IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


17th January, 2020


Filtering out free speech


In a landmark, ruling Supreme Court held that citizens’ right to freedom of speech and rights to carry out business using the internet are constitutionally protected.

Supreme Court verdict in Shreya Singhal case:

-       Court defined key rules for the relationship between democratic governments and commercial internet platforms.

-       The case called on courts and government agencies — not companies like Google or Facebook — to decide what speech and information violates the law and must be removed from public view on the internet.

-       It clarified that competent public authority not private platforms should sit in judgement when online speech is alleged to violate the law.

-       In practice, this has allowed platforms to enforce their terms of service, while ensuring that only courts and government authorities decide what speech and information is prohibited by law.

-       It corrected a serious problem with platforms’ incentives to remove lawful content from the internet.

Issues with Platforms removing the content:

-       Claims of illegal speech are false, intended to manipulate platforms into silencing particular speakers.

-       Some seek to suppress important online speech, like reporting on police brutality or scientific research.

-       Others come from businesses trying to harm their competitors.

IT ministry draft rules:

-       Rules require platforms to act on government demands in just 24 hours, with no mechanism to correct mistakes or clarify confusing orders.

-       The Rules also require platforms to build “automated tools” to proactively police and remove internet users’ speech.

-       It is based on about the potential of technologies like Artificial Intelligence.

Challenges in automated filtering:

-       Software filters are no substitute for human judgement — much less for proper review by courts or government authorities.

-       Filters cannot understand the context in which material appears.  For example — a terrorist recruitment video, we cannot expect it to understand or protect speech that uses the same material in important new contexts, like news reporting or scholarship.

-       Filtering mandates raise equally serious concerns about economic development and innovation.

-       Start-ups and small platforms cannot afford to invest $100 million in filtering technologies, as YouTube says it has done.

-       Applying new removal obligations only to large companies might ease some of these problems, but would distort incentives for mid-sized and growing platforms.

Reference: https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/filtering-out-free-speech-shreya-singhal-case-supreme-court-6220277/


India to invite Imran Khan for Shanghai Council meet



Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan will be invited to participate in the Heads of Government Council meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) that will be hosted in India this year.

Government statement:

-       As per the established practice and procedure within SCO, all eight members of the SCO, four observer states, and other international dialogue partners will be invited to attend the meeting.

About SCO:

-       The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is a Eurasian political, economic, and security alliance, the creation of which was announced on 15 June 2001 in Shanghai, China by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. India & Pakistan became full-time member of the SCO in 2017.

-       India and Pakistan have participated in multiple meetings of SCO and the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) despite hostilities and tension in Kashmir.

-       The Prime Minister-level leaders of the member states attend the Heads of Government Council meeting.

-       Leaders deliberate on the regional body’s economic and other pressing issues.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/india-to-invite-imran-khan-for-shanghai-council-meet/article30581023.ece

U.S., China tiptoe around holes in new trade agreement

The United States and China signed an initial trade deal on January 15 that will roll back some tariffs and boost Chinese purchases of U.S. products.

About the deal:

-       Pledge by China to purchase at least an additional $200 billion worth of U.S. farm products and other goods and services over two years, over a baseline of $186 billion in purchases in 2017.

-       It includes:

-       $54 billion in additional energy purchases

-        $78 billion in additional manufacturing purchases,

-        $32 billion more in farm products,

-        $38 billion in services

-       Chinese companies would buy $40 billion in U.S. agricultural products annually over the next two years “based on market conditions.”

Challenges after the deal:

-       Fails to address structural economic issues that led to the trade conflict

-       Does not fully eliminate the tariffs that have slowed the global economy.

-       Sets hard-to-achieve purchase targets.

-       Do not end retaliatory tariffs on American farm exports.

-       Makes farmers “increasingly reliant” on Chinese state-controlled purchases.

-       it will leave in place 25% tariffs on a vast, $250 billion array of Chinese industrial goods and components used by U.S. manufacturers

-       Evidence is mounting that tariffs have raised input costs for U.S. manufacturers, eroding their competitiveness.

Impact of the deal:

-       Stock market indexes climbed to new records on hopes the deal would reduce tensions.

