Brexit in trouble
- On July 21, the Boris Johnson administration informed the European Union (EU) that it wants to renegotiate the Brexit deal’s Northern Ireland Protocol.
- The EU has ruled out a renegotiation, but says it is open to “practical, flexible solutions”.
- The sovereign territory of the U.K. includes England, Wales, Scotland, and what is known as Northern Ireland, which occupies a portion of the island of Ireland.
- The lion’s share of the island (26 of the 32 counties) forms the independent Republic of Ireland.
- Ireland has long seen tensions between the Catholics/Nationalists, who want a unified Irish republic, and the Protestants/Unionists, who are loyal to the British crown.
- The long and violent conflict between the two sides — known as The Troubles — ended with the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, whose fragile peace rests on a principle that Brexit has now disrupted: there won’t be a border (and all that entails, such as checkpoints and customs) between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
- Northern Ireland is the only part of the U.K. that shares a land border with the EU, as Ireland is an EU member-state. As long as the U.K. was part of the EU, there was no problem.
- But Brexit took the U.K. out of the EU’s customs union
- The Protocol’s solution was to avoid a customs check on the island of Ireland. Instead, it envisaged a ‘sea border’ at the ports of Northern Island. Certain goods — meant only for Northern Ireland but not for Ireland, which falls within the EU market — would undergo checks here before entering the island.
- The creation of an economic barrier between the British mainland and Northern Ireland has affected the free flow of goods between the two.
- Businesses in Northern Ireland have been complaining about cumbersome paperwork and compliance costs
- All this has angered the Unionists, who see it as another attempt to dilute their links with the U.K., pushing them into the arms of the Irish republic
- ”It has proposed changes to the Protocol:
- no more checks on goods moving from mainland Britain to Northern Ireland where a business self-certifies that its products are not meant for use in the EU;
- a dual regime wherein goods made to either U.K. standards or EU standards can circulate anywhere in Ireland;
- removal of the need for any ‘export declarations’ on goods going from Northern Ireland to Great Britain.
- rewriting of the clause in Article 10 that requires the U.K. subsidies that affect trade with Northern Ireland to comply with EU rules;
- and finally, ending the right of EU institutions such as the European Court of Justice to enforce the Protocol
Concern of EU
- These proposals would be unacceptable to the EU, as they outsource the enforcement of the Protocol — and the European customs union — entirely to the U.K. Besides, it’s only last year that the U.K. signed the Protocol, and given that nothing has changed since then, the EU will insist that the U.K. honour the deal.
Supreme court on cooperative societies
- The recent Supreme Court verdict striking down a part of the 97th Constitutional Amendment, insofar as it dealt with cooperative societies under the domain of the States, has brought the focus on the extent to which the Centre can seek to lay down policy for the functioning of cooperative societies
- The Union government, in its Statement of Objects and Reasons for the amendment, referred to the “weaknesses” in safeguarding the interests of members of cooperatives and the fulfilment of the objectives of these institutions
- It referred to delayed elections, nomination of office-bearers for long durations, reduced accountability in management and inadequate professionalism in many societies.
- It spoke of the need to initiate fundamental reforms to revitalize these institutions and ensure “their autonomy, democratic functioning and professional management”
- Recognizing that ‘cooperative societies’ came under Entry 32 of the State List in the Seventh Schedule, the Amendment proposed to create a framework for the functioning of cooperative societies. State laws on cooperatives should conform to this framework.
- It introduced Part IXB in the Constitution so that the concept of cooperative societies gains constitutional recognition. It was on the lines of Part IX, which deals with panchayats, and Part IXA, which deals with urban local bodies.
- The idea was to empower Parliament to frame laws for cooperative societies that function across States (multi-State cooperative societies) and State legislatures to make laws for all other cooperative societies falling under their jurisdiction
- On a legal challenge to the validity of the 97th Amendment, the Gujarat High Court struck down Part IXB in its entirety on two grounds.
