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List of Contents
- The Pros and Cons of e-Courts project
- Need to ban the Conversion therapy of the LGBTQIA+ community
- Dismal Healthcare systems in South Asia needs attention
- India’s response to shocks – 1962 war to COVID pandemic
- Securing privacy and data rights in the age of social audio
- Annual review of state laws 2020 report by PRS
Source: The Hindu
Gs2: E-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential
Synopsis: Pandemic has shown that the e-Courts project has the ability to revolutionize the Indian Judiciary, but its application needs to be in line with the Fundamental Right to Privacy.
Why Indian courts should use digital technologies?
- Faster justice delivery.
- Clearing pendency which is around 3.27 crore cases before Indian courts. Of which 85,000 have been pending for over 30 years as of June 2020 as per the e-Committee.
- Reduce long delays and difficulties for ordinary litigants.
- Building people’s trust in the judiciary.
To fulfil the above-given objectives, the Indian judiciary has launched project e-courts, which are monitored by the e-Committee.
Salient features of the e-Courts project:
- Phases I and II had dealt with the digitisation of the judiciary:
- e-filing, tracking cases online
- uploading judgments online.
- Draft vision document for Phase III of the e-Courts project aims for:
- Digitisation of court processes
- Upgrade the electronic infrastructure of the judiciary.
- Enable access to lawyers and litigants.
- Seamless exchange of information between various branches of the State. Such as between the judiciary, the police and the prison systems through the Interoperable Criminal Justice System (ICJS).
What are the key benefits of the e-Courts project?
- Phase II of the project helped in the development of the National Service and Tracking of Electronic Processes which enabled the delivery of e-summons.
- During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court and High Courts have been able to function online.
What are the concerns associated with the e-court project?
- Firstly, as per Criminal Justice and Police Accountability Project, the ICJS will exacerbate existing class and caste inequalities.
- For instance, the exercise of data creation at local police stations have historically contributed to the criminalisation of entire communities through colonial-era laws such as the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871.
- It helped in labelling such communities as “habitual offenders”.
- ICJIS also has the potential to label citizen with such tags.
- Secondly, large-scale gathering and sharing of data with no data protection regime present in India may cause data theft, cybersecurity issues and online harassment.
- Thirdly, Localised data will be centralised by the Ministry of home affairs will lead to :
- Creation of a 360-degree profile of each person by integrating all of their interactions with government agencies into a unified database.
- This approach is used by social media platforms and technology companies for targeted advertisement, but data collection by the government may end up as “targeted surveillance”.
- Fourthly, it is not clear that why Home Ministry needs access to court data which has absolutely no relation to criminal law.
- Firstly, the e-Courts project must move towards localization of data. Also, e-Committee must prevent the seamless exchange of data between the branches of the state that should remain separate.
- Secondly, collected data need to be stored in an anonymous and aggregated manner.
- Thirdly, the Supreme Court need to ensure that the e-courts project does not violate the privacy standards that it set in Puttaswamy v. Union of India (2017).
- Fourthly, active participation of citizen should be there as when data of the courts and police stations are integrated, the link is individual citizen.
Digital Technology can play a huge role in the faster delivery of justice. However, the privacy and fundamental rights of citizens need to be protected as the technology is only a means, not an end in itself.
Source: The Indian Express
Syllabus: GS 2 – Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States
The recent order of the Madras high court presents an opportunity to ban the inhuman conversion therapy of the LGBTQIA+ community. The therapy subjects them to immense physical and mental stress leading to occurrence of depression, anxiety and suicide cases amongst the community.
- The Madras High Court called for a ban on the conversion therapy of the LGBTQIA+ community in its recent S Sushma V. Commissioner of Police case. It also demanded legal action against those who practise it.
- Conversion therapy is the pseudoscientific practise of trying to change an individual’s sexual orientation. In this therapy, psychological, physical, or spiritual interventions will be carried out for the members of the LGBTQIA+ community to change them heterosexual.
- LGBTQIA+ refers to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual.
- The order coincided with the celebration of pride month in June. Since 1969, pride month is celebrated across the globe to recognise the significance of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Why Conversion therapy of the LGBTQIA+ should be banned?
- First, it would be a significant step in the fight against homophobia. The continued persistence of the therapy entrenches the false belief that non-heterosexual orientations are somehow unnatural or immoral.
- Second, the move will erode the misguided and unscientific notion that sexuality can be altered through external intervention. The ban will concretise the notion that homosexuality is not a mental illness.
- Third, the practice is already banned in many liberal countries while many more are about to ban it.
- For instance, the UK took a pledge to outlaw conversion therapy in May 2021. Further, the practice is already banned in Germany, Canada, Malta, Australia, and the United States.
- Fourth, the patients are also subjected to various forms of physical and emotional abuse in the therapy. This includes physical abuse, food deprivation, and homophobic insults.
- A study by UN’s independent expert on gender violence and discrimination found that 98% of people undergoing conversion therapy experience lasting damage. This includes depression, anxiety, permanent physical harm and loss of faith.