-       Oil prices slid on doubts the pact will spur world economic growth and boost crude demand.

-       Could be a boost to U.S. farmers, automakers and heavy equipment manufacturers.

-       Whole negotiation has moved the football forward for both the U.S. and China.

-       The deal cancelled planned U.S. tariffs on Chinese-made cell phones, toys and laptop computers.

-       It has halved the tariff rate to 7.5% on about $120 billion worth of other Chinese goods, including flat panel televisions, Bluetooth headphones and footwear.

-       Tariff reduction will initiate from Phase 2, which will begin after successful completion of phase1.

US arguments:

-       China had pledged action to confront the problem of pirated or counterfeited goods.

-       Phase 1 deal included strong protection of intellectual property rights.

-       Agreement would add 0.5 percentage point to U.S. gross domestic product growth in both 2020 and 2021.

-       Boeing was expected to win a major order for wide-body jets from China, including its 787 or 777-9 models.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/us-china-tiptoe-around-holes-in-new-trade-agreement/article30573219.ece


34,000 Bru refugees to be settled in Tripura

Union Home Minister Amit Shah presided over the signing of a quadripartite pact of the MHA with the State governments of Tripura, Mizoram and leaders of Bru community to permanently settle around 34,000 internally displaced Bru people in Tripura.

About Bru issues:

-       Reangs or Brus are the second largest ethnic group in Mizoram. In Tripura, they are recognised as a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group and are second most populous tribe after the Tripuris.

-       Brus leaders had demanded an Autonomous District Council (ADC) for the tribe under the sixth Schedule of the Constitution in the western areas of Mizoram, where they were present in sizable numbers but Mizos formed the majority.

-       Their exodus in 1997 was spurred by violent clashes in Mamith subdivision, a Reang-dominated area.

Sixth Schedule {Article 244(2) and 275(1)}

-       North-eastern States – Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura – fall under the Sixth Schedule of Constitution of India, which makes special provisions for “tribal areas”.

-       It allows the formation of ADCs that have legislative, administrative, executive and financial powers over policy areas

-       ADC will consist of not more than thirty members, of whom not more than four persons shall be nominated by the Governor and the rest shall be elected on the basis of adult suffrage.

Earlier settlement process:

-       In 2018, an agreement was signed and a package was sanctioned.

-       Brus were to be sent back to Mizoram. However, they did not want to go back. As only 328 families moved back.

Final Settlement:

-       The displaced people will be settled in Tripura permanently.

-       Brus would get voting rights and tribal status in Tripura.

-       Brus who settled in Mizoram would not have an option to come back.

-       Community members would also get a one-time assistance of Rs. 4 lakh as fixed deposit.

-       A 40/30 feet plot of land, an aid of Rs. 5,000/month for the next two years, free ration and Rs. 1.5 lakh to build houses will be given to them.

-       The Tripura government has identified land to settle them.

-       Funds to buy land would be jointly shared by the Centre and the State government.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/34000-bru-refugees-to-be-settled-in-tripura/article30581024.ece

NIA to probe Davinder case

The Union Home Ministry has given permission to proceed to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to take over the case of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) police officer Davinder Singh who was arrested with two wanted Hizbul Mujahideen militants on January 11.

About NIA:

-       The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is a state agency established by the Indian Government to combat terror in India.

-       The agency is empowered to deal with terror related crimes across states without special permission from the states.

-       The Agency came into existence with the enactment of the National Investigation Agency Act 2008 by the Parliament of India.

-       A State Government may request the Central Government to hand over the investigation of a case to the NIA, provided the case has been registered for the offences as contained in the schedule to the NIA Act.

-       Officers of the NIA, who are drawn from the Indian Police Service and Indian Revenue Service, have all powers, privileges and liabilities, which the police officers have in connection with investigation of any offense.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/nia-to-probe-davinder-case/article30580965.ece


No relief from Supreme Court, telcos have to pay dues of Rs. 1.47 lakh crore

A three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court led by Justice Arun Mishra, dismissed petitions filed by telecom companies, including Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, for a review of its October 2019 judgment upholding the recovery of past dues amounting to Rs. 1.47 lakh crore from them.

