Daily Current Affairs 12.04.2023 ( Data Protection Bill in Monsoon Session, Arunachal was, is, will be integral part of India: MEA , IMD predicts ‘normal’ monsoon as El Nino effect looms large this year , 6 GHz spectrum pits wireless telcos against fixed-line broadband entities , The Governor-Chief Minister face-off can be avoided with some reasoning on both sides )

Daily Current Affairs 12.04.2023 ( Data Protection Bill in Monsoon Session, Arunachal was, is, will be integral part of India: MEA , IMD predicts ‘normal’ monsoon as El Nino effect looms large this year , 6 GHz spectrum pits wireless telcos against fixed-line broadband entities , The Governor-Chief Minister face-off can be avoided with some reasoning on both sides )


1. Data Protection Bill in Monsoon Session

It will be tabled in Parliament in July, govt. informs Supreme Court, which is hearing petitions against WhatsApp sharing users’ data with FB firms

The Union government informed the Supreme Court on Tuesday that a new law, namely the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2022, to enforce individual privacy in online space was “ready”.

“The new Bill will be tabled in the Monsoon Session of Parliament in July,” Attorney General R. Venkataramani, appearing for the Union, informed a Constitution Bench led by Justice K.M. Joseph. Mr. Venkataramani’s submission came during the hearing of petitions challenging WhatsApp’s policy to share users’ data with the Facebook group of companies.

The new Bill, if passed by Parliament, will replace the current Information Technology (Reasonable Security Practices and Procedures and Sensitive Personal Data or Information) Rules, which was notified in 2011.

The Supreme Court had recognised privacy as a fundamental right in 2017 and highlighted the need to protect online personal data from prying eyes.

In January, the government, in an affidavit filed in court, said that the Information Technology Ministry had initiated a stakeholder consultation exercise on the draft Bill, and invited comments from the public.

It had then briefed the court that the Ministry was in the process of “collating and analysing the feedback and suggestions received, with a view to take the draft Bill forward”. It had assured the court that the Bill would be presented in Parliament at the earliest. The purpose of the Bill is to “provide for the processing of digital personal data in a manner that recognises both the right of individuals to protect their personal data and the need to process personal data for lawful purposes”.

‘Data’ under the new Bill is defined as a “representation of information, facts, concepts, opinions or instructions in a manner suitable for communication, interpretation or processing by humans or by automated means”.

The Bill separately defines data fiduciary as persons who determined the purpose and means of processing of personal data; data principal as the individual to whom the personal data related to; data processor as any person who processes personal data on behalf of a data fiduciary.

Senior advocate Shyam Divan, representing the petitioners, sounded skeptical about the enactment of the Bill, saying the government had been giving assurances for months. “Please do not link our court hearings with the legislative process. It (the Bill) may go to some committee or other. Our petitions have been pending since 2017…” Mr. Divan said. “The Bill had to go through a qualified consultative process. You have to do that if you want a good law,” Mr. Venkataramani countered.

2. Arunachal was, is, will be integral part of India: MEA

India on Tuesday firmly rejected China’s objection to Home Minister Amit Shah’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, and asserted that the State “was, is and will” always remain an integral and inalienable part of India.

External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said objecting to such visits does not stand to reason and will not change the reality.

The Home Minister visited Arunachal Pradesh on Monday during which he launched the ambitious Vibrant Villages Programme. “We completely reject the comments made by the Chinese spokesperson. Indian leaders routinely travel to the State of Arunachal Pradesh as they do to any other State of India,” Mr. Bagchi said. “Arunachal Pradesh was, is and will always remain an integral and inalienable part of India,” he said.

Responding to a question on Mr. Shah’s visit, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said, “Zangnan (the Chinese name for Arunachal Pradesh) is part of China’s territory”. “The activity of the senior Indian official in Zangnan violates China’s territorial sovereignty and is not conducive to peace and tranquillity in the border areas,” he said.

3. IMD predicts ‘normal’ monsoon as El Nino effect looms large this year

Since 2019, India has been under the influence of the converse La Nina and therefore getting substantial rainfall; the agency places greater emphasis on the ‘dynamical’ monsoon forecast techniques instead of the traditional, statistical approach

India’s four-year run of munificent summer monsoon rainfall is likely to end this year, with the India Meteorological Department (IMD) forecasting a 4% shortfall in the coming season.

Though still categorised as “normal”, it is — at 96% of the long period average (LPA) — at the lowest end of what the agency categorises as normal rainfall. Most recently, it was in April 2017 that the IMD forecast 96%, and India saw a 2.6% shortfall that year.

