Momentous judgment

Locating privacy in the Constitution upholds civil liberties in a digitally networked era
Times of India – The 9-0 Supreme Court judgment pronouncing right to privacy as a fundamental right intrinsic to the right to life and personal liberty protected by Article 21 is a great victory for the Indian citizen. Without the right to privacy there is no defense against an Orwellian surveillance state, or against data and identity theft and misuse.

Previous SC judgments had mixed views on recognizing privacy as a fundamental right. The recognition that it needed a larger nine-judge bench to settle the matter conclusively led us to yesterday’s momentous judgment. We live in a time when technology allows the state to conceive an Aadhaar database that can uniquely identify a billion plus residents, where private corporations with and without consent amass vast storehouses of personal data, and arms of the state and vigilante forces use the power of law and lawlessness to intrude into homes in search of beef, homosexual persons, and even witches.

The tendency to wrest ownership of data away from individuals and expand Aadhaar to every conceivable arena must now surmount the privacy check. Governments, corporations and individuals must fall in line. more> https://goo.gl/RUK7ti

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Junk today’s secularism

India needs a reinvented secularism 2.0 rooted in separation of religion and state
By Bhanu Dhamija – India’s ambitious experiment with freedom of religion has failed. Our insipid brand of secularism, based on states’ active engagement amid stated religious neutrality, has led to the appeasement of a few, but empowers none and brings injustice for all. Instead of uniting our society, it has fomented fragmentation and alienation among our diverse religious communities.

The Hindu majority has now risen against years of over-accommodation of the Muslim minority. This puts the country at risk of losing its tolerant and pluralistic democracy.

India today desperately needs a new definition of secularism, one based on freedom of religion, equality before law, and separation of religion and state. All of these requirements are essential for secularism to work in any country.

Indian secularism fails because it allows governments to grant religious freedoms, but not to treat religions equally.

The biggest failure in this regard began in the early years of the republic, when the government codified Hindu social customs into law but allowed Muslims to continue practicing Sharia law. For seven decades, the requirement of a uniform civil code has remained a Directive Principle in India’s Constitution.

Without constitutional restrictions on state sponsorship of religious activities, Indian secularism turned into a carte blanche for governments to do as they pleased. They began exploiting religious communities with special treatment, sops and populist slogans.

Today, the Modi wave among the Hindu majority has shattered the Nehruvian concept of secularism. And for good reasons; Nehru’s approach was impractical in its denial of all communal identities, and it was open to abuse by governments.

Now the majority is flexing its muscle and taking revenge for years of minority appeasement. This makes it all the more necessary that India adopt real secularism, lest the pendulum swing too far, and allow Hindu chauvinism to take over India’s democracy. more> https://goo.gl/reCSRz

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Forthcoming Supreme Court decision on right to privacy one of the most important legal decisions in the world this year

By Eben Moglen and Mishi Choudhary – Arguments before a nine-judge constitutional bench of the Supreme Court, which is at long last deciding whether Indian citizens have a fundamental right to privacy, have established two realities clearly.

First, the judges see the profound importance of any decision to create such a fundamental right. Second, they would like to know just what the outlines of this right should be.

Privacy is, as Brandeis and Warren said in 1894, “the right most valued by civilized men,” “the right to be left alone.”

But in our age, the age of the internet, the right to be left alone includes also the right not to be put out there, or exposed involuntarily. Forced disclosure of the information that comprises our identities, in the age of biometric identification, social profiles, and cashless economic transactions, damages an essential component of all personal liberties.

Whether the individual’s information is used on its own, or is analyzed, profiled, or linked in the “social graph” to that of other related persons, forced disclosure of personal information in today’s society creates power in the state which receives that information.

The importance of a fundamental right in our system is that it can only be enforced against the state. “Platform” social media companies receive voluntary disclosures of personal information in immense quantities every minute, but they are not subject to constitutional controls.

Moreover, though these corporates are indeed ubiquitous in our lives, they are not obligatory. In dealing with them, we still have choices. Only the power of the state can, in fact, compel us to expose ourselves more fully than we choose to do. The state can as well, of course, legislate to protect our privacy against private parties, and should do so.

India will, as a result of the Supreme Court’s judgment, take the lead among democracies in recognizing and enforcing its citizens’ fundamental right to privacy, or fall in line behind despotic societies in destroying it. more> https://goo.gl/WXWbzf

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Why is Trai even considering bill and keep model?

Airtel boss Sunil Mittal, in a letter to Trai chairman R.S. Sharma, says ‘at a loss as to why Trai should be considering bill and keep model’ and break away from the global practice of interconnect user charges
By Amrit Raj – What surprises the most, he wrote in the 24 July letter, is no one has talked about abolishing IUC (interconnect usage charge) for international call settlement, which is prevalent across markets.

Neighboring countries such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal charge about 2-13 cents. Similarly, when the calls come into India, Trai has set an IUC to be paid to the mobile operators at 53 paisa and, in turn, the Indian international operator charges approximately 1 cent as IUC for the incoming calls on their network.

“The Trai not even debating this issue, therefore, confirms Authority’s acceptance to the principle that IUC is indeed a settled global practice built on fair and equitable settlements for work done by each operator for carrying each other’s calls,” Mittal said.

Mukesh Ambani-controlled Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd is pressing for the bill-and-keep model, wherein IUC (paid by the telco from which a call originates to the telco which receives the call) will be effectively scrapped.

Rivals Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India Ltd and Idea Cellular Ltd, on the other hand, want these charges raised to at least 30 paise per call from 14 paise now. more> https://goo.gl/Ntz5Cd

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Preserve privacy

Threats to privacy have snowballed in the digital era, SC must act
Times of India – The creation of a nine-judge Supreme Court bench to decide whether right to privacy is a fundamental right focuses attention on an issue of critical importance in a digital era.

