Content

  1. The Biden touch to sober, yet substantive ties
  2. A colonial relic

Editorial: The Biden touch to sober, yet substantive ties

Context:

  • One year since former United States President Donald Trump spoke about the India-U.S. relationship, and his own relationship with his “true friend” Prime Minister Narendra Modi in glowing terms at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad, much has changed for both countries.

Relevance:

  • GS Paper 2: India USA Relations

Mains Questions:

  1. The India-U.S. relationship may not change from the course that Trump chose, but China and rights could be issues. Discuss. 15 Marks
  2. It is safe to say that on a majority of issues, including COVID-19, climate, health care, immigration and restoring America’s global standing, New Delhi and Washington are already engaging each other, and are on the same page. Discuss. 15 Marks

Dimensions of the Article:

  • The connect this time
  • Other areas of cooperation
  • Issues related to both the countries:
  • Way Forward

The connect this time

  • The Quadrilateral and Indo Pacific Policy: The USA and India, both have similar interests in Indo Pacific regions. Under new presidentship of USA, this coordination will further improved.
  • Revival of Paris Deal: Both countries will cooperate to fulfil the goals of The Paris Deal. Which will help to address the issues related to climate change.
  • Health Coordination: The State Department spokesperson revealed plans for an “an overarching memorandum of understanding (MoU) to enhance health cooperation” which will deal with COVID-19 testing, vaccination and critical drug supplies.
  • Resolving Visa and Green Cards Issues: Mr. Biden’s decision to lift restrictions and caps on a number of visas and green cards has no doubt relieved the Modi government of one of the constant sources of worry.

Other areas of cooperation

  • Economy: US is India’s largest trading partner and inbound FDI from the US is in excess of $50 billion. While Indian and U.S. negotiators failed to forge a trade deal, they would work on a legal framework for a future deal which can become Phase 1 of a comprehensive bilateral trade agreement.
  • Energy cooperation: US India launched Strategic Energy Partnership, in 2018, to enhance energy security, bolster strategic alignment etc. India has started importing crude and LNG from the US in recent years, with total imports estimated at $6.7 billion — having grown from zero.
  • Collaboration in science, technology and innovation: It is one of the strong pillars of cooperation between two. E.g. During COVID-19, Indo-US Virtual Networks for COVID-19 were established to provide a platform to enable Indian and American scientists from academia, to carry out joint research activities. 
  • Global partnership:
    • This has been most defining feature of partnership between two. Both are part of Quadrilateral security dialogue, and collaborate on forums like East Asia Summit, G-20. Also, US expressed interest to India’s integration to G-7. This has been happening in the backdrop of rising aggression of China in the region and beyond, which is seen by the US and India as a common strategic challenge.
    • To promote “high quality, trusted standards for global infrastructure development” India US along with others proposed Blue Dot Network. It is an across-the-board certification process that aims to bring governments, the private sector and civil society together. It is seen as counter to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
  • Diaspora and people to people ties: Strength of Indian diaspora in US is around 4.5 million which is around 1% of its population. Indian diaspora is a source and agent of soft power, an effective public diplomacy tool and is acknowledged for its work ethos, discipline, non-interference and peaceful living with the locals.

Issues related to both the countries:

  • Trade related Transnationalism of USA: It was manifested in USA policies under former President Trump, like removal of India from its list of developing countries and taking off India from list of beneficiary-developing countries under its scheme of Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) by US. 
  • WTO disputes: India USA are involved in WTO disputes on issues like, Capping prices of medical devices by India, greater Indian market access for American agriculture and dairy products etc.
  • IPR: India is also on U.S.’s “Priority Watch List” which identifies countries posing challenges to American intellectual property rights. Also, The US wants India to strengthen patent regulations, and to ease the limitations American companies investing in India face.
  • U.S.’s soft policy towards Pakistan: US President said US’ relationship with Pakistan is a “very good one” and in 2019, U.S. decided to resume The International Military Education and Training Programme (IMET) that had been a central pillar of the U.S.-Pakistan military cooperation for years.
  • USA tensions with Iran, Russia: Putting unilateral curbs on Russian and Iranian imports into India through CAATSA would impinge on India’s relations with Iran, Russia, both relations in which India has strong stakes.
  • Divergence of interests in Afghanistan: In the backdrop of Afghan Peace deal, if the U.S. leaves Afghanistan, it will directly strengthen the hands of the Taliban in Afghanistan, which means Pakistan’s profile in Afghanistan will be lifted.
  • View on Indo-Pacific strategy: While USA policy on Indo-Pacific is directed to counter rise of Chinese footprint, India proclaimed that it follows a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific (FOIIP) policy which differs from US’ free and open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) policy.

