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Centre Defends IT Rule Requiring WhatsApp To Trace Originator Of Message – dot newz

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The Centre’s remark came in response to WhatsApp’s challenge to the IT rule (Representational)

New Delhi:

The Centre has defended in the Delhi High Court the legal validity of its new IT rule requiring messaging apps, such as WhatsApp, to “trace” the first originator of the information, saying that the law empowers it to expect such entities to create safe cyberspace and counter illegal content either themselves or by assisting the law enforcement agencies.

The Centre said that Section 87 of the Information Technology Act gave it the power to formulate Rule 4(2) of the Intermediary Rules — which mandates a significant social media intermediary to enable the identification of the first originator of information in “legitimate state interest” of curbing the menace of fake news and offences concerning national security and public order as well as women and children.

In its affidavit filed in response to WhatsApp’s challenge to the rule on the ground that breaking the encryption invades its users’ privacy, the Centre has claimed that platforms “monetize users’ information for business/commercial purposes are not legally entitled to claim that it protects privacy”.

“Petitioners (WhatsApp and Facebook), being multi-billion dollar enterprises, almost singularly on the basis of mining, owning and storing the private data of natural persons across the world and thereafter monetizing the same, cannot claim any representative privacy right on behalf of the natural persons using the platform,” said the affidavit filed by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

“WhatsApp collects users’ personal information and shares it with Facebook and third-party entities for business/commercial purposes (WhatsApp’s privacy policy of 2016 and its 2021 update). In fact, the regulators of various countries dearly hold that Facebook should be fixed with accountability for its services and data management practices,” it added.

The Centre said reasons regarding “technical difficulties cannot be an excuse to refuse compliance to the law of the land and if a platform does not have the means to trace the “first originator” without breaking the encryption then it is the platform which “ought to develop such mechanism” in larger public duty.

“The Rule does not contemplate the platforms breaking the end-to-end encryption. The Rule only contemplates the platform to provide the details of the first originator by any means or mechanism available with the platform. If the platform does not have such means, the platform ought to develop such mechanism considering the platforms widespread prevalence and the larger public duty,” the affidavit said.

The Centre said “if the intermediary is not able to prevent or detect the criminal activities happening on its platform, then the problem lies in the platform’s architecture and the platform must rectify their architecture and not expect the change of legislation. Reasons regarding “technical difficulties” cannot be an excuse to refuse compliance to the law of the land.”

In August, a bench headed by Chief Justice DN Patel had sought the Centre’s stand on WhatsApp petition challenging new rule on the ground it violates the right to privacy and is unconstitutional.

WhatsApp’s parent company Facebook has also mounted a similar challenge to the rule.

In its plea, WhatsApp had said that the traceability requirement forced it “break end-to-end encryption” and thus infringe upon the fundamental rights to privacy and free speech of the hundreds of millions of citizens using its platform to communicate privately and securely.

The Centre, in its response, has said that the petition by WhatsApp is not maintainable as a challenge to the constitutionality of any Indian law is not maintainable at the instance of a foreign commercial entity.

It further claimed that Rule 4(2) is an “embodiment of competing rights of citizens of India” and aims to preserve the “rights of vulnerable citizens within the cyberspace who can be or are victims of cyber-crime”.

The Centre said there are checks and balances to ensure that the rule is not misused or invoked in cases where other less intrusive means are effective in identifying the originator of the information.

The identification of the first originator pertains only to viral content relating to heinous crimes, as specified in the rule, and not identifying all users or citizens, it said.

“If the IT Rules 2021 are not implemented, the law enforcement agencies will have difficulty in tracing the origin of fake messages and such messages will percolate in other platforms thereby disturbing peace and harmony in the society further leading to public order issues,” the affidavit said.

The Centre has also said that in case of any legal proceeding having any message on the platform as evidence, WhatsApp would lose the defence of “intermediary protection” but it “does not mean that WhatsApp will be held guilty and its officials would be legally responsible”.

“The courts can include WhatsApp as a respondent and consider “Contributory Negligence” and “Vicarious liability on WhatsApp and its executives” (under Section 85). Such liabilities will fructify only when such a case comes up and WhatsApp is named as an entity that it is sufficiently proved that it has contributed to the commission of the crime,” it added.

The Centre also said that the Supreme Court itself had asked the central government to “take all the steps necessary to identify persons who create and circulate electronic information” about certain offences such as sexual abuse.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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High Altitude Areas In Uttarakhand Receive Season’s First Snowfall – dot newz

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The sky remained overcast in the plains with isolated light showers at several places (File)

Dehradun:

The Himalayan temple of Kedarnath and the high altitude areas of Chamoli district received the season’s first snowfall on Thursday while it drizzled in the lower areas intensifying the chill across the state.

Besides the Kedarnath shrine in Rudraprayag district, the Musk Deer Park, Valley of Flowers and the Nanda Devi National Park in Chamoli district also received snowfall, officials in Dehradun said.

The sky remained overcast in the plains with isolated light showers at several places, including state capital Dehradun.