Bench observation:

-       The telecom sector had long reaped the fruits of the Centre’s liberalised mode of payment by revenue sharing regime.

-       The sector has benefited immensely under the scheme as is apparent from the gross revenue trend from 2004 to 2015.

-       The service providers, in turn, had failed to fulfil their obligations to the government.

-       They started to ensure that they do not pay the licence fee to the public exchequer based on an agreed adjusted gross revenue (AGR).

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/no-relief-for-telcos-to-pay-rs-147-lakh-cr/article30581016.ece


SC nod for smog towers, anti-smog guns in Delhi

The Supreme Court agreed with the Delhi government’s proposal to install a smog tower at Connaught Place within three months even as it passed several directions to reduce air pollution.

Court observation:

Order to Delhi government:

-       Ordered a smog tower to be installed in Anand Vihar as pointed out by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

-       Ordered the Delhi government to provide 30 x 30 meters for installation of an experimental tower there within seven days.

-       This project would be funded by the Centre even as the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change would monitor it.

-       The court directed the project to be completed in three months.

-       Anti-smog guns should be used in Delhi and the National Capital Regions (NCR) at large construction sites, road construction stretches, mining activities, large parking sites on unpaved areas, during large public gatherings, demolition activities and while sprinkling on dust-prone traffic corridors.

-       The authorities would have to prepare a “polluter pays” policy to cover the cost of installation of the anti-smog guns.

-       Asked the Delhi government to work out a comprehensive plan within three months to have 100% capacity to deal with garbage and wastes.

-       Directed the PCB and the Indian Bureau of Standards to randomly check the quality of water supplied in Delhi and submit a report in one month.

Order to other states:

-       Sought a report on the facilities for construction and demolition waste recycling in the four States.

-       Asked why Delhi, U.P., Haryana and Punjab should not be ‘saddled’ with the burden to pay compensation for failing to prevent pollution and stubble burning.

-       It ordered a comprehensive plan to prevent stubble burning to be placed before it.

-       Directed the Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan governments to identify plastic, industrial and other toxic waste and ensure they were not burnt but incinerated.

-       Directed the Pollution Control Boards (PCBs) of the four States to monitor at night and take stringent action against polluting industries.

-       Sought a detailed plan for crop residuary management and its use as fertilizer, cattle food and bio fuel.

-       Asked the government to take a final decision on the incentive/disincentive of รขโ€šยน100/- per quintal and the in-situ farming.

-       Directed the Centre, Punjab, Haryana and U.P. governments to prepare a scheme to give access to small and marginal farmers advanced machines like combine harvesters, happy seeders, etc., either free of charge or for a nominal rent.

Smog towers are structures designed to work as large-scale air purifiers. They are usually fitted with multiple layers of air filters, which clean the air of pollutants as it passes through them. Large-scale air filters shall draw in the air through fans installed at the top before passing it through the filters and releasing it near the ground. The filters installed in the tower will use carbon nanofibres as a major component and will be fitted along its peripheries. The tower will focus on reducing particulate matter load.

Anti-smog gun is a cannon shaped device that sprays atomised water droplets in the air. The gun is attached to a water tank built on a movable vehicle, which can be taken to various parts of the city.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/sc-nod-for-smog-towers-anti-smog-guns-in-delhi/article30580186.ece


Japan reports case of mystery virus

Japan has confirmed a case of a mystery virus that first emerged in China and is from the same family as the deadly SARS pathogen.

About the virus:

-       It appears to be only the second time the novel coronavirus has been detected outside China.

-       It is from the same family as the pathogen that causes SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed 349 people in mainland China and 299 in Hong Kong in 2002 and 2003.

-       Not clear whether the mystery virus can be transmitted between humans.

Method to deal with outbreak of virus:

-       Continue active epidemiological research.

-       Coordinate with the World Health Organization and related agencies to conduct a risk assessment.

-       Urged people who develop a cough or fever after visiting Wuhan to wear a surgical mask and Visit a medical institution.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/japan-reports-case-of-mystery-virus/article30578574.ece