The phenomenal growth in the accessibility of child pornography on social media has created a strange opportunity for individuals to have an anonymised, free of cost, and unrestrained approach to a virtually limitless range of lewd texts, pictures and animated gifs, and audio-visual materials. The online social media platforms are the pathways to offline molestation. Fantasy and reality are closely interwoven, though whether ‘thinking’ leads to ‘doing’ remains the critical question. Some people think watching child pornography is “just” an example of pseudo-reality, which does not molest children. However, on the other hand, those pictures of child pornography testify to a child’s sexual abuse in the past, present or even in the future. In a recent study conducted on 155 people who were involved in child pornography, it was found that 84% of such people had abused and molested a child at least once in their lifetime. Also, the “National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR)” has reported near about 420 child sexual abuse and exploitation cases during the first month of the lockdown period of COVID-19 via social media platforms.
Therefore, we can say that child sexual offenders more often exploit children sexually through the collection, creation or dissemination of child pornography.
ONLINE EXPLOITATION OF CHILDREN THROUGH CHILD PORNOGRAPHY
The widespread use of social media and online networking sites to inflict child abuse has resulted in a profusion of photographs and web pages in circulation, which is difficult to gauge precisely. The We Protect Global Alliance claimed in 2019 that in the previous year, US technology companies referred 18.4 million pieces of Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) to the “National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC)”. In 2019, EUROPOL explicitly stated that approximately 46 million different pictures or videos related to sexual abuse was found in its database. To track the distribution of digitised pornographic photographs of children is not the only difficult thing, but to follow the child abuse cases is also a difficult task as the child victims refuse to report sexual abuse due to the fear of exclusion from society and embarrassment. Children may be utterly clueless that they have been used or harmed at times.
According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the significant internet users are youngsters: 41% are below the age of 15 years, and 90% are between the ages 15 to 24 years. The “new” ways of social interaction among children and adults include sharing digitised sexual photos or audio-visual contents, which increase the risk of circumstances becoming violent or abusive. The “self-generated” sexual content which was once shared voluntarily has the potential to extend beyond the desired receiver, and it can have long-term repercussions for the child. The question is not with the creation of sexual material per se, as children have a right to express themselves, but the issue is with the distribution of such photographs by a third person without consent. As a result, while sharing sexual messages in a consensual way to interact socially and sexually with others, the sharing of sexual content without permission represents a criminal act that requires urgent legislative action”. Children are at risk not because of technology used; instead, they utilise a tool while being exploited.
SADIST PSYCHOLOGY: CHILD PORNOGRAPHY LEADING TO CHILD MOLESTATION
The main reason behind child pornography leading to child molestation is the sadist psychology of paedophiles. Such individuals force psychological, physical pain and suffering on the child victim to arouse sexually or gratify themselves. They get sexually aroused by the response of the child victim to the infliction of pain and suffering. Usually, the offenders entice or force the child victims to obtain satisfaction. In some cases, the seductive molesters have become sadistic molesters. However, the behaviour of such molesters is unknown, whether the sadistic desires were always present and covered up for some other reason or whether they were there for some time being. Whatever the case may be, it is fortunate enough that such sadistic child molesters do not appear to be significant in number.
Those who gather or distributes child pornography, on the other hand, is aiding or abetting the sexual abuse and exploitation child depicted.
RISE IN THE SEXUAL ABUSE OF CHILD AND DEMAND FOR CHILD PORNOGRAPHY DURING COVID-19 IN INDIA
There was an alarming increase in the demand for child pornography content after the government had imposed a lockdown in the country during the COVID-19 outbreak. This lockdown has revealed a dark side of our society – many child rapists, paedophiles and viewers of child pornography have doubled their online activity, which is turning the online world more toxic for children. According to the emergency service “CHILDLINE 1098”, the calls from distressed children amid sexual abuse and exploitation was grown up by 50 per cent in the second week of lockdown in India. The India Child Protection Fund (ICPF) said in its report that on average, five million searches for content on child porn on the internet were done in over 100 cities in India during the lockdown period; by now, this demand may have increased by 100%. Also, according to the report shared by United Nations, EUROPOL, and ECPAT, the need for child sexually abusive material shows a steady increase during the COVID-19 lockdowns, which aims children online through social networking sites to groom them or to befriend them, establishing an emotional connection with them and persuading them to engage in sexual activities through images or videos.