- In extreme situations, patients are unable to handle the stress and anguish which eventually induces them to end their lives. In May 2020, a 21-year queer (Anjana Harish) committed suicide in Goa post-conversion therapy.
- The Indian Government has taken some positive steps like decriminalising consensual homosexual sex under Sec-377 of the Indian Penal Code. However, there is no explicit law banning conversion therapy in India. The latest Mental Healthcare Act also implicitly allows the therapy with the patient’s consent.
- The government must undertake the following steps to protect the LGBTQIA+ community:
- Ban conversion therapy of the LGBTQIA+ involving minors as they cannot consent to any such procedure.
- Ban advertising conversion therapy in order to reduce its prevalence and decreasing its social acceptability.
- Impose professional sanctions against medical practitioners who engage in conversion therapy of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS 2 – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health
The second wave of pandemic highlighted the lacunas in the healthcare systems in South Asia. The situation now demands the replacement of short term measures with a well-thought-out vision and political commitment for long-term healing.
The pandemic managed to penetrate across the countries due to the dismal state of health infrastructure and reluctance to enhance public health care spending. For example,
- India recorded 4,529 deaths from COVID-19 on 18th May 2021. It is the highest daily death toll recorded in the world, beating 4468 deaths recorded by the US in January 2021.
- The virus has consolidated itself in other South Asian countries as well.
- Sri Lanka added 78,218 cases in May.
- Pakistan crossed over 200 daily deaths in April, its highest since the pandemic started.
- Bangladesh detected the highly contagious Delta variant of Covid-19
- The consolidation of the virus has been attributed to the dismal state of healthcare systems in South Asian countries.
Dismal State of Healthcare systems in South Asia:
- Funding: The Indian government spends around 1.4 % of its GDP on public healthcare. There is a lack of prudent expenditure towards public health in other south Asian nations as well.
- Doctor to Population Ratio: In India, there are only 0.08 doctors per 1000 population in the public health sector. But the WHO standard is 1 per 1000 population. Pakistan and Bangladesh also have less than one doctor per 1000 population.
- Bed Availability: India has only half a bed available for every 1,000 people. Similarly, Bangladesh and Pakistan have a bed to patient ratio of 0.8 and 0.6 respectively.
- Out of Pocket Expenditure: The ideal out-of-pocket expenditure should not surpass 15% to 20% of the total health expenditure. However it is 62.67%, 73.87% and 56.24% for India, Bangladesh and Pakistan respectively.
Other factors behind the spread of the virus in South Asia:
- First, superspreader events in India gave a lucrative opportunity for the spreading of the virus
- Second, the citizens violated the Covid protocols by disregarding social distancing, not wearing masks etc.
- Third, the logistical mismanagement in the countries delayed the accessibility of vaccines and other life-saving drugs.
- Fourth, the increase in health expenditure remained well below the desired levels. For instance, Pakistan’s defence budget was increased by 12% in 2020-21 to reach $7.85 billion. On the other hand, the spending on health remained around $151 million.
- The South Asian countries can learn from the Bhutan Model. There has been only 1 death and 1724 cases of Covid-19 in the country.
- Its success is owed to a well-funded and prepared public health system with stringent measures, responsible citizenship, and an accountable government.
- There is a need to enhance public expenditure, especially towards rural healthcare. In Rural India, the poor health care system enhanced the hardships of people –
- Patients were treated on the hospital floor for lack of beds,
- Some had to walk hundreds of miles just to reach a hospital and
- Many were compelled to resort to homemade concoctions and local quacks
- The South Asian nations can also take lessons from the Southeast Asian countries including Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia etc.
- They prioritised investments in healthcare systems while broadening equitable access through universal health coverage schemes.
Source- The Indian Express
Syllabus- GS 1- Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country.
Synopsis- The article distinguishes between the Center’s reaction to the current pandemic and its responses to shocks in Indian History.
Three criteria to analyze Indian government’s response
- The team
- The science
- The organizational innovations put together
List of previous shocks and the India’s response
- First, 1962’s Sino-India War-
- Response- Defence reform
- The new defence minister was appointed.
- The financial allocation for the defence was increased
- Alters India’s understanding of the world and foreign policy in a fundamental way.
- Response- Defence reform
- Second, 1966 Severe Drought – In 1966, due to drought, food grain production fell by 20 per cent. Foreign food aid came to the rescue of the starving population.
- Third, 1975 National Emergency, political shock
- Team- Indira Gandhi (PM) and Sanjay Gandhi.
- The harsh family planning programme was launched by PM Indira Gandhi on her son’s insistence. Despite the efforts to create awareness and support for sterilization [surgery to make a person or animal unable to produce offspring], the camps were receiving a lukewarm response.
- Fourth, 1991, External sector shock
- Team- P V Narasimha Rao (PM), Manmohan Singh (FM), M S Ahluwalia (finance secretary) and S S Tarapore (from the RBI).
- S S Tarapore played a key role by not acceding to the capital account convertibility requirement of the IMF.
