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27 February 2021: The Hindu Editorial Analysis

1) “A colonial relic”.

Repeated misuse of sedition law underlines the need to scrap it altogether

GS-3: Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges,


Context:

  1. A Delhi court granted bail to climate activist Disha Ravi, arrested in connection with allegedly being involved in sharing a "toolkit" on social media related to the farmers' protest, terming evidence produced by police as scanty and sketchy.
  2. A session’s court has affirmed the belief that a dispassionate scrutiny of outlandish claims by the police is necessary for protecting the liberty of those jailed on flimsy, often political, reasons.
  3.  In particular, the judge has applied the established test for a charge of sedition under Section 124A of the IPC to pass muster: that the act involved must constitute a threat to public order and incitement to violence.

 

Meaning of Sedition Law in India:

  1. Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code deals with the offence of sedition. It lays down that,
  2. Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law in India,
  3. Parson  shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine”.
  4. The Case in Devi Saran v/s State AIR 1954 Pat 254, the SC Court has held that Section 124A imposes reasonable restriction on the interest of public order & therefore it is protected under Article 19 (2) of the Constitution.

 

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Significance of Judgment:

  1. Judgment says Citizens are conscience keepers of government in any democratic nation. They cannot be put behind bars simply because they choose to disagree with the state policies.
  2. Even our founding fathers of constitution accorded due respect to divergence of opinion by recognising the freedom of speech and expression as an inviolable fundamental right.
  3. “Let noble thoughts come to me from all directions” because our founding fathers of Indian constitution granted some fundamental right for that.
  4. The Difference of opinion, disagreement, divergence, dissent, or for that matter even disapprobation, are recognized legitimate tools to infuse objectivity in state policies.
  5. An aware and assertive citizenry, in contradistinction with an indifferent or docile citizenry, is indisputably a sign of a healthy and vibrant democracy.”

 

Freedom of the press in India:

  1. The rights of the press in India arise out of the freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.
  2. The press has a variety of rights including the right to publish, right to circulate, right to receive information, right to advertise, right to dissent, etc.
  3. Some of the major laws related to mass media in India include the following:  First Press Regulations, Gagging Act, Indian Press Act, Vernacular Press Act, Official Secrets Act, Press and Registration of Books Act, Sea Customs Act, Contempt of Court.
  4. Media law covers an area of law which involves media of all types (TV, film, music, publishing, advertising, internet & new media, etc.), and stretches over various legal fields, including but not limited to corporate, finance, intellectual property, publicity and privacy.
  5. Social media law India is regulated by the Information Technology Act which was enacted in the year 2000 to regulate, control and deal with the issues arising out of the IT. Social networking media is an within the meaning of Indian information technology act 2000 (IT Act 2000)

 

Restrictions on Freedom of Press in India:

  1.  The freedom of press comes within the ambit of freedom of speech & expression. In a democracy, freedom of press is highly essential as it acts as a watchdog on the three organs of a democracy viz. the legislature, the executive & the judiciary.
  2.  But, the freedom of press is not absolute in nature. It is subject to certain restrictions which are mentioned in Article 19(2) of the Constitution. The following are the grounds of restrictions laid down in Article 19(2) :
  3. Sovereignty & Integrity of India, Security of the State,  Friendly relations with Foreign States ,Public Order Decency or Morality and  Contempt of Court
  4.   The grounds of ‘Public Order’ & ‘Friendly relations with Foreign States’ was added by the Constitution (First Amendment) Act,1951.
  5. While the ground of ‘Sovereignty & Integrity of India’ was added by the Constitution (Sixteenth Amendment) Act, 1963.

 

A trend and caused concern:

  1. The tendency of the rulers to treat instances of dissent, especially involving strident criticism of policies and laws in which particular regimes are deeply invested, as attempts to provoke disaffection and disloyalty.
  2. It is significant that the judge not only saw Ms. Ravi’s activism as related to her freedom of speech and expression, but went on to say that an attempt to reach a global audience is part of that freedom.
  3. It should also be underscored that such bail orders should not be rare or special, but be routine judicial responses to cases in which there is a mismatch between the accusation and the evidence.

 

Way forward:

  1. There are no geographical barriers on communication. A citizen has the fundamental rights to use the best means of imparting and receiving communication, as long as the same is permissible under the four corners of law and as such have access to audience abroad.
  2. It is by now fairly clear to everyone except, perhaps, the government and its vociferous supporters, that there is no place in a modern democracy for a colonial-era legal provision such as sedition.
  3. The sedition is too broadly defined, prone to misuse, and functioning as a handy tool to repress activism, the section deserves to be scrapped.
  4. The Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi, "The role of journalism should be service. The Press is a great power, but just as an unchained torrent of water submerges the whole countryside and devastates crops, even so an uncontrolled pen serves but to destroy.

 

2) Imparting direction to science in India.

While it is a mixed bag as far as the metrics on scientific research are concerned, the draft policy seeks a new path.

GS-3:  Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.


Context:

  1. National Science Day (NSD) will be conducted on February 28 to commemorate the discovery of Raman Effect by Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman. He went on to receive a Nobel Prize for this discovery in the year 1930.
  2. The progress that India has made in science and technology research, thanks to its science policies. It is also an opportunity to ponder about the problems that we face in research.

