Current Affairs (17th July 2021)
Section 66A of IT Act
- Six years after it struck down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, the Supreme Court earlier this month termed its continued use by law enforcement agencies of various states as “a shocking state of affairs” and sought a response from the Centre.
- The Centre has now written to states, asking them not to register cases under the repealed provision and withdraw any such case that may have been filed.
- In 2015, the apex court struck down the law in the landmark case Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, calling it “open-ended and unconstitutionally vague”, and thus expanded the contours of free speech to the Internet.
What did Section 66A do?
- Introduced by the then government in 2008, the amendment to the IT Act, 2000, gave the government power to arrest and imprison an individual for allegedly “offensive and menacing” online posts, and was passed without discussion in Parliament.
- Section 66A empowered police to make arrests over what policemen, in terms of their subjective discretion, could construe as “offensive” or “menacing” or for the purposes of causing annoyance, inconvenience, etc.
- It prescribed the punishment for sending messages through a computer or any other communication device like a mobile phone or a tablet, and a conviction could fetch a maximum of three years in jail.
Why was the law criticised?
- The problem was with the vagueness about what is “offensive”. The word having a very wide connotation, was open to distinctive, varied interpretations.
- It was seen as subjective, and what might have been innocuous for one person, could lead to a complaint from someone else and, consequently, an arrest under Section 66A if the police prima facie accepted the latter person’s view.
Draft Drone Rules, 2021
- Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) has released the updated – The Drone Rules, 2021 for public consultation. The Drone Rules, 2021 will replace the UAS Rules 2021 (released on 12 March 2021).
- Approvals abolished: unique authorisation number, unique prototype identification number, certificate of conformance, certificate of maintenance, import clearance, etc.
- Number of forms reduced from 25 to 6.
- Fee reduced to nominal levels. No linkage with the size of the drone.
- Safety features like ‘No permission – no take-off’ (NPNT), real-time tracking beacon, geo-fencing etc. to be notified in future. A six-month lead time will be provided for compliance.
- Digital sky platform shall be developed as a business-friendly single-window online system.
- Interactive airspace map with green, yellow, and red zones will be displayed on the digital sky platform. Yellow zone reduced from 45 km to 12 km from the airport perimeter.
- No flight permission required upto 400 feet in green zones and upto 200 feet in the area between 8 and 12 km from the airport perimeter.
- No pilot licence required for micro drones (for non-commercial use), nano drone and for R&D organisations.
- No restriction on drone operations by foreign-owned companies registered in India.
- Coverage of drones under Drone Rules, 2021 increased from 300 kg to 500 kg. This will cover drone taxis also.
- Maximum penalty under Drone Rules, 2021 reduced to INR 1 lakh. This shall, however, not apply to penalties in respect of violation of other laws.
- Drone corridors will be developed for cargo deliveries.
- Drone promotion council to be set up to facilitate a business-friendly regulatory regime.
Significance of Drones:
- Quality Aerial Imaging: Drones are excellent for taking high-quality 3D aerial photographs and video, and collecting vast amounts of imaging data.
- Precision: Since unmanned aerial vehicles use GPS (the Global Positioning System), they can be programmed and maneuvered accurately to precise locations.
- Easily Deployable: advances in control technology, most drones can be deployed and operated with relatively minimal experience. Combined with the relatively low cost of most models, drones are becoming accessible to a wide range of operators.
- Enhanced Movement: UAVs also have a greater range of movement than manned aircraft. They are able to fly lower and in more directions, allowing them to easily navigate traditionally hard-to-access areas.
- Security: With the appropriate license, operators can use unmanned aerial vehicles to provide security and surveillance to private companies, sporting events, public gatherings, and other venues.
- Gather valuable data: Drones can also gather valuable data during and after natural disasters to aid in security and recovery efforts.
- Clear Modus Operandi: Responsibility and division of work should be clear as to Who (the armed forces or the civilian forces) would be responsible for such mechanisms. It is a sub-tactical threat but requires a strategic response.
- Funding: Funding from the Government is a problem. Manufacturing at large scales and its deployment will require a lot of money and strategising.
- Difficult to Differentiate: Counter strategy should be so strong that it is able to differentiate between a bird and an actual drone. Also, it should give enough warning to positively identify that it is not a bird, to fire.
