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Goaltide Daily Current Affairs 2022

Jul 05, 2022

Current Affair 1:
Can Retweeting, Sharing or Forwarding Offensive Posts is an offence?

It is often seen that many Twitter users put a disclaimer 'retweets are not endorsement' in their bio. But can this disclaimer shield one from criminal liability?

Recently, the Deputy Commissioner of Delhi Police KPS Malhotra said that:

"If you endorse a view on social media, it becomes your view. Retweeting and saying I don't know, doesn't stand here. Responsibility is yours. Time does not matter; you only have to retweet and it becomes new. Police action was on the basis of when matter came to our cognisance,".

What Does Indian Law Say?

While there is no direct provision in Indian law which declares retweeting, forwarding or sharing posts on social media a criminal offence, there are various provisions which provide for criminal liability under Information Technology Act and Indian Penal Code.

Sec. 67 of IT Act provides for punishment for publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form. The imprisonment may extend to three years and fine and in event of second or subsequent conviction, five years and extended fine.

Similarly, sec. 67A of the Act provides for punishment for publishing or transmitting of material depicting children in sexually explicit act in electronic form. It provides for an imprisonment which may extend to five years and fine. In event of second or subsequent conviction, seven years and extended fine.

Apart from IT Act, the Indian Penal Code specifies certain provisions which may be invoked against an individual when any derogatory or offensive message is sent or shared in cyberspace, such as Sections 153A, 153B, 292, 295A, 499 etc. These offences relate to promotion of communal hatred, obscenity, hurting of religious sentiments and defamation.

Even court has said:

"No one has any right to abuse women and if done it is a violation of rights. When calling a person with community name itself is a crime, using such unparliamentarily words is more heinous. Words are more powerful than acts, When a celebrity-like person forwards messages like this, the common public will start believe it that this type of things are going on".

Conclusion

In absence of a clear authoritative judgment or direct statutory provision on the subject, it is clear that the present question (whether retweeting or forwarding posts on social media in itself is a criminal offence) is left for the Courts to decide based on the facts and circumstances of each case.

If the act of retweeting or sharing or forwarding other's posts on social media has to be made a criminal offence, the legal framework has to fill the grey area in present laws so as to ensure that the same is not misused by law enforcement agencies in any manner. Due to lack of clear differentiation between the first party and the retweeter or sharer, there is a likelihood that the latter might be treated at par with the former.

Current Affair 2:
What Is A "Floor Test"?

Its big but interesting explanation. You will get plenty of information and they all are relevant for your Prelims exam.

While the Constitution of India does not contemplate that the political party which forms the Ministry should have a majority in the Legislature, the Council of Ministers should command the confidence of the Legislature, which enjoys the will of the people.

The floor test upholds the collective accountability of the elected government to the legislature. The principle of democracy enshrined in the Constitution demands that the issue, whether the Government commands the confidence of the House be left to a vote in the Legislative Assembly.

An exception to this rule can be made only under extraordinary situations, where because of the existence of 'all pervasive atmosphere of violence', the members of the House 'cannot express their opinion freely'(Justice Jeevan Reddy's judgment in SR Bommai case). Generally, the Governor is approached to summon the House when it is not in session. However, when in session a no confidence motion can be initiated following the procedure mentioned in the Rules of the concerned House. (For example, Lok Sabha; Rule 198). You can see below.

Governor can ask Government to prove majority in floor test

In Shivraj Singh Chouhan v. Speaker, Legislative Assembly of Madhya Pradesh And Ors., the Supreme Court clarified that the Governor is empowered to issue a direction to an incumbent Chief Minister to hold a floor test and to demonstrate the Legislature's trust in their government. In this regard it is pertinent to mention that the Governor is also entrusted with the constitutional authority to require the Council of Ministers to prove their majority on the floor of the House right after the general elections are held.

In case a floor test is required at the initial stage of formation of the Government; when the elected members of the legislature are yet to take oath and the Speaker is not elected, a Protem Speaker is appointed to conduct it. As per convention, the senior most member of the House is called upon by the Governor to assume the role of the Protem Speaker.

 

Floor test to be conducted immediately to prevent "horse-trading"

The reason behind the insistence on conducting the floor test at the earliest, as elucidated in Shiv Sena, is the possibility of horse trading. Therefore, the Supreme Court is of the view that an:

"In a situation wherein, if the floor test is delayed, there is a possibility of horse trading, it becomes incumbent upon the Court to act to protect democratic values. An immediate floor test, in such a case, might be the most effective mechanism to do so", the bench of Justices NV Ramana, Ashok Bhushan and Sanjiv Khanna said in the order.

Court can ask for house to be summoned specifically for the purpose of floor test

Article 212 bars the Courts from monitoring the proceedings of the House.

But on several occasions, it has done. Examples:

  1. Supreme Court had passed directions to conduct floor test. In Shiv Sena And Ors. v. Union of India And Ors
  2. In Jagdambika Pal v. Union of India, the Supreme Court had directed the Uttar Pradesh Assembly to be summoned for having a composite floor-test.
  3. As a measure to maintain transparency, on occasions, the Supreme Court, while issuing directions to conduct a floor test had asked the entire proceeding to be video-graphed for its perusal.