INTERNATIONAL LAWS AND CONVENTIONS ON THE CRIMINALISATION OF CHILD PORNOGRAPHY
Sexual abuse and assault on children have always been illegal. As a result, child pornographic content involving the violent sexual exploitation and abuse of children has also been criminalised. On the other hand, the mere possession of child porn material has not always been an offence. Although, collecting, possessing, and distributing child pornographic material was first criminalised by the general common law prohibition of obscene materials.
Two instruments, namely, “United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)” and “Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography (OPSC)”, both of which came into force on January 18, 2002, have been established at the UN level. Many more regional, national, and international conventions safeguard children against Child Pornography and molestation.
• According to UNCRC, every child has some basic fundamental rights, and from which one is safeguarding children from violence, abuse, exploitation and mistreatment. Years before the issue exploded, Articles 34 to 36 of UNCRC provided by far the most direct international reference to the topic of child pornography.
• As established in Article 2 of OPSC, “the sale of children, prostitution of children and child pornography” are all prohibited, and also requires Member Nations to effectively implement legislation and regulations criminalising and effectively penalising nonetheless those acts linked to sexual abuse or violence on children and exploitation as provided in Article 3, namely the “sale of children to exploit them sexually, offer, obtain, or possession of children for sex trafficking and production, circulation, distribution, import and export, sale or possession of child pornographic content including an attempt to and conspiring or involvement in committing any of the activities mentioned above”.
• “The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children”,which is a companion to the “United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime”, mandates all 165 signatory States to make trafficking of any person, including child trafficking and sexual exploitation of children, illegal and criminalise it.
• “Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime”aims to facilitate provisions on online molestation and abuse of children and some ICT-based harassment of children and other such offences under Article 9, which is regarding child pornography. This Convention has 42 Member States, including six nations of the Council of Europe that are not a member. It was enacted in 2001 and was one of the first conventions that lay down Internet Crimes provisions.
• “Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children Against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse” contains child pornography in its preamble. It clearly states that sexual abuse can be used as a synonym for child pornography. It also includes Sexual Tourism, which is not mentioned in any other Conventions. But this Convention omitted the ambit of prosecution for viewing and collecting or possessing child pornography.
• “African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child”mandates the Member nations to protect children from all forms of sexual abuse and exploitation of a child and to safeguard the children from online sexual offences using Child Pornography under Article 27.
In the United States of America, various statutes safeguard children’s rights and protect them from sexual abuse and child pornography. Some of them are –
• “National Strategy for Child Exploitation, Prevention and Interdiction.”
• Ashcroft vs Free Speech Coalition, this case interprets “simulated images”. It puts forward a question regarding Internet Child Pornography: “What is the basis of classifying simulated or pseudo pornographic photographs?”
LAWS AND REGULATIONS IN INDIA DEALING WITH CHILD PORNOGRAPHY
In India, 42% of the overall population comprises people under eighteen. This figure says that India has the largest population of children worldwide. It becomes the first and foremost responsibility of the country to safeguard the interest of children and protect them from any abuse and exploitation to envisage future development. The provisions and legislations about criminalising child pornography are discussed below.
In 2019, the members of Lok Sabha had passed a bill named “Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2019” (now an Act), which seeks to amend the landmark legislation for child rights “Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012” and provides that death penalty will be awarded to the person on committing aggravated sexual assault on children. Also, it criminalises and penalises child pornography in India.
According to “Section 67-B of the Information Technology Act, 2000”, “whoever seeks to download, browse, collects and downloads child pornography is an offender.”
The Indian government has taken some steps to curb child pornography in India. However, these legislations and provisions are insufficient to curb this problem. In India, viewing child pornography privately is not illegal, leading to the sexual abuse of children. In 2015, the Supreme Court of India remarked that blocking the porn websites in India can’t stop adults from watching porn under the privacy of the room’s four walls. However, “sale, distribution and exhibition of obscene material to any person below the age of 20 years” is illegal and a cognisable offence under Section 273 of Indian Penal Code, 1860, despite which child pornography is available for sale and distributed in India. Laws and their implementations are the north and south poles of Earth.
