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‘Natural Justice’ and ‘Proportionality’: Why Supreme Court ruled in Media One’s favour

The Supreme Court overturned the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting's decision to not renew the broadcast license of Malayalam news channel Media One in the the case of “Madhyamam Broadcasting Limited vs Union of India & Ors”. The parent company, Madhyamam Broadcasting, appealed the decision and won. The court ordered the Ministry to issue the renewal within four weeks and all authorities to cooperate. An interim order will remain until the renewal is granted. The Timeline of the caseMedia One News Channel's License Renewal Denied, Parent Company Appeals in CourtThe case involved the refusal of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to renew the broadcast license of Malayalam news channel Media One, which led to the channel being taken off the air. The channel's parent company, Madhyamam Broadcasting, appealed the decision in court.Media One News Channel Denied License Renewal Over Security ConcernsThe government did not renew the license because the Ministry of Home Affairs had declined to grant security clearance to Media One, citing alleged links between the channel's promoters and Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JEIH). The government claimed that this was a matter of national security.High Court Upholds Ban on Media One News Channel Over National Security ConcernsThe High Court upheld the ban on the channel on the grounds of national security. The government argued that the decision to revoke the license was based on national security reasons. The court accepted this argument and upheld the ban. Apex Court Rules in Favour of Media One in License Renewal CaseThe Supreme Court upheld Media One’s appeal on two procedural grounds, namely, principles of natural justice and proportionality.The Court ruled that the Centre's refusal to renew MediaOne's broadcast licence was a restriction on press freedom and that criticism of government policy is not a reasonable restriction under Article 19(2) of the Constitution.The court rejected the government's national security argument, stating that such a claim must be supported by material evidence.The Court also disapproved of the sealed cover procedure and proposed a less intrusive public interest immunity claim as an alternative.The channel's promoters claimed they were not given a chance to defend themselves because national security reasons were given only to the High Court in a sealed cover. The Supreme Court stayed the HC order and allowed the channel to resume operations.The Supreme Court set aside both the I&B Ministry and Kerala HC orders, criticizing the sealed cover procedure and the cavalier manner in which the national security claim was raised by the Centre.The court said that while it is impractical and unwise to define national security, claims cannot be made out of thin air, and material must back up such inferences. The state cannot use national security as a tool to deny citizens their rights.The Supreme Court dismissed the alleged links between MediaOne's promoters and JEIH, stating that JEIH is not a banned organization and that there is no evidence that shareholders of the channel are JEIH sympathizers.The Supreme Court said that an independent press is vital for democracy, and that the press has a duty to present citizens with hard facts to enable them to make informed choices.The court proposed a public interest immunity claim as a less restrictive alternative to the sealed cover procedure, which violates principles of both natural justice and open justice.The court can appoint an amicus curiae to balance confidentiality concerns with the need to preserve public confidence in the justice delivery process. The amicus shall have access to the materials sought to be withheld by the state and shall represent the interests of the applicant to the best of their ability, while being bound by oath to not disclose or discuss the material with any other person. Principles of Natural JusticeThe court allowed the challenge against the MIB order and the High Court's judgment due to the principles of natural justice, which were constitutionalized in its 1978 ruling in "Maneka Gandhi vs Union of India".The principle of natural justice, also known as procedural fairness, is a fundamental legal principle that governs the way in which administrative and judicial decisions are made.The principle requires that any decision-making process should be fair, impartial, and reasonable, and that all parties involved should have the opportunity to be heard and to present their case.There are two main principles of natural justice:Audi alteram partem (Rule of Fair Hearing): This principle states that no person should be condemned or penalized without being given a fair opportunity to present their case. In other words, everyone has the right to be heard and to defend themselves before any decision is made that could affect them. This principle also means that the decision-maker should be impartial and not have any preconceived ideas or biases about the case.Nemo judex in causa sua (Rule Against Bias): This principle states that no one should be a judge in their own case. This means that the decision-maker should be impartial and not have any personal interest in the case or be biased towards one party over another. For example, a judge who has a personal interest in a case or who is related to one of the parties should recuse themselves from the case to ensure impartiality.The principle of natural justice is based on the idea that justice should not only be done but should also be seen to be done. This means that the decision-making process should be transparent, and all parties involved should be given a fair opportunity to present their case and be heard.The principle is not only applicable in legal settings but also in administrative decision-making processes, such as government agencies, tribunals, and regulatory bodies. Doctrine of ProportionalityThe judgment elaborated that to determine the validity of a claim regarding the involvement of national security concerns, it should be evaluated based on two criteria:The existence of evidence to support that the non-disclosure of information is in the interest of national security, andWhether a rational and cautious person would arrive at the same conclusion based on the available evidence.The doctrine of proportionality is a legal principle that is used to balance competing interests when a government or other authority is making decisions that may impact individual rights.This principle is often used in constitutional law, human rights law, and administrative law, and is applied to ensure that government actions do not unduly interfere with individual rights.The principle of proportionality requires that the means used by the government to achieve a particular objective must be proportional to the objective that is sought to be achieved. This means that the government must use the least intrusive means possible to achieve its objective and that any interference with individual rights must be justified by the importance of the objective being pursued.The doctrine of proportionality has three components:Rational Connection: There must be a rational connection between the means used by the government and the objective sought to be achieved. This means that the means used must be logically connected to the objective, and must be reasonably expected to achieve the objective.Necessity: The means used by the government must be necessary to achieve the objective, and there must be no less intrusive means available that could achieve the same objective. This means that the government must use the least intrusive means possible to achieve its objective.Proportionality Stricto Sensu (Law of Balancing): The benefits of the government action must outweigh the harms caused by the interference with individual rights. This means that the government must demonstrate that the benefits of its action are proportional to the harm caused by the interference with individual rights.The doctrine of proportionality is often used in cases where a government action is challenged on the grounds that it violates an individual's rights. For example, the principle might be applied in a case where a government is seeking to restrict freedom of expression, or to impose restrictions on a particular group of people.In such cases, the principle requires that the government action be examined to determine whether it is proportional to the objective being sought, and whether it is the least intrusive means available to achieve that objective.If the government action is found to be disproportionate, the court or other authority may strike down the action as unconstitutional or invalid.[Ref- IE]

