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24th May Current Affairs

Defamation case

(GS-II: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure)

In News:

BJP leader Kirit Somaiya’s wife Medha has filed a civil defamation suit against Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut.

Details:

Somaiya sought court to direct Raut either pay her Rs 100cr or deposit amount in CM relief fund.

Raut had repeatedly made defamatory public statements against her and her husband, she claimed.

What is defamation?

Defamation is the communication of a false statement that harms the reputation of an individual person, business, product, group, government, religion, or nation.

In India, defamation can both be a civil wrong and a criminal offence. The difference between the two lies in the objects they seek to achieve.

A civil wrong tends to provide for a redressal of wrongs by awarding compensation and a criminal law seeks to punish a wrongdoer and send a message to others not to commit such acts.

Legal provisions:

Criminal defamation has been specifically defined as an offence under section 499 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Civil defamation is based on tort law (an area of law which does not rely on statutes to define wrongs but takes from an ever-increasing body of case laws to define what would constitute a wrong).

Section 499 states defamation could be through words, spoken or intended to be read, through signs, and also through visible representations.

Section 499 also cites exceptions. These include “imputation of truth” which is required for the “public good” and thus has to be published, on the public conduct of government officials, the conduct of any person touching any public question and merits of the public performance.

Section 500 of IPC, which is on punishment for defamation, reads, “Whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.”

Misuse of the law and concerns associated:

The criminal provisions have often been used purely as a means of harassment.

Given the cumbersome nature of Indian legal procedures, the process itself turns into punishment, regardless of the merits of the case.

Critics argue that defamation law impinges upon the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression and that civil defamation is an adequate remedy against such wrongs.

Criminal defamation has a pernicious effect on society: for instance, the state uses it as a means to coerce the media and political opponents into adopting self-censorship and unwarranted self-restraint.

What has the Supreme Court said?

In Subramanian Swamy vs Union of India case 2014, the Court approved the Constitutional validity of sections 499 and 500 (criminal defamation) in the Indian Penal Code, underlining that an individual’s fundamental right to live with dignity and reputation “cannot be ruined solely because another individual can have his freedom”.

In August 2016, the court also passed strictures on the then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa for misusing the criminal defamation law to “suffocate democracy” and, the court said, “public figures must face criticism”.

ILO Monitor on the “world of work”

(GS-III: Employment related issues)

In News:

The latest edition of the “World of Work” report was recently released by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Highlights of the Report:

2 crore jobs might have lost between the last quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022.

Deterioration of the gender gap in work hours in the second quarter of 2020 in the lower-middle-income countries.

Job loss in women: For every 100 women at work prior to the pandemic, 12.3 women would have lost their job as an average through the entire period considered by the report.

Job loss in men: For every 100 men at work prior to the pandemic, 7.5 men would have lost their job as an average through the entire period considered by the report.

A “great and growing divergence between richer and poorer economies” continues to characterise the recovery.

Reasons for the present trend:

Overall, the pandemic seems to have exacerbated the already substantial gender imbalances in employment participation in the country.

Other reasons include: Fresh lockdowns in China, the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, and the global rise in the prices of food and fuel.

India’s employment – important findings from the report:

Gender gap: There has been deterioration of the gender gap in work hours in the second quarter of 2020.

Most people are on contract without any social security.

What needs to be done?

Take a humane approach to address the situation.

The purchasing capacity of the workers should be improved.

Challenges ahead for India:

The Code on Wages was passed in 2019 but is not yet implemented.

The Wage Committee in 1948 asked the government to implement minimum wage, living wage and decent wage. This has been opposed by industries.

30%-60% of workers — five crore people — who lost jobs during the lockdown have not joined any work.

One-third of MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) can never be revived according to a survey by the associations of MSMEs.

What is front-running?

(GS-III: Money Laundering related issues)

In News:

Recently, there was a case of front-running in the mutual fund business.

So, concerned about the prospect of similar activities occurring in the future, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) is expected to take harsh action, which might include action against top fund house employees.

What is front-running?

Front-running is a dubious market practice in which a dealer, trader or employee gets wind of a big order for buying or selling shares that will be placed by a fund or big investor and gets ‘in front’ of the trade.

Large orders usually move a stock’s price.

By buying shares just before the big order hits the market and selling them once the price moves up, the front-runner pockets illegal gains from his advance knowledge.

Concerns associated:

Front-running by insiders can adversely impact investors in a fund by bidding up the prices they get to buy stocks or hammering down the prices at which they get to sell.

Are regulations in place to prevent such practices?

Yes, SEBI (Prohibition of Fraudulent and Unfair Trade Practices Relating to Securities Market) Regulations, 2003 clearly define front-running and characterises  it as a fraudulent and unfair practice. SEBI has invoked this section many times to pass orders against front-runners.

Proposed actions by SEBI:

On the primary market front, the regulator is keen on enhancing disclosure and compliance requirement for listing of new-age technology companies.

For the secondary market participants, it is keen on enhancing awareness around responsible investing as lot of new customers are going for speculative trading.

What more should be done to prevent it?

Surveillance mechanisms of stock exchanges are most useful to uncover instances of front-running.

Surveillance software that tracks real-time trades in the market is well-equipped to spot similar trading patterns between big investors and individuals, which forms the basis for front-running investigations by the regulator.

SEBI will also need to consider more stringent punishments for information carriers and front-runners when investigations find hard evidence of wrongdoing.

Uighurs

(GS-II: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora)

In News:

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet is at the Xinjiang region, where Beijing is alleged to have repressed Muslim minorities. China said it’s hoping the visit can “clarify misinformation.”

What’s the issue?

Various countries have called on China to “ensure full respect for the rule of law” for the Muslim Uighur community in Xinjiang.

Credible reports indicate that over a million people have been arbitrarily detained in Xinjiang and that there is widespread surveillance disproportionately targeting Uighurs and members of other minorities and restrictions on fundamental freedoms and Uighur culture.

China’s response:

Despite mounting evidence, China denies mistreating the Uyghurs, and goes on to insist it is simply running “vocational training” centres designed to counter extremism.

Who are Uighurs?

The Uighurs are a predominantly Muslim minority ethnic group, whose origins can be traced to Central and East Asia.

The Uighurs speak their own language, similar to Turkish, and see themselves as culturally and ethnically close to Central Asian nations.

China recognises the community only as a regional minority and rejects that they are an indigenous group.

Currently, the largest population of the Uighur ethnic community lives in the Xinjiang region of China.

A significant population of Uighurs also lives in the neighbouring Central Asian countries such as Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

Uighur Muslims for decades, under the false accusation by the Chinese government of terrorism and separatism, have suffered from abuses including persecution, forced detention, intense scrutiny, surveillance and even slavery.