Goaltide Daily Current Affairs 2020
Current Affair 1:
Legal obligation in Blocking Of 59 Apps
While making public its decision to block 59 mobile apps, mostly Chinese, including Tik Tok, Cam Scanner, Xender etc., the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology has mainly referred to its powers under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, read with the relevant provisions of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009, to block these apps, citing threat to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order.
Why Ministry has taken this decision?
- The Ministry has taken this decision in view of information available that these applications are engaged in activities which is prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order.
- It has also taken into account the recommendation made by the Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre, Ministry of Home Affairs for 'blocking these malicious apps'.
- It further states that the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN) has also received many representations from citizens regarding security of data and breach of privacy impacting upon public order issues.
- Finally, it justifies its decision by stating that 'there has been a strong chorus in the public space to take strict action against Apps that harm India's sovereignty as well as the privacy of our citizens.'
This document intends to examine the provisions of Information Technology Act and Rules framed under it, which has been invoked by the Government to decide to block 59 mobile applications.
Section 69A of Information Technology Act
The Section 69A, introduced vide an Amendment Act of 2009 with effect from 27.10.2009, deals with the power to issue directions for blocking for public access of any information through any computer resource. The provision 69A (1) reads as follows:
Understand in simple terms:
Section 69A empowers the Central Government to direct any Central Government agency or intermediary to block public access to any information which is stored or disseminated over any computer resource. Such directions must only be issued in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to above. Therefore, Section 69A and the IT Blocking Rules 2009 empower the State to block public access to websites, web applications and other computer resources.
The intermediary who fails to comply with the direction issued under the above sub section shall be punished with an imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to fine.
SC Upheld Validity of Section 69A and Rules in Shreya Singhal Judgment
We will understand the Shreya Singhal Case first:
Shreya Singhal v. Union of India is perhaps best known for striking down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 ('IT Act') as unconstitutional.
However, in the same judgement, the Supreme Court also upheld the constitutionality of another tool of web censorship under the IT Act: Section 69A and the accompanying Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009 ('IT Blocking Rules 2009').
Why 69A was challenged and what SC ordered?
The main grounds of challenge against Section 69A were:
- There is no pre-decisional hearing afforded by the Rules particularly to the "originator" of information, which is defined under Section 2(za) of the Act to mean a person who sends, generates, stores or transmits any electronic message; or causes any electronic message to be sent, generated, stored or transmitted to any other person.
- Procedural safeguards such as which are provided under Section 95 and 96 of the Code of Criminal Procedure are not available here.
- The confidentiality requirement present under Rule 16 of the IT Blocking Rules 2009 allowed violation of fundamental rights in secrecy.
Supreme Court Observation:
While dealing with these contentions, the Court observed that that Section 69A:
First and foremost, blocking can only be resorted to where the Central Government is satisfied that it is necessary so to do. Secondly, such necessity is relatable only to some of the subjects set out in Article 19(2). Thirdly, reasons have to be recorded in writing in such blocking order so that they may be assailed in a writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution.
Referring to the Rules (Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009), the Court further observed:
The Rules further provide for a hearing before the Committee set up - which Committee then looks into whether or not it is necessary to block such information. It is only when the Committee finds that there is such a necessity that a blocking order is made. It is also clear from an examination of Rule 8 that it is not merely the intermediary who may be heard. If the "person" i.e. the originator is identified he is also to be heard before a blocking order is passed.
The Supreme Court had upheld the validity of the Section 69A and Rules taking note of the fact that there are sufficient safeguards which are to be met before blocking orders are made.
How to relate this with present case?
In the present case, the Government seems to have issued an 'interim order' blocking the applications even before affording an opportunity of hearing to them. No safeguards used (as provided earlier) while pronouncing order. So, government might face some legal changes in court if banning Chinese apps is challenged.
To put it briefly, the applications that are blocked by an interim order, will be given an opportunity to present their version before the Committee. The Committee will consider whether it is justifiable to block them and will give specific recommendation in writing. On receipt of recommendations of committee, Secretary, Department of Information Technology, will pass the final order as regard to approval of such request. In case the request for blocking is not approved by the Secretary, Department of Information Technology in his final order, the 'interim blocking direction' will be revoked.
There are many more technicalities in this topic, but as an UPSC aspirant, you don’t need to go much in detail. The details provided will suffice the need in exam.
So, in Prelims:
- What is Shreya Singhal Case related to?
- Which Provisions were invoked while banning?
Current Affair 2:
Provision of Hindi Language in our Indian Constitution
Haryana is trying to impose Hindi Language in Lower courts. We will not focus much on news as it is still in SC. Let us wait for new updates.
We will here deal with Part XVII of the Constitution, Articles 343 to 345 which deals with Languages of the Union and Regional Languages.
We will provide you brief explanations along with clippings of article. Please read both.