What technology leaders asking for a six-month halt on AI don’t want you to know

On March 28, a letter was drafted by the Future of Life Institute calling for a six-month halt on “training AI systems more powerful than GPT-4”, signed by more than 2,900 people. Some of these people are famous in the worlds of AI, computer science, economics, and policy, such as Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, Yoshua Bengio, Turing Prize winner, and Daron Acemoglu, MIT professor of Economics. Any intelligent observer of the field will agree with the core of the letter which calls for caution about AI, but the devil is in the details. While hyping the non-existent and improbable red herring of fantastical AI technology, in tune with the ideology of “Longtermism”, the letter misdirects from the actual dangers of the AI industry. A shallow reading of the letter will only make clear the warning, not the clever but cynical misdirection. The Demands of the Tech LeadersThe group of tech leaders, which includes Elon Musk and Demis Hassabis, has called for a six-month halt on the development of AI, particularly in the area of autonomous weapons systems.They argue that there is a risk of unintended consequences if AI is allowed to develop unchecked.The group also calls for a broader conversation about the ethical implications of AI, and for the development of a regulatory framework to guide its development. Arguments in favourAI is a group of technologies that depend on machine learning to identify patterns from large amounts of data for decision-making, clustering or generation.These technologies have replaced certain cognitive labor and can be economically lucrative, but they are pseudorandom and statistically-based, which means errors are baked into the system no matter how much training data is used.No AI system should be used in fields where errors or blind replication of the past could cause harm, such as medicine, law enforcement, and the justice system.However, the government's policy myopia and the profit motive of private companies have pushed for harmful use cases such as facial recognition technology in law enforcement.AI technologies are useful, but their statistical nature must be distinguished from real intelligence and knowledge generators, and regulatory red lines must be set to prevent harm to individual and social rights.The AI industry is data-hungry, and this hunger violates privacy and other constitutional rights, leading to a surveillance state and economic exploitation.Low-paid and exploited workers called "ghost workers" from economically weak countries curate and clean large quantities of data for the AI industry.Social media platforms sell user data via "data brokers" in an ill-regulated grey market, creating an ecosystem in which the AI industry and platform economy feed into each other and contribute to exploitation.The AI industry is part of the larger market economy, and pressures for profit can ignore the necessary precautions for AI research, design, and deployment, leading to real dangers and harms.The potential risks of AI are significant, and could include unintended harm to humans, as well as economic disruption and geopolitical instability.A moratorium on AI development would provide an opportunity for reflection and for the development of a responsible approach to AI.A regulatory framework is necessary to ensure that AI is developed in a way that is aligned with human values and priorities. Arguments againstIt may not be feasible or desirable to halt the development of AI for a period of six months.AI is already being developed by a wide range of actors, and that a moratorium would be unlikely to achieve its intended goals.The tech leaders may have ulterior motives for making the demand, such as protecting their own business interests or limiting competition. Challenges and Risks of AI in IndiaLack of data protection law in India: Currently, India lacks a substantial data protection law to ensure the fundamental right to privacy, leading to the proliferation of harmful facial recognition technology projects in law enforcement and other areas.Platform/Gig work not recognized as employment: India's laws do not recognize platform/gig work as employment, leaving gig workers without the protections afforded to ordinary workers.AI systems in delicate processes: AI systems in telemedicine and the justice system are a cause for concern.The Future of Life Institute letter ignores primary harm: The letter ignores the actual harm caused by the AI industry, such as the use of error-prone non-explainable artifacts, dangers of replicating past societal problems, continuous erosion of privacy, and expanding platformisation and workers’ exploitation.Dangers ignored: The letter uses dystopian fantasies to distract from the actual harm caused by the AI industry.AI safety can't be a red herring: "AI safety" cannot become a red herring to much-needed regulation.The central issue is who owns AI and how society uses it: The central issue is not technology, but rather who owns AI and how society uses it. ConclusionThe debate over the tech leaders' demand reflects broader tensions and disagreements within the tech industry about the role of AI and its ethical implications.The development of AI will continue to be a contentious issue, and that it will require ongoing dialogue and collaboration between a range of stakeholders to ensure that it is developed in a responsible and ethical manner. [Ref- IE]