Court can't compel members to be present for floor test

In a floor test the Chief Minister has to establish a majority among those present and voting. The failure to prove majority is followed by the resignation of the Chief Minister and their Council of Ministers. The Courts are not empowered to issue directions that a floor test cannot be conducted if any one or more Members do not remain present in the Assembly.

"Whether or not to remain present is for the individual Members to decide and they would, necessarily be accountable for the decisions which they take, both to their political party and to their constituents."- Justice D.Y. Chandrachud in Shivraj Singh Chouhan v. Speaker (supra)

However, to ensure presence/voting in the Assembly, political parties can issue whip, the non-compliance of which might lead to disqualification.

Chief Minister's refusal to take floor test can be construed as lack of majority

As per a unanimous report submitted by a committee of Governors appointed by the President of India, which was referred to in the judgment of Justice BP Jeevan Reddy in S.R. Bommai v. Union of India, if the Chief Ministers fails to comply with the order to take a vote of confidence, the Governor would be duty bound to take steps to form an alternative Ministry. The Chief Minister's refusal to take the test could be construed to, prima facie, indicate that they do not enjoy the confidence of the Legislature.

Governor's satisfaction not immune from judicial review

It ought to be borne in mind that the basis of the satisfaction of the Governor is not immune from judicial scrutiny. Whether the Governor, prima facie, had 'relevant and germane material' to direct a floor test can be examined by the Constitutional Courts.

"The decision of the Governor to do so is not immune from judicial review and must therefore withstand the ability of being scrutinised on the touchstone of the circumstances being relevant, germane and not extraneous to the exercise of an exceptional power which is vested in the Governor." - Justice D.Y. Chandrachud in Shivraj Singh Chouhan v. Speaker (supra).

Governor can summon house without the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers if there are reasons to believe that Government has lost confidence of house

 

The Sarkaria Commission, set up in 1983 by the Central Government in its report opined that the Governor should not dismiss a Council without putting it to test on the floor of the Assembly. The Chief Minister is to be advised to summon the House at the earliest. However, if the Chief Minister refuses to do so, the Governor can summon the Assembly for the purpose of floor test, within a reasonable time. The said view was reaffirmed by the MM Punchhi Commission, set up in 2007 for the same purpose.

Article 174 of the Constitution vests the power to summon, prorogue or dissolve the State Legislature with the Governor. So long as the Chief Minister enjoys the confidence of the House, power under Article 174 can be exercised only on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers as enumerated in Article 163.

The floor test need not be deferred due to pending disqualification proceedings

In Shivraj Singh Chouhan v. Speaker (supra), the Supreme Court had also clarified that the floor test need not be deferred because the Speaker has not taken a decision on the issue of resignation of members of the Assembly and the consequent issue of defection in terms of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, as both operate in distinct realms.

Current Affair 3:
GST Rate Rationalization

GST Council has recommended for an increase in GST rates in several items like LED lamps, printing/drawing ink, power-driven pumps, Tetra Pak to 18 percent from 12 percent, for solar water heaters, finished leather to 12 percent from 5 percent, and for cut and polished diamonds to 1.5 percent from 0.25 percent. Exemptions have also been withdrawn for pre-packaged and pre-labeled food items such as grains, curd, lassi, paneer, jaggery, wheat flour, puffed rice, buttermilk, and meat/fish (except fresh and frozen). Such food items will now be taxed at 5 percent, at par with branded items.

Now important is:

This increase in GST rates or removal of exemptions has been done to correct the 'Inverted Duty Structure'. Inverted Duty Structure means less GST rates on finished items and more GST rates on Inputs/Intermediate items. For example:

A————-->B————->Consumer

For the raw material which A sells, the GST rate is 18% and for the finished product which B sells to consumers, the GST rate is 5%. This inverted duty creates issues in GST refunds and a loss for Government revenues [will provide a video explanation later on]. To correct this, GST Council has increased rates or removed exemptions.

Current Affair 4:
“India-Australia Critical Minerals Investment Partnership”

Under “India-Australia Critical Minerals Investment Partnership”, both the countries will explore investment opportunities in cobalt and lithium mineral assets.

India and Australia decided to strengthen their partnership in the field of projects and supply chains for critical minerals.

Australia is the world’s largest exporter of lithium and export opportunities are forecast to keep growing as global demand continues for electric vehicles and clean energy technology, and as more projects and refineries come on line in Australia.

Australia hosts vast reserves of critical minerals such as lithium and cobalt, which are crucial for clean energy technologies such as batteries and electric vehicles as well as mobile phones and computers.

What are the critical minerals?

Critical minerals are mineral resources that are essential to the economy and whose supply may be disrupted. The 'criticality' of a mineral changes with time as supply and society's needs shift. Table salt, for example, was once a critical mineral. Today, many critical minerals are metals that are central to high-tech sectors. They include the rare earth elements and other metals such as lithium, indium, tellurium, gallium, and platinum group elements.

Why do critical minerals matter?

By definition, critical minerals are essential for society. Demand for critical minerals such as rare earth elements has increased in recent years with the spread of high-tech devices for personal and commercial use such as wind turbines, solar panels, and electronics such as smartphones and tablets.

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