1. Online platforms must take down PIB-flagged ‘fake news’
Centre amends IT law; intermediaries cannot bank on Section 79 that now gives them immunity for content put up by users; they have to remove anti-government posts once PIB sends out alert
Social media platforms and other intermediaries on the Internet are now required to make sure that “fake news” articles about the Union government, deemed and declared as such by its Press Information Bureau (PIB), are taken down from their platforms when they are alerted to such posts.
The changes were notified on Thursday evening through the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2023, amending the IT Rules, 2021. Sources in the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (I&B) had earlier told The Hindu that the fact check unit would reach out to relevant government departments to get their view on whether a piece of news is fake or not, and take a call accordingly.
Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar outlined a defence of the proposal at a press conference here on Wednesday. “What the Government of India is saying [in these Rules] is that if there is an aggrieved party, and a party that is causing the aggrievement, then Section 79 [of the Information Technology Act, 2000] will not be a safe harbour to prevent a dispute from being adjudicated in the courts,” he said.
PIB-flagged ‘fake news’ must be taken down
In other words, platforms will not be required to take down content due to this Rule alone, but they will not enjoy the legal immunity that they currently benefit from for content posted by their users. They can now be called as a party in court proceedings. “So intermediaries who choose to continue to have that content — and it is within their right to do so — will only have the consequence of having to deal with the person who’s aggrieved by that content to deal with them in a court of law,” Mr. Chandrasekhar said. “There is already an obligation under Section 3(1)(b)(v) [of the IT Rules] that you cannot have misinformation … Nobody said anything in October when the Rules were notified,” he added.
Mr. Chandrasekhar dismissed concerns that this amendment would lead to censorship of posts on social media platforms that are critical of the government. The Editors Guild of India said in a statement when the draft amendment was released for public comment that the Rules “basically serves to make it easier to muzzle the free press, and will give sweeping powers to the PIB … to force online intermediaries to take down content that the government may find problematic.”
Social media companies recently submitted a proposal for regulating fake news, and the government is studying that proposal, the Minister said.
2. MHA recommends CBI probe against Oxfam India for FCRA violations
Oxfam India logo.
The Union Home Ministry on Thursday recommended an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the alleged violation of FCRA provisions by Oxfam India, one of the largestNGOs working on food, shelter and education of vulnerable groups.
The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) registration of Oxfam India that enabled it to receive foreign funds was not renewed by the Ministry in 2021.
On Thursday, a senior government official said that the NGO was registered under the FCRA for undertaking “social” activities and its registration was valid till December 31, 2021.
The official said that Oxfam continued to transfer foreign funds to various other entities even after the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Act, 2020, which prohibits such transfers, came into force. “The amendment came in force on September 29, 2020. The Oxfam India transferred funds to other NGOs, violating provisions of the FCRA,” the official said.
The recommendation for a CBI investigation comes after Income Tax authorities on September 7, 2022 searched the offices of Oxfam India and Centre for Policy Research (CPR), one of the leading public policy think tanks.
The official said the e-mails found during the I-T survey revealed that Oxfam India was planning to circumvent FCRA provisions by routing funds to other FCRA-registered associations or through the for-profit consultancyroute.
The findings of the survey suggested the NGO acted as “a probable instrument of foreign policy of foreign organisations and entities which have funded the Oxfam India liberally over the years”.
The official added that though Oxfam is registered to carry out social activities, it transferred funds to CPR through its associates and employees in the form of commission.
“The same is also reflected from the TDS [tax deducted at source] data of the Oxfam India which shows payment of ₹12,71,188 to the CPR in the 2019-20 under section 194J.”The Ministry on February 27 suspended the FCRA registration of CPR for 180 days.
Oxfam received ₹1.5 crore foreign contribution directly into its utilisation account instead of receiving foreign contribution in designated FCRA account as mandated through the 2020 amendment of the Act, the official said.
Oxfam has also moved a petition in the Delhi High Court against the Ministry’s decision to not renew its FCRA registration.
Oxfam India said in a statement that it is fully compliant with Indian laws and has filed all its statutory compliances, including FCRA returns, in a timely manner since its inception. “Oxfam India has been cooperating with all government agencies since its FCRA registration was not renewed in December 2021. We have filed a plea in the Delhi High Court against the decision to not renew our FCRA registration. The High Court has asked the Union government to respond to our plea,” it said.
3. Govt. amends rules regulating online real money gaming
Rules clarified: The Ministry said that video games where money is not involved need not approach an SRB.