This Quote Means | John F Kennedy: “The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining”

Throughout history, ancient texts and philosophers have recommended that people prepare for inevitable downturns while enjoying the present upturn because nothing lasts forever, whether it be good times or bad. This advice was echoed by Christine Lagarde, the former managing director of the IMF and current president of the European Central Bank, who quoted President John F Kennedy's statement, "the time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining," during her 2017 speech at Harvard University. Kennedy, who became the youngest US president at 43 years old during the height of the Cold War, is renowned for his energetic leadership and vision for modernizing the country's technology before his tragic assassination in 1963. Full QuoteDuring his annual State of the Union Address in 1962, President Kennedy outlined his plans for bolstering the American economy. He highlighted measures to promote growth and job creation, but also cautioned about the need to prepare for future economic downturns.He stated “Moreover — pleasant as it may be to bask in the warmth of recovery — let us not forget that we have suffered three recessions in the last seven years. The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining by filling three basic gaps in our anti-recession protection”. Meaning of the quoteThe quote emphasizes the importance of taking action at the right time to prevent the worst possible outcomes during a crisis.It implies that enjoying the good times should not lead to complacency, but rather an opportunity to make necessary reforms and preparations for tough times ahead.This principle appears to have originated from an old Japanese proverb, "When you’re dying of thirst, it’s too late to think about digging a well," which emphasizes the value of being prepared in advance for emergencies.In his speech, Kennedy cautioned against being content with the "warmth of recovery" and urged for timely action to address potential economic downturns.He demonstrated this attitude during his presidency by taking decisive measures for the future, such as increasing funding for NASA during the space race against the Soviet Union.Kennedy famously stated, "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard," emphasizing the need to take on difficult challenges with determination. Significance in contemporary worldThe quote can be used to advocate for timely action in various situations, including the need for preparedness in life.One specific application is in the context of climate change, where taking action now can help avoid the worst consequences in the future. The IPCC's 2022 report stresses the importance of stronger action in the near term to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C from pre-industrial levels.Another example is planning for retirement, where investing in government schemes like NPS and PPF at a young age can ensure financial security in the future.The underlying message of the quote is that good times should not be taken for granted, and instead, should be used as an opportunity to prepare for tougher times ahead.The quote can also apply to personal finance, where one should save and invest wisely during prosperous times to weather financial difficulties in the future.In a business context, the quote could mean investing in research and development, improving operational efficiency, or diversifying revenue streams during periods of growth to prepare for market downturns.Overall, the quote serves as a reminder to take proactive measures to address potential problems, rather than waiting until it's too late.[Ref- IE]

