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12th July Current Affairs

Zika Virus

In News:

Alarmed by cases of Zika virus in neighbouring Kerala, Karnataka has issued guidelines to prevent the spread of the disease in the state.

How does the Zika virus spread?

The Zika virus is predominantly transmitted by infected mosquitoes from the Aedes genus, mainly Aedes aegypti. The Aedes mosquitoes also spread dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever. They usually bite during the daytime, mostly during the early morning or later afternoon.

Apart from the mosquitoes, an infected person can also spread the virus. This virus can be transmitted from a pregnant woman to the fetus, through sexual contact, transfusion of blood and blood products, and organ transplantation.

The virus was first identified in Uganda in 1947 in monkeys. It was later identified in humans in 1952 in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania.

What are the symptoms of the Zika virus?

While the symptoms of the Zika virus are mild, in case it gets worse, immediate medical attention is advised. Generally, the symptoms include fever, rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise, or headache. It lasts for about two to seven days. Most infected people do not develop any symptoms.

What is the treatment?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Zika virus has no treatment or vaccine. WHO advises the consumption of a lot of fluids along with pain and fever medicines for a speedy recovery.

Why is Cairn going after Indian assets?

In News:

Britain’s Cairn Energy Plc has secured an order from a French court authorising the freezing of 20 Indian government properties in Paris valued at over 20 million euros.

Details:

This is the first court order secured against India to enforce a $1.2-billion arbitration award that Cairn Energy had won against the Indian government in the retrospective tax dispute.

Why is Cairn going after Indian assets?

In December 2020, a three-member international arbitral tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Netherlands ruled unanimously that the Indian government was “in breach of the guarantee of fair and equitable treatment”, and against the India-UK Bilateral Investment Treaty, and that the breach caused a loss to the British energy company and ordered compensation of $1.2 billion.

The Indian government is yet to accept the arbitration award. Cairn Energy is going after Indian assets overseas to recover the compensation.

What are India’s options going forward?

While it is the first one to succeed for Cairn, the French court order boosts its chances in other jurisdictions.

The assets will be tangled in legal dispute and India will join a list of countries that includes Pakistan, Afghanistan whose assets were seized abroad.

Unless it can be proved that the arbitration awards against India are mala fide in the appeals, the award can be enforced in foreign jurisdictions. However, a settlement between the two parties cannot be ruled out.

What’s the case?

Cairn had challenged the Indian government seeking taxes over an internal business reorganisation using the 2012 retrospective tax law, under the UK-India Bilateral Investment Treaty.

In 2014, the Indian tax department had demanded Rs 10,247 crore in taxes.

In 2015, Cairn Energy Plc commenced international arbitration proceedings against the Indian government.

Permanent Court of Arbitration:

It was established in 1899 and is headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands.

It is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to serve the international community in the field of dispute resolution and to facilitate arbitration and other forms of dispute resolution between States.

All decisions, called “awards” are binding on all the parties in the dispute and have to be carried out without delay.

WhatsApp privacy policy on hold till law is framed

In News:

WhatsApp recently told Delhi High Court it will not compel users to opt for new privacy policy till data protection bill comes into force.

What’s the issue?

The court is hearing the appeals of Facebook and its firm WhatsApp against the single-judge order refusing to stop the competition regulator Competition Commission of India (CCI)‘s order directing a probe into WhatsApp’s new privacy policy.

Background:

WhatsApp has drawn massive criticism from users globally, including India, over concerns that data was being shared with its parent company, Facebook.

WhatsApp, on its part, has maintained that messages on the platform are end-to-end encrypted and that neither WhatsApp nor Facebook can see the private messages on WhatsApp”s platform.

Personal Data Protection Bill:

The Bill, under consideration, seeks to regulate the use of an individual’s data by the government and private companies.

While entities will have to maintain security safeguards to protect personal data, they will also have to fulfill a set of data protection obligations and transparency and accountability measures.

The Bill seeks to give users a set of rights over their personal data and means to exercise those rights.

The Bill seeks to create an independent and powerful regulator known as the Data Protection Authority (DPA). The DPA will monitor and regulate data processing activities to ensure their compliance with the regime.

Why was a Bill brought for personal data protection?

In August 2017, the Supreme Court held that privacy is a fundamental right, flowing from the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution.

The Court also observed that privacy of personal data and facts is an essential aspect of the right to privacy.

In July 2017, a Committee of Experts, chaired by Justice B. N. Srikrishna, was set up to examine various issues related to data protection in India.

The Committee submitted its report, along with a Draft Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018 to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology in July 2018.

Journalist moves SC against sedition law

In News:

Senior journalist Sashi Kumar has moved the Supreme Court saying the sedition law is being applied by the government against journalists, activists, filmmakers and civil society in a “politicised fashion”.

What’s the concern?

The sedition law has been indiscriminately used against critics, journalists, social media users, activists and citizens for airing their grievances about the governments COVID-19 management, or even for seeking help to gain medical access, equipment, drugs and oxygen cylinders, especially during the second wave of the pandemic.

What is sedition?

Section 124A of the IPC states, “Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the government established by law in shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.”

Need for a proper definition?

The sedition law has been in controversy for far too long. Often the governments are criticized for using the law — Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) — against vocal critics of their policies.

Therefore, this Section is seen as a restriction of individuals’ freedom of expression and falls short of the provisions of reasonable restrictions on freedom of speech under Article 19 of the Constitution.

The law has been in debate ever since it was brought into force by the colonial British rulers in 1860s. Several top freedom movement leaders including Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru were booked under the sedition law.

Mahatma Gandhi described it as the “prince among the political sections of the Indian Penal Code designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen.”

Nehru had described it as “highly objectionable and obnoxious” which “should have no place in any body of laws that we might pass”. Nehru said, “The sooner we get rid of it the better.”

Relevant Supreme Court judgements:

The Kedar Nath Singh vs State of Bihar case (1962):

While dealing with offences under Section 124A of the IPC, a five-judge Supreme Court constitutional bench had, in the Kedar Nath Singh vs State of Bihar case (1962), laid down some guiding principles.

The court ruled that comments-however strongly worded-expressing disapprobation of the actions of the government without causing public disorder by acts of violence would not be penal.

The Balwant Singh vs State of Punjab (1995) case:

In this case, the Supreme Court had clarified that merely shouting slogans, in this case Khalistan Zindabad, does not amount to sedition. Evidently, the sedition law is being both misunderstood and misused to muzzle dissent.