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9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – 14th February 2017



  • Front Page / NATIONAL

[1]. Mass fraud in Vyapam exam: Supreme Court

  • Editorial/OPINION

[1]. Swimming out of a numerical soup

  • ECONOMY

[1]. Centre puts onus on States to set factories’ threshold limit

[2]. ‘Renewables obviate need for new coal capacity’

  • Indian Express

[1]. Not On A War Footing

[2]. Be the solution

  • Live Mint

[1]. Maintaining a tricky balance on IPR


Click here to Download 9 PM Daily Current Affairs PDF (14th Feb. 2017)

 


Front Page / NATIONAL


[1]. Mass fraud in Vyapam exam: Supreme Court

Mass fraud in Vyapam exam: Supreme Court


The Hindu

Context

Court confirms cancellation of MBBS admissions

What has happened?

Terming their conduct an “act of deceit,” the Supreme Court has confirmed the cancellation of the admission of 634 students to the MBBS course made through Vyapam test in Madhya Pradesh between 2008 and 2012

Bench held that

The action of the students was “unacceptable behaviour” and did not warrant any interference under Article 142 of the Constitution.

Article 142


 


Editorial/OPINION


[1]. Swimming out of a numerical soup

Swimming out of a numerical soup


The Hindu

Context

In a reasoned and realistic Budget, the Finance Minister missed a couple of tricks while reducing the income tax rate for the first slab and the corporate tax rate for small companies

Author presents us with a brief commentary on various budgetary provisions.

Regressive budgetary measures

  1. Reduction in tax rate: Author states that although the budget is bereft of any populist measures but one small act of populism still crept in i.e. of reduction in the income tax rate for the first slab from 10% to 5% & it is bad for the following reasons.
    • Low tax to GDP ratio: Total tax revenue in India is ridiculously low at 11% of GDP. It is essential that the tax to GDP ratio be increased significantly in order to finance increased public expenditure in the social sectors and infrastructure. How? By following this twin-pronged strategy,
      • Ø No reduction in tax rates: Author points out that there should be no decrease in the tax rates
      • Ø Making tax evasion more difficult: Secondly, a significantly larger share of national income must be brought under the scope of income tax. Increased computerization, KYC requirements, penalties on large cash transactions will all help in making tax evasion more difficult

 Authors’ suggestion

The government should have kept the 10% tax slab unchanged, and actually introduced a new 5% tax slab for those with taxable income of ₹2 lakh to ₹2.5 lakh

  1. Reduction of corporate tax rate: Another backward step as per author is the reduction in corporate tax rate from 30% to 25% for companies with an annual turnover below ₹50 crore. Those above the threshold will continue to pay the existing rate of 30%. Author terms this measure regressive because,
    • Such a tax reduction provides no incentive to expand. Instead bigger units might be encouraged to split up so as to enjoy the lower tax rate.

Positive budgetary steps

  • Providing thrust to agri sector: Budgetary allocation to agriculture and rural sector has been increased by 24%. Agriculture has also been promised increased credit. MGNREGA has been allocated the highest ever budgetary package
  • Reform in Political funding: The budget has proposed a ceiling of ₹2,000 on cash donations to political parties, as well as the introduction of electoral bonds for political funding. They need to be supplemented by other steps such as subjecting the accounts of all major parties to auditing perhaps by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India’s office.


ECONOMY


[1]. Centre puts onus on States to set factories’ threshold limit

Centre puts onus on States to set factories’ threshold limit


The Hindu

Context

With labour law reforms back on the Centre’s agenda, fresh discussions begin with trade unions today to push through a long-pending overhaul of the Factories Act of 1948

Tweaking its draft amendment

Labor ministry has tweaked its draft amendment bill

  • State governments will decide: Instead of increasing the threshold limit set for the number of workers in an industrial unit to be statutorily covered by the factories law, the Centre is now proposing an enabling provision that lets State governments decide the threshold over which a unit will be considered a factory for the purpose of the law

Modification of the definition

  • The definition of factory is proposed to be modified as in the original Bill by giving powers to the State governments to increase the threshold limit of workers up to 20 and 40 for factories working with and without the aid of power respectively
  • Present situation: The present Factories Act 1948 applies to establishments with 10 or more workers, if the premise is using power and to establishments with 20 or more workers, without electricity connection

