The HINDU Notes – 11th May 2020 - VISION

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Monday, May 11, 2020

The HINDU Notes – 11th May 2020

📰 Indian, Chinese troops face off in Ladakh, Sikkim

•A defence source said that at Muguthang, the road on the Chinese side is motorable, and on the Indian side, it is a remote area. Due to this, they can bring in a large number of troops if need be, the source added.

•Both countries have differing perceptions owing to the non-demarcated boundary, which lead to transgressions and face-offs, as each side patrols up to the areas they claim along the 3,448-km Line of Actual Control (LAC).

•Any such issue is resolved through the mechanisms put in place to maintain peace and tranquillity on the border.

•In September 2019, a scuffle broke out between the patrol teams of both sides near Pangong Tso. The issue was resolved in a few hours after a delegation-level meeting at the Border Personnel Meeting (BPM) point at Chushul. In August 2017, a video surfaced, showing several hundred soldiers hurling stones at each other.

•In January 2020, Army Chief Gen. Manoj Naravane said that after the Wuhan summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in April 2018, differences over the border were being settled at the lowest level.

📰 Nepal to beef up border security

Move follows row over Kalapani region

•Nepal will increase the number of security outposts and deploy more armed personnel in the border with India, Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali told The Hindu on Sunday.

•The senior Minister said Kathmandu expects India to avoid any unilateral measures in the Kalapani region and remain committed to the ‘fixed border’ principle as agreed during the past official talks.

•The Kalapani region is claimed by Nepal but India has been maintaining that the new political map of 2019 has shown the territory “accurately” as part of Uttarakhand.

•Nepal’s decision follows protests in Kathmandu on Saturday after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday inaugurated a link road to Lipulekh pass that will reduce the travel time for pilgrims to the Kailash Mansarovar region.

•“The number of border posts on our side is less when compared to the security arrangement on the Indian side. We have approximately 120 border posts at present and are planning to increase the numbers in the future,” said Mr. Gyawali over the phone from Kathmandu.

•In a strongly worded statement, Nepal’s Foreign Ministry had said the decision to build the road through territory that it claims is a breach of an agreement reached between the two countries.

📰 The trends shaping the post-COVID-19 world

Six geopolitical lines will define the contours of the emerging global order

•The COVID-19 pandemic began as a global health crisis. As it spread rapidly across nations, country after country responded with a lockdown, triggering a global economic crisis. Certain geopolitical trendlines were already discernible but the COVID-19 shock therapy has brought these into sharper focus, defining the contours of the emerging global (dis)order.

Asia ascending, U.S. waning

•The first trend which became clear in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis is the rise of Asia. Economic historians pointed to its inevitability, recalling that till the 18th century, Asia accounted for half the global GDP. The Industrial Revolution accompanied by European naval expansion and colonialism contributed to the rise of the West, and now the balance is being restored. The 2008 financial crisis showed the resilience of the Asian economies, and even today, economic forecasts indicate that out of the G-20 countries, only China and India are likely to register economic growth during 2020.

•Asian countries have also demonstrated greater agility in tackling the pandemic compared to the United States and Europe. This is not limited to China but a number of other Asian states have shown greater responsiveness and more effective state capacity. Consequently, Asian economies will recover faster than those in the West.

•The second trend is the retreat of the U.S. after a century of being in the forefront of shaping the global order. From the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations after World War I or the creation of the United Nations and Bretton Woods institutions after World War II, to leadership of the western world during the Cold War, moulding global responses to threats posed by terrorism or proliferation or climate change, the U.S. played a decisive role.

•U.S. hubris and arrogance also generated resentment, more evident in recent years. Interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq have become quagmires that have sapped domestic political will and resources. This is the fatigue that (former) U.S. President Barack Obama sensed when he talked of “leading from behind”. President Donald Trump changed it to “America first” and during the current crisis, the U.S.’s efforts at cornering supplies of scarce medical equipment and medicines and acquiring biotech companies engaged in research and development in allied states, show that this may mean “America alone”. Moreover, even as countries were losing trust in the U.S.’s leadership, its bungled response at home to the pandemic indicates that countries are also losing trust in the U.S.’s competence. The U.S. still remains the largest economy and the largest military power but has lost the will and ability to lead. This mood is unlikely to change, whatever the outcome of the election later this year.

Intra-European fission

•A third trend is the European Union’s continuing preoccupation with internal challenges generated by its expansion of membership to include East European states, impact of the financial crisis among the Eurozone members, and ongoing Brexit negotiations. Threat perceptions vary between old Europe and new Europe making it increasingly difficult to reach agreement on political matters e:g relations with Russia and China. The trans-Atlantic divide is aggravating an intra-European rift. Rising populism has given greater voice to Euro-sceptics and permitted some EU members to espouse the virtues of “illiberal democracy”.

