Read the analysis of the remaining editorials here


GS-2

Government policies


Privacy is a fundamental right, declares SC: (The Hindu)

Context

  • Privacy is vital to life and liberty and an inherent part of the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution was declared by a nine-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in a unanimous verdict.

The court’s decision

  • The court held that privacy is a natural right present in human beings.
  • The state does not confer natural rights on citizens. Natural rights like privacy exist equally in all individuals, irrespective of class, strata, gender or orientation.
  • “Privacy is the constitutional core of human dignity. Privacy ensures the fulfilment of dignity,” Justice D.Y. Chandrachud wrote.

Arguments by Centre

  • The Centre had debated against the recognition of privacy as a fundamental right.
  • It had guaranteed the court that privacy would be protected through parliamentary statutes.

Court’s response

  • But the court countered that statutory laws “can be made and also unmade by a simple parliamentary majority.”
  • “The ruling party can, at will, do away with any or all of the protections contained in the statutes.”
  • Fundamental rights are rights citizens may enjoy despite the governments they elect,” Justice Rohinton F. Nariman explained in his separate judgment.
  • The court chided the Centre for describing right to privacy as an “elitist construct.”
  • The court maintained that privacy was the concern of a few, while schemes like Aadhaar, which require citizens to part with their biometric details to the state, reduce corruption and benefit millions of poor.
  • The refrain that the poor need no civil and political rights and are concerned only with economic well-being has been utilized through history to wreak the most egregious violations of human rights.
  • It is privacy, as an intrinsic and core feature of life and personal liberty, which enables individuals to stand up against a programme of forced sterilization.
  • It is the right to question, scrutinize, dissent which enables an informed citizenry to scrutinize the actions of government.

Not an absolute right

  • However, the court held that privacy is not an absolute right.
  • The government can introduce a law which “intrudes” into privacy for public and legitimate state reasons.

How the numbers compute: (The Hindu, Editorial)

Context

  • In one common judgment, two of the five judges held that triple talaq was an element of statutory law, the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937 and, being arbitrary, was unconstitutional.

Ration of 3:2

  • “By a majority of 3:2 the practice of ‘talaq-e-biddat’ – triple talaq is set aside”. Score-sheet summaries of this kind have been deprecated ever since the Supreme Court’s decision in Kesavananda Bharati(1973).
  • From a careful reading of the three separate judgments that make up the court’s decision in the instant case, it is not at all entirely clear that triple talaq was in fact “set aside” by a majority of 3:2.
  • They declined to express an opinion on the more general question of whether religious personal laws were immune from constitutional scrutiny under Article 25, which guarantees all citizens the right to freely practise their religion.
  • In a second common judgment, Chief Justice J.S. Khehar and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer held that the practice of triple talaq, being a component of personal law, was protected by Article 25 of the Constitution and could not be interfered with by the court. In the same breath they directed that this practice be abrogated by Parliament through legislation.
  • Justice Joseph holds triple talaq to be inoperative not because it violates fundamental rights, but because it is, on his reading, “Anti-Quran” and hence violative of the Shariat.

A cosmetic unity

  • It is clear that three judges of the Shayara Bano v. Union of India case did not come to the determination that triple talaq is gender discriminatory and hence unconstitutional.
  • It is possible to cosmetically unite the three ‘majority’ judges at the level of an abstract intention, evinced in their judgments, that triple talaq is an undesirable practice and ought not to remain law.
  • Such an indulgent interpretation however would reduce the complex task of judgment to the arbitrary, whimsical exercise of signing a summary hardly worth the serious judicial time that this case has consumed.

SC overrules Emergency-era habeas corpus verdict: (The Hindu)

Context

  • A nine-judge Bench condemned the decision in the infamous ADM Jabalpur case, better known as the habeas corpus case, as “seriously flawed.”

Explanation

  • The Supreme Court’s judgement in 1976 is considered the darkest hour when it said citizens had no right to life and liberty during the Emergency period.
  • The habeas corpus judgment in 1976 upheld the Congress government’s move to unlawfully detain citizens, including political rivals, during the Emergency years.

Cost of Dissent

  • Of the five judges on that Bench, only Justice H.R. Khanna opposed with the majority opinion of then Chief Justice of India A.N. Ray, Justices M.H. Beg, Y.V. Chandrachud and P.N. Bhagwati. Justice Khanna’s dissent cost him the chief justiceship. He was superceded by Justice Beg, following which he resigned.

