Insights Daily Current Events, 14 May 2016
Paper 2 Topic: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
SC upholds law on criminal defamation
Dismissing a batch of petitions, the Supreme Court has upheld the law on criminal defamation. The court has observed that the law is constitutionally valid and said the law has a “chilling effect” on free speech.
What else has the court said?
- It observed, “Sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code make defamation a criminal offence. A person’s right to freedom of speech has to be balanced with the other person’s right to reputation and therefore the two Sections are necessary.”
- It also rejected an argument that defamation could become a criminal offence only if it incited to make an offence. It said that defamation had its own independent identity, which has enabled the state to maintain a balance between fundamental rights.
- The court also pointed out the distinction between sections 499 and 500 on one hand and section 66A (prosecution for obscene social posts) of the Information Technology Act on the other, saying the latter was struck down by the apex court on the ground of vagueness and procedural unreasonableness.
The ruling was delivered on a petition filed first by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politician Subramanian Swamy against provisions criminalizing defamation. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, among others, later became parties to the case. They now have to face criminal defamation proceedings initiated against them.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.
New IPR policy retains access to cheap drugs
The government has announced a new intellectual property policy, speeding up the online registration of patents and trademarks.
- The new policy seeks to encourage innovation and improve access to healthcare, food security and environmental protection.
Highlights of the policy:
- The Policy will allow compulsory licensing with restrictions in case of a public health emergency such as epidemics and it is compliant with the World Trade Organization’s guidelines.
- The policy seeks to put in place a legal framework that will encourage the IPR regime and reduce the time taken by the government to approve a trademark to a month by 2017. Currently, the process takes more than a year.
- The policy makes the department of industrial policy and promotion (DIPP) the nodal agency for regulating IP rights in the country.
- The Policy states “India shall remain committed to the (World Trade Organisation’s) Doha Declaration on Trade Related IPR Agreement (TRIPS) and Public Health.”
- It also says “India will continue to utilise the legislative space and flexibilities available in international treaties and the TRIPS Agreement.” These flexibilities include the sovereign right of countries to use provisions such as Section 3(d) and CLs for ensuring the availability of essential and life-saving drugs at affordable prices.
- To ensure strong and effective IPR laws, the Policy states India will engage constructively in the negotiation of international treaties and agreements in consultation with stakeholders.
The Policy lays down the following seven objectives:
- IPR Awareness: Outreach and Promotion – To create public awareness about the economic, social and cultural benefits of IPRs among all sections of society.
- Generation of IPRs – To stimulate the generation of IPRs.
- Legal and Legislative Framework – To have strong and effective IPR laws, which balance the interests of rights owners with larger public interest.
- Administration and Management – To modernize and strengthen service-oriented IPR administration.
- Commercialization of IPRs – Get value for IPRs through commercialization.
- Enforcement and Adjudication – To strengthen the enforcement and adjudicatory mechanisms for combating IPR infringements.
- Human Capital Development – To strengthen and expand human resources, institutions and capacities for teaching, training, research and skill building in IPRs.
The IPR policy approved by the Cabinet on Thursday night, comes in the backdrop of the US Trade Representative (USTR), in its annual (2016 edition) Special 301 Report (on the global state of IPR protection and enforcement) retaining India on the ‘Priority Watch List’ for “lack of sufficient measurable improvements to its IPR framework.”
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Role of civil services in a democracy.
Protection to public servants upheld
Calling public servants a “different class”, the Supreme Court has upheld the validity of a provision in the Cr.PC allowing them to file a complaint in a sessions court through a public prosecutor for alleged defamatory comments on their official acts.
- With this, the court rejected demands to strike down Section 199(2) to (4) of the Cr.PC. The court rejected the argument that this section creates a separate class.
- It also dismissed the contention that the classification enumerated in this provision has no rationale and does not bear constitutional scrutiny.
Observations made by the court:
- This provision makes it clear that a public servant is entitled to file a complaint through the public prosecutor in respect of his conduct in discharge of public functions. Public functions stand on a different footing. The provision gives them protection for their official acts. There cannot be defamatory attacks on them because of discharge of their due functions. In that sense, they constitute a different class.
- Also, one is bound to tolerate criticism, dissent and discordance but not expected to tolerate defamatory attack. And hence this right of a public servant to file a defamation complaint is over and above his or her right under Section 199 (6) to personally file a complaint before a Magistrate.
Sources: the hindu.
Facts for Prelims:
- Indian vessel MT Distya Ameya, which was detained by the United Nations for carrying disputed Libyan oil, has been freed after the U.N. lifted its sanctions on the vessel. This follows the intervention of the Indian government and the Directorate-General (DG) of Shipping. The tanker was blacklisted by the U.N. on April 26 when it sailed from the Al-Herega port in Libya after picking up over 6.5 lakh barrels of oil for Malta. It was charged that the vessel violated the sanctions of the U.N. as the interim Government of Libya is not recognised by the global body. Following the instructions of the DG Shipping, the vessel sailed back to Libya and discharged its entire oil cargo.