The temperature recorded in Dehradun on Thursday was 15.4 degrees Celsius, Tehri 10 degrees Celsius, Pantnagar 18.4 degrees Celsius, Mukteshwar 8.4 degrees Celsius and Almora 13.4 degrees Celsius, the MeT Department in Dehradun said.



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37 Years On, Bhopal Gas Tragedy Victims Still Await Adequate Compensation – dot newz

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“In 1984, Congress was in power in Madhya Pradesh and at Centre”: Bhopal Gas Tragedy Minister

Bhopal:

Thirty-seven years after the Bhopal gas tragedy, termed as the world’s worst industrial disaster, the survivors and the family of the dead are still waiting to be compensated fairly with an organisation working for them claiming that each victim has so far received less than one-fifth of the allotted sum.

The leak of methyl isocyanate, a toxic gas, from the pesticide plant of Union Carbide on the intervening night of December 2 and 3, 1984, had killed over 3,000 people and left 1.02 lakh others affected at that time. However, the number of affected later rose to over 5.70 lakh.

Talking to PTI, Madhya Pradesh’s Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation Minister Vishvas Sarang said, “In 1984, the Congress was in power in Madhya Pradesh and at the Centre. The two governments did not put forth the case of the victims in a right manner to enable them to get more compensation.”

Bhopal Gas Peedith Sangharsh Sahayog Samiti (BGPSSS) co-convener ND Jayaprakash said the Supreme Court assisted settlement on February 14-15, 1989 worth Rs 705 crore was based on the assumption that only around 3,000 persons died and 1,02,000 were affected.

“This compensation was a complete sham as each gas victim ended up being given less than one-fifth of the sum allotted even as per the terms of that unjust settlement,” he added.

When asked to explain, he said that the financial aid was USD 470 million in 1989. The dollars turned into more than Rs 3,000 crore in 2004, when the disbursements started.

“But the number of the victims swelled to 5.73 lakh and this amount was distributed among them. So, each victim got one-fifth of the compensation,” he added.

“The failure on the part of the Supreme Court to hear the long-pending curative petition against the unjust settlement of 1989, has had an adverse impact on the interests of the gas victims,” he said in a media statement.

The curative petition (civil), which was filed by the Union of India on December 3, 2010 to challenge the unjust settlement of 1989 and to seek additional sum of at least another Rs 7,724 crore as compensation was last listed before the Constitution Bench of the Court on January 29 last year, he said.

“However, the hearing was postponed to February 11 last year. Sadly, the matter was never listed on that date or ever since then,” he said.

Failure to dispose of the curative petition has also meant the indefinite postponement of the hearing of the Special Leave Petition (SLP) filed on March 17, 2010 by eight members of Bhopal Gas Peedith Mahila Udyog Sangathan (BGPMUS) and BGPSSS, he said.

In the SLP, the two NGOs have sought enhancement of settlement sum by a factor of five in terms of the magnitude of the disaster as assessed by the claim courts and in terms of the gravity of injuries suffered by the gas victims on the basis of their medical records, Jayaprakash said.

Failure to dispose of the pending curative petition and the SLP for over a decade has effectively denied the gas-victims several thousands of crores of additional compensation that they are legitimately entitled to, he added.

In the curative petition, the Centre has sought Rs 7,724 crore as additional funds from successor firms of US-based Union Carbide Corporation, now owned by Dow Chemicals, for giving compensation to victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy.

The Centre, in its plea, is seeking a direction to Union Carbide and other firms for Rs 7,722 crore additional amount over and above the earlier settlement amount of USD 470 million in 1989 for paying compensation to the gas tragedy victims.

On June 7, 2010, a local court had convicted seven executives of Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) to two years of imprisonment in connection with the incident. The then UCC chairman, Warren Anderson, was the prime accused in the case but did not appear for the trial. On February 1, 1992, the Bhopal CJM court had declared him an absconder. He died in the US in 2014. 



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5 Contacts Of Bengaluru Omicron Patient Test Positive For Covid, Isolated – dot newz

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Bengaluru:

Five contacts of an Omicron patient have turned out to be Covid positive, Karnataka announced today, shortly after the Union health ministry said the first patients of the new Covid variant have been found in the state. The patients have been isolated and their samples have been sent for genome testing, Karnataka said amid concern over the highly infectious strain that has set off global alarm.

One of the two initial patients is a 46-year-old health worker from Bengaluru, who developed symptoms of fever and body ache on November 21.

He tested positive the following day and was admitted to hospital; his sample was sent for genome sequencing on the same day.  But three days later he was discharged.

After extensive contact tracing, the Karnataka government said he had 13 direct contacts and more than 250 secondary contacts.

The other confirmed Omicron patient is a 66-year-old South African national who came to India with a negative Covid report.

The man, who received both vaccine doses, tested positive on arrival and was asymptomatic, following which he was told to self-isolate.

A week later, with a negative Covid report from a private lab, he flew to Dubai. Samples from his 24 primary and 240 secondary contacts have returned negative test results.



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