- Easy Access: They are cheap, so anyone can have easy access to them.
- Anonymous: Their anonymous nature is a big risk to know about the origin of the drone. Drone attacks can be launched from within as well.
- Swarm drones: Swarm drones, where scores of drones overwhelm and confuse detection systems, resulting in some of the drones sneaking through.
- The Ministry of Civil Aviation’s decision to liberalize the drone policy even after the recent drone incidents in Jammu showcases the government’s bold approach to promote the use of drones.
- It focuses on the development of counter-drone technology to address the threat posed by rogue drones.
Special Livestock Sector Package
- Government approves implementation of a special livestock sector package consisting of several activities by revising and realigning various components of Department of Animal Husbandry & Dairying schemes for next 5 years starting from 2021-22.
- This package envisages Central Government’s support amounting to Rs.9800 crore over duration of 5 years for leveraging total investment of Rs. 54,618 crore for 5 years.
- As per this, all the schemes of the Department will be merged into three broad categories as:
- Development Programmes which includes Rashtriya Gokul Mission, National Programme for Dairy Development (NPDD), National Livestock Mission (NLM) and Livestock Census and Integrated Sample Survey (LC & ISS) as sub-schemes,
- Disease Control programme renamed as Livestock Health and Disease Control (LH & DC) which includes the present Livestock Health and Disease Control (LH & DC) scheme and National Animal Disease Control Programme (NADCP) and
- Infrastructure Development Fund wherein, the Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development fund (AHIDF) and the Dairy Infrastructure Development Fund (DIDF) are merged and the present scheme for support to Dairy Cooperatives and Farmer Producer Organizations engaged in Dairy activities is also included in this third category.
- A Supreme Court benchled by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana has agreed to examine a petition challenging the validity of section 124A (Sedition) of the Indian Penal Code.
- CJI questioned the government why a colonial law used against Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak continued to survive in the law book 75 years after independence.
- A number of petitions have been filed highlighting the chilling effect sedition has on the fundamental right of free speech.
- In a recent judgement quashing a sedition case, Justice U.U Lalit recorded that the time is long past when the mere criticism of governments was sufficient to constitute sedition. The right to utter honest and reasonable criticism is a source of strength to a community rather than a weakness.
- The recent developments have also opened the floor for debate and introspection on the 1962 Supreme Court verdict in the Kedar Nath case that upheld the constitutional validity of Section 124A.
- The CJI’s reference to low conviction rates under the sedition law resonates with a petition highlighting the dramatic jump in charging a person with the offence of sedition since 2016.
- The National Crime Records Bureau reports show that in 2019, 21 cases of sedition were closed on account of no evidence, two were closed for being false cases and six cases were held to be civil disputes.
- Recently, the Andhra Pradesh government has announced 10 percent reservationfor the Kapu community and other Economically Weaker Sections (EWS).
- The reservation has been provided for appointments in the initial posts and services in the State government in accordance with the Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act, 2019.
- It will benefit Kapus who are neither benefited under Backward Class (BC) quota nor under EWS quota and other Open Competition (OC) sections who are deprived of the benefits of reservation thus far due to non-implementation of the EWS quota.
- However, this will be subject to the outcome of several writ petitions and Public Interest Litigations (PILs) filed in various courts and interim orders of the High Court.
Operational guidelines for implementation of this reservation:
- Persons who are not covered under the existing scheme of reservations for SCs, STs and Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBCs) and whose gross annual family income is below Rs. 8 lakh are to be identified as EWS for the benefit of reservation.
- The income includes income from all sources i.e. salary, agriculture, business, profession etc. for the financial year prior to the year of application.
- The term family for this purpose will include the person who seeks benefit of reservation, his or her parents and siblings below the age of 18 years as also his or her spouse and children below the age of 18 years.
- Regarding initial appointments in the posts and services, the people recruited under EWS category will be adjusted against the roster points earmarked for them.
- The orders on the roster points earmarked for 10 per cent reservation to EWS category will be issued separately along with other rules to be framed or amended and guidelines to be formulated if any.
- One-third of the initial appointments in posts and services under the State government earmarked for EWS will be allocated to women among them. This reservation will be horizontal.
- As far as the posts notified for appointment by the Government of India are concerned, the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment will be applicable.