•Adding to this is the North-South divide within the Eurozone. Strains showed up when austerity measures were imposed on Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal a decade ago by the European Central Bank, persuaded by the fiscally conservative Austria, Germany and the Netherlands. Recently, ECB chief Christine Lagarde’s press statement in end-March that “ECB is not here to close spreads” undermined any solidarity that the Italians felt as they battled with the pandemic and growing borrowing costs.

•Further damage was done when Italy was denied medical equipment by its EU neighbours who introduced export controls, which led to China airlifting medical teams and critical supplies. Schengen visa or free-border movement has already become a victim to the pandemic. The EU will need considerable soul searching to rediscover the limits of free movement of goods, services, capital and people, the underlying theme of the European experiment of shared sovereignty.

Rising China

•A fourth trend, related to the first, is the emergence of a stronger and more assertive China. While China’s growing economic role has been visible since it joined the World Trade Organization at the turn of the century, its more assertive posture has taken shape under President Xi Jinping’s leadership with the call that a rejuvenated China is now ready to assume global responsibilities. Chinese assertiveness has raised concerns, first in its neighbourhood, and now in the U.S. that feels betrayed because it assisted China’s rise in the hope that an economically integrated China would become politically more open. In recent years, the U.S.-China relationship moved from cooperation to competition; and now with trade and technology wars, it is moving steadily to confrontation. The pandemic has seen increasing rhetoric on both sides and with the election season in the U.S., confrontation will only increase. A partial economic de-coupling had begun and will gather greater momentum.

•Mr. Xi has engaged in an unprecedented centralisation of power, and with the removal of the two-term limit, has made it clear that he will continue beyond 2022. His signature Belt and Road Initiative seeks to connect China to the Eurasia and Africa through both maritime and land routes by investing trillions of dollars in infrastructure building as a kind of pre-emptive move against any U.S. attempts at containment. Even if Mr. Xi’s leadership comes under questioning, it may soften some aggressive policy edges but the confrontational rivalry with U.S. will remain.

Fading organisations

•Global problems demand global responses. With COVID-19, international and multilateral bodies are nowhere on the scene. The World Health Organization (WHO) was the natural candidate to lead global efforts against the health crisis but it has become a victim of politics. Its early endorsement of the Chinese efforts has put it on the defensive as the U.S. blames the outbreak on a Chinese biotech lab and accuses Beijing of suppressing vital information that contributed to the spread. The UN Security Council (UNSC), the G-7 and the G-20 (latter was structured to co-ordinate a global response to the 2008 financial crisis) are paralysed at when the world faces the worst recession since 1929.

•The reality is that these institutions were always subjected to big power politics. During the Cold War, U.S.-Soviet rivalry blocked the UNSC on many sensitive issues and now with major power rivalry returning, finds itself paralysed again. Agencies such as WHO have lost autonomy over decades as their regular budgets shrank, forcing them to increasingly rely on voluntary contributions sourced largely from western countries and foundations. U.S. leadership strengthened the Bretton Woods institutions in recent decades (The World Bank spends 250% of WHO’s budget on global health) because the U.S.’s voting power gives it a blocking veto. The absence of a multilateral response today highlights the long-felt need for reform of these bodies but this cannot happen without collective global leadership.

The energy factor

•The final trend relates to energy politics. Growing interest in renewables and green technologies on account of climate change concerns, and the U.S. emerging as a major energy producer were fundamentally altering the energy markets. Now, a looming economic recession and depressed oil prices will exacerbate internal tensions in West Asian countries which are solely dependent on oil revenues. Long-standing rivalries in the region have often led to local conflicts but can now create political instability in countries where regime structures are fragile.

•A vaccine for the novel coronavirus, possibly by end-2020, will help deal with the global health crisis but these unfolding trends have now been aggravated by the more pernicious panic virus. Rising nationalism and protectionist responses will prolong the economic recession into a depression, sharpening inequalities and polarisations. Greater unpredictability and more turbulent times lie ahead.

📰 The epidemic and ensuring safety in courts

Suitable measures must be put in place for conducting proceedings after the lockdown is lifted

•In a letter addressed to the Chief Justice of India, the Bar Council of India has opposed the continuation of virtual hearings once the lockdown is lifted, on the grounds that 90% of the advocates and judges are “unaware of technology and its nuances”. The COVID-19 crisis is far from over. Once the lockdown is lifted, unless the number of advocates/litigants is restricted in open court proceedings, the possibility of the virus spreading is high.