 


[2]. ‘Renewables obviate need for new coal capacity’

‘Renewables obviate need for new coal capacity’


The Hindu

Context

Article talks about a TERI report titled “The Transitions in Indian Electricity Sector

TERIThe Energy and Resources Institute

The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) is a leading think tank dedicated to conducting research for sustainable development of India and the Global South

Observations

  • No new investment in coal needed: The energy that would be available from renewable sources, nuclear and gas plants, both existing and planned, would be enough to meet India’s energy demand for the next 7-8 years, which means no new investment in coal is needed at least till then
  • Increase in per capita power consumption: Per capita annual power consumption will increase from the current 1,075 kWh to 1,490 kWh in 2021-22, 2,121 kWh in 2026-27 and 2,634 kWh in 2029-30
  • Increase in India’s renewable energy capacity: the country’s renewable energy capacity is set to increase to the targeted 175 GW level by 2021-22 and further grow to 275 GW by 2025-26

Recommendations

  • Strengthening grid infrastructure: Report states that the Centre would do well to take steps to strengthen the grid infrastructure and build storage capacity


Indian Express


[1]. Not On A War Footing

Not On A War Footing


Indian Express

Context

The defence budget, 2017-18, raises serious concerns

Issue: Inadequate defence budget outlay

Stats

Total outlay to defence = Rs 274114 crore, excluding the outlay of Rs 85,740 crore for defence pensions

 What, defence analysts and standing committee on defence, want the defence outlay to be?

Defence outlay of 3% of GDP is being asked for

Few concerns

  • Underutilization of existing meagre outlay: As has been noted in yesterday’s brief, the ministry of defence returned more than Rs13000 crore from the capital head in 2015-16, and another Rs7000 crore in 2016-17, which was unspent. This repeated underutilization of the capital budget weakens the case for higher allocations for new acquisitions
  • Inadequate allocation for maintenance of equipment currently in use: Author states that there is an immediate requirement for funds for this purpose
  • Inadequate allocation for war wastage reserves: Indian army needs adequate allocation on this front also

 War wastage reserve (WWR):War wastage reserves (WWR) are collections of military material held in reserve in case of war. This includes bullets and other form of ammunition, as well as equipment, weapons and fuel

  • No contract signed under Make in India: Author states that under ‘Make in India’ programme, no development contract has been signed so far and with a meagre allocation of Rs 44.63 crore for assistance to prototype development, it seems the MoD isn’t expecting many projects
  • Lack of future vision: Author mentions that while budget speech contained references to schemes like the Centralised Defence Travel System and the interactive Pension Disbursement System, there was no mention of important policy issues like the strategic partnership scheme and defence technology fund. It indicates that government is not thinking long term or is not serious enough

Way forward

What is needed is an outcome-oriented monitoring of utilisation of outlays, as recommended by the standing committee last year. This is the only way to ensure that the focus shifts from ensuring full utilisation of funds to spending these wisely on the desired outcomes — there is no indication that this is going to happen in the coming year

Read more: Defence Technology Fund, Why is Indian military running out of ammunition?


 


[2]. Be the solution

Be the solution


Indian Express

Context

Ensuring speedy trials requires concerted effort from both government and the judiciary

Issue: Undertrials in Jails

Who is an undertrial?

He is a person who is currently on trial or who is imprisoned on remand whilst awaiting trial.

  • The 78th Report of Law Commission also includes a person who is in judicial custody on remand during investigation in the definition of an ‘undertrial’

Backdrop

Union Law Minister has issued a message to all high court chief justices to “review” cases of undertrials who have been incarcerated for long and to “take suomotu action for their release”

Seriousness of the problem

  • National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, for example, shows that of the over 2.82 lakh people in jail in 2015, about 67 per cent were undertrials
  • More than 65 per cent of the undertrials spend three months to five years in jail before getting bail

Cause

High number of undertrials can be attributed to following causes,

  • Overburdened judiciary: There is a lack of judges to deal with the rising number of cases. Section 167 of the Code of Criminal Procedures mandates that judges can extend a detainee’s custody for a period of 15 days at a time. For that to happen, the detainees have to be produced regularly before the courts. This rarely happens; proceedings don’t take place in time and the undertrials are shuttled from court to court
  • Poverty: Most of the undertrials are from poor backgrounds and disadvantaged social groups resulting in a lack of resources to access the justice system

Read More: A very good article on undertrial issue


 


Live Mint


[1]. Maintaining a tricky balance on IPR

Maintaining a tricky balance on IPR


Live Mint

Context

India must strengthen its intellectual property rights infrastructure without giving in to US pressure to do away with the flexibility granted by WTO regulations.

