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6th March Current Affairs

Govt. to monitor OTT content

In News:

For the first time, the government, under the ambit of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, has brought in detailed guidelines for digital content on both digital media and Over The Top (OTT) platforms.

While all the rules have been framed and notified under the existing Information Technology (IT) Act, the administrative powers for regulation of OTT and digital news sharing platforms shall be under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B).

Overview of the rules:

Three-tier grievance redressal mechanism:

First level- OTT provider: Here, the grievance redressal system will be at the level of each OTT provider. Each complaint will have to be addressed within 15 days.

Second level- a self-regulatory body: If the complaint is not satisfactorily addressed, then the complainant can scale it up to a self-regulatory body collectively established by the OTTs.

Composition: This body will be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court, a High Court, or an independent eminent person from the field of media, broadcasting, entertainment, child rights, human rights or other relevant fields.

Powers: This self-regulatory body also has “censuring” powers in case of any incriminating content.

At the third tier, the government has equipped itself with overriding powers in the form of “oversight mechanism”. An inter-ministerial committee will perform this function and it will largely have the same powers as the collective self-regulatory body of the OTTs.

Applicability:

The new guidelines place more onus on nearly all such companies which provide a platform to host, share, view or modify content, while also including for the first time, entities which are in the business of either creating or distributing news online under the ambit of an online intermediary.

Safe harbour provisions:

The government has made social media intermediaries more liable for the content being shared on their platform by following due diligence, failing which the “safe harbour provisions” will not be applicable to them.

These safe harbour provisions have been defined under Section 79 of the IT Act, and protect social media intermediaries by giving them immunity from legal prosecution for any content posted on their platforms.

A grievances redressal and compliance mechanism:

Social media intermediaries will also be required to have a grievances redressal and compliance mechanism, appointing a grievance officer whose name and contact details will have to be shared, a resident grievance officer who shall have an office in India and will be an Indian passport-holding citizen, and a chief compliance officer.

The chief compliance officer, who will have to be present in India, shall be responsible for ensuring the platform’s compliance with the IT Act and the rules notified Thursday.

A nodal contact person who can be available round-the-clock for “coordination with law enforcement agencies” will also have to be appointed by social media intermediaries.

Identification of the first originator of the information:

Social media intermediaries, upon being asked either by the court or by a government authority, will be required to disclose the first originator of the mischievous tweet or message, as the case may be.

The platform will, however, be liable to disclose the originator of the message “only for the purposes of prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution or punishment of an offence related to sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, or public order”.

Fair opportunity:

Social media companies have been asked to give users a chance for explanation and a fair opportunity to be heard before removing access to their accounts.

Fugitive Economic Offender

In News:

The Westminster Magistrates Court in London has allowed India’s extradition request against businessman Nirav Modi, who is wanted in connection with the ₹13,758 crore Punjab National Bank fraud, ruling that a prima facie case had been made out.

What next?

The order will be sent to the Secretary of State for the United Kingdom’s Home Department for further action. The Secretary of State has to take a decision within two months or seek an extension from the High Court.

Unless there is an appeal, a requested person must be extradited within 28 days of the Secretary of State’s decision to order extradition (subject to any appeal).

Appealing the Secretary of State’s decision in the High Court is only possible with the court’s permission.

Fugitive economic offender:

A special court, in December 2019, declared diamond businessman Nirav Modi, the key accused in the $2 billion Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud case, a fugitive economic offender, on a plea of the Enforcement Directorate.

Definition- Fugitive Economic Offender:

A person can be named an offender under the law if there is an arrest warrant against him or her for involvement in economic offences involving at least Rs. 100 crore or more and has fled from India to escape legal action.

The procedure:

  • The investigating agencies have to file an application in a Special Court under the Prevention of Money-Laundering Act containing details of the properties to be confiscated, and any information about the person’s whereabouts.
  • The Special Court will issue a notice for the person to appear at a specified place and date at least six weeks from the issue of notice.
  • Proceedings will be terminated if the person appears. If not the person would be declared as a Fugitive Economic Offender based on the evidence filed by the investigating agencies.
  • The person who is declared as a Fugitive Economic Offender can challenge the proclamation in the High Court within 30 days of such declaration according to the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018.

No postal ballots for NRIs this time: ECI

In News:

The Election Commission has said that postal ballots facility would not be extended to NRIs for the upcoming elections to the Assam, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Kerala and West Bengal Assemblies.

Background:

The Election Commission of India (ECI) had written to the Law Ministry on November 27, 2020 with the proposal of extending postal ballots to overseas electors.

EC’s note was further referred to the Ministry of External Affairs. The MEA was of the opinion that a wider meeting of stakeholders should be held.

How the Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System works?

Under ETPBS, postal ballot is sent electronically to a service voter.

The voter downloads it and uses a specific envelope to return it to the returning officer of his constituency.

The postal ballot should reach the returning officer by 8 am on the day of the counting. Counting of votes begin with counting of postal ballots at 8 am.

Amendments:

To extend the voting facility to overseas voters, Government needs to only amend the Conduct of Election Rules 1961, and doesn’t require Parliament’s nod.

What is the current process of voting for Indian citizens living abroad?

  • Voting rights for NRIs were introduced only in 2011, through an amendment to the Representation of the People Act 1950.
  • An NRI can vote in the constituency in which her place of residence, as mentioned in the passport, is located.
  • She can only vote in person and will have to produce her passport in original at the polling station for establishing identity.

What is current strength of NRI voters?

According to a UN report of 2015, India’s diaspora population is the largest in the world at 16 million people.

Karnataka to move SC against T.N. project

In News:

Karnataka is readying itself to wage a legal battle in the Supreme Court against Tamil Nadu’s ambitious Cauvery-Vellaru-Vaigai-Gundar river linking project.

Details:

The 262 km river-linking project will divert 6,300 cubic feet of surplus water during floods and increase the groundwater levels in the state’s southern districts to meet drinking water needs.

What’s the issue?

Tamil Nadu is trying to utilise surplus 45 Tmcft of water.

Karnataka Government says, “this project is not in accordance with the Interstate River Water Disputes Act.

According to the Act, surplus water should also be adjudicated and the tribunal has to decide on it.

Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956:

According to its provisions, if a State Government makes a request regarding any water dispute and the Central Government is of opinion that the water dispute cannot be settled by negotiations, then a Water Disputes Tribunal is constituted for the adjudication of the water dispute.

The act was amended in 2002, to include the major recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission.

The amendments mandated a one-year time frame to setup the water disputes tribunal and also a 3-year time frame to give a decision.

Provisions related to interstate river water disputes:

Entry 17 of State List deals with water i.e. water supply, irrigation, canal, drainage, embankments, water storage and water power.

Entry 56 of Union List empowers the Union Government for the regulation and development of inter-state rivers and river valleys to the extent declared by Parliament to be expedient in the public interest.

Article 262: In the case of disputes relating to waters, it provides

Clause 1:Parliament may by law provide for the adjudication of any dispute or complaint with respect to the use, distribution or control of the waters of, or in, any inter-State river or river valley.

Clause 2:Parliament may, by law provide that neither the Supreme Court nor any other court shall exercise jurisdiction in respect of any such dispute or complaint as mentioned above.