Competition (Amendment) Bill passed in Lok Sabha: How it affects Big Tech

As the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal upheld the competition regulator's findings of Google's market dominance abuse in the Android ecosystem, the Lok Sabha passed the Competition (Amendment) Bill, 2023, which could create new challenges for Google and other global tech firms. The bill amends the Competition Act, 2022, and enables the Competition Commission of India (CCI) to penalize entities for anti-competitive behavior based on their global turnover, a significant modification from the previous practice of deciding penalties as a percentage of the entities' domestic turnover. Competition Act 2002The Competition Act of 2002 was established with the goal of safeguarding consumers from anti-competitive conduct, ensuring their interests are protected, and allowing other market participants to engage in free trade.Its enactment replaced the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices (MRTP) Act and was intended to promote competition in the marketplace, providing consumers with a wider range of goods at reasonable prices.The Act aims to prevent harmful practices, protect consumer interests, and ensure freedom of trade.In 2022, a bill was proposed, and later in 2023, certain provisions were amended based on the recommendations of the standing committee report.The 2023 amendment focuses on expediting procedures, imposing hefty fines, and limiting the Director General's powers. Key Features of the BillThe Competition Amendment Bill (2023) introduces a major change in the law, giving the CCI the power to penalize companies engaged in anti-competitive behavior based on their global turnover.Previously, penalties were determined as a percentage of a company's "relevant" turnover, which referred to their annual domestic turnover.Though the provision on global turnover applies to all companies, it may disproportionately affect tech companies with global operations.In the EU, penalties for anti-competitive behaviour are capped at 10% of a company's overall annual turnover, with exceptions made for cases where a parent company exercises significant control over a subsidiary.The determination of "turnover" has been a much-debated topic in the competition law landscape. In 2017, the Supreme Court provided clarity on how it should be determined in such cases. The court upheld the principle of "relevant turnover" for determining penalties in competition law contraventions, in a landmark judgment on May 8, 2017.However, in a case related to alleged contravention of the Competition Act, 2002, the Competition Appellate Tribunal (COMPAT) later ruled that turnover should be "relevant turnover," derived from the sales of goods or services. In this case, the CCI had imposed a penalty on Excel Corp. Care Limited, United Phosphorus Limited, and Sandhya Organic Chemicals Private Limited at the rate of 9% of their total turnover for their alleged contravention of the Competition Act, 2002 in the public procurement of Aluminium Phosphide tablets by the Food Corporation of India.The Supreme Court ultimately ruled that adopting the "relevant turnover" criteria for imposing penalties is more aligned with the principles of the Competition Act and penalty imposition principles.The Competition (Amendment) Bill, 2023 brings about significant changes in the way mergers and acquisitions are approved, requiring entities to seek approval from the CCI if the deal value is over Rs 2,000 crore and both parties have significant business operations in India.The CCI may also incentivize parties in ongoing cartel investigations by offering a lesser penalty in exchange for information about other cartels.The bill reduces the time limit for mergers and acquisitions approval from 210 to 150 days, broadens the scope of anti-competitive agreements, and introduces a deal value threshold as an additional criterion for notifying M&As to capture killer acquisitions in digital markets that may have previously fallen below the notification criteria due to asset and revenue-light business models of new age companies.The proposed changes in the Competition (Amendment) Bill, 2023 include several measures such as a three-year limitation period for filing cases related to anti-competitive agreements and abuse of dominant position.Additionally, a settlement and commitment framework will be introduced.The bill aims to expand the scope of inter-regulatory consultations and incentivize parties involved in ongoing cartel investigations by offering a lesser penalty if they disclose information about other cartels (known as leniency plus). Competition Commission of India (CCI)The Competition Commission of India (CCI) is a statutory body established in March 2009 under the Competition Act, 2002.The Commission is comprised of a Chairperson and six members who are appointed by the Central Government.ObjectivesTo eradicate practices that harm competition,Foster and maintain competition,Safeguard consumer interests, andEnsure freedom of trade in India's markets.FunctionsThe CCI is responsible for both quasi-judicial functions and providing opinions to statutory authorities.Additionally, it is required to engage in competition advocacy, raise public awareness, and provide training on competition matters.To achieve its objectives –The commission can investigate certain types of agreements and dominant positions held by enterprises.It can also determine whether an agreement has a significant impact on competition (referred to as appreciable adverse effects on competition (AAEC)).PowersThe CCI has the authority to investigate any merger or acquisition that it deems could negatively impact competition in the Indian market.Additionally, it can establish and enforce its own procedures and impose financial penalties for violations of the Competition Act, 2002.Moreover, it can issue interim orders to prevent any activity that may harm competition in the market due to anti-competitive agreements or the abuse of dominant positions. [Ref- IE]

Healthcare in India has made great progress, but challenges remain

The Indian healthcare system has successfully overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges over the years, which were once considered hopeless. In 2007, national and international demographers predicted that India would achieve a total fertility rate of 2.1 (replacement level) only by 2041, but India achieved this by 2020. Similarly, maternal and infant mortality rates were expected to persist until as late as 2010. Despite the evidence that showed the need for hospital deliveries, the traditional belief was that the traditional dais were the only option. However, the latest NFHS-5 findings reveal that even in the so-called BIMARU states, hospital deliveries have increased to 89 per cent. Despite these achievements, India is facing certain major challenges such as Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), Infrastructure, Health insurance, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and digital technology. Since, India has the youngest population for more than three decades, and to fully redeem this advantage, tough health challenges must be confronted. Challenges faced by the Indian Healthcare systemNon-communicable diseases (NCDs)Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases (CRDs) and diabetes are increasing in India, and they all share four behavioural risk factors — an unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity and use of tobacco and alcohol.The proportion of deaths due to NCDs has increased from around 38 per cent in 1990 to 62 per cent in 2016.Obesity has increased from 19 per cent to 23 per cent between NFHS-4 and NFHS-5, in both urban and rural areas.Building awareness and promoting healthy lifestyles can prevent millions from illness and premature death.InfrastructureThe state of infrastructure matters, and since 2018, governments have been trying to bolster primary healthcare by establishing health and wellness centres.However, there are huge variations between states, with some having better arrangements than others.In urban areas, there is a gap in hospital services between large urban agglomerations and tier II and tier III cities.People have to rely on the private sector, which owns two-thirds of the country’s hospital beds.Large hospital chains account for just 4-5 per cent of the beds in the private sector, and standalone hospitals and nursing homes provide 95 per cent of private hospital beds.Making the centrally-run hospitals and district hospitals fully functional is imperative.Health insuranceLow health insurance penetration and high Out of Pocket expenditure on healthcare are problems in India.However, more than four crore Indians have bought health insurance over the past three years, and the Ayushman Bharat insurance scheme for 10 crore poor families has been undertaken.Nearly 74 per cent of Indians are either covered or eligible for health insurance coverage, which is a game-changer from the pre-2018 situation.Out-patient doctor consultation costs, diagnostics, and drugs account for the biggest chunk of out-of-pocket personal expenditure.Artificial Intelligence (AI) and digital technologyThe use of AI and digital technology in healthcare is an emerging concern.Surgery assisted by robots, the use of genetic codes, clinical judgements based on algorithms are examples of AI and digital technology in healthcare.The challenge is to balance the benefits of technology with the ethical concerns. Building awareness and promoting healthy lifestyles, improving infrastructure, increasing health insurance coverage, and balancing the benefits of technology with ethical concerns are essential to address these challenges. [Ref- IE]