- First, the Amendment required not only a two-thirds majority in Parliament, which was obtained, but also had to be ratified by 50% of the State legislatures.
- This was because the Amendment impinged on a subject over which only the State legislatures had law-making powers.
- In the absence of such ratification, the Part was declared unconstitutional.
- The Centre’s defense was that the Amendment did not alter the entry in the State List on ‘cooperative societies’. In fact, it specified that the State legislatures would enact the relevant laws based on a common framework.
- There was no need for ratification by the Assemblies, as no subject was shifted from the State List to the Central or Concurrent List. However, the Supreme Court rejected the argument.
- The Amendment added the words “or cooperative societies” to Article 19(1)(c) of the Constitution to expand the fundamental right to form associations or unions to cover cooperative societies too.
- It also added a ‘Directive Principle’ through Article 43B, which says: “The State shall endeavor to promote voluntary formation, autonomous functioning, democratic control and professional management of cooperative societies.”
- These clauses remain undisturbed.
- In line with the Supreme Court’s judgment, Part IXB dealing with cooperative societies will survive, but only with reference to multi-State societies
- The Ministry of Cooperation was formed recently, apparently with a view to giving a fillip to the cooperative movement and reforming the functioning of cooperative societies. Until now, the subject was dealt with by the Agriculture Ministry.
- It administered the Multi-State Cooperative Societies Act, 2002.
- The new Ministry will continue this work. For now, it will not be in a position to compel States to bring their cooperative laws in conformity with the Centre’s vision
Surveillance law in India
- It has now evolved to include “zero-click” attacks, where the target need not take any action for the phone to be infected
- Section 5(2) of The Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, states that the government can intercept a “message or class of messages” when it is “in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign states or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of an offence”
- The operational process and procedures for it appear in Rule 419A of the Indian Telegraph Rules, 1951.
- Rule 419A was added to the Telegraph Rules in 2007 after the verdict in the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) vs Union of India case in 1996, in which the Supreme Court said telephonic conversations are covered by the right to privacy, which can be breached only if there are established procedures.
- Under Rule 419A, surveillance needs the sanction of the Home Secretary at the Central or State level, but in “unavoidable circumstance” can be cleared by a Joint Secretary or officers above, if they have the Home Secretary’s authorization
- In the K.S. Puttaswamy vs Union of India verdict of 2017, the Supreme Court further reiterated the need for oversight of surveillance, stating that it should be legally valid and serve a legitimate aim of the government.
- The court also said the means adopted should be proportional to the need for surveillance, and there should be procedures to check any abuse of surveillance
- The second legislation enabling surveillance is Section 69 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, which deals with electronic surveillance.
- It facilitates government “interception or monitoring or decryption of any information through any computer resource” if it is in the interest of the “sovereignty or integrity of India, defence of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States or public order” or for preventing or investigating any cognizable offence.
- The procedure for electronic surveillance as authorised by Section 69 is detailed in the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009.
- Drug repositioning (also called drug repurposing) involves the investigation of existing drugs for new therapeutic purposes.
- Drug repositioning is a “universal strategy” for neglected diseases due to
- reduced number of required clinical trial steps could reduce the time and costs for the medicine to reach market,
- existing pharmaceutical supply chains could facilitate “formulation and distribution” of the drug,
- known possibility of combining with other drugs could allow more effective treatment,
- the repositioning could facilitate the discovery of “new mechanisms of action for old drugs and new classes of medicines”
Moon forming area around planet
- Scientists for the first time have spotted a moon-forming region around a planet beyond our solar system – a Jupiter-like world surrounded by a disc of gas and dust massive enough that it could spawn three moons the size of the one orbiting Earth.
- The researchers used the ALMA observatory in Chile’s Atacama desert to detect the disc of swirling material accumulating around one of two new born planets seen orbiting a young star called PDS 70, located 370 light years from Earth