The key factor believed to be playing spoilsport this year is the development of El Nino, a cyclical phenomenon of warming in the central Pacific that in six out of 10 years is linked to diminished rainfall in the country.

Since 2019, India has been under the influence of the converse La Nina or a cooling in those regions, and therefore, getting substantial rainfall.

The “normal” monsoon rainfall over India during June-September is 87 cm (considered 100% of the LPA), though this involves wide spatial variability.

On Monday, the private weather agency Skymet forecast the monsoon to be “below normal” or 94% of the LPA, again premised on the developing El Nino, with Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh expected to be see diminished rains in August and September.

From 1951 to 2022, there have been 15 El Nino years, defined as a rise above 0.5 degrees Celsius in temperatures in the central, equatorial Pacific Ocean with nine of those years witnessing “below normal” rainfall. In 2015, the last “strong” El Nino year (>1.5 degrees Celsius rise), the monsoon rainfall fell by 14%. A “weaker” El Nino (a sub-one degree rise) in 2018 saw a 7.4% dip.

Experts say that while El Nino conditions are imminent, there are ameliorating factors that may blunt its impact. One, El Nino is only likely to begin to take root in the second half of the monsoon — August and September. The weather models also indicate the development of a “positive” phase of the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD, or warmer temperatures in the Arabian Sea and hence more moisture and rainfall over India) during these months and so, a somewhat reduced impact of the El Nino, M. Ravichandran, Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences, told The Hindu.

Another factor that could blunt the El Nino is reduced snow cover in Eurasia. “This February and March, we have seen below normal snow cover in Eurasia, which is favourable for monsoon,” said M. Mohapatra, Director-General, IMD, at a press briefing on Tuesday.

In recent years, the IMD has started to place greater emphasis on the ‘dynamical’ monsoon forecast techniques where global atmospheric and ocean conditions are simulated on powerful supercomputers to forecast climate conditions. This is different from the traditional, statistical approach.

4. 6 GHz spectrum pits wireless telcos against fixed-line broadband entities

Delicensing the 6 GHz range would benefit fixed-line broadband providers and software giants, as some of the latter try to get into the public WiFi hotspot space; these firms are pushing back on telcos laying claim to this specific spectrum band

It’s not often that we hear that a band of wireless spectrum is “close to our hearts” from the lectern of a hotel ballroom.

But the emerging interest in gaining access to the 6 gigahertz (GHz) band — which ranges from 5,925 to 7,125 megahertz (MHz) — is pitting wireless telecom operators against fixed line Internet Service Providers (ISPs), with both groups keen to lay claim to a band of spectrum that could enable the next generation of 5G, or WiFi — or as some modestly insisted, both.

The Broadband India Forum, which represents tech giants and some ISPs, on Tuesday held an event, sponsored in part by Meta, that advanced this demand. Delicensing the 6 GHz range would benefit fixed line broadband providers and software giants, as some of the latter try to get into the public WiFi hotspot space.

Spectrum worries

Telecom operators, meanwhile, worry that since India’s mobile data consumption is growing so rapidly — having risen sixfold in 5 years as per a Nokia estimate — that they need to earmark further spectrum for licensed use on their networks. Newer WiFi routers in India largely use the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. As frequency increases, the range of the signal drops, but the bandwidth goes up significantly.

The WiFi 6E standard, launched in 2020, uses 6 GHz, enabling speeds upwards of 9.6 Gbps; and, 6GHz spectrum supports multiple devices on a wireless network more harmoniously than the 5GHz band, even on slower connections, enticing telecom providers and ISPs.

5. EDITORIAL-01: Building safeguards

Misuse of detention power renders need to stick to procedure paramount

The Supreme Court’s observation that preventive detention laws are a colonial legacy and confer arbitrary powers on the state is one more iteration of the perennial threat to personal liberty that such laws pose. For several decades now, the apex court and High Courts have been denouncing the executive’s well-documented failure to adhere to procedural safeguards while dealing with the rights of detainees. While detention orders are routinely set aside on technical grounds, the real relief that detainees gain is quite insubstantial. Often, the quashing of detention orders comes several months after they are detained, and in some cases, including the latest one in which the Court has made its remarks, after the expiry of the full detention period. Yet, it is some consolation to note that the Court continues to be concerned over the misuse of preventive detention. In preventive detention cases, courts essentially examine whether procedural safeguards have been adhered to, and rarely scrutinise whether the person concerned needs to be detained to prevent prejudice to the maintenance of public order. Therefore, it is salutary that the Court has again highlighted that “every procedural rigidity, must be followed in entirety by the Government in cases of preventive detention, and every lapse in procedure must give rise to a benefit to the case of the detenu”.