Backdrop

National Intellectual Property Rights Policy was released in 2016

 Balancing interests

Author states that weaknesses in India’s IPR regime need to be smoothened out while taking care of India’s trade and public interest

Issues with India’s IPR regime

  • Pending patent applications: When the Patents Act, 1970, was amended in 2005 to bring it in line with WTO requirements, there were a little over 56,000 pending applications. By the end of 2015—a decade later—India had close to 250,000 pending applications for patents and over 500,000 pending applications for trademarks. The bottleneck this creates has real economic costs. A UN Industrial Development Organization review of almost 200 studies on the link between IPR and economic growth found a strong consensus on a positive relationship. While the degree of benefits accrued may vary, that relationship holds true for both developed and developing economies. It has gained particular relevance in India now. Initiatives like Make In India and Start-Up India—require a strong IPR framework

Addressing concerns

Author states that policy has addressed following concerns

  • Lack of patent examiners leading to pendency and prolonged application examination periods
  • The lack of effective enforcement of existing regulations

The Problem

American pharmaceutical companies in particular take exception to following section of the Patents Act

  • Sections 3(d):It prevents new formulations of existing medicines from being patented unless they improve therapeutic efficiency. Big pharmaceutical firms have used this method, called evergreening, to maintain market dominance and keep prices high
  • Section 84: It provides for compulsory licences to meet the reasonable requirements of the public. Abuse of these provisions may well disincentivize research and development spending and doing business in India, as American companies claim

Author suggests

Author points out that India should maintain its stand and should not relinquish or dilute its public interest clauses in the face of pressure from US. This pressure is bound to increase now as the new president elect Trump has won riding on a protectionist sentiment.

Conclusion

Boosting bilateral trade will mean concessions and compromises on both sides. New Delhi must be flexible where it can. But on IPR it must strengthen its infrastructure while holding firm on the flexibility TRIPS grants it. It will not be an easy balance to maintain


 


 

Categories
Mains Marathon

Answered Mains Marathon – UPSC Mains Current Affairs Questions – December 6

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Uncategorized

Supreme court Order to Search Engines to Block Sex Determination Ads and How are Search Engines regulated under IT Act, 2000

What has the SC ordered to the Search Engines ?

Supreme Court directed search engines Google, Microsoft , Yahoo not to advertise, or sponsor any advertisement relating to  pre-natal sex selection. The court order came after the central government said the search engines have relevant technology and deep-domain knowledge and expertise to block/filter the words/phrases/expressions and sponsored links.

SC told the search engines to immediately withdraw online advertisements, currently being hosted or published, on pre-natal sex determination facilities, clinics or centres. They are in violation of Section 22 of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) or PC-PNDT Act, 1994. The court has also directed the search engines to upload on their policy page and the terms of service page its order that they would not advertise or sponsor any advertisement which violated Section 22 of PC-PNDT Act. Terms and conditions should specify that information will not be disseminated which is in violation of PC-PNDT Act.

What is Section 22 of PC-PNDT,1994 Act ?

Section 22 of the PC-PNDT Act 1994, prohibits advertisements related to pre-natal determination of sex and provides for punishment for violation.

What is the defense put up by the Search Engines ?

• Internet is an uncensored medium and ordering the blocking of the information is dangerous as it amounts to pre-censorship.

• Blocking keywords on their search engine would amount to a gag on free speech and expression on the Internet. Blocking of certain generic words could prove counter-productive. Block on keywords on their search engine would even result in Modi’s speech on female sex ratio getting blocked.

Analysis : Earlier also, pre-censorship issue has been raked. Freedom of speech and expression can be affected but under reasonable restrictions. If any existing law is prohibiting some sort of content, electronic records can be barred from transmission of that content. Search Engines lie outside the territorial boundary and invariably cite the US const. But content has been published within India. If Section 69 of IT Act, 2000 and Article 19 of the Constitution is read together – it would amount to a reasonable restriction.