The right to privacy is not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution but Article 21 guaranteeing the protection of life and personal liberty does encompass various aspects of privacy.

Categorizing privacy as a fundamental right will grant it constitutional sanctity, and by implication, greater respect and compliance. But the government has opposed this classification citing two SC judgments, delivered in 1954 and 1962 that rejected a “fundamental right to privacy.”

Strong legal safeguards are needed against unauthorised access of databases and retention of data, data theft, and leak of private information.

The mushrooming of Aadhaar – initially pitched as a system to aid welfare transfers by eliminating impersonation and pilferage – into a Sisyphean identification system dictating every aspect of a citizen’s life is a valid cause for concern.

Similarly, SC is also hearing a petition questioning midstream changes in WhatsApp’s privacy policy that allowed it to share user data with its parent company Facebook.

Government mustn’t fear privacy. Making it a fundamental right will give governments, businesses and courts a definitive framework to facilitate Digital India. more> https://goo.gl/ogZrii

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Can India be First World?

We dream of leapfrogging to First World status, here’s how to do it in real life
By Sanjeev Sabhlok – What will it take for India to become a First World nation?

Such a question is about matters more important than mere economic growth.

It is about freedom, rule of law, justice, separation of religion and state. Such a question can reset our expectations and start a meaningful conversation about what we want to be as a nation.

It is time for us as a nation to step back and look at the big picture. The facts that face us are not pleasant.

Transparency International has ranked Indian governments as the most corrupt in the Asia-Pacific region. Our businesses, despite being one of the world’s best, continue to be let down by our governance system. We continue to rank close to the bottom on ease of doing business. We remain one of the least free countries in the world.

We do not protect private property. We do not have credible rule of law. The concept of justice is largely fictitious. There is very little infrastructure. Our school systems are dysfunctional. Vocational training is non-existent or of very low quality. And we continue to be one of the world’s poorest countries.

Second, we need to redesign our governance system. Today, neither ministers nor bureaucrats are accountable. They see themselves as rulers. We need to invert this mindset and hold our servant – the government – to account.

No First World country has India’s antediluvian, super-centralized IAS-type tenured service to govern everything. more> https://goo.gl/kjrftm

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Three consortia led by Alstom, Siemens and Stadler Bussnang eye Rs 2,000 crore ($310m) coach factory project

By Rajat Arora – The proposed rail coach factory that would produce coaches with aircraft-type interiors is expected to come up on railway land in Kanchrapara near Kolkata on a public-private partnership basis and will involve a total investment of Rs 2,000 crore.

This is the second-largest tranche of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the rail sector under the government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative.

The first major FDI in railways came in 2015 when projects to set up two locomotive factories were awarded at a total cost of Rs 3,300 crore ($511.5m). more> https://goo.gl/RJGrrK

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Reliance rattles Indian telcos again by unveiling ‘free’ 4G phone

By Promit Mukherjee and Sankalp Phartiyal – Despite Jio’s rapid rise, funded by mega-profits churned out by parent Reliance Industries’ (RELI.NS) core refining and petrochemicals operations, it has been unable to tap more than 500 million non-smartphone users in India, who still rely on old feature phones to make calls and send text messages, as its network only supports 4G-enabled phones.

Reliance sees the new handset, named JioPhone, allowing it to target India’s entire mobile market for the first time. more> https://goo.gl/bmB5N6

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At the root of all lynchings

Vigilantes don’t expect to be punished, victims don’t expect to get justice
By Amish Tripathi – Mob violence and vigilantism happens because the criminals expect to get away with it. Many victims don’t complain because they don’t expect justice to be done. And this happens because our criminal justice system is horribly inefficient.

According to government data, there are more than three crore cases pending in our judicial system. Justice VV Rao of Andhra Pradesh high court had said that at the normal rate of dispersal, it will take 320 years to clear the backlog in our courts! India is amongst the 10 worst countries in the world in terms of the percentage of under-trials as a proportion of total prisoners.

Many unfortunate people, who can’t possibly be tracked by TV studios in Mumbai and Delhi, continue to suffer systemic apathy.

This situation has led to the corruption of our society.

Why do the dis-empowered vote for criminals and strongmen?

Because they know that they will not get justice in a gummed up judicial system. So, the practical thing to do is to elect a strongman from your community and expect him/her to use political power to protect you.

The only long-term solution is a clean-up of the criminal justice system.

Police reforms (as ordered by the Supreme Court in 2006) must be implemented to give the force autonomy from political interference, better-trained and more manpower, and modern weapons. more> https://goo.gl/xf5pi7

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There’s no justice when the system damns the defenseless

By Shobhaa De – This is where the problem starts. It appears to be a clear case of a desperate man giving vent to his impotent rage against a terrible system that often indicts victims and finishes off their lives before they get the chance to prove their innocence. Dilip Pendse could well have been one such victim.

When something like this happens, you begin to wonder, what sort of a twisted and cruel system is this? And why do we as a nation not address the monumental problems our clogged courts create — especially for law-abiding citizens, often caught in a maze of legal issues that drag on for decades… and eventually cost a few their precious lives?

There are far too many elephants in the room right now. But we remain in denial, justifying and glossing over anything and everything that causes discomfort. Pending litigations take their toll on countless citizens, and yet we blithely talk about justice and how lucky we in India are, to have such a superb legal system and a Constitution that protects us. Technically and on paper, this is accurate. But the reality of our lives is entirely different.

We have become so accustomed to this atrocious system, we merely shrug when we come across another case getting hopelessly derailed, another person suffering because of legal shenanigans.

There is very little faith left in the intention and ability of the state to protect its own. more> https://goo.gl/SM6AfR

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