16th February 2021

Indians concerned about privacy: CJI

Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde recently said Indians have “grave apprehensions” about privacy from Facebook and WhatsApp.

CJI ADDRESSING LAWYERS:

  • People have grave apprehensions about loss of privacy.
  • You may be a two or three trillion company, but people value their privacy more.
  • People think that if A sends a WhatsApp message to B and B to C, the circuit of messages is revealed to Facebook.
  • It is our duty to protect people’s privacy.

COMPANIES’ DENIAL:

  • Lawyers vehemently denied this as “misinformation”.
  • Solicitor General for the government, stated, “This is an apprehension of the nation. Privacy is part of our fundamental rights. They [WhatsApp and Facebook] cannot compromise our privacy. They cannot differentiate.”

NEW POLICY

  • The hearing concerned the new privacy policy introduced by WhatsApp recently.
  • The allegation is that it scraps users’ ‘opt-out policy’. The user would have to, according to the policy, compulsorily consent to share their data with Facebook and its group, the petitioners have alleged.
  • The policy deadline was February 8 initially, but it was extended to May 15.

WHATSAPP CLAIM

  • Lawyer representing Whatsapp denied allegations that WhatsApp was treating Europeans and Indians differently.
  • Europe has a special law [General Data Protection Regulations], India doesn’t. As soon as India has the special law, we will follow.
  • We will follow the law of Parliament,” he submitted. The new privacy policy was applicable to the rest of the world except Europe.
  • Lawyer said the General Data Protection Regulations was followed by probably 20 countries in the world. Allegations of differential treatment being accorded to Indians were unfounded.

COUNTER-ARGUMENT

  • Lawyers challenging the new privacy policy, said they were not on whether WhatsApp was encrypting messages or not. “We are on the point of sharing of meta data for profit.
  • There is a different set of rules for Europeans and different for Indians. Even the government has taken serious note and issued notices to the companies.  They urged the court to ensure that no data is leaked.
  • At present, in the absence of a dedicated data protection regulation, the usage and transfer of personal data of users is regulated by the Information Technology (IT) Rules, 2011, under the IT Act, 2000.
  • However, given the growing pace of the digital economy, the Act has shortcomings with respect to how personal and sensitive data is defined, and provisions that can be easily overridden by companies using a contract.

 

NCLAT suspends Gymkhana’s board, halts new membership

  • The National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) recently ordered the appointment of a Central government-nominated administrator to manage the affairs of the Delhi Gymkhana Club after prima facie finding several irregularities.
  • The tribunal also ordered the suspension of the General Committee of the 107-year-old club, along with a halt on acceptance of new membership till further orders.

NATIONAL COMPANY LAW APPELLATE TRIBUNAL

  • The National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) is a tribunal which was formed by the Central Government of India under Section 410 of the Companies Act, 2013.
  • The tribunal is responsible for hearing appeals from the orders of National Company Law Tribunal(s) (NCLT), starting on 1 June 2016.
  • The tribunal also hears appeals from orders issued by the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India under Section 202 and Section 211 of IBC.
  • It also hears appeals from any direction issued, decision made, or order passed by the Competition Commission of India (CCI).

PERPETRATING APARTHEID

  • The Club was granted government land on perpetual lease primarily for sports related activity. The club is spread across 27 acres of land near the Prime Minister’s residence.
  • In a strongly-worded judgment, the tribunal said the club has been “converted into a recreational club for a chosen few with doors virtually shut for an aspirant belonging to the common stock”.
  • Under the garb of distinctive character of the club which is a relic of the Imperial past, the doors for membership are virtually limited to people having blue blood thereby perpetrating apartheid.
  • This is shattering the most cherished Constitutional goal of securing social justice and equality of status and opportunity.
  • The tribunal opined that there was a “prima facie case demonstrating that the affairs of the club are being conducted in a manner prejudicial to public interest”.
  • It is abundantly clear that misuse of the club meant for pastime and sports activities and denying access of membership even after accepting the enhanced membership fee… involved public interest.

