Current Affairs 9th July

Cairn says it has got court nod to attach 20 Indian assets in Paris #GS2 #IR

The Cairn Energy dispute with India over the settlement of a $1.2 billion award from The Hague took a dramatic turn, with the company saying it had secured a French court order allowing it to freeze at least 20 Indian properties in central Paris.

The Government of India, however, denied all knowledge of the latest order. It said it had filed an appeal against the tribunal decision of the Permanant Court at The Hague delivered in December 2020.

Legal remedies

“Government is trying to ascertain the facts, and whenever such an order is received, appropriate legal remedies will be taken, in consultation with its counsels, to protect the interests of India stressing that no notice, order or communication had been received by the government from any French court. Earlier, a Cairn Energy spokesperson told The Hindu that the ball was in India’s court to stop the enforcement proceedings of assets.

Amicable settlement

“Our strong preference remains an agreed, amicable settlement with the Government of India to draw this matter to a close, and to that end we have submitted a detailed series of proposals to them since February this year. However, in the absence of such a settlement, Cairn must take all necessary legal actions to protect the interests of its international shareholders.

According to sources, the award by the Tribunal judiciaire de Paris was the “necessary preparatory step” to taking ownership of the properties and ensuring all proceeds from the sale of the properties would be accrued to Cairn Energy PLC as part of its efforts to enforce the award from The Hague in favour of Cairn.

SC backs summons to FB by Delhi govt. riots panel #GS2 #Governance

The Supreme Court upheld the authority of Delhi Assembly’s Peace and Harmony Committee to summon Facebook India’s senior official Ajit Mohan in connection with the February 2020 communal violence, saying the Capital can ill-afford another riot, and the role of Facebook “must be looked into” in this context.

“It is difficult to accept the simplistic approach adopted by Facebook — that it is merely a platform posting third-party information and has no role in generating, controlling or modulating that information.

The 188-page judgment referred to how Facebook itself claims to be the most popular social media in India, with 270 million registered users. Social media platforms like Facebook have become “power centres” with the ability to influence vast sections of public opinions, the court noted. These platforms are by no means altruistic in character. They employ business models that can be highly privacy intrusive. It compared Facebook to a “mass circulation media” with no or little editorial responsibility.

“Facebook has acknowledged in their reply that they removed 22.5 million pieces of hate speech content in the second quarter of 2020 itself,” Justice Kaul, who authored the judgment, observed.

Facebook cannot claim any “exceptional privilege” to abstain from appearing before the Peace and Harmony Committee constituted by the Delhi Assembly. The court termed Mr. Mohan’s appeal “premature”, saying no coercive action was taken or intended.

The court termed Mr. Mohan’s appeal “premature”, saying no coercive action was taken or intended. The Committee merely wanted him to depose as a witness. The court rejected Facebook’s argument that the Committee had no jurisdiction over law and order in Delhi, and it was encroaching into the Centre’s turf. “

The concept of peace and harmony goes much beyond law and order and police… The unfortunate communal riots led to the death of 53 persons, caused significant damage… The complexity of communal tensions and their wide-ranging ramifications is a matter affecting citizens of Delhi. It cannot be said that the Government of Delhi cannot look into the causal factors in order to formulate appropriate remedial measures.

The judgment said an “informed deliberation” by the Assembly’s elected representatives on the best measures to combat online mass hate and violence in their geographical jurisdiction was very much within the Committee’s competence. However, the court said the Facebook representative appearing before the Committee need not answer any query from the Committee directly regarding law, order and the police.

The court dismissed Facebook’s argument that the Assembly ought to confine itself to making laws rather than enquire into the circumstances of the riots. “This would be unreasonably restricting the role of an elected body… It is not only their concern but their duty to ensure that ‘peace and harmony’ prevails,” the court underscored.

Will your officers follow law, HC asks Twitter #GS2 #Governance

The Delhi High Court on Thursday directed Twitter to submit in an affidavit that its “interim” resident grievance officer, chief compliance officer and nodal contact officer will be fully responsible for its conduct under the IT Rules, 2021.

Justice Rekha Palli also clarified that “no protection is granted to Twitter from any action from the government in case of any breach of the IT rules”.

The direction came after the court questioned a short note submitted by Twitter detailing the appointment of its interim officers in compliance with the new Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. “Where do you say that these interim officers are going to take all the responsibility of whatever is there under the IT rules? Tomorrow, you may take the benefit of the word ‘interim’,” Justice Palli said.

Senior advocate Sajjan Poovayya, representing Twitter, said the officers were bound to comply with the rules. Mr. Poovayya sought two weeks to get notarised affidavits from the U.S. regarding their appointment. Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma highlighted Twitter’s short note, where the microblogging site said it had engaged the services of the interim CCO as a contingent worker via a third party contractor.