SMART PDS scheme: A bold initiative in digitisation

The Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), which provides food security to 81.35 crore individuals monthly, is governed by the National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA), the country's most significant beneficiary-oriented program. The Scheme for Modernisation and Reforms through Technology in Public Distribution System (SMART-PDS) is implemented with an aim of reducing food grain leakages, improving distribution chain efficiency, and ensuring the availability of provisions for migrants. With the implementation of the Scheme, states and UTs are generating and storing significant amounts of data daily. The use of data analytics to analyze the TPDS ecosystem is enabling the generation of crucial information on beneficiaries, their food security requirements, and migration patterns. The SMART-PDS SchemeThe SMART-PDS is an initiative of the Department of Food and Public Distribution (DFPD) in digitization to modernize digitize the Public Distribution System (PDS) in India.Aim: To the entire PDS system, from procurement to distribution, to reduce leakages and corruption.It uses technology like electronic point of sale (ePoS) machines, biometric authentication, and GPS-enabled vehicles to track and monitor the movement of food grains and ensure they reach the intended beneficiaries.The system provides real-time information on demand and supply, enabling better management of food grains and reducing wastage. Current ScenarioThe SMART-PDS scheme has been implemented in several states, including Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Karnataka.According to the government, the scheme has led to a reduction in leakages and better targeting of beneficiaries.However, there have been challenges in implementing the scheme, including issues with connectivity and power supply in remote areas and the need for better training of personnel. Challenges faced by current PDS SystemThe current PDS system is susceptible to leakages and corruption, resulting in food grain reaching only a few beneficiaries.The system relies heavily on manual processes, making it challenging to track and monitor the movement of food grains and detect malpractices.There is a lack of real-time information on the demand and supply of food grains and the number of beneficiaries, leading to a mismatch between demand and supply. Integrated Management of Public Distribution System (IM-PDS) Scheme and One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) ImplementationIn order to sustain the improvements brought about by the End-to-end Computerisation of TPDS Operations scheme and address the aforementioned challenges, the government has introduced the Integrated Management of Public Distribution System (IM-PDS) Central Sector Scheme.ObjectivesImplement One Nation One Ration Card for nationwide portabilityThe One Nation One Ration Card plan is presently operational in all 36 States/UTs and is steadily increasing its monthly portable transaction count, which currently stands at over 3.5 crore.Establish a national-level data repository for deduplication of beneficiary and ration card dataIntegrate data infrastructure and systems across ration card management, and automating the allocation, supply chain of food grains, and FPS. Benefits of SMART-PDSSMART-PDS ensures that food grain reaches the intended beneficiaries, reducing leakages and corruption.The digitization of the system provides transparency, making it easier to track and monitor the movement of food grains.The real-time information on demand and supply enables better management of food grains and reduces wastage, resulting in cost savings.The SMART-PDS scheme has potential to promote financial inclusion. By digitizing the PDS system, the government can link it with bank accounts and promote the use of digital payment methods, which can help beneficiaries and access financial services improve their financial literacy. The scheme can also provide data on the spending patterns of beneficiaries, which can help financial institutions develop tailored financial products for them. [Ref- IE]

Supreme Court gives States, UTs and High Courts three months to set up online RTI portals