PUBLIC INTEREST

  • The Ministry of Corporate Affairs had claimed that new applicants seeking membership, and having paid registration fee, are on a waiting list for more than 37 years in the non-government category and more than 15 years in the government category.
  • The Ministry said the club virtually barred entry of people who applied for membership as the children of permanent members managed to sneak in as green card holders and finally as UCP (use of club premises) holders.
  • The Ministry further alleged that the money taken from the waitlisted applicants was being utilised by the club by persons coming through various channels, a practice which it claimed was unfair and prejudicial to public interest.
  • It stressed that barely 3% of the total expenditure was being incurred by the club towards sports activity and over 60% was being spent on maintaining the recreational club.
  • The club argued that it was entitled to decide membership issue in accordance with the Articles of Association and its action cannot be called into question by the government on the grounds of being prejudicial to public interest.
  • It pleaded that the land was allotted to the club after its incorporation in July 1913 for sports and pastimes along with other objectives, which have neither been altered nor is the club pursuing any other objective.

 

Geospatial data policy liberalised

  • In sweeping changes to the country’s mapping policy, the government recently announced liberalisation of norms governing the acquisition and production of geospatial data.
  • This move is to help boost innovation in the sector and create a level playing field for public and private entities.

GEOSPATIAL DATA

  • Spatial data, also known as geospatial data, is a term used to describe any data related to or containing information about a specific location on the Earth’s surface.
  • Spatial data can exist in a variety of formats and contains more than just location specific information.
  • Geospatial data, also known as geodata, has locational information connected to a dataset such as address, city or ZIP code.
  • Geospatial data can also come from Global Positioning System (GPS) data, geospatial satellite imagery, telematics devices, IoT and geotagging.

LIBERALISATION

  • Under the new guidelines, the sector will be deregulated and aspects such as prior approvals for surveying, mapping and building applications based on that have been done away with, Department of Science and Technology Secretary said.
  • For Indian entities, there will be complete deregulation with no prior approvals, security clearances and licences for the acquisition and production of geospatial data and geospatial data services, including maps.
  • Prime Minister said the liberalisation of policies governing the acquisition and production of geospatial data was a “massive step in the government’s vision for an Aatmanirbhar Bharat”.
  • The reform will benefit the country’s farmers, start-ups, the private sector, the public sector, and research institutions to drive innovations and build scalable solutions.

GENERATE EMPLOYMENT

  • Science and Technology Minister said the easing of norms will greatly help in several sectors that were suffering because of non-availability of high quality maps.
  • The move will unlock tremendous opportunities for the country’s start-ups, private sector, public sector, and research institutions, to drive innovations and build scalable solutions. It will also generate employment and accelerate economic growth.
  • India’s farmers will also be benefited by leveraging the potential of geospatial and remote sensing data.

 

 

Leatherback nesting sites could be overrun by Andamans development project

Proposals for tourism and port development in the Andaman and Nicobar (A&N) Islands have conservationists worried over the fate of some of the most important nesting populations of the Giant Leatherback turtle in this part of the Indian Ocean.

GIANT LEATHERBACK TURTLE

  • The largest of the seven species of sea turtles on the planet and also the most long-ranging, Leatherbacks are found in all oceans except the Arctic and the Antarctic.
  • Within the Indian Ocean, they nest only in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and are also listed in Schedule I of India’s Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, according it the highest legal protection.
  • Surveys conducted in the A&N Islands over the past three decades have shown that the populations here could be among the most important colonies of the Leatherback globally.
  • There is concern now, however, that at least three key nesting beaches — two on Little Andaman Island and one on Great Nicobar Island — are under threat due to mega “development” plans announced in recent months.
  • These include NITI Aayog’s ambitious tourism vision for Little Andaman and the proposal for a mega-shipment port at Galathea Bay on Great Nicobar Island.