 

Publications and patents

  1. The good news: from the report published by the National Science Foundation of the U.S. in December 2019, India was the third largest publisher of peer-reviewed science and engineering journal articles and conference papers, with 135,788 articles in 2018.
  2. This milestone was achieved through an average yearly growth rate of 10.73% from 2008, which was greater than China’s 7.81%. However, China and the United States had about thrice and twice the number, respectively, of India’s publications.
  3. The not-so-good news is that publications from India are not impactful. From the report, in the top 1% of the most cited publications from 2016 (called HCA, or Highly Cited Articles),
  4. India’s index score of 0.7 is lower than that of the U.S., China and the European Union. An index score of 1 or more is considered good. The inference for India is that the impact, and hence the citation of publications from India, should improve.

 

India in International patent applications:

  1. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) through their Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) is the primary channel of filing international patent applications.
  2.  In its report for 2019, WIPO says India filed a modest number of 2,053 patent applications. Compared to the 58,990 applications filed by China and 57,840 by the U.S.
  3.  This was the first time that China filed more patent applications than the U.S.
  4. The Indian Government put in place the National Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Policy in 2016 to “stimulate a dynamic, vibrant and balanced intellectual property rights system”. One of the objectives is human capital development.
  5. The mission to foster innovation, replicate it at scale and commercialize it is a work in progress consequent to the policy.
  6. India needs hawk-eye’s focus à la China which filed just 276 patent applications in 1999 but rose to become an innovation titan in 2019.

 

The “Science policies” over time:

  1. There have been four science policies till now, after 1947, with the draft of the fifth science policy 2020 having been released recently.
  2. India’s first science policy adopted in 1958, Scientific Policy Resolution, aimed to develop scientific enterprise and lay the foundation for scientific temper.
  3. It led to the establishment of many research institutes and national laboratories, and by 1980, India had developed advanced scientific infrastructure with sufficient scientific personnel.
  4. The focus in the second science policy, Technology Policy Statement, in 1983, was technological self-reliance and to use technology to benefit all sections of the society, while strengthening research in fields such as electronics and biotechnology.

 

India science policy and its Aim:

  1. The Science and Technology Policy 2003, the first science policy after the economic   liberalization of 1991, aimed to increase investment in research and development and brought it to 0.7%. The Scientific and Engineering Research Board (SERB) was established to promote research.
  2. In 2013, India’s science policy included Innovation in its scope and was called Science, Technology and Innovation Policy. The focus was to be one of the top five global scientific leaders,
  3. STIP 2013 roadmap which India achieved through building partnerships with States, establishing more research and development centers and collaborating in international projects such as the Large Hadron Collider in the European Union.

 

Fifth Science, Technology and Innovation Policy 2020 (STIP2020):

  1.  The draft of the Science, Technology and Innovation Policy 2020 (STIP2020), the fifth science policy that was released in January 2021 offers hope to research in India.
  2. STIP2020 has an ambitious vision to “double the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) researchers, Gross Domestic Expenditure on R&D (GERD) and private sector contribution to the GERD every 5 years” and to “position India among the top three scientific superpowers in the next decade”.
  3. STIP2020 defines an Open Science Framework which will create a “one nation, one subscription” solution that will give all individuals and institutions in India access to all top journals through a central subscription.
  4. This scheme will provide fillip to improving access to knowledge. It also defines strategies to improve funding for and participation in research.
  5. India’s Gross Domestic Expenditure on R&D (GERD) is currently around 0.6% of GDP. This is quite low when compared to the investments by the U.S. and China which are greater than 2%. Israel’s GERD is more than 4%.

 

The key reason for India’s low funding in R&D and solution:

  1. India’s low funding in R&D is the low private sector contribution and law people participation in research and innovation.
  2. STIP2020 defines solutions to improve funding thus: all States to fund research, multinational corporations to participate in research, fiscal incentives and support for innovation in medium and small scale enterprises.
  3. The new measures should not become a pretext to absolve the Union and State governments of their primacy in funding research; the government should invest more into research.

 

Key areas and focus:

  1. The critical focal areas are inclusion of under-represented groups of people in research, support for indigenous knowledge systems, using artificial intelligence,
  2. The reaching out to the Indian scientific diaspora for collaboration, science diplomacy with partner countries, and setting up a strategic technology development fund to give impetus to research.
  3. Science diplomacy is at the fore now with India offering COVID-19 vaccines to many countries; formulating a policy around it will yield dividends.
  4. The Support for indigenous knowledge systems should enable them to improve upon their limitations in subscribing to transparency and verifiability.

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Conclusion:

  1. India ranks third among the most attractive investment destinations for technology transactions in the world, India has reiterated that technology is a strong priority area for the Government, and it aims to make people science centric
  2. The India science policy seeks to define strategies that are “decentralized, evidence-informed, bottom-up, experts-driven, and inclusive”. It is in draft stage and will have to be finalised and placed before the cabinet for approval.
  3. India’s the right moves and strikes the right notes to make India future-ready. More specific directives and implementation with a scientific temper without engaging in hyperbole will be key to the policy’s success.