To ensure transparency in governance, the Supreme Court has instructed States and Union Territories to establish and activate online portals for the Right to Information (RTI) within a period of three months. Similarly, the Registrar Generals of State High Courts have been given the same three-month duration to establish and operate online RTI portals in their respective district and High Courts. Right to Information Act (2005)The Act mandates timely response to citizen requests for government information.It is an initiative taken by Department of Personnel and Training, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions to provide a – RTI Portal Gateway to the citizens for quick search of information on the details of first Appellate Authorities, Public Information Officer (PIO) etc. amongst others, besides access to RTI related information / disclosures published on the web by various Public Authorities under the government of India as well as the State Governments.Came into effect from October 12, 2005.Objectives –To empower the citizens, promote transparency and accountability in the working of the Government, contain corruption, and make our democracy work for the people in real sense.To make the citizens informed about the activities of the Government.It goes without saying that an informed citizen is better equipped to keep necessary vigil on the instruments of governance and make the government more accountable to the governed.Key FeaturesNo need to specify reason for seeking information or other personal details.Open only to citizens of India.Information is provided in local languages, too.The act covers – Central, state and local governments, andall bodies owned, controlled or substantially financed;non-government organisation substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate GovernmentExecutive, judiciary and legislature.Includes information relating to private body which can be accessed by under any other law for the time being in force.The information provides under RTI includes the right to –Inspect works, documents, records.Take notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records.Take certified samples of material.Obtain information in form of printouts, diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts.Exemption under RTIInformation that would harm India's sovereignty, security, strategic, scientific or economic interests, relations with foreign states or incite an offence.Information prohibited by court or may constitute contempt of court.Information that would breach Parliament or State Legislature's privilege.Information that would harm third party's commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, unless larger public interest warrants its disclosure.Information obtained under fiduciary relationship, unless larger public interest warrants its disclosure.Information received in confidence from a foreign government.Information that would impede investigation or prosecution of offenders.Cabinet papers and records of ministerial and officer deliberations.Personal information with no relation to public activity or interest or that would invade an individual's privacy.Access to exempt information may be allowed if public interest in disclosure outweighs harm to protected interests.Copyright infringement, except for the state.Part of a record can be released where practicable.Intelligence and security agencies are exempt, except in cases of corruption or human rights violations.Third-party information can be released after giving notice to the third party.Most exempt information can be released after 20 years, with some exceptions.Information that cannot be denied to Parliament or State Legislature cannot be denied to any person.Access to information may be allowed if public interest in disclosure outweighs harm to protected interests, notwithstanding Official Secrets Act, 1923 or any of the exemptions (a to i).Penaltiesimposable by Information Commission on PIO or officer asked to assist PIO –For unreasonable delay – Rs 250 per day up to Rs 25,000.For illegitimate refusal to accept application, malafide denial, knowingly providing false information, destruction of information, etc. – up to Rs. 25,000 fine.Recommendation for departmental action for persistent or serious violations.However, no criminal liability. The ProcessesApplication to be submitted in writing or electronically, with prescribed fee, to PIO.Each department/agency will have a PIO designated to receive requests and provide information. At the sub-district level, Assistant PIOs will receive applications, appeals, and complaints and forward them to the appropriate PIO.Information to be provided within 30 days.48 hours where life or liberty is involved and 45 days for human rights violation information from listed security/ intelligence agencies.No action on application for 30 days is a deemed refusal. Current Developments in Online RTI PortalsThe Indian Supreme Court has established a web-based portal to simplify information requests.The court observed that even though the Right to Information Act was passed in October 2005, after 17 years, certain High Courts have yet to set up functional online portals.The court recognized that some High Courts, such as those in Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, and Delhi, have already established online RTI portals, while the Karnataka High Court relies on the State government's web portal. [Ref- TH] 

What is an IMF bailout, when is it provided to a country, and what are the lending conditions?