The Constitution contains the following provisions in respect of the official language of the Union.
- Hindi written in Devanagari script is to be the official language of the Union. But the form of numerals to be used for the official purposes of the Union has to be the international form of Indian numerals and not the Devanagari form of numerals.
- However, for a period of fifteen years from the commencement of the Constitution (i.e., from 1950 to 1965), the English language would continue to be used for all the official purposes of the Union for which it was being used before 1950.
- Even after fifteen years, the Parliament may provide for the continued use of English language for the specified purposes.
At the end of five years, and again at the end of ten years, from the commencement of the Constitution, the president should appoint a commission to make recommendations with regard to the progressive use of the Hindi language, restrictions on the use of the English language and other related issues.
A committee of Parliament is to be constituted to examine the recommendations of the commission and to report its views on them to the president.
Now what Constitution talks about Regional Languages:
The Constitution does not specify the official language of different states. The legislature of a state may adopt any one or more of the languages in use in the state or Hindi as the official language of that state. Until that is done, English is to continue as official language of that state. Under this provision, most of the states have adopted the major regional language as their official language. For example, Andhra Pradesh has adopted Telugu, Kerala—Malayalam, Assam—Assamese, West Bengal—Bengali, Odisha—Odia.
Now special directives given under Article 350. The Constitution makes the following provisions:
Article 350: Every aggrieved person has the right to submit a representation for the redress of any grievance to any officer or authority of the Union or a state in any of the languages used in the Union or in the state, as the case may be. This means that a representation cannot be rejected on the ground that it is not in the official language.
Every state and a local authority in the state should provide adequate facilities for instruction in the mother-tongue at the primary stage of education to children belonging to linguistic minority groups. The president can issue necessary directions for this purpose.
The president should appoint a special officer for linguistic minorities to investigate all matters relating to the constitutional safeguards for linguistic minorities and to report to him. The president should place all such reports before the Parliament and send to the state government concerned.
Article 351: It shall be the duty of the Union to promote the spread of the Hindi language, to develop it so that it may serve as a medium of expression for all the elements of the composite culture of India.
Current Affair 3:
Shifting seasons on Russian steppe captured by NASA
Significant seasonal changes have been observed in southwestern Russia’s Kulunda steppe — a large area of flat, unforested grassland — by US space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Terra and Aqua satellites.
The images shared by NASA show the terrain of the land — that looks like a giant claw scraped across its surface — between April 1 and June 11, 2020. The ‘scratch’ marks are the result of tectonic forces that folded rock layers and created shallow valleys filled with pine forests and lakes in the region.
- The images captured using data from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer — show many changes, apart from the loss of snow and ice cover.
- The forested valleys of the region appear dark green compared to the lighter green and brown farmland that surrounds them.
- The aquatic population in the lakes — including brine shrimp and salt-loving Halobacteria — increases during the seasonal changes, which results in these lakes changing colour, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory.
- The most interesting phenomenon witnessed, however, is the change in colour of the region’s lakes. The colour of Lake Kuchukskoye shifts from green to pink, a phenomenon seen in other lakes in Russia’s Altai Krai district as well.
Such questions are very important for Prelims exam. Silent killers.
Current Affair 4:
New global study reveals ‘time-tree’ of Earth’s flowering plants
New research published today in Nature Ecology & Evolution by scientists from Australia and Mexico reveals the world's first complete angiosperm "time tree"—a reconstruction of the evolution of the Earth's flowering plants through time.
The rise of angiosperms (flowering plants) began about 140 million years ago, sparking one of the most dramatic biological revolutions of our planet's recent history. Crucial questions around the timing and location of the origin of the families involved in creating the most diverse type of plants on Earth were until now, largely unanswered.
Fossils are the most important pieces of evidence needed to understand these important evolutionary questions around angiosperm divergence times.
Every group of living species on Earth has a 'stem' age (the age of its origin) and a 'crown' age (the beginning of its diversification into the living species we see today) and birds provide a great example of this. The stem age of birds is marked by their split from crocodiles around 240 million years ago and their crown age is marked by the most recent common ancestor of all living birds, around 100 million years ago. What happened between the stem and crown ages is very interesting because this when the dinosaurs roamed the Earth. It's also when all the traits that define modern birds evolved and this is exactly what we set out to understand in our angiosperm study.
Current Affair 5:
Himalayan butterfly is India’s largest after 88 years
A Himalayan butterfly named Golden Birdwing is India’s largest, a record an unknown specimen had held for 88 years.
With a wingspan of 194 mm, the female of the species is marginally larger than the Southern Birdwing (190 mm) recorded in 1932. But the male Golden Birdwing (Troides aeacus) is much smaller at 106 mm.
The smallest is the Quaker (Neopithecops zalmora) with a wingspan of 18 mm and forewing length of 8 mm.<< Previous Next >>