[op-ed snap] The virtual effacement of civil libertyop-ed snap
Polity | Mains Paper 2: Indian Constitution - historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Nothing much
Mains level : Right to internet - Internet bans
A study of India’s civil liberties record will desiccate its status as republican democracy.
The ongoing repression of freedom in the Kashmir Valley is extraordinary.
Since August 4, 2019, most residents in the region have no access to the Internet.
India took a unilateral decision to revoke its compact with the State of Jammu and Kashmir and a total communication and information blockade was placed on the region.
A complete curfew was placed on movement in the region.
Kashmiris were deprived even of any means of finding out what was actually transpiring.
Certain limited channels of communication have been opened up, access to the web remains elusive.
The import of a ruling
These facts form the backbone of Anuradha Bhasin and Ghulam Nabi Azad’s challenges in the Supreme Court of India.
A three-judge Bench will pronounce its verdict.
Given the growing ubiquity of the Internet, and the state’s use of blockades on the web the judgment will have a bearing on the endurance of the constitutional promises of liberty and equality.
Deleterious effects in Kashmir
The blackout of the Internet impinges on the right to freedom of expression.
Despite the partial lifting of some restrictions, with journalists affected by the absence of the Internet, only a pruned version of the newspaper is published.
Internet ban also denies right to health care caused by people’s inability to access government schemes such as Ayushman Bharat, and a withdrawal of education to students at different levels due to the closure of institutions.
The shutdown has inflicted economic damage on the region. Even conservative estimations released by the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry show that the State economy has suffered a loss of no less than ₹15,000 crore since the dilution of Article 370.
It claims that there is no obligation on it to disclose the orders through which the restrictions have been imposed.
It contends that judges must grant the state substantial leeway in matters of national security.
It says that if the executive believes that freedom ought to be restricted, the court must not review the validity of such measures.
Limitations of the argument
Its order imposing the Internet ban was made under the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017.
This law requires the executive to provide a reasoned order when it directs the withdrawal of the Internet.
Thus, access to the web cannot be shut out through the issuance of furtive instructions.
Issue of rights
Free speech was a promise preserved in Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.
This guarantee contains both an inherent and an instrumental value.
It is inherent because it is important to respect every individual’s equal right to personal autonomy and dignity.
Its instrumental values lies in promoting free speech – better dialogue stimulates a more informed polity.
The instrumental value of speech prompted the court, in Sakal Papers (1961), to hold that no policy of the state can regulate the circulation of a newspaper, as it will directly impinge on the right to freedom of expression.
Human costs go even further. A report in The Hindu shows that, with jobs already hard to come by, there has been an 80% loss of employment among start-ups in Kashmir that rely on the Internet.
Need for security
It doesn’t mean that terrorism does not require counteractive actions.
Law demands that any measure taken by the state in restricting a fundamental right is necessary and proportionate to the goal that it seeks to achieve.
The court needs to scrutinise whether a wide-ranging ban on the Internet on an entire populace is justifiable.
In the past, the state has segregated people possessed of a potential to terrorise from others.
Stifling dissent through bans on the Internet will only send us racing towards a bottomless pit.
As a recent report in Live Mint underscores, 67% of the documented cases of web shutdowns around the world last year took place in India.
Mains Paper 2: Governance | Mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of the vulnerable sections
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, Various Permissions
Mains level: Protection of Animals rights
Concern on use of animal s for entertainment purposes
Union WCD Minister has concerned the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) for being lax in enforcement of rules that specify how wild animals can be depicted in films and television programmes.
The Minister listed “blatant errors” by the AWBI subcommittee that screens applications from film-makers.
Preventing Cruelty to Animals
It was alleged that the committee did not seek details of the species being used, which were required to determine whether they were protected.
It had even allowed their depiction in scenes that could promote cruelty to animals.
The letter cites an instance of approval given for a scene showing animal sacrifice, which is against the Supreme Court’s orders.
Depiction of Animals
While tigers, monkeys, lions, bears, panthers (including leopards) are banned from being exhibited under Section 22 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, the government body has allowed their use on several occasions.
All Indian snakes and birds except the crow are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act and any certification for performance or exhibition is only possible after permission from the Chief Wildlife Warden of the relevant State.
Animal Welfare Board of India
The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), headquartered at Ballabhgarh in Haryana state, is a statutory advisory body advising the Government of India’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
It was previously based at Chennai
It was established in 1962 under Section 4 of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act,1960.
Well-known humanitarian Rukmini Devi Arundale was instrumental in setting up the board and was its first chair.
