- India must counter Japan’s U.S.-style pressure at the RCEP talks and ensure affordable generic medicines.
Discussion about leaked documents :
- All public discussions on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) are centering around leaked documents.
- The RCEP will open two of the world’s fastest-growing economies to new standards of Intellectual Property (IP) protection with some unforeseen consequences.
Intellectual Property (IP), investment and RCEP :
- Formation of Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism and to include IP as an investment is major conditions that have been put forth both in the TPP as well as the RCEP.
- IP as an investment will lead to private companies raising investment disputes against the host country in case when legal regime doesn’t favour them.
- These disputes mostly get initiated by MNCs and especially the pharmaceutical industries.
- Japan’s insistence on the inclusion of this clause comes as no surprise as it is the third-largest RCEP investor country.
- Countries like India and China, which will be the destinations for the investments, should include safeguards against these measures.
The new reforms :
- The leaked IP chapter shows that both Japan and South Korea are mounting pressure to implement a TRIPS-plus regime in IP.
- Such pressure is damaging to developing countries that have benefited from generic competition.
- The few IP reforms discussed in the RCEP include data exclusivity, patent term extension, and much more lenient criteria for patentability.
- Following those would mean delay in the entry of generic versions of medicines, extension of patent monopoly for a longer time.
- The strong MNC lobby growing in Japan, especially on the pharmaceutical side, is a reason for its insistence on stricter IP rules. by Otsuka for the treatment of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB).
MFN Clause: what it means to India? :
- The WTO has a most-favoured-nation (MFN) clause that obliges the concessions offered to the MFN to be offered to others.
- If India has an agreement with Japan (through the RCEP), India will be obliged to offer the same concessions to the U.S. as well as the other members of the WTO.
- The negotiating pattern reflects the reality of international law making.
- It is evident that developed countries are using FTAs to expand the existing standards of IP.
What should India do? :
- At the 19th round of the RCEP negotiations currently on in Hyderabad, India must resist Japan’s U.S.-style pressure in this regard.
- India should not only proudly protect their laws in the RCEP negotiations, they should also encourage other countries to adopt and use similar measures that ensure generic competition.
- “Privacy is non-negotiable, confidentiality is non-negotiable under the Aadhaar Act”, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the nodal agency implementing the Aadhaar scheme, has said in the Supreme Court.
- Right to privacy is not absolute and cannot prevent the state from making laws imposing reasonable restrictions on citizens, the Supreme Court observed recently.
- A day after conceding that right to privacy was a fundamental right, the government on Thursday asserted before the Supreme Court that privacy and confidentiality were non-negotiable under the Aadhaar Act.
- The assertion came after Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta after a nine-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice of India J.S.Khehar expressed concern over the data collected by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) for Aadhaar.
- The court was, responding to a submission by Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, that citizens not claim informational privacy when the state asks for data for a legitimate purpose such as Aadhaar.
The court’s decision :
- The court said ‘right to privacy’ is in fact too ‘amorphous’ a term.
- To recognize privacy as a definite right, it has to first define it.
- Defining privacy would be nearly impossible as an element of privacy infiltrates all the fundamental rights treasured in the Constitution.
- The court identified that an attempt to define the right to privacy may cause more harm than good.
- An exhaustive labeling by the court of what all constitutes privacy may limit the right itself.
Fundamental right :
- Justice S.A.Bobde wondered whether the Aadhaar Act of 2016 itself had any provisions to protect privacy. Mr. Venugopal then pointed to Section 28 of the statute dealing with “security and confidentiality of information”. It was in the State’s legitimate interest to keep personal data secure as this would make Aadhaar acceptable to one and all.” Justice Chandrachud said informational privacy was the most “vexed” portion of the ongoing debate as part of personal data was already in the public domain.
Article 21 :
- Article 21 of the Constitution of India states that “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law”.
- Article 21 interprets that the term ‘life’ includes all those aspects of life which go to make a man’s life meaningful, complete and worth living.
Right to Privacy: Constitution :
- The Constitution of India does not specifically guarantee a “right to privacy”.
- However, through various judgments over the years, Indian courts have interpreted the other rights in the Constitution as giving rise to a (limited) right to privacy primarily through Article 21, the right to life and liberty.
What is needed to be done in context of Right to Privacy and Aadhaar? :
- In view of the increased security required specifically for territorial privacy and data privacy, there should be a provision added to the Constitution of India.
- A provision that deals with multiple dimensions of privacy such as personal, territorial, communication and data/information.
- Such a provision would bring clarity as to the extent of the right to privacy.
- There is a dire need for a comprehensive privacy legislation which would ensure the protection of personal and sensitive data of people.
- There is also the need for an established regulatory body.
- This could be structured along similar lines as that of the data protection commissioner offices, which exist in Canada, Ireland, and other developed informational economies.
India and China talks Context :
- National Security Adviser Ajit Doval held talks with Chinese State Councillor Yang Jichei, covering bilateral issues and major problems.
The talk :
- The talk signaled out that the standoff in Doklam between Chinese and Indian troops in the Sikkim sector was likely on the agenda.
- Minister of State for External Affairs M.J. Akbar, highlighted the agreement between the countries to intensify “development partnership” and “people-to-people contact”.
- External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj clears it out that India had not discriminated against Chinese companies.
- On China’s recent denial of visa to a group of journalists to Tibet, Akbar said that “the two countries had agreed to work together.”
A Parliamentary Standing Committee has sought details from the government on its strategic disinvestment plans for national Air India.
The department related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture, chaired by Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament Mukul Roy, is set to meet the Central government officials today.
Key points :
- The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on June 28 gave its in-principle approval for the strategic disinvestment of Air India and subsidies.
- The CCEA also set up a group of minister under Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to examine the modalities of the national carrier’s stake sale. The Ministerial group will decide upon the “treatment of unsustainable debt of Air India, hiving off of certain assets to shell company, de-merger and strategic disinvestment of three profit-making subsidiaries, quantum of disinvestment and the universe of bidder.
- Union Cabinet gave its nod for Air India’s strategic disinvestment, India’s largest low-cost carrier IndiGo expressed interest in acquiring the flag carrier’s airline business, mainly related to its international operations.
- The decision to divest to stake in Air India was based on government think-tank NITI Aayog’s recommendations may this year.
- The Aayog had given the rationale for the disinvestment of Air India and has attributed the main reason as fragile finances of the company. Air India has been incurring continuous losses and has huge accumulated losses.
- NITI Aayog in its report on Air India says that further support to an unviable non-priority company in matured and competitive aviation sector would not be the best use of scarce financial resources of the Government.
- Air India’s market share on domestic routes had declined to 14.2% in 2016-17, from 17.9% in 2014-15.
- Air India had accumulated total debt of Rs 48,876 crore till March 31, 2017.
- The carrier has been reporting continuous losses due to its high debt with its net loss at Rs 3,728 crore in 2016-17, compared with Rs 3,836 crore in 2015-16.
- Air India, which has a debt burden of more than Rs 52,000 crore, is staying afloat on taxpayer’s money.
- The previous UPA government had extended bailout package worth little over Rs 30,000 crore to the national carrier for a period of 10 year starting from 2012.