants all the Naga stakeholder groups to find common ground before the final agreement is signed.



Broad Outlines of the Framework:

Last year, Government told a parliamentary committee that the framework agreement of 2015 was signed after the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (IsakMuivah).

-       Gave up the idea of Naga sovereignty and “agreed for a settlement within the Indian federation”.

-       The NSCN-IM also came to accept that the “boundaries of any state will neither be changed nor altered”.

-       On its part, the Indian government reaffirmed its recognition of the uniqueness of Naga history.

-       A special status on the lines of Article 371-A will be explored for Naga areas outside Nagaland.

Recent Challenges:

-       Abrogation of special status for Jammu and Kashmir under article 370 provoked anxiety in Nagaland and other north-eastern states, most of which are endowed with different levels of special status under different sections of Article 371.

-       The demands for a separate Naga flag and constitution — the very same things that were taken from Jammu and Kashmir — were what had stalled the talks.

Reasons of Naga Insurgency:

Explicit aims of the Naga movement — from Phizo to Muivah — were sovereign statehood and territorial integration.

-       Sovereignty was claimed on the basis of prior sovereign existence and difference, which is today expressed in terms of “uniqueness”.

-       Second, the “artificial boundaries” separating the Nagas will be dismantled and be placed under one administration.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/go-for-peace-deal-with-or-without-nscn-i-m/article31044538.ece