10/7/2020 : The Hindu Editorial Notes or Summary for UPSC
Topic- IS INTERNET FREEDOM BEING SACRIFICED FOR NATIONAL SECURITY ?
QUESTION: A modern democratic state should try to strike a balance between national security and internet freedom. Analyse
- Internet freedom and National Security
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The government’s decision to block 59 Chinese apps has once again spotlighted the vulnerability of Internet freedom at a time of national security.
REASONS FOR BAN :
- MeITY has stated that its actions were based on reports and complaints about misuse of the apps for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorised manner.
- Blocking apps was to safeguard the sovereignty and integrity of India and protect data & privacy of the Indian users.
- The Ministry is also said to have received “exhaustive recommendations” from the Home Ministry’s Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre for the ban.
IS INTERNET FREEDOM BEING SACRIFICED ?
- Use of Section 69A IT
- It is not a new power that the government is enforcing at this time.
- Section 69A has a limited set of defined grounds under which the government can take action. Those are often wide grounds, including security of the state.
Responsibility of a democracy:
- India is not only a constitutional democracy, but also one that is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- Therefore the necessity of blocking the app must be very clearly made out by the government.
- Non following of the standards(Three Part Test)
- Less intrusive
- Proportionality test
- Standard of necessity
- Freedom of Speech and expression
- As per the Supreme Court, it is very clear that our fundamental right to free speech and expression applies to online content too.
- There are other concerns relating to security.
- The Information Technology Act (IT Act), 2000 was enacted to give a fillip to electronic transactions, to provide legal recognition for e-commerce and e-transactions, to facilitate e-governance, to prevent computer-based crimes and ensure security practices and procedures.
- It deals with the use of Digital Signature to authenticate an electronic record.
- The act deals with Electronic Governance and provides inter alia amongst others that where any law provides that information or any other matter shall be made available in an electronic form; and accessible so as to be usable for a subsequent reference.
- It deals with establishment of the Cyber Regulations Appellate Tribunal, which shall be an appellate body where appeals against the orders passed by the Adjudicating Officers, shall be preferred.
- Section 69 gives power to issue directions for interception or monitoring or decryption of any information through any computer source.
- Section 67C refers to the Preservation and Retention of Information by Intermediaries. According to the Central Government, any intermediary who intentionally or knowingly contravenes the provisions shall be punished with an imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 years and shall not be liable to fine.
- Section 69B authorizes to monitor and collect traffic data or information through any computer resource for Cyber security.
- The government has decided to block an entire service which is an extraordinary step. Ideally, the government could have focused on the less intrusive means.
- If the government intends to bring such a restriction in line with data and cybersecurity, the Indian government does not right now have any legal basis to take clear action as it itself has not enacted a law on that subject. It violates individual’s choice, therefore, violates proportionality.
- The use of Section 69A of the Information Technology Act has been criticized in some quarters, with one of the criticisms being that it isn’t designed for data protection compliance.
- And it is also argued that it is set for more specific violations rather than broad general violations.
- Currently, when the Government of India issues blocking orders under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, it asserts secrecy and confidentiality in those orders.
WAY FORWARD :
- The government should immediately stop asserting that privilege, so that the public indeed knows what is being blocked and for what reason.
- Review of Section 69A to bring wider reforms.
- Bring clear strategy on cyber security.
- There needs to be a mindset change of the national security agencies.
Topic- OWNING UP TO CRIMINALISATION IN POLITICS
QUESTION: Despite several judgements from the Supreme Court the issue of criminalisation in politics still persists. Suggest the measures to deal with the issues.
- Role of Judiciary in Political Crime
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The Supreme Court in a judgement (February 2020) ordered political parties to publish the entire criminal history of their candidates for Assembly and Lok Sabha elections along with the reasons that stimulate them to field suspected criminals over decent people.
- It appears that over the last four general elections, there has been an alarming increase in the incidence of criminals in politics
. Public Interest Foundation v. Union of India(2018):
- The court ordered political parties to publish the criminal details of their candidates in their respective websites and print as well as electronic media for public awareness.
- The court held that there is a lack of information about tainted candidates among the citizenry.
- The recent judgment was based on a contempt petition filed about the general disregard shown by political parties to this 2018 Constitution Bench judgment.
THE FEB 2020 SC ORDER :
- In a February 2020 judgement the Supreme Court has asked the political parties to state the reasons for the selection of candidates.
- The Court also asked to specify as also as to why other individuals without criminal antecedents could not be selected as candidates.
- If a political party fails to comply, it would be “… in contempt of this Court’s orders or directions.
- The political party and its leadership would for the first time have to publicly own up to criminalisation of politics.
- The judgment notes that “ in 2019 as many as 43% of MPs had criminal cases pending against them”.
- India is the only democratic country with a free press where we find a problem of this dimension.
EARLIER JUDICIAL ATTEMPTS TO CLEANSE POLITICS :
- Association for Democratic Reforms(ADR) v. Union of Indian: A 2002 judgement of the SC made it obligatory for all candidates to file an affidavit before the returning officer, disclosing criminal cases pending against them.
- PUCL v. Union of India: In its 2013 judgement SC upheld the constitutional right of citizens to cast a negative vote in elections.
- Lily Thomas v. Union of India (2013): The Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional Section 8(4) of the Representation of the People Act that allowed convicted lawmakers a three-month period for filing appeals to the higher court and to get a stay on the conviction and sentence.
- Public Interest Foundation and Ors. v Union of India (2014): In its landmark judgment of SC directed all subordinate courts to decide on cases involving legislators within a year, or give reasons for not doing so to the chief justice of the high court.
- Several laws and court judgments have not helped much, as the data show and reason may be lack of enforcement of laws and judgments.
- Although the recent judgment has decreed that political parties will give much wider publicity to the criminal antecedents of their candidates, it is possible that this alone may not suffice.
- Politically motivated cases by opponents: The attempt to exclude candidates against whom charges had been framed by a court of law for heinous offences may lead to serve the political vendetta of the ruling party against their opponents .
- Demand from voters: Legislators today are not seen as law makers, but problem solvers.
- With our criminal justice system clogged with cases and lawyers fees often far beyond the affordability, the local don standing for elections is often seen as the messiah for delivering quick justice
WAY AHEAD :
- Need for a strong legislation:
- To regulate the functioning of political parties and an unbiased and independent authority to implement it.
- Judicial activism.
- Being vigilant: In the coming elections, there is the need to be far more vigilant. This includes.
Amending the Representation of the People Act, 1951:
- There is the need for a rule that disallows candidates facing charges for serious offences .
- Ensuring greater transparency in election funding will make it less attractive for political parties to encourage crime.
- Broader governance reforms should be targeted to ensure lesser reliance of voters on criminal politicians.
- Monitoring the affidavits of candidates can help in compliance.
- Working with the EC to ensure that information is promptly available on their websites.
- Monitoring the compliance with the Supreme Court judgment to see if details of tainted candidates are promptly put up on their websites, and on their social media handles.