Recently, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) executive board approved a $3 billion bailout plan for Sri Lanka, with $333 million immediately disbursed to alleviate the humanitarian crisis. Pakistan is being asked by IMF to fulfil commitments from friendly countries on external financing to release $1.1 billion funding held since November, as part of a $6.5 billion bailout agreed in 2019. The IMF was established in 1945 to prevent competing currency devaluation by countries promoting their own exports and later became a last resort lender for countries facing severe economic crises. What are IMF bailouts?IMF bailouts are financial support given to a country facing macroeconomic risks and currency crises, helping them to meet external debt obligations, buy essential imports, and maintain the exchange value of their currencies.Factors that lead to Economic Crisis:Inappropriate fiscal and monetary policiesFixed exchange ratesWeak financial systemsPolitical instabilityWeak institutionsInsolvent financial institutionsCurrency crises are usually the result of mismanagement of the currency by its central bank. Domestic prices rise sharply, and the exchange value of their currencies plummet.Both Sri Lanka and Pakistan have recently faced economic crises due to a plunge in their exchange value and sharp rise in domestic prices. Sri Lanka's economic crisis was partly due to bad timing as foreign tourists declined during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Process of Providing an IMF BailoutIMF bailout is provided by lending money to economies in need of financial support in the form of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs).SDRs consist of five currencies - US dollar, Euro, Chinese Yuan, Japanese Yen and British Pound.IMF provides loans, cash, bonds, or stock purchases to countries.The lending is done through various programs designed according to purpose, with the purpose of each program varying depending on the country's specific needs, as follows:Standby arrangement and standby credit facility provide financial assistance to countries with short-term balance of payments problems.Extended fund facility and extended credit facility offer assistance for countries with long-term balance of payments issues.Rapid financing instrument and rapid credit facility are designed to provide quick assistance to countries facing urgent balance of payments issues.Flexible credit line provides pre-approved access to funds to countries with strong economic fundamentals.Short term liquidity line and precautionary and liquidity line are used to prevent financial crises.Resilience and sustainability facility supports long-term economic reform efforts.Staff monitored program, policy support instrument, and policy coordination instrument offer technical assistance to countries for policy implementation and economic reform.The IMF lending process involves five steps –A member country in need of financial support makes a request to the IMF.The country's government and IMF staff discuss the economic and financial situation and financing needs.A program of economic policies is agreed upon, and the country makes commitments to undertake certain policy actions, known as policy conditionality.The policy program is presented to the IMF's Executive Board for approval, and the Board endorses the country's policy intentions and offers financing.The IMF monitors the implementation of policy actions and ensures repayment of the loan once the country returns to economic and financial health. The conditions for an IMF bailoutStructural reforms, such as fiscal transparency, tax reforms, and reforms in state-owned enterprises, may be required as a condition for financial assistance.Critics argue that these conditions can be harsh on the public and influenced by geopolitics.Proponents argue that such conditions are necessary to ensure successful lending and repayment of debts.Conditions for IMF lending also relate to macroeconomic variables such as monetary and credit aggregates, international reserves, fiscal balances, and external borrowing, as per the IMF. Pros of IMF bailoutHelps ensure survival of a country during economic turmoil.Helps keep essential industries and economic systems functioning.Provides technical expertise to implement reforms to strengthen economy and institutions. Cons of IMF bailoutConditions can lead to reduced government spending and higher taxes, which are unpopular and can cause public unrest.Can create a dependency on external funding.Can harm the country's reputation in the eyes of investors. The sources of IMF's fundingIMF's sources of funds are member quotas, multilateral and bilateral borrowing agreements.Quotas, based on a member's position in the world economy, are the IMF's primary funding source.Besides members of the Paris Club of creditor nations such as the US, France, and Japan, other lenders include China, India, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Kuwait.IMF's current resources amount to about SDR 977 billion, with a lending capacity of around SDR 713 billion (around US$1 trillion). [Ref- IE] 

This Quote Means-Mere faith and blind faith is dangerous-It dulls the brain and makes a man reactionary-Bhagat Singh

March 23, 1931 witnessed the execution of Indian revolutionaries Rajguru, Sukhdev, and Bhagat Singh, who were involved in the killing of British police officer John P Saunders. Since then, the day has been recognized as Martyr's Day, honoring these national heroes. Despite differing opinions on their methods, leaders across the subcontinent have commended their bravery and condemned what was referred to as a "judicial murder" by the British.During his two-year imprisonment prior to his execution, Bhagat Singh did not remain idle. He conducted a hunger strike and wrote extensively, advocating for better conditions for his fellow inmates. His ideas are largely derived from his writings during his time in prison. One of his most striking works is the essay "Why I am an Atheist," written in October 1930 while he was a prisoner at Lahore Central Jail. It was a response to his religiously inclined friends who believed that he had turned to atheism due to vanity.The QuoteThe full passage of the quote is as follows –“Any man who stands for progress has to criticise, disbelieve and challenge every item of the old faith. Item by item he has to reason out every nook and corner of the prevailing faith. If after considerable reasoning one is led to believe in any theory or philosophy, his faith is welcomed. His reasoning can be mistaken, wrong, misled, and sometimes fallacious. But he is liable to correction because reason is the guiding star of his life. But mere faith and blind faith is dangerous: it dulls the brain and makes a man reactionary.”In this passage, Bhagat Singh explains – “why progress should be driven by reason rather than blind faith”. He employs the term "faith" in two distinct contexts – Firstly, as a synonym for religious beliefs (referred to as "old faiths"), and Secondly, as a concept representing complete trust or confidence in someone or something. Singh's Critique of Blind FaithSingh asserts that as long as reason is one's "guiding star," faith is acceptable, even if it may be misplaced, because being reasonable entails questioning and remaining open to changing one's beliefs. Our knowledge is inherently incomplete, and there will always be more to learn than what we know presently. As a result, our "faith" must reflect this idea.For example, for the longest time, it was believed that the Earth was the center of the universe, and those who challenged this notion, such as Galileo, were often ridiculed and persecuted. Nowadays, we know that our planet is a tiny speck in the vast universe. This shift in our belief system occurred as a result of advancements in science and the accumulation of knowledge by humanity. Simply having faith in the Earth's uniqueness despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary would be both dishonest and illogical.Similarly, having "mere faith and blind faith" in any fact, religious doctrine, or deity is also "dangerous." Why is blind faith dangerous?Bhagat Singh's views on blind faith are influenced by his leftist ideology. While Karl Marx famously referred to religion as the "opium of the people," Singh views blind faith as a brain-dulling force that makes people passive and unresponsive to injustice. While Marx is referring to religion more in its systematisedandorganised form, criticising religious institutions, Singh refers to it at a more individualistic level.Blind faith can make people reactionary to criticismand dissent, even leading to violent responses. Singh uses the example of the blind devotion to Mahatma Gandhi, where any criticism of him is viewed as sacrilegious. This mentality, according to Singh, does not lead to progress but rather to regression.Singh's ideas have relevance even today, as seen in the recent opposition to anti-caste discrimination laws in Seattle, which is viewed as a reactionary response that fails to address the discrimination faced by Dalits. Blind faith, whether in religion or politics, can hinder progress by preventing critical thinking and questioning of authority.The mark of a true revolutionaryBhagat Singh emphasizes that a true revolutionary must possess the qualities of criticism and independent thinking. The quote under discussion emphasizes this larger point, that blind and unquestioning belief can be dangerous, while it is not inherently bad to have faith. It is essential for individuals to continue questioning the world around them, including material conditions, leaders who may appear infallible, and religious beliefs.In a country where Bhagat Singh remains one of the most prominent national icons, it is crucial to reflect on his words and put them into practice. Despite the hold of dogma, superstition, and religious fundamentalism over the people of India, Bhagat Singh presents an alternative vision based on rationality and critical thinking. [Ref- IE]