The IT Ministry’s amendment may allow such platforms to avoid the ‘betting and gambling’ tag, if they get a self-regulatory body’s nod; I&B Ministry raps media for carrying ads of betting platforms
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on Thursday released an amendment to the IT Rules, 2021, to regulate “online real money games” where users have to risk money to play, while the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting issued a fresh advisory warning media entities, platforms and online intermediaries against airing advertisements of betting and gambling platforms.
In the advisory, the I&B Ministry took strong exception to the recent instances of mainstream English and Hindi newspapers carrying advertisements and promotional content of betting websites. The government would be constrained to take appropriate legal action against any non-compliance, it said.
“The advisory has been issued to all media formats, including newspapers, television channels, and online news publishers, and showed specific examples where such advertisements have appeared in the media in recent times,” the Ministry said, objecting to the promotion by a specific betting platform that encouraged the audience to watch a sports league on its website in prima facie violation of the Copyright Act.
Real money gaming
The IT Ministry’s Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2023 require real money gaming platforms to register with a self-regulatory body (SRB) that will determine whether or not the game is “permissible”. Three SRBs will be recognised soon, Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar said at a press conference on Wednesday.
“There will now be more government oversight over how SRBs function,” Shambhavi Ravishankar, a consultant at Ikigai Law, told The Hindu. “Most of the requirements in the rules have already been part of the responsible gaming best practices followed by the industry.”
If these games are not deemed “permissible,” Mr. Chandrasekhar said, they will not get the protection of the amendment, and States may be able to take action against them for being betting or gambling platforms.
As such, games that are deemed permissible will be allowed to operate legally, even if they involve deposits against an expectation of winnings.
Video games where money is not involved need not approach an SRB, Mr. Chandrasekhar clarified.
The real money gaming industry welcomed the amendment. Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS) Director-General Joy Bhattacharjya called the Rules a “pivotal moment” for the industry.
4. Govt. nod for Space Policy; private players set to gain
Towards greater heights: Jitendra Singh (right) and Anurag Singh Thakur at the Cabinet briefing on Thursday.
The government on Thursday approved the Indian Space Policy 2023 that seeks to institutionalise the private sector participation in the space sector, with ISRO focusing on research and development of advanced space technologies.
The Indian Space Policy-2023, approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security, also delineated the roles and responsibilities of ISRO, space sector PSU NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) and Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Center.
Union Minister Jitendra Singh said the policy will allow the private sector to take part in end-to-end space activities that include building satellites, rockets and launch vehicles and data collection. ISRO Chairman S. Somanath said the focus of the policy would be to increase the participation of the private players in the sector.
Minister for Information and Broadcasting Anurag Singh Thakur also addressed the briefing.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) on Thursday revised the natural gas pricing guidelines for gas produced in the country where Production Sharing Contract (PSC) provides for Government’s approval of prices. The Centre said the move would ensure stable pricing regime for domestic gas consumers and would also provide adequate protection to producers from adverse market fluctuation with incentives for enhancing production.
Announcing the decision, Union Minister Anurag Thakur said the CNG and PNG prices would see a drop of ₹5 for a kilo in major cities. “This is a 10% decrease in the prices,” he said.
“The reforms will lead to significant decrease in prices of piped natural gas (PNG) for households and Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) for transport,” the government said. “The reduced prices shall also lower the fertiliser subsidy burden and help the domestic power sector. With the provision of a floor in gas prices as well as provision for 20% premium for new wells, this reform will incentivise ONGC and OIL to make additional long term investments in the upstream sector leading to greater production of natural gas and consequent reduction in import dependence of fossil fuels.”
5. Govt. releases pre-draft of National Curriculum Framework for schools
Guiding principles: The pre-draft of the National Curriculum Framework puts emphasis on all-round development.
The Education Ministry puts out document seeking feedback from various stakeholders; recommendations include modular Board exams instead of single exam at year-end for Classes 11 and 12, and basing result on cumulative score
The Ministry of Education released a “pre-draft” version of the National Curriculum Framework for School Education on Thursday, and has sought feedback from various stakeholders, including students, parents, teachers, teacher educators, experts, scholars and professionals.
“While giving your feedback, it needs to be kept in view that this is a pre-draft of the NCF-SE which still requires several rounds of discussion within the National Steering Committee (NSC). Feedback from diverse stakeholders will further help NSC to look critically into different modalities and approaches that this framework is proposing,” the Ministry said.
The pre-draft covers the framework of curriculum for age groups 3 to 18. Feedback can be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
A key part of the document is inclusion of values and its “rootedness” in India.
The pre-draft says, “It is deeply rooted in India. This is in content and learning of languages, in the pedagogical approaches including tools and resources and in philosophical basis — in the aims and in the epistemic approach.”