- Response to the shock, in this case, was that both policy and organizational change was brought about slowly, without disrupting the economy.
- Lastly, India’s response to the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Team- No clarity about who is in the team.
- Not clear if the Covid-19 task force and control room in the Niti Aayog are the same.
- Mismanagement in providing information regarding Covid-19 response.
- There are some vaccine-related issues such as the gap between the two shots and taking two different vaccines. This contributes to vaccine hesitancy.
- Confusion related to vaccine procurement.
- Allowing huge gathering such as Kumbh Mela, election rallies were obvious cases of not following science.
- Few cases of which reveal the unimportance the government gives to science.
There is a drastic difference between the handling of COVID-19 pandemic shock from the previous shocks. The government needs to improve on all three criteria.
Source: click here
Syllabus: GS 2
Synopsis: Privacy and data rights remain out of focus on social audio.
The clubhouse is a new social networking app based around audio rooms. It crossed over 2 million Android downloads last month. The main feature of the app is the unique audio medium through which its users interact.
- This feature makes clubhouse different from other platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, WhatsApp, and YouTube. These apps use text, images, video, or a combination of three.
- The app does not have separate texting features or the option to create online profiles. Its focus is purely on audio-based interaction.
What are the issues with such apps?
The nature of the app raises questions on privacy and data rights. Audio rooms bring new challenges for data regulators. As they have not yet found ways to control traditional social media platforms.
- Firstly, audio-based exchanges are faster and in real-time. Thus, traditional methods of content moderation may not work here. Cyber-bullying and trolling, driven by sexism, racism and communalism, can be more damaging on apps like a clubhouse.
- Secondly, anyone can join any room that their friends are a part of, this makes stalking easier. The app even sends notifications to its followers.
- Thirdly, the experience on Clubhouse includes a constant awareness about how every action is being shown to followers. This awareness and the fear of being judged will limit people from exploring the app’s content.
- This is opposite to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter which allow browsing in invisibility.
- Fourthly, Clubhouse temporarily records the audio in a room while the room is live, this is a major concern. It says that it deletes the recording when the room ends. The app lacks end-to-end encryption, which makes the data still potentially accessible. This recording is done without the consent of the user.
- Privacy expert Alexander Hanff says the platform’s practices are violating many provisions of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
- A report by the Stanford Internet Observatory stated that the backend infrastructure of Clubhouse is given by a Chinese start-up called Agora. The report mentions a risk of the Chinese government accessing raw audio and other security flaws.
- Fifthly, India does not have a strict data protection law: This makes its users more vulnerable to data breaches and privacy violations. The lack of end-to-end encryption in Clubhouse could also make it an easy tool for government surveillance.
- Lastly, Clubhouse takes permission to access users’ contacts, which is a significant privacy concern. It gives the app information about people who are not even on the app. The contact list can be shared with app developers and with people in a user’s contact list. This affects privacy and contributes to the harassment culture.
How will the dominant companies in similar space react?
The clubhouse is one of the numerous apps that have grown popular during the COVID-19 as people are looking for new methods to communicate with each other.
As the popularity of Clubhouse grows, Twitter has launched ‘Spaces’, and Facebook is working on a similar feature. LinkedIn, Discord, Reddit and Spotify are doing the same.
Clubhouse might seem like a lightweight app, but it does not offer much in terms of securing privacy and data rights. It is not very different from traditional platforms. Social audio won’t truly progress until innovation is balanced with respect for privacy, security and data rights.
Source: Indian Express
Syllabus: GS2 – Parliament and State Legislatures—Structure, Functioning, Conduct of Business, Powers & Privileges and Issues Arising out of these
Synopsis: PRS Legislative Research’s “Annual review of state laws 2020” shows that the productivity and efficacy of State legislatures is poor.
- Public information on the working of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha is readily available to Indian citizens because of the efforts of PRS Legislative Research.
- In contrast, the public information available on the functioning of state legislatures and their productivity has been limited.
- The good news is that PRS has now ventured into monitoring state legislatures and has recently released a report on the legislative work performed by states for the year 2020.
About Annual review of state laws report
- The report is based on data compiled from state legislature websites and state gazettes.
- It covers 19 state legislatures, including the Union Territory of Delhi, which together accounts for 90% of the population of the country.
- Some of the state’s data are not available because few states do not have a systematic way of reporting legislative proceedings and business.
Important Findings of Annual review of state laws 2020
- One, less number of working days: Pre-2020, these 19 states met for an average of 29 days a year as compared to the Parliament that met for 33 days in 2020.
- Two, lack of detailed scrutiny over Bills: For instance, in 2020, 59% of the Bills were passed on the same day that they were introduced in the legislature. A further 14% were passed within a day of being introduced.
- Whereas, In Parliament, Bills are often referred to Parliamentary Standing Committees for detailed examination. In most states, such committees are non-existent.
- Three, no uniformity in policies that are related to National interest. For instance, while some states decided to reduce salaries of the members of state legislature, some states did not take any such action to maintain financial propriety.
|Kuldip Nayar v. Union of India case:|