Rajasthan-Right to Health Bill

Despite the ongoing protests by doctors who were demanding its complete withdrawal, the Rajasthan Assembly approved the Right to Health (RTH) Bill.The need for the RTHThe state government is committed to improving healthcare in Rajasthan and has previously introduced the Chiranjeevi scheme, which is at present facing criticisms of the implementation, particularly with regards to private hospitals.Thus, the Bill was being introduced to address such implementation issues and it includes fines of up to Rs 10,000 for the first contravention and up to Rs 25,000 for subsequent contraventions for anyone found in contravention of the Act.The Act would ensure that subsequent governments are required to abide by the provisions of the Bill and provide free healthcare.Key provisions of the Rajasthan Right to Health (RTH) BillThe Bill grants every resident of the state the right to access free Out Patient Department (OPD) services and In-Patient Department (IPD) services at all public health facilities and select private facilities.Free healthcare services such as consultation, drugs, diagnostics, emergency transport, procedure, and emergency care will be provided subject to conditions specified in the rules, which will be formulated in the future.All residents of the state are entitled to emergency treatment and care without prepayment of any fee or charges.Hospitals cannot delay treatment in medico-legal cases on grounds of police clearance.After emergency care, stabilization, and transfer of the patient, the healthcare provider is entitled to receive the requisite fee and charges or proper reimbursement from the state government if the patient does not pay.The Bill extends a total of 20 rights to the citizens of the state.The clause about emergency in the RTHOne of the most contentious issues of the RTH was emergency care, leading to protests by doctors.The clause states that people have the right to emergency treatment and care for accidental emergency, emergency due to snake bite/animal bite, and any other emergency decided by the State Health Authority under prescribed emergency circumstances.Importantly, people can receive emergency treatment and care without prepayment of the requisite fee or charges for prompt and necessary emergency medical treatment and critical care, emergency obstetric treatment and care, by any public or private health institution qualified to provide such care or treatment according to their level of health care.Criticism of the billThe Opposition in the Rajasthan Legislative Assembly objected to the bill, saying that it should only apply to multi-specialty hospitals with 50 beds and that there should be a single forum for complaints.Some doctors are questioning the need for the RTH when existing schemes already cover most of the population, and they are objecting to certain clauses, such as the definition of "emergency" and the requirement that doctors treat patients outside their specialty in emergency situations.The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has demanded the inclusion of 17 “Rights of Health Care Providers ”in the bill, such as responsibilities and duties for patients and caretakers and rights for health care providers. The IMA says that the bill should have been dropped if these demands were not included.Government’s standThe government says that almost all of the doctors' earlier demands have already been met and accuses them of constantly shifting goalposts to prevent the bill from being passed. The government says that the bill will increase transparency and prevent private hospitals from overcharging for services.The bill allows patients to choose where to obtain medicines or tests, which means hospitals cannot insist on in-house services. If a patient leaves a hospital against medical advice, they must be given a treatment summary or treatment records and information to seek a second opinion.[Ref- IE]