Landmark move

  • For the first time in Supreme Court’s history, a nine-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar, officially condemned the Supreme Court’s majority opinion in the habeas corpus case.
  • The judgment, authored by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, “expressly overruled” the 1976 majority judgment and removed a long-pending taint on the court’s history as a people’s champion.
  • Justice Chandrachud, writing for himself, Chief Justice Khehar, Justices R.K. Agrawal and S. Abdul Nazeer, held that “the judgments rendered by all the four judges constituting the majority in ADM Jabalpur are seriously flawed. Life and personal liberty are inalienable to human existence”.
  • “No civilized state can contemplate an encroachment upon life and personal liberty without the authority of law. Neither life nor liberty are bounties conferred by the state nor does the Constitution create these rights. The right to life has existed even before the advent of the Constitution,” Justice Chandrachud wrote.
  • Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman, in his separate judgment, termed Justice Khanna’s dissent as one of the “three great dissents” in the Supreme Court’s history.
  • The second great dissent was by Justice Subba Rao, who upheld the individual’s right to privacy. Pointing to the introduction of the National Human Rights Commission law, which recognizes right to life as a human right and observed that “developments after this judgment (ADM Jabalpur) have also made it clear that the majority judgments are no longer good law and that Khanna, J.’s dissent is the correct version of the law”.
  • In his separate judgment, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul termed the ADM Jabalpur case as “an aberration in the constitutional jurisprudence of our country.”

GS-3

Cyber security


‘Indians tend to borrow later in life’: (The Hindu)

Context

  • Households’ finance landscape shows near total absence of pension wealth

Committee’s report

  • Indian households tend to borrow later in life and are more likely to reach retirement age with positive debt balances, which is a source of risk given that they are no longer earning income during these years, a report of the Household Finance Committee observed.
  • Despite the high holdings of real estate, mortgage penetration is low early in life, and subsequently rises as households age.
  • This is also at variance with Indian households’ counterparts in other countries as per the reports.
  • The Indian household finance landscape is distinctive through the near total absence of pension wealth.
  • Pension accounts and investment-linked life insurance products exist only to be used frequently by households located in a small group of states, while in most other states, the contribution of pensions wealth to household wealth is negligible,” reports mentions.
  • High levels of unsecured debt, taken mostly from non-institutional sources such as moneylenders was observed.
  • With such debt generation, which leads to high costs for Indian households, it is likely to lead to households becoming trapped in a long cycle of interest repayments
  • The report notes a large portion of the wealth of Indian households is in the form of physical assets particularly, gold and real estate. But, it said they can benefit greatly by re-allocating assets towards financial markets and away from gold.
  • The committee was formed following discussions at the Financial Stability and Development Council headed by Tarun Ramadorai, professor of financial economics, Imperial college London. It had representation from all the financial sector regulators.

Don’t fear trade deficit: (The Hindu, Editorial) & China agrees to tackle trade imbalance: (The Hindu)

Context

  • India’s trade deficit with China, which stands at over $50 billion, has been projected by many on the Indian side as an economic evil that needs to be curbed by all means.

Matter of Concern

  • Amidst rising political tensions between India and China, trade relations between the two countries have come under some pressure recently.
  • There has been demand of bans on heavy tariffs and Chinese imports.
  • The trade deficit with China, in effect, is seen as a loss to India and a gain to the Chinese economy.

Balance of Trade

  • The balance of trade reflects how an economy earns its foreign exchange, and how it decides to spend it subsequently.
  • In the case of India’s trade deficit with China, India earns Chinese yuans primarily from Chinese investors who seek to invest in assets in the country.
  • Successively, India uses these yuans that it receives from Chinese investors mostly to purchase Chinese goods, rather than to invest them in Chinese assets.
  • This fondness among Indians for Chinese goods rather than assets, combined with Chinese preference for Indian assets rather than goods, causes India to suffer a trade deficit.
  • Ideal situation would have been when Indians had a greater preference for Chinese assets, and the Chinese had a greater preference for Indian goods.
  • The situation would then reverse and India would enjoy a trade surplus instead.
  • The trade deficit is thus a mirror image of a capital surplus, which is formed by the relatively larger inflow of Chinese capital into India than vice versa.
  • It is high time irrational fears over trade with China, or any other country, are put to rest once and for all.

China will be sending team to India

  • China has agreed to send a high-level official team led by Commerce Minister Zhong Shan by December-end to address the issue of growing trade imbalance with India.
  • The development could be termed a breakthrough for India which faces a ballooning goods trade deficit with its neighbour.
  • China is keen to ensure that trade with India is not adversely affected by the prevailing military tension.
  • In case of a full-fledged ‘trade war,’ China will have much to lose with its goods exports to India in 2016-17 valued at a whopping $61.3 billion against India’s shipments worth just $10.2 billion to that country.
  • The trade deficit was $52.7 billion in 2015-16.