LITTLE ANDAMAN IN FOCUS

  • The Little Andaman plan, which proposes phased growth of tourism on this virtually untouched island, has sought the de-reservation of over 200 sq km of pristine rainforest and also of about 140 sq km of the Onge Tribal Reserve.
  • Two sites where key components of the tourism plan are to be implemented are both Leatherback nesting sites — South Bay along the southern coast of the island and West Bay along its western coast.
  • South Bay is proposed to be part of the “Leisure Zone” where a film city, a residential district and a tourism special economic zone are to come up.
  • West Bay is to be part of West Bay Nature Retreat with theme resorts, underwater resorts, beach hotels and high-end residential villas.
  • The roughly 7-km-long beach at West Bay has been the site of ongoing marine turtle research projects.
  • Set up post-2004 by the Andaman and Nicobar Environment Team (ANET), Dakshin Foundation, the Indian Institute of Science and the A&N Forest Department to monitor how turtle populations have responded after the devastating earthquake and tsunami, it has thrown up new information on turtles and their behaviour.
  • Not only are the numbers of females nesting here significant, satellite telemetry has revealed hitherto unknown migration patterns.
  • Satellite-tagged female turtles have been tracked swimming up to 13,000 km after nesting on West Bay, towards the western coast of Australia and southwest towards the eastern coast of Africa.
  • One of the tagged turtles travelled to Madagascar, covering 12,328 km in 395 days while another travelled 13,237 km in 266 days to the Mozambique coast.

WANING PROTECTION

  • For the Leatherback, perhaps even more important is Great Nicobar Island, the southernmost of the A&N group.
  • Large numbers have been recorded nesting here — mainly on the long and wide beaches at the mouth of the Dagmar and Alexandria rivers on the west coast and at the mouth of the Galathea river along its south eastern coast.
  • Galathea Bay was, in fact, proposed as a wildlife sanctuary in 1997 for the protection of turtles and was also the site of a long-term monitoring programme.
  • The monitoring was stopped after the tsunami devastation of 2004, but it provided the first systematic evidence of numbers and importance of these beaches.

A&N ISLANDS

  • The A&N Islands are prominent in the National Marine Turtle Action Plan released recently by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
  • The plan notes that “India has identified all its important sea turtle nesting habitats as ‘Important Coastal and Marine Biodiversity Areas’ and included them in the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) – 1”.
  • South Bay and West Bay on Little Andaman and Galathea on Great Nicobar, along with other nesting beaches in the islands, find a specific mention here as “Important Marine Turtle Habitats in India” and the largest Leatherback nesting grounds in India.
  • The plan identifies coastal development, including construction of ports, jetties, resorts and industries, as major threats to turtle populations.
  • It also asks for assessments of the environmental impact of marine and coastal development that may affect marine turtle populations and their habitats.
  • Developments in the A&N Islands indicate, however, that even as the action plan was being finalised, decisions were being made in violation of its basic concerns and premises.
  • Not only has the mega-tourism plan in Little Andaman been pushed in spite of serious objections by the A&N Forest Department, a major decision was also made recently on the Galathea Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • The Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife, at its 60th meeting on January 5 under the chairmanship of the Environment Minister, agreed to its denotification for the “construction as well as operational phases of the International Shipment Project”.
  • The A&N Port Management Board had in 2019 floated an expression of interest for the container transhipment terminal here, along with that of a free trade warehousing zone, and the Prime Minister announced in August 2020 that a transhipment project would come up here on an investment of ?10,000 crore.
  • The scale of the project and the investment proposed indicate it could signal the end of a crucial Giant Leatherback nesting site.

 

Assam central to success of Act East policy: S Jaishankar

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar recently said that the development of Assam is central to the success of the Act East policy.

LOOK EAST POLICY

  • India’s Look East policy is an effort to cultivate extensive economic and strategic relations with the nations of Southeast Asia to bolster its standing as a regional power and a counterweight to the strategic influence of the People’s Republic of China.
  • Initiated in 1991, it marked a strategic shift in India’s perspective of the world.
  • It was developed and enacted during the government of Prime Minister Narsimha Rao (1991–1996) and rigorously pursued by the successive administrations of Atal Bihari Vajpayee (1998–2004) and Manmohan Singh (2004–2014).
  • The success of Look East policy enthused the Mandarins of South-Block to develop the policy into more action oriented, project and outcome based policy.
  • After a couple of decades, India’s Act-East Policy, which was announced in 2014 by the Prime minister Narendra Modi’s administration, became a successor to the Look-East Policy.

