GS Paper III –  Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary Ministries and Departments of the Government.

Law Commission proposes tougher norms against hate speech

What’s Happening-

  • The Law Commission of India recommended tougher norms for discouraging hate speech, in a report.
  • The report suggested adding new provisions to make speech inciting hatred and speech that causes fear, alarm or provocation of violence, a criminal offence under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860.

Key Points discussed were:

  • The Law Commission of India is of the considered opinion that new provisions in IPC are required to be incorporated to address the hate speech issues,”.
  • The panel, headed by former Supreme Court judge B.S. Chauhan, submitted the report to the government on 23 March.
  • The report sought to provide “watertight compartments to deal with various acts related to hate speech”, as existing sections do not have such clauses.

Hatred speech Provisions:

  1. The provision regarding incitement to hatred says that “gravely threatening words either spoken or written, signs, visible representations” which cause fear or alarm on grounds of “religion, race, caste or community, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, place of birth, residence, language, disability or tribe” will be punishable by two years in prison and Rs5,000 fine.
  2. A second provision on “causing fear, alarm, or provocation of violence” will also be punishable by a one-year jail term and a fine of Rs5,000.
  3. The commission’s report was in response to a reference from the Supreme Court to make appropriate recommendations to “curb the menace of hate speech”.

Background-

  • Rights are the cornerstone of individual autonomy.
  • They are guaranteed as limits on the power of State.
  • In democratic societies they have been granted to protect individual from undue State interference.
  • Freedom of expression has been enshrined in article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
  • Globally, history witnessed a complete subversion of rights and loss of freedoms not just under colonial rule but also the brutal regime of Adolph Hitler.

Hate speech has always been a live debate in India:

  • The issue has been raised time and again before the legislature, court as well as the public.

Cases:

  • In Pravasi Bhalai Sangathan v. Union of India, the Supreme Court dealt with a case where the petitioners prayed that the State should take peremptory action against makers of hate speech. The Court did not go beyond the purview of existing laws to penalise hate speech as that would amount to ‘judicial overreach’.
  • The Court observed that the implementation of existing laws would solve the problem of hate speech to a great extent. The matter was referred to the Law Commission to examine.
  • Jafar Imam Naqvi v. Election Commission of India: The petitioners filed a writ petition challenging the vitriolic speeches made by the candidates in the election and prayed for issue of writ of mandamus to the Election Commission for taking appropriate steps against such speeches.
  • However, the Court dismissed the petition on the ground that the petition under article 32 of the Constitution regarding speeches delivered during election campaign does not qualify as public interest litigation and that the Court cannot legislate on matters where the legislative intent is visible.

GS Paper III  Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

Centre seeks banks’ turnaround plans

What’s Happening-
The Finance Ministry has written to 10 public sector banks, including IDBI Bank, Bank of Maharashtra, United Bank of India, Andhra Bank and Indian Overseas Bank, making it clear that the lenders would only get further capital infusion once they submit a time-bound turnaround plan.

Key Points discussed were:

  • The government wants 10 public sector banks to turn around in the next three years, and we are preparing the plan for that.

Why Crackdown Now?

  • The government’s move to crack the whip on lenders comes after some banks reported losses in financial year 2015-16 as well as for the nine-month period of the current financial year.
  • Bad loans zoomed following the Reserve Bank of India’s asset quality review, which required banks to classify many accounts identified by the banking regulator as ‘bad’. The RBI said it wanted to clean up banks’ balance sheets by March 2017.

Stats on NPAs:

  • According to RBI data, gross non-performing assets of commercial banks increased to 9.1% of their gross advances as of September 2016, from 5.1% a year earlier.
  • Public sector banks share a disproportionate burden of this stress.

Employee Unions:

  • Interestingly, for the first time, the employees’ unions have been made a party to the proposed agreement. The employees’ unions of these 10 banks met to decide the future course of action.
  • The other lenders included in the list are Allahabad Bank, Bank of India, Central Bank of India, Dena Bank and UCO Bank.

Background-
In 2015, under the Indradhanush plan, the government had announced capital infusion of ₹70,000 crore in public sector banks for four years, starting from 2015-16.
In the first two financial years, ₹25,000 crore had been earmarked per year with ₹10,000 crore to be disbursed in each of the remaining two years.
Credit rating agencies had pointed out that the sum was insufficient as banks needed to meet Basel-III norms as well as make provisions for rising bad loans.

GS Paper III  Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

Vodafone, Idea merge to create giant

What’s Happening-

Idea Cellular, the Kumar Mangalam Birla-led telecommunications major, agreed to merge with the Indian unit of the U.K.-headquartered Vodafone Plc, making it a $23 billion giant.

Background-

The move, though not surprising, has stoked rumours that the current tariff war, initiated by the Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio’s entry into the high-speed data market in 2016, will possibly come to an end in the near future.

Key Points discussed were:

  • The merged entity becomes India’s largest mobile telephony and data service provider with 39.25 crore customers, ahead of current market leader Airtel, which has a 26.44 crore user base.
  • Both figures are provided by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.
  • Brand strategy:
  • A joint statement issued by Vodafone and Idea said the combined company would have a 35% customer market share and 41% revenue market share. It said that the brand strategy for the new firm “will be developed in due course” and “will leverage customers’ affinity for both existing brands, built up over the past decade.”
  • Kumar Mangalam Birla will be the chairperson of the merged entity. 
  • Impact of TELECOM sector and GOI revenue:
  • Rajan Mathews, director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India, said-
  • “There is currently a tariff war in the market which may not be sustainable for long. This has also severely impacted the revenue stream of operators, not just in terms of an increase in cost but also in terms of a marked decline in the revenue stream”.
  • All these have put the financial condition of this industry at risk and increased the debt to Rs. 4.3 lakh crore, also leading to a severe decline in government revenues from the industry.
  • He said that in contrast to 13 operators a few years ago, the Indian mobile telecom market is down to “four or five operators.”

Due to the poor financial health of the sector, we are witnessing mergers, acquisitions and combinations of companies like Idea and Vodafone, Aircel and R Comm and MTS. Other companies such as Videocon and Etisalat have already left the industry because of this hyper-competitive pressure.