Addressing India’s concern

  • Beijing had decided to address India’s concerns regarding China’s ‘Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures’ hurting Indian farm products exports to that country.
  • Chinese authorities have also decided to look into India’s request to remove the ‘curbs’ on Indian pharmaceutical companies/products, especially those having the approval of American, European and Japanese regulators.
  • Beijing would also soon take a call on eliminating the difficulties faced by the Indian IT/business process management sector in getting greater market access in China.

Anti – Dumping duty

  • Anti-dumping duty is in power on 93 products concerning imports from China, covering products in broad groups of chemicals and petrochemicals, products of steel and other metals, fibres and yarn, machinery items, rubber or plastic products, electric and electronic items and consumer goods.
  • “In addition, 40 cases concerning imports from China have been initiated by Directorate General of Anti-Dumping and Allied Duties.”
  • On August 22, Indian Embassy in Beijing said the decision to impose anti-dumping duties on the 93 products were taken over a course of previous five years.

The geopolitical prowess of science and technology: (Live Mint, Editorial)

Context

  • S&T is critical for ensuring national security and opening new market opportunities. Moreover, economic competitiveness has become a proxy for military influence. Ownership of superior technology brings greater power and control.
  • To build capacity, nations rely on several policy levers—patent laws, tax incentives, and grants to labs, to spur the public sector, private enterprise and academia.

Setting examples

  • Middle powers such as Canada and Switzerland, their S&T capabilities helps them stay relevant in the international arena.
  • Estonia is another remarkable example of how a country can leverage its digital ecosystem to boost its position in the international arena.
  • Israel, has been able to consistently punch above its weight because of its technological prowess.
  • In fact, one of the reasons for India’s recent tilt towards Israel is the latter’s strength in S&T, especially in agriculture.
  • In other words, Israel’s thriving high-tech ecosystem serves the triple purpose of boosting economic growth, ensuring national security, and offering international leverage.
  • The era of scientific development in USA
  • The increased pace of scientific development came at the beginning of World War I with the establishment of the Council of National Defence and the National Research Council.
  • World War II also had a dramatic impact leading to the development of the atomic weapon and the radar.
  • Foundations of Silicon Valley were laid during and because of the war. The Cold War gave a big push to the US space programme.
  • American’s Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency is a national treasure giving birth to the internet and the global positioning system (GPS), and ushered in an unparalleled era of US hegemony.
  • The military and the Central Intelligence Agency maintain separate arms investing in the world’s leading technologies.
  • Alphabet and Palantir act as proxies for their state and play a geopolitical role. Google’s origins can be traced to a grant from the National Science Foundation.
  • Facebook has some data centres offshore but it is a distinctly American corporation which controls large amounts of data generated around the world. This is power in today’s age.
  • The US continues in its leadership position because of its enviable university system and islands of excellence such as Boston and Seattle.

China’s ambition

  • China aspires for global domination and it is playing the long game.
  • China has identified 10 technology areas as part of its New Industry Policy 2025 and aims to become an “innovative country”. Some have begun to call this the Beijing Consensus.
  • China’s investments in clean energy and space have made technology an important pawn in the power play between the West and China.
  • Today, China aims to become a superpower in Artificial Intelligence, leading to a technology race with the US.
  • In biotechnology, there is already a US-China dispute over genetic data. China controls 70% of all the mining capacity of bitcoins and it is giving researchers significant financial incentives to publish in reputed journals.
  • The Chinese government also invests strategically in the US, particularly in Silicon Valley.

India rediscovering itself

  • India is trying to rediscovers its foreign policy, it must act on similar lines.
  • India’s recent efforts to shore up its domestic defence manufacturing industry, develop a regional satellite for South Asia and a home-grown GPS, as well as establish 20 world-class universities, are all steps in the right direction.
  • As per the 2015 report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the US spent $433 billion that’s 2.7% of its GDP on research and development (R&D) in 2013.
  • South Korea and Israel each spent 4% of their GDP while China is targeting 2.5% by 2020. India currently spends only 0.9% of GDP on R&D.

Way forward

  • India needs to recognize the geopolitical reality of S&T.
  • India needs to identify focus areas, analyze what kind of role it can play and where the state can make tactical investments overseas.
  • More specifically, India needs to build the infrastructure which can generate new technologies.
  • It needs to invest in human capital, maintain a cadre of top scientists and professionals, and develop industry-lab links.

 

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