•On April 6, invoking its powers under Article 142 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court issued certain directions for the functioning of courts through video conferencing during the lockdown. The Court directed the State officials of the National Informatics Centre (NIC) to liaison with the respective High Courts and formulate a plan for the virtual functioning of courts. A virtual court hearing is one where there is no physical court room. All the participants take part in proceedings using telephone or video conferencing facilities. It was made clear that the guidelines for this would be formulated by the NIC and sent to the respective courts and lawyers. But the NIC has not yet notified the guidelines. In its order, the Supreme Court had also indicated that the district courts would follow the video conferencing rules as formulated by the respective High Courts.

E-filing system

•In the United Kingdom, a considerable amount of work has gone into putting in place the infrastructure necessary to facilitate remote court hearings. For instance, a user must have a personal computer running Windows, OS X or Linux; a web browser such as Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome; the Adobe Reader 11 software; and a scanner. Only documents in PDF format are accepted for e-filing. Thus, e-filings involve a certain amount of technical knowledge and capability.

•In India, most advocates and litigants are unaware of and unwilling to use these services. The e-filing system was introduced in the Delhi High Court in 2009. Compared to the other High Courts in the country, the Delhi High Court is far ahead in terms of technology. About 10 courts in the Delhi High Court function as e-courts. Moreover, there are 13 e-courts functioning in the district courts attached to the Delhi High Court. Another 11 e-courts will soon be functional.

•There is also sufficient technical manpower in the Delhi High Court (70) and district courts (30). In the Delhi High Court, e-filing is mandatory for company, taxation and arbitration jurisdictions. The facility for e-filing of cases pertaining to the Delhi High Court was also made available from April 7, 2020, at all the court complexes of the Delhi district courts.

•Realising that the lockdown may continue for a while, the Delhi High Court formed a panel to create a graded plan for courts functioning after the lockdown. The committee, headed by Justice Hima Kohli, was formed with the expectation that there will be a deluge of new cases after the lockdown is lifted. The letter addressed by the Registrar General to the district judges attached to the Delhi High Court clearly mentions that it may not be possible to predict a definite cut-off date for the resumption of normal functioning of the court system as there is no certainty about when the COVID-19 threat will end. One of the issues refers to ensuring availability of proportionate court infrastructure till normalcy is completely restored. The Delhi High Court has sought suggestions from the district courts for the effective functioning of e-courts.

•In the Bombay High Court, e-courts started functioning from 2013. Initially they started taking up company matters, arbitration and conciliation matters, income tax appeals and suits. Now even writs, suits and testamentary matters are heard by e-courts. In the Madras High Court, the facility for e-filing of cases, which was initially only for bail applications, was launched on April 22, 2020. Filing of urgent cases through e-mail is also permitted now.

•While it is true that there is less pressure on the courts now, this will change once the lockdown is lifted. It is in this context that suitable safety measures must be put in place for conducting proceedings after the lockdown is lifted. The method of hearing post lockdown will depend on the facilities available at the court concerned. While such facilities are largely available in the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court, they are not available in the various other High Courts and subordinate courts. The judiciary must be allotted sufficient funds for self-administration and timely delivery of justice. Today, technology dictates our lifestyle, but because of lack of allocation of sufficient funds to improve and strengthen technical support for the judiciary, we in India are unable to make full use of technology.

Implementing guidelines

•As much of the Supreme Court and many High Courts will remain closed for the summer, the High Courts can consider constituting committees, as the Delhi High Court did, to create graded plans for the courts functioning after the lockdown. They can formulate plans based on the availability of infrastructure to conduct virtual hearings or actual hearings, or by running courts in shifts. In case any of the courts are inclined to conduct open court hearings, they may have to implement some guidelines. One, only those lawyers/litigants whose cases are listed for the day’s hearing should be allowed to enter court halls. Two, the lawyers must enter in batches according to the serial number in the list. Three, thermal image cameras must be installed at the entrance of every court building, to identify risk persons. Four, every person entering the court premises must install the Aarogya Setu app on their phones. Five, at the entrance of every court complex, an automatic hand wash faucet should be installed. Six, there should be regulations on the manner of functioning and running of public utility services, canteens, etc., within the court premises with all necessary precautions. Seven, masks, gloves and sanitisers should be made available. Importantly, as junior lawyers have been seriously impacted by the lockdown, they should receive financial assistance (even in the form of a loan from a nationalised bank) from the Central government.