What is the SC’s view ?

Censorship and legal provisions were two different things, the court said “anything can take the colour and flavour of advertisement.” Human mind is ingenious and there is a scope for mischief.

How to block content in contravention with Indian laws ?

The Centre said there were three ways to block objectionable content:

  • Blocking the URL at the Internet gateways in the country by the government- The information promoting sex selection can be blocked if the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) and IP (Internet Protocol) address is known. The exact URLs could be provided by the three search engines to block them at internet gateway for India.
  • By the website service providers who host the information.
  • By the search engine providers – Search engines can regulate key words and advertisement links as they have the relevant technology and deep-domain knowledge to do it. A blocking of search words, in effect, could lead to good searches being wiped out. The concept of search is very different from blocking offending advertisements. The blocking must be reasonable.
What are the practical difficulties ?

• Enforcing the ban would be very difficult, if not impossible.

• There are many ways to get around filters and it will block the genuine stuff. For instance, filters normally would scan the text, but they don’t stop graphics and many of the ads would have only graphics.

• One way to find out which ad is about sex determination would be at the stage when they are accepted, but most of the advertisements are automated so they will have to be looked at manually which will mean additional manpower will have to be deployed to do it.

Analysis : – Not all advertisements take place on involuntary basis. It takes place by conscious human efforts. Search Engines should be careful while booking advertisements which promote people to engage in unlawful activities. If still it persists, Government of India has the powers to t block such content under IT act. Once it so directs, All Internet Service Providers have to ensure compliance.

• A further problem is that these ads could be uploaded from anywhere in the world, targeting a specific geographical location. But, Search Engines need to ensure compliance with national requirements, domestic laws and regulations inspite of being located out of one jurisdiction.

 How do search engines work ?

A search engine is a software program that searches for sites based on the words that you designate as search terms. Search engines look through their own databases of information in order to find what it is that you are looking for.

When a person performs an online search, the search engine finds in its billions of documents and does two things:

  • It returns those results that are relevant to your query. See the issue here. PM talked of female foeticide and sex determination. Now, when you make a query in the search engine, the web page containing PM’s speech on female foeticide and sex determination will also be listed. This is exactly the point being made by Google. Search engines are not intelligent. They only “search” for the words you have typed, and display pages which contain content matching with your query. Thus blocking keywords like “sex – determination” would block all the content that contains the word ” sex- determination “.
  • It ranks those results according to the popularity of the websites serving the information.

What the IT act says on the issue of Search engines ?

• Digital regime of India is  governed by Information Technology Act,2000. If you consider the law from a holistic perspective, the issue of electronic records regarding pre-natal tests has not been touched. The reason being  IT act is an e- commerce enabling legislation. While IT act does not directly talk about electronic records for pre-natal tests, it talks about intermediary.

•  What is this intermediary ? Intermediary is defined under Sec 2 (1) (w) which says – Intermediary is with respect to any particular electronic message – it means any person who on behalf of another person receives, stores or transmits that message or provides any service with respect to that message.  It specifically includes Network service providers, search engine providers, online portals etc. As you see, it is a very vast definition and anybody can be covered. All search engines are intermediaries. Sec 79 of the IT Act mandates them to exercise due diligence.

•  2008 amendment of the IT Act gave government huge powers to make rules and regulations to regulate and conduct activities. IT rules, 2011 mandate intermediaries to be regulated by terms and conditions in terms of uploading, hosting, forwarding, publishing etc which violates nay other law in force. PC-PNDT Act, 1994 is in force right now. So search engines are bound to remove advertisements that contravenes the provisions of this law. SC directive only reiterates this rule.

• Despite that if people misuse, it is the responsibility of the intermediary to remove or disable access of such content according to Rule 3 of IT Act – Intermediary guidelines rules. And, GoI has the power to block content.

This brings us to a fundamental question.

Can internet be controlled?

Endeavour of governments since the time of evolution of Internet is not to regulate it. Post Snowden, an atmosphere of distrust has evolved. Different approaches are followed by countries. China has a firewall that filters content. India too has been toying with the idea of web filters. If region specific internets are formed, then intrinsic danger lurks to the growth of internet as a network. It cannot be completely controlled. But domestic laws have to be complied. 

 

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