Way Forward

Despite the differences in some areas, the upward trajectory in India USA relations indicates a sense of greater nuance to the need for institutionalisation of bilateral ties — towards not only graduating the bilateral dynamic away from over-dependence on chemistry between the top political leadership, but also design frameworks in a manner that maximise convergences between the two countries.


Editorial: A colonial relic

Context:

  • A sessions court in Delhi 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.

Relevance:

  • GS Paper 2: Fundamental Rights

Mains Questions:

  1. Repeated misuse of sedition law underlines the need to scrap it altogether. Discuss. 15 Marks

Dimensions of the Article:

  • Origin and evolution
  • About Section 124A of Indian Penal Code (IPC)
  • Criticism of Sedition
  • Sedition: Views of Judiciary
  • Conclusion

Origin and evolution

  • It was added through Special Act XVII of 1870 to suppress freedom of speech and expression during colonial rule. Mahatma Gandhi called Section 124A “the prince among the political sections of the IPC designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen”.

About Section 124A of Indian Penal Code (IPC)

  • It was drafted by Thomas Babington Macaulay and included in the IPC in 1870.
  • It states that , “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 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.”
  • Punishment under Section 124A Sedition is a non-bailable offence.
  • A person charged under this law can’t apply for a government job. They have to live without their passport and must present themselves in the court as and when required.

Criticism of Sedition

  • Colonial Era law: It is a colonial relic and a preventive provision that should only be read as an emergency measure.
  • Right to Freedom of expression: Use of Section 124A by the government might go beyond the reasonable restrictions provided under fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression as per Article 19 of the Constitution.
  • Democratic foundation: Dissent and criticism of the government are essential ingredients of robust public debate in a vibrant democracy and therefore, should not be constructed as sedition. The sedition law is being misused as a tool to persecute political dissent.
  • Lower Conviction Rate: Though police are charging more people with sedition, few cases actually result in a conviction. Since 2016, only four sedition cases have seen a conviction in court which indicates that sedition as an offence has no solid legal grounding in India.
  • Vague provision of sedition laws: The terms used under Section 124A like ‘disaffection’ are vague and subject to different interpretation to the whims and fancies of the investigating officers.
  • Other legal measure for offences against the state: Indian Penal Code and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (1967), have provisions that penalize “disrupting the public order” or “overthrowing the government with violence and illegal means”. These are sufficient for protecting the national integrity. o Similarly, the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act is also there for offences against the state.
  • Perception of law: Globally, sedition is increasingly viewed as a draconian law and was revoked in the United Kingdom in 2010. In Australia, following the recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) the term sedition was removed.

Sedition: Views of Judiciary

  • The constitutionality of sedition was challenged in the Supreme Court in Kedar Nath Vs State of Bihar (1962). The Court upheld the law on the basis that this power was required by the state to protect itself.
    • However, it had added a vital caveat that “a person could be prosecuted for sedition only if his acts caused incitement to violence or intention or tendency to create public disorder or cause disturbance of public peace”.
    • The court held that “a citizen has a right to say or write whatever he likes about the Government, or its measures, by way of criticism or comment, so long as he does not incite people to violence against the Government established by law or with the intention of creating public disorder”.
  • In the 1995 Balwant Singh case verdict, the Apex Court said, ‘The casual raising of slogans once or twice by two individuals alone cannot be said to be aimed at exciting or attempt to excite hatred or disaffection towards the government”.
  • In September 2016, the Supreme Court had reiterated these necessary safeguards and held that they should be followed by all authorities.
  • Essential ingredients for a seditious act: Various verdicts in Romesh Thappar case, Kedar Nath Singh case, Kanahiya Kumar case re-defined a seditious act only if it had essential ingredients as
    • Disruption of public order
    • Attempt to violently overthrow a lawful government
    • Threatening the security of State or of public.

Conclusion

It is abundantly clear that freedom of speech and expression within the Indian legal tradition includes within its ambit any form of criticism, dissent and protest. Dissent acts as a safety valve in a vibrant democracy and every restriction on free speech and liberty must be carefully imposed weighing its reasonableness. Therefore, as suggested by the Law commission of India, invoking 124A should be restricted only to criminalize acts committed with the intention to disrupt public order or to overthrow the Government with explicit violence and illegal means.

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