EVENT- “ACT EAST POLICY AND INDIA-JAPAN COOPERATION IN NORTH-EAST INDIA WITH A SPECIAL FOCUS ON ASSAM”:

  • EAM said, to make this policy successful, the role of Assam as its springboard needs to be fully realised.
  • He said that the push on the policy would help create connectivity not just to and within Assam, the Northeast, Myanmar and Bangladesh, but to “eventually push all the way by road, by sea, by air to Vietnam, to Japan”.
  • A more connected Assam will be a more energetic Assam, a more contributing Assam, and obviously, a more employed Assam.
  • To that, there should be a push for stronger cooperation between Assam and international partners, especially Japan.
  • Japan has long been involved in the expansion of our economic and social infrastructure.
  • Across our states and cities, Japanese Official Development Assistance has funded roads, rail, urbanization and energy.
  • Ambassador of Japan said that Assam — and the Northeast — occupied an important place in Japan’s vision for a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific (FOIP). That is why Japan is supporting various connectivity projects in the state.
  • CM of Assam said despite Japan having been a great trade and investment partner for India, it was unfortunate that there was no single Japanese company present in Assam or in other Northeastern states.

 

New nodal agency to tackle fraud, pesky SMSes & calls

  • An official release from the Ministry of Telecommunications said that he central government will set up a digital intelligence unit (DIU) as a nodal agency to deal with complaints of unsolicited commercial communication (UCC) and cases of financial fraud, especially in the digital payments space.
  • At a high level meeting presided by Telecom Minister, the Ministry decided that apart from the DIU at the nodal level, a Telecom Analytics for Fraud Management and Consumer Protection (TAFCOP) will also be set up at all the 22 license service area level.

FUNCTION OF DIU

  • The main function of DIU will be to coordinate with various LEAs (law enforcement agencies), financial institutions and telecom service providers in investigating any fraudulent activity involving telecom resources.
  • The issue of UCC has been a major area of concern for the Telecom Ministry as well as the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai).
  • TRAI has from time to time fined telecom operators for not following its directives on stopping UCC.

NEED TOUGH MEASURES

  • In November last year, the telecom sector regulator told the Delhi High Court that it had imposed fines of up to Rs 30 crore on telecom companies such as state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, and private telecom companies such as Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio Infocomm for not putting enough measures to control UCC, which occurred over their networks between April and June 2020.
  • All telecom service providers have been asked to ensure strict compliance of the directives issues with respect to UCC.
  • In case of any violation, it was proposed to impose financial penalty against the tele-marketers including disconnection of resources in case of repetitive violations. 
  • A web and mobile application as well as a SMS-based system shall be developed for effective redressal of complaints.

RISE IN FRAUD CASES

  • Apart from UCC, the rise in fraudulent digital transactions was also discussed in the meeting.
  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had, in its annual report for 2018-19, said frauds related to misuse of credit and debit cards, cloning of identities, spam amounted to Rs 220 crore in the year, and was slated to rise unless proper mitigation measures were taken.
  • Special strategies, including blocking of telecom operations in regions, such as Jamtara and Mewat, which are infamous for running digital fraud transaction centres, shall also be taken, the Ministry said.
  • In August last year, Haryana’s Faridabad police arrested five people from Jamtara for being involved in a racket involving e-SIM frauds.
  • Those arrested had then told the police that by swapping e-SIM of Apple’s iPhones, funds were transferred into wallets provided by PhonePe, OlaMoney, Paytm Payments Bank and Airtel Payments Bank, which were then again routed into other bank accounts all over the country before being taken out.

 

RBI sets up panel for strengthening UCBs

The Reserve Bank of India has set up of an eight-member expert committee on urban co-operative banks (UCBs) to examine their issues and provide a roadmap for strengthening the sector.

TAKING STOCK

  • The panel will take stock of regulatory measures taken by the central bank and other authorities in respect of UCBs and assess their impact over last five years to identify key constraints and enablers, if any, in fulfilment of their socio-economic objective.
  • It will also review the current regulatory and supervisory approach and recommend suitable measures to strengthen the sector, taking into account recent amendments to the Banking Regulation Act, 1949.
  • The panel will also suggest effective measures for faster rehabilitation or resolution of UCBs and assess potential for consolidation in the sector.
  • It will consider the need for differential regulations and examine prospects to allow more leeway in permissible activities for UCBs with a view to enhance their resilience.
  • It will draw up a vision document for a vibrant and resilient urban co-operative banking sector having regards to the Principles of Cooperation as well as depositors’ interest and systemic issues.
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