There are a lot of national and international instruments that address the problem of child exploitation and abuse on the internet due to the increase in Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM). But there is no proper enforcement of laws. There is a gap in the national efforts in addressing the issue. Also, there is no enhanced law in India that penalises the production and transmission of Child Pornography separately. Child Pornography must be dealt with individually and viewed as a more harmful and heinous offence keeping in mind the vulnerability of children. Also, there must be provisions where it is mandated to report Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) by the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to track the child sexual abuse offenders. But in India, mediators are not responsible for reporting third party information to any agency. Similarly, the payment industries or banks are also not responsible for communicating to the law enforcement agencies any transfer or transaction of money to purchase or sell CSAM. One more step can be taken, i.e., to oblige ICT companies to use tech tools to keep an eye on the activities happening on their platforms within their networks. In India, jurisdictional issues create hindrances in law enforcement. It causes a delay in getting permission from the Central Government to investigate the case. Therefore, the heinous offence’s procedural and prosecution should speedily deliver justice. There are various undue consequences, e.g., relationship mismanagement with a partner, change in appetite and phenomenal insomnia, remained between work and psycho-social repercussions on childhood or adolescent sexual assault. Psychological effects can hurt their lives, leading to stress or depression and even other products like mental trauma. This issue impacts both the sufferers and even their family members and society. Considering the adverse effect of porn on young minds, it is need of the hour that the national laws on child pornography be tightened up, and it’s high time now to punish those people of sadistic minds who enjoy watching children in pain and then abuse and harass children sexually. Managing, producing, distributing and exhibiting child pornography leads to child molestation and causes mental and physical harm to the child victims. In the age of enjoying childhood, the children are being used for filming child pornography and being sexually assaulted. Therefore, to protect children’s rights, stringent steps must be taken by the international instruments and the Indian government to curb such ill practices.
The main reason behind child pornography leading to child molestation is the sadist psychology of paedophiles. Such individuals force psychological, physical pain and suffering on the child victim to arouse sexually or gratify themselves. They get sexually aroused by the response of the child victim to the infliction of pain and suffering. Usually, the offenders entice or force the child victims to obtain satisfaction.
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Supreme Court upholds cancellation of fair price shop vacancies in West Bengal to implement Food Security Act, “no estoppel against statue”
The Supreme Court in the case State of West Bengal vs Gitashree Dutta (Dey) observed in view of the implementation of National Food Security Act, 2013 and the court further noticed and dismissed the challenges faced against the cancelation of the declaration of Fair Price Shop vacancies.
The bench observed while agreeing to these contentions and therefore allowed the appeal:
While going by the observations of the Division Bench in the impugned judgment, that the State was aware of the 2013 Act while issuing the vacancy notification on 30th April 2014, the said notification cannot be sustained and the notification being contrary to the mandate of the National Food Security Act, 2013, more importantly of Section 12 thereof, there can be no estoppel against a statute. the appellants endeavoured to enforce the statute, The respondent herein being a mere applicant in an unfinalized selection process and when by recalling the vacancy notification it is seen that the respondent has no vested right in his favour to seek
The respondent in an unfinalized selection process has no vested right in his favour to seek continuation of the notified vacancies and further it was contended before the court that there can be no estoppel against a statute as the State endeavoured to enforce the statute while recalling the vacancy notification
Before the Apex Court, the State contended that it was reposed with a responsibility for implementing the 2013 Act which, inter alia, entrusted a responsibility to reform the existing Targeted Distribution System.
Inter alia praying for quashing of the Notification dated 17th August 2015, the respondent filled a writ petition before the High Court of Calcutta. The Writ petition was dismissed by High Court single bench as This notification was issued in the light of implementation of the 2013 Act. the Division bench of the High Court held while allowing the intra court appeal that the State of West Bengal failed to justify the decision to recall the vacancies and that it has acted in an arbitrary and unreasonable manner, and hence, it is being said to quash the Notification dated 17th August 2015. However, no final order appointing the respondent was issued by the State Authority and the application of the respondent was pending before the court. The Food and Supplies Department of the State of West Bengal issued a notification dated 17.08.2015 while cancelling the declaration of vacancies.
The Bench comprising of Justice S. Abdul Nazeer and the Justice Vikram Nath observed that the State endeavoured to enforce the statute and that there can be no estoppel against a statute, while recalling the vacancy notification.
The Food and Supplies Department of the State of West Bengal issued a notification dated 17.08.2015 while cancelling the declaration of vacancies.
To clear wage arrears of sweepers within 8 weeks, the Supreme Court directs Jammu & Kashmir
The Supreme Court in the case Dr. Kunzes Dolma and Anr. v. Mehraj-ud-Din Kumar and Ors observed and directed the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir to clear the wages of sweeper from March 2015, within 8 weeks as the arrears of sweepers sustaining at a monthly wage of as the minimum wage of sweeper is of Rs. 100/- per