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Important Judgements In News

Hate speech in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Free speech vs hate speech

Context

  • Sudarshan TV case will have several implication for the regulation of free speech.
  • In principle, Indian law allows prior restraint on broadcasting. This prior restraint should be used sparingly and must meet a high constitutional bar.
  • Indian law also allows regulation for hate speech.

Maintaining the equilibrium

  • The government feared that if it did not have the power to regulate speech, it will threaten the stability of society.
  • The hate and violence got the state to betray its own liberal commitments
  • Liberals never acquired the confidence of people to let go of  state regulation in the name of defending the republic.
  • The spread of hate speech and its political consequences are now infinitely greater.
  • The situation, where communication mediums are used to target communities, are not outside the realm of possibility.
  •  It is for this reason we still have so many restraints on speech.

Challenges in regulation of speech

  • Almost every regulation of speech, no matter how well intentioned, increases the power of the state.
  • But now, in the current context, empowering the state is a frightening prospect as well.
  • The issue is fundamentally political and we should not pretend that fine legal distinctions will solve the issue.
  • An over-reliance on legal instruments to solve fundamentally social and political problems often backfires.

3 lessons to learn

  • 1) The more the state regulates, the more it politicises the regulation of speech, and ultimately legitimate dissent will be the victim.
  • 2) There is a whole bunch of laws and regulation already on the books for regulation, these have been ineffective because of institutional dysfunction.
  • 3) Social media operates on a set of monetising incentives. But broadcast media is also based on political economy.
  • The granting of licences has always been a political affair; the pricing structures set by the TRAI have perverse consequences for quality and competition.
  • Our current media landscape is neither a market nor a state. The more the underlying political economy of media is broken, the less likely it is that free speech will stand a chance.

Way forward

  • Not post facto content regulation, but a market structure that can help provide more checks and balances.
  • Not let bad media drive out good.
  • The Court suo motu setting up a regulatory framework does not inspire confidence. It is not its jurisdiction to begin with.
  •  This is something for Parliament to think about.

Conclusion

The government must walk the tight rope of regulation and safeguarding the rights of all.

Goods and Services Tax (GST)

On the GST issue, the Centre must lead

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GST Council, GST compensation etc.

Mains level : Paper 3- GST compensation issue

The article deal with the issue of GST compensation and analyses the various estimates of revenue shortfall given by the Centre.

Context

  • The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council meeting has now been deferred to the first week of October due to sharp disagreement between the States and the Centre.

Background of GST

  • The Centre had brought the States on board GST by promising higher revenue collection.
  • States were lured by the promise of 14% annual growth in GST revenue over the base year of 2015-16.
  • Any shortfall from this (for five years) was to be compensated by levying a cess on luxury and sin goods.

What are the options given by the Centre

  •  The transfers due since April 2020 have been withheld.
  • In the last GST Council meeting held on August 27, the Centre gave the States two options.
  • First, they could borrow ₹97,000 crore (the shortfall in the GST revenue compensation) from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) under a special window at a low rate of interest.
  • Second, borrow ₹2.35-lakh crore (the total compensation shortfall) from the market with the RBI facilitating it.
  • The burden of repayment would be borne by the future collections from the compensation cess.
  • It was proposed that this cess which was to end in June 2022 could be extended to facilitate the repayment of the debt.

Issues with the estimates

  • Given the uncertainty, how accuracy of the estimates of ₹97,000 crore and ₹2.35-lakh crore offered to the States is questionable.
  • When the Ministry of Finance is refusing to give a figure for growth in 2020-21, how such estimates are arrived at gains significance.

Budgetary calculations

  • The Union Budget presented on February 1, 2020 assumed a nominal growth of 10%.
  • But optimistically, the Centre’s budgetary calculations will be off by at least 20%.
  • Revenue will fall by much more than 20%.
  •  So, income tax collection will also be short by much more than 20%.
  • The direct tax/GDP per cent may be expected to fall from 5.5% last year to less than 4% this fiscal.
  • Thus, at an optimistic guess, if the economy declines by only 10%, the total tax collection will be down by about ₹12-lakh crore in 2020-21.

Conclusion

As many predictions are that the economy will be down by much more than 10% used in the calculations above, the revenue shortfall is likely to be far greater. This points to the dire position of the Centre (and the States) and the inevitability of a large borrowing programme. Only the Centre is in a position to do such massive borrowing.