The document further says that it leans towards making students acquainted with true sources of knowledge, which have been a philosophical preoccupation of ancient Indians. These sources focus on six pramanas: pratyaksa, interpreted as perception through five senses; anumana, which uses inferences to come to new conclusions; upamana, which is knowing through analogy and comparison; arthapatti, which involves knowing through circumstantial implication, anupalabdhi, which includes perception of non-existence, and sabda, which the document explains is “something an individual can only directly know a fraction of all reality through direct experience and inference but must rely on other experts was acknowledged thousands of years ago”.
A part of the document focuses on the moral development of a child through panchakosha vikas or five-fold development. This concept is an ancient explanation of the importance of the body-mind link in human experience and understanding.
The pre-draft recommends developing moral values for the child through a balanced diet, traditional games, yoga asanas, as well as a wide variety of stories, songs, lullabies, poems, prayers to develop a love for cultural context.
The pre-draft says that for Grade 10 certification, students will have to take two essential courses from humanities, maths and computing, vocational education, physical education, arts education, social science, science and interdisciplinary areas. In Grade 11 and 12, students will be offered choice-based courses in the same disciplines for more rigorous engagement.
Arts education will include music, dance, theatre, sculpture, painting, set design, scriptwriting, while inter-disciplinary areas will include knowledge of India, traditions and practices of Indian knowledge systems.
For Class 11 and 12, the document states, “Modular Board Exams will be offered as opposed to a single exam at the end of the year and final result will be based on cumulative result of each exam.”
The document focuses on the importance of questioning by giving examples of the Upanishads.
6. FTP opens doors for some second-hand goods imports
The new Foreign Trade Policy allows the re-export of old items after repairing them in the country; the move is expected to give a boost to the export of refurbished electronic and IT goods
India’s new Foreign Trade Policy (FTP) has adopted a fresh approach to the import of second-hand goods, making it possible to re-export old items after repairing them in the country.
It also paves the way for the import of used electronics and IT goods, albeit with certain restrictions.
The import policy for second-hand goods in the FTP 2023 outlines a new category of unrestricted imports for goods brought into the country for the purpose of repair, refurbishing, re-conditioning or re-engineering, with an intent to re-export them.
Such imports will be conditional upon importers ensuring that any waste generated during the repair or refurbishing process is treated as per domestic laws and environmental, safety and health norms.
Engineering goods exporters’ body EEPC India’s chief Arun Kumar Garodia told The Hindu that this move would encourage reconditioning and refurbishment activities for re-exports. “This will help in promoting exports of such goods,” he noted.
7. Open justice
Supreme Court strikes a blow for both media freedom and fair procedure
The Supreme Court verdict setting aside the denial of broadcasting permission to Malayalam channel MediaOne is one that protects the media against arbitrary action and bars the use of undisclosed national security considerations as a pretext to shut down an outlet. The Court has struck a blow for media freedom by ruling that the government could not term critical coverage or airing of critical opinions as “anti-establishment”, and so initiate action. It said: “The use of such a terminology… represents an expectation that the press must support the establishment.” The denial of security clearance to a media channel on the basis of views it was entitled to hold “produces a chilling effect on free speech and particularly on press freedom”. The Bench also cited substantive grounds to allow MediaOne’s petitions: that security clearance cannot be denied based on its alleged anti-establishment stance or a bald claim that its shareholders have links with the Jamaat-e-Islami. The Court has rightly found fault with the approach of the Kerala High Court, which had accepted material in a sealed cover on why the Home Ministry denied security clearance to the channel. It expressed surprise that the High Court did not explain how it felt the denial of security clearance was justified even after noting that the gravity of the issue was not discernible from the files.
A significant aspect of the judgment is that it seeks to end the casual resort to ‘sealed cover procedure’ by courts by suggesting an alternative approach to state claims of immunity from publication in public interest. Drawing upon both Indian and foreign jurisprudence, the Bench has said it is now an established principle of natural justice that relevant material must be disclosed to the affected party, ensuring that the right to appeal can be effectively exercised. It acknowledges that confidentiality and national security could be “legitimate aims for the purpose of limiting procedural guarantees”. However, a blanket immunity from disclosure of all reports could not be granted and that the validity of the involvement of such considerations must be assessed by the use of relevant tests. It could be ascertained if there is proof that non-disclosure is in the interest of national security and whether a reasonable person would come to the same inference from it. In a bid to balance the public interest in non-disclosure with the one in ensuring a fair hearing, the Court has mooted alternatives such as redacting sensitive portions and providing a gist of the material given to the affected party. The Court could also appoint an amicus curiae, who could be given access to the material whenever the state claims immunity from disclosure.