“We want final accountability which is of great certitude. It can’t be left in a halfway house via third party,”

Arunachal Pradesh to allow entry only to vaccinated people #GS2 #Governance

The Arunachal Pradesh government has decided to allow only vaccinated people into the State. The government has also gone in for aggressive testing for COVID-19 and inoculation, with 68% of the people aged 18 and above having received their first dose of vaccine.

“We are ensuring that if anyone wishes to visit Arunachal Pradesh, he or she has to be vaccinated prior to entry. Mr. Kumar said the State had adopted a three-pronged strategy to stop the spread of the coronavirus. These were extensive tracking and testing, enforcement of pandemic-appropriate behaviour and vaccination.

“Arunachal Pradesh needs an additional three lakh COVID-19 vaccines to achieve 100% coverage of beneficiaries in the 18-plus and 45-plus age groups. Vaccination as a condition for entry follows the State’s bid to provide incentives to people who have been reluctant to take the jab. Officials in the Yazali circle of the State’s Lower Subansiri district were one of the first to offer 20 kg of rice free to the 45-plus for taking the jab.

Cash awards

Some districts of Manipur and Meghalaya also offered cash awards to maximise vaccination coverage.

Assam, Meghalaya and Manipur linked business and salaries of employees to vaccination. While traders and commercial vehicle operators were asked to operate after vaccination or display their vaccination status for customers and passengers to decide whether or not to use their services, some frontline workers were told that their vaccination status would be ascertained before payment of salary or wage.

In Meghalaya’s capital Shillong, some NGOs and a local MLA were panned for leaving out the non-vaccinated people while distributing food items to people without ration cards on July 6. The organisers of a COVID-19 relief camp in the city’s Happy Valley-Madanriting had announced that rice and other essentials would be given only to vaccinated people.

FB cannot duck onus on content: SC #GS3 #Security

In a stinging judgment, the Supreme Court said giant social media platforms such as Facebook, whose active users account for over one-third of the global population, cannot evade responsibility by “simplistically” claiming they had no power over the third-party information they display.

“The sheer population of our country makes it an important destination for Facebook. We are possibly more diverse than the whole of Europe in local culture, food, clothing, language, religion, traditions and yet have a history of what has now commonly been called ‘unity in diversity’. This cannot be disrupted at any cost or under any professed freedom by a giant like Facebook claiming ignorance or lack of any pivotal role,” a Bench led by Justice S.K. Kaul observed in a 188-page judgment.

The court was deciding on a petition filed by Facebook India chief Ajit Mohan challenging the summons issued by Delhi Legislative Assembly’s Peace and Harmony Committee, enquiring into the communal riots which rocked the Capital in February last year.

The court said Facebook “is a business first than anything else”. By its own admission, the court noted, Facebook appears only before committees which serve their commercial and operational interests.

“But if their business interests are not served, they seek a right to stay away. Such a stand is completely unacceptable to us. Facebook has the power of not simply a hand but a fist, gloved as it may be.

The court said social media entities like Facebook have to remain accountable to those who entrust them with their vast powers. The power and potentiality of the social media intermediaries runs across borders. They are multinational corporations with large wealth and influence at their command. Their influence extends over populations. But this power must necessarily come with responsibility, the court underscored.

While admittedly Facebook has played a crucial role in enabling free speech by providing a voice to the voiceless, it has also simultaneously become a platform for disruptive messages, voices, and ideologies.

Will your officers follow the law, HC asks Twitter #GS2 #Governance

Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma highlighted Twitter’s short note where the microblogging site said it has engaged the services of the interim CCO as a contingent worker via a third party contractor.

“We want final accountability which is of great certitude. It can’t be left in a halfway house via third party,” Mr Sharma said.

Twitter, in its short note, submitted that it has appointed an interim CCO effective July 6, 2021. Twitter said it has posted publicly a job announcement for a COO, Resident Grievance Officer and Nodal Contact Person as a direct employee and is accepting applications at this time.

In the meantime, Twitter said it is in the process of making an offer of appointment to a resident of India as its interim Resident Grievance Officer and expects to do so on or before July 11, 2021.

“Twitter intends to engage the services of the interim RGO as a contingent worker via a third party contractor,” it said adding, the duties of the Resident Grievance Officer are being performed by the Grievance Officer, and will continue to do so until the appointment.

The HC also queried why Twitter does not have a permanent physical address in India as its short note said its interim physical contact address in India was located in Bengaluru.

Earlier, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) had stated that despite three months’ time being granted to all Significant Social Media Intermediaries (SSMIs) to comply with the Information Technology (IT) Rules 2021, Twitter has failed to fully comply with the same.