Back2Basics: Two options for the GST compensation

  • Option 1 has a special window for states, coordinated by the Finance Ministry, to borrow the projected shortfall of Rs 97,000 crore only on account of GST implementation — and not the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • This amount can be fully repaid from the compensation cess fund, without being counted as states’ debt.
  • Option 2 takes into account the impact of the pandemic, proposing states to borrow the entire Rs 2.35 lakh crore and bearing the interest burden though principal will be repaid from the cess proceeds.
  • The GST shortfall amount (Rs 97,000 crore) will not be counted as states’ debt, while the rest of the amount of Rs 1.38 lakh crore will be counted in the books of the states.

Source:

https://indianexpress.com/article/business/economy/gst-compensation-centre-gives-states-2-options-easier-terms-for-lower-borrowing-6575499/

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Afghanistan

Role for India in Afghan peace push

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Afghan peace process and India's role

The U.S. objectives

  • Following  4 were the states as objectives of the Afghan peace process.
  • 1) An end to violence by declaring a ceasefire.
  • 2) An intra-Afghan dialogue for a lasting peace.
  • 3) The Taliban cutting ties with terrorist organisations such as al Qaeda.
  • 4)  U.S. troop withdrawal.

Evolving Indian stand in the peace process

  • India’s vision of a sovereign, united, stable, plural and democratic Afghanistan is one that is shared by a large constituency in Afghanistan, cutting across ethnic and provincial lines.
  • At Doha meeting, India’s External Affairs Ministerreiterated that the peace process must be “Afghan led, Afghan owned and Afghan controlled”.
  • But Indian policy has evolved from its earlier hands-off approach to the Taliban.
  • U.S. and Russian representatives suggested if India had concerns regarding anti-India activities of terrorist groups, it must engage directly with the Taliban. In other words.

Limited interest of the major powers

  • Major powers have limited interests in the peace process.
  • The European Union has made it clear that its financial contribution will depend on the security environment and the human rights record.
  • China can always lean on Pakistan to preserve its security and connectivity interests.
  • For Russia, blocking the drug supply and keeping its southern periphery secure from extremist influences is key.
  • That is why no major power is taking ownership for the reconciliation talks, but merely content with being facilitators.

Conclusion

A more active engagement will enable India to work with like-minded forces in the region to ensure that the vacuum created by the U.S. withdrawal does not lead to an unravelling of the gains registered during the last two decades.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pakistan

Indus Water Treaty turns 60

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Indus Water Treaty

Mains level : Reconsideration of IWT over cross border terrorism

September 19 this year marks the 60th anniversary of the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) between India and Pakistan.

Tap to read more about Indus River System:

Drainage System | Part 3

Indus Waters Treaty, 1960

  • The Indus Waters Treaty is a water-distribution treaty between India and Pakistan, brokered by the World Bank signed in Karachi in 1960.
  • According to this agreement, control over the water flowing in three “eastern” rivers of India — the Beas, the Ravi and the Sutlej was given to India
  • The control over the water flowing in three “western” rivers of India — the Indus, the Chenab and the Jhelum was given to Pakistan
  • The treaty allowed India to use western rivers water for limited irrigation use and unrestricted use for power generation, domestic, industrial and non-consumptive uses such as navigation, floating of property, fish culture, etc. while laying down precise regulations for India to build projects
  • India has also been given the right to generate hydroelectricity through the run of the river (RoR) projects on the Western Rivers which, subject to specific criteria for design and operation is unrestricted.

Based on equitable water-sharing

  • Back in time, partitioning the Indus rivers system was inevitable after the Partition of India in 1947.
  • The sharing formula devised after prolonged negotiations sliced the Indus system into two halves.
  • Equitable it may have seemed, but the fact remained that India conceded 80.52 per cent of the aggregate water flows in the Indus system to Pakistan.
  • It also gave Rs 83 crore in pounds sterling to Pakistan to help build replacement canals from the western rivers. Such generosity is unusual of an upper riparian.
  • India conceded its upper riparian position on the western rivers for the complete rights on the eastern rivers. Water was critical for India’s development plans.

India plays resilient

  • That the treaty has remained “uninterrupted” is because India respects its signatory and values trans-boundary Rivers as an important connector in the region in terms of both diplomacy and economic prosperity.
  • There have been several instances of terror attacks which could have prompted India, within the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, to withdraw from the IWT.
  • However, on each occasion, India chose not to do so.

Significance of the treaty

  • It is a treaty that is often cited as an example of the possibilities of peaceful coexistence that exist despite the troubled relationship.
  • Well-wishers of the treaty often dub it “uninterrupted and uninterruptible”.
  • The World Bank, which, as the third party, played a pivotal role in crafting the IWT, continues to take particular pride that the treaty functions.

Need for a rethink

  • The role of India, as a responsible upper riparian abiding by the provisions of the treaty, has been remarkable.
  • However, of late, India is under pressure to rethink the extent to which it can remain committed to the provisions, as its overall political relations with Pakistan becomes intractable.

Trade Sector Updates – Falling Exports, TIES, MEIS, Foreign Trade Policy, etc.

CAROTAR 2020 Rules

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CAROTAR rules

The Customs (Administration of Rules of Origin under Trade Agreements) Rules, 2020 (CAROTAR, 2020) shall come into force from September 21.

Try this PYQ:

Q.In the context of the affairs of which of the following is the phrase “Special Safeguard Mechanisms” mentioned in the news frequently?

(a) United Nations Environment Programme

(b) World Trade Organization

(c) ASEAN- India Free Trade Agreement

(d) G-20 Summits

CAROTAR rules

  • Importers will have to do their due diligence to ensure that imported goods meet the prescribed ‘rules of origin’ provisions.
  • This is the essential availing concessional rate of customs duty under free trade agreements (FTAs).
  • A list of minimum information, which the importer is required to possess, has also been provided in the rules along with general guidance.
  • Also, an importer would now have to enter certain origin related information in the Bill of Entry, as available in the Certificate of Origin.

Why need CAROTAR?

  • CAROTAR 2020 supplements the existing operational certification procedures prescribed under different trade agreements.
  • India has inked FTAs with several countries, including Japan, South Korea and ASEAN members.
  • Under such agreements, two trading partners significantly reduce or eliminate import/customs duties on the maximum number of goods traded between them.
  • The new rules will assist customs authorities in the smooth clearance of legitimate imports under FTAs.

Its significance

  • The ASEAN FTA allows imports of most items at nil or concessional basic customs duty from the 10-nation bloc.
  • Major imports to India come from five ASEAN countries — Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam.
  • The benefit of concessional customs duty rate applies only if an ASEAN member country is the country of origin of goods.
  • This means that goods originating from China and routed through these countries will not be eligible for customs duty concessions under the ASEAN FTA.

Coastal Zones Management and Regulations

[pib] “Blue Flag” Certification

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Blue Flag Certification

Mains level : Not Much

The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has announced the first time eight beaches of India are recommended for the coveted International eco-label, the Blue flag certification.

Try this PYQ:

Q. At one of the places in India, if you stand on the seashore and watch the sea, you will find that the seawater recedes from the shoreline a few kilometers and comes back to the shore, twice a day, and you can actually walk on the seafloor when the water recedes. This unique phenomenon is seen at:

(a) Bhavnagar

(b) Bheemunipatnam

(c) Chandipur

(d) Nagapattinam

Which are the eight beaches?

The eight beaches are Shivrajpur in Gujarat, Ghoghla in Daman & Diu, Kasargod and Padubidri beach in Karnataka, Kappad in Kerala, Rushikonda in Andhra Pradesh, Golden beach of Odisha and Radhanagar beach in Andaman and Nicobar.

About Blue Flag Certification

  • This Certification is accorded by an international agency “Foundation for Environment Education, Denmark” based on 33 stringent criteria in four major heads i.e.
  1. Environmental Education and Information,
  2. Bathing Water Quality,
  3. Environment Management and Conservation and
  4. Safety and Services on the beaches.
  • It started in France in 1985 and has been implemented in Europe since 1987, and in areas outside Europe since 2001 when South Africa joined.
  • Japan and South Korea are the only countries in South and southeastern Asia to have Blue Flag beaches.
  • Spain tops the list with 566 such beaches; Greece and France follow with 515 and 395, respectively.