Some facts concerning preventive detention are quite stark: most detentions are ultimately set aside, and the most common reason is that there is an unexplained delay in the disposal of representations that the detainees submit against their detention to the authorities. Failure to provide proper grounds for detention, or delay in furnishing them, and sometimes giving illegible copies of documents are other reasons. In rare instances, courts have been horrified by the invocation of prevention detention laws for trivial reasons — one of the strangest being a man who sold substandard chilli seeds being detained as a ‘goonda’. An unfortunate facet of this issue is that Tamil Nadu topped the country (2011-21) in preventive detentions. One reason is that its ‘Goondas Act’ covers offenders who range from bootleggers, slum grabbers, forest offenders to video pirates, sex offenders and cyber-criminals. The law’s ambit is rarely restricted to habitual offenders, as it ought to be, but extends to suspects in major cases. Across the country, the tendency to detain suspects for a year to prevent them from obtaining bail is a pervasive phenomenon, leading to widespread misuse. Preventive detention is allowed by the Constitution, but it does not relieve the government of the norm that curbing crime needs efficient policing and speedy trials, and not unfettered power and discretion.

6. OPINION-01: Resolving a recurring conflict

The Governor-Chief Minister face-off can be avoided with some reasoning on both sides

Three months after a face-off between Governor R.N. Ravi and Chief Minister M.K. Stalin, Tamil Nadu is witness to yet another confrontation between them.

In January, the Governor skipped some portions of the approved text of his customary address to the House. When Mr. Stalin disapproved of this deviation from the text and moved a resolution to take on record only the transcript distributed to the members, Mr. Ravi, in an unprecedented move, walked out of the Assembly.

This time, Mr. Ravi’s explanation of the role of a Govenor in the functioning of a legislature paved the way for the controversy. The Governor made the comments during his interaction with a group of civil servants at the Raj Bhavan on April 6. There was nothing wrong in the fact that Mr. Ravi articulated the constitutional position regarding the role of the Governor, but his interpretation, which was viewed against the backdrop of his relationship with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) regime, created a strong response not only from the ruling party but also its allies. Soon after, on Monday, the Assembly adopted a resolution calling upon President Droupadi Murmu and the Union government to give appropriate instructions to the Governor for according assent to Bills passed by the Assembly within a specific time period.

Mr. Ravi’s point was that if a Governor withheld assent to a Bill passed by the Assembly, it meant that the “Bill is dead.” This interpretation did not go down well with the ruling dispensation because about a dozen bills passed by the current Assembly were pending with Mr. Ravi for assent. It is against this backdrop that two pieces of legislation — exemption to students of the State from the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test, and the Prohibition of Online Gambling and Regulation of Online Games Bill — deserve a mention.

As both the bills were returned by Mr. Ravi in the last one year or so, they were re-adopted by the House. While the first is awaiting presidential assent, the news of the second bill having received the Governor’s assent came out on the day the Assembly adopted the resolution concerning him. The time taken by Mr. Ravi to give his assent to the online gambling bill has evoked criticism from several quarters as he cleared an ordinance on the same subject last October. The government’s case had been that except for the word “bill,” the piece of legislation was an exact reproduction of the ordinance.

The Monday motion, floating the idea that the Governor be instructed to give his assent within a prescribed time period, was, however, not as harsh on the present occupant of the post as it was on the Governor 28 years ago. On April 26, 1995, when the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) was in power, the House passed a resolution demanding that the Centre recall Governor M. Channa Reddy and replace him with another person after “prior consultation” with the State government. It also wanted the Union government to ensure that the person so appointed “is not partisan and is respected by” citizens of the country for his integrity in public life.

At the time of passage of the resolution on Monday, the AIADMK, the principal Opposition party, was not present. Its members, citing Speaker M. Appavu’s non-acceptance of their demand for recognising former Revenue Minister R.B. Udhayakumar as Deputy Leader of Opposition, had earlier staged a walkout. Even two members ofthe Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) left the Houseprior to the adoption. The motion was adopted unanimously. The former Fisheries Minister and the AIADMK’s prominent spokesperson, D. Jayakumar, was quick to accuse the DMK of adopting “double standards” with regard to the office of the Governor. The DMK, which was calling for the abolition of the post, had, while in the Opposition, approached Governors to make representations against the government of the day, Mr. Jayakumar argued.

With the passage of the resolution, the latest row concerning the two constitutional authorities is expected to come to an end. While the Governor could desist from creating the impression that he is needlessly provocative, the ruling party would do well in exercising greater restraint while responding to him. After all, the members of the ruling party will have to approach the people again for electoral support, unlike the Governor.

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