Cabinet extends Agri Infra Fund loans to APMCs #GS2 #Governance

The Centre has decided to allow state-run market yards to access financing facilities through its Agricultural Infrastructure Fund to calm the fears of protesting farmers that such market yards are being weakened.

On Friday, at its first meeting after the reshuffle, the Union Cabinet decided to extend the Central Sector Scheme of financing facility under the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund to State agencies and Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees (APMCs), as well as federations of cooperative organisations, Farmers Producers Organizations and self help groups, according to an official statement.

They will now be eligible for interest subvention for loans up to Rs. 2 crore, with APMCs allowed to access separate loans for different kinds of infrastructure projects to build cold storage, silos, sorting, grading and assaying units in their market yards.

Multiplier effect

The period of the financial facility has been extended by two additional years up to 2025-26, while the overall period of the scheme has been extended to 2032-33. “The modifications in the Scheme will help to achieve a multiplier effect in generating investments while ensuring that the benefits reach small and marginal farmers. The APMC markets are set up to provide market linkages and create an ecosystem of post-harvest public infrastructure open to all farmers,” said the statement.

Briefing journalists on the Cabinet decision, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said this was proof that “APMC will not end”. The Central government was committed to making APMC more powerful and useful for farmers. Thousands of protesting farmers have been calling for a repeal of three farm reform laws passed by Parliament last year.

OIC should be watchful of vested interests: MEA #GS2 #IR

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) should not allow itself be “subverted” by Pakistan, which may prompt it to interfere in India’s internal affairs.

Official spokesperson Arindam Bagchi clarified the Indian position hours after the OIC announced that Indian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Ausaf Sayeed on July 5 met Secretary General Yousef Al-Othaimeen for a discussion when OIC proposed to “assist” in a dialogue between India and Pakistan.

“Our Ambassador conveyed the need to correct some of the misperceptions about India that are perpetrated by vested interests in the OIC. Further, the OIC should be watchful that their platform is not subverted by these vested interests for comments on internal affairs of India or for anti-India propaganda through biased and one-sided resolutions,” Mr. Bagchi said, confirming that the meeting was requested by the OIC Secretary General.

Mr. Bagchi later clarified that he had referred to Pakistan through the use of the term “vested interests”. The discussion between the two sides comes in the context of the reported back channel talks between India and Pakistan that are being assisted by the UAE.

The OIC had stated that the meeting between Dr. Sayeed and Dr. Al-Othaimeen “reviewed a number of issues concerning the situation of Muslims in India, along with the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, and relevant UN and OIC resolutions opposing any unilateral actions on the issue”.

Panel report on data Bill hangs fire #GS2 #Governance

Wednesday’s Cabinet expansion by Prime Minister Narendra Modi saw five members of the Joint Committee on Personal Data Protection Bill, including its Chairperson Meenakshi Lekhi, being inducted into the Council of Ministers, raising questions over the long-pending report of the panel.

The inductees include the new Minister for Electronics and Information Technology Ashwini Vaishnaw and Minister of State Rajeev Chandrashekhar.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information and Technology (MeitY) helms the Bill. The Bill seeks to provide protection of personal data of individuals and was introduced in December 2019 in the Lok Sabha. It was referred to the joint parliamentary panel, headed by BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi, in February last year. It is yet to submit its report.

Ms. Lekhi is now the MoS for External Affairs and Culture. The other committee members now in the Cabinet are Bhupender Yadav, now Union Environment Minister, also handling the Ministry of Labour, and Ajay Bhatt, who is the new MoS for Defence and Tourism.

Ten of the 30 members of the committee had moved amendments against a provision (Clause 35) in the legislation giving power to the Central government to exempt any agency of government from application of the Act. The members have said that this clause makes the entire Act infructuous.

Invoking “sovereignty and integrity of India”, “public order”, “friendly relations with foreign states” and “security of the state”, the legislation gives powers to the Central government to suspend all or any of the provisions of this Act for government agencies.

In his amendment, Mr. Chandrashekhar had sought further tightening of the existing clause, adding “health emergencies”, “public safety emergencies” as the other scenarios allowing the Centre to step in to provide exemptions. He and other members also demanded that the Bill revise the definition of a ‘child’. Presently as per the Act, anyone below 18 years of age has been described as a ‘child’.

“For six months, I have been requesting a draft report of the Joint Committee on Personal Data Protection Bill be circulated to its members. Now the Chairperson has become a Minister along with 3 members. What happens now to the Committee & draft report? The new Ministers had much to say on the Bill,” Committee member Jairam Ramesh tweeted.

The Select Committee so far has held 66 meetings and its last sitting was on December 29 last year. The members were told that a draft report was ready and would soon be circulated.