Mains Paper 2: Polity | Statutory, regulatory & various quasi-judicial bodies
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: Press Council of India, News Broadcasters Association
Mains level: Ethical issues related to Media in India
New guidelines for journalists
The Information and Broadcasting Ministry has amended guidelines for journalists’ accreditation
If a journalist is found to have “created and/or propagated” fake news, the journalist’s accreditation will be suspended or permanently canceled
Authorities to take the decision
The Press Council of India and News Broadcasters Association (NBA), the two regulatory bodies for print and television media respectively, will determine whether the news is fake or not
These bodies are not “regulated/operated” by the government
The regulatory agencies will examine whether the `Norms of Journalistic Conduct’ and `Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards’ prescribed by the PCI and NBA respectively are adhered to by the journalists
Press Council of India
The Press Council is a statutory, quasi-judicial body which acts as a watchdog of the press
It adjudicates the complaints against and by the press for violation of ethics and for violation of the freedom of the press respectively
It was first set up on 4 July 1964 by the Parliament to regulate the press in India
The basis at that time was the Press Council Act, 1965 which resulted from the recommendations of the First Press Commission of India (1952-1999)
After 2017, the Council functions under the Press Council Act 1978 which arose from the recommendations of the Second Press Commission of India (1978)
The Press Council is headed by a Chairman: usually, a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India
It consists of a Chairman and 28 other members. Of the 28 members, 13 represent the working journalists
News Broadcasters Association
The News Broadcasters Association is a private association of different current affairs and news television broadcasters in India
It was established by leading Indian news broadcasters in October 2008
The association was set up to deal with ethical, operational, regulatory, technical and legal issues affecting news and current-affairs channels
Mains level: Autonomous organizations and their powers
Prasar Bharati rejects ministry “directives”
Public broadcaster Prasar Bharati has rejected a range of “directives” coming from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry
It said that they constituted “contempt” of the Prasar Bharati Act and are against its autonomy
What is the issue?
I&B ministry had directed to terminate the services of all contractual employees of Prasar Bharati
Ministry had also directed to stop all e-auction of channels on DD Free Dish
The Ministry also wants general entertainment channels to be replaced by channels run by Union Ministries
There was proposal of appointment of a serving IAS officer as Member (Personnel) on the Prasar Bharati Board
Prasar Bharati’s arguments
Under the rules, a committee led by the Vice-President has to recommend the person to be appointed as Member (Personnel) and Member (Finance), who have to be whole-time members and employees of Prasar Bharati
DD Free Dish directive will wreck the finances of Prasar Bharati and the Corporation stands to lose ₹300 crore
Replacement of general entertainment channels would make the bouquet uninteresting and viewership of Doordarshan would crash
Prasar Bharati is a statutory autonomous body established under the Prasar Bharati Act and came into existence on 23.11.1997
It is the Public Service Broadcaster of the country
The objectives of public service broadcasting are achieved in terms of Prasar Bharati Act through All India Radio and Doordarshan
The Act grants autonomy to All India Radio and Doordarshan
They were earlier working as media units under the Ministry of I&B and since the above-said date became constituents of Prasar Bharati
The President of India appoints Chairman and the other Members, except the ex officio members, nominated member and the elected members
Mains Paper 2: Governance | mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of these vulnerable sections
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994, Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI)
Mains level: Ban culture being imposed in name of culture
TV channels not to air advertisements selling and promoting condoms
The government strictly asked TV channels not to air advertisements selling and promoting condoms
Reason given that these are “indecent especially for children” and can create “unhealthy practices” among them
Such advertisements may be telecast between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. to avoid exposure of such material to children
Apart from this, indecent, vulgar, suggestive, repulsive or offensive themes or treatment shall be avoided in all advertisements
Under which provision does this ban apply?
The advisory invoked Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994, banning an “advertisement which endangers the safety of children or create in them any interest in unhealthy practices or shows them begging or in an undignified or indecent manner.”
Why this move?
The missive comes after the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) requested the ministry earlier this month to take a call on such ads and their telecast timing
Advertising Standards Council of India
It is a self-regulatory voluntary organization of the Advertising Industry
ASCI seeks to ensure that advertisement confirm to its Code for Self-Regulation
Established in 1985, is committed to the cause of Self-Regulation in Advertising, ensuring the protection of the interests of consumers
ASCI was formed with the support of all four sectors connected with Advertising, viz. Advertisers, Advertising Agencies, Media (including Broadcasters and the Press) and others like PR Agencies, Market Research Companies etc
Clarifying its stand on porn ban, Attorney General told the SC that the Centre does not intend to intrude into the private lives of citizens or act in an authoritative way.
However, he defended the banning of child porn sites indicating that India is no exception from the developed world in banning child pornography.
He also mentioned that banning other forms of porn is a matter of debate, probably in the Parliament. It would be interesting to see what logic our lawmakers put forward should such a debate happen in the Parliament.
ISPAI has written to DoT saying its members will continue to block the 857 URLs mentioned in a govt note, till they receive clearer directions.
Internet Service Providers Association (ISPAI) is the main lobby group for the country’s Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
What do they seek clarity on?
The ISPs don’t have mechanism to check the content, as the same is dynamic in nature, hence we request your good self to advise us immediately the further course of action in this regard. Till your further directive, the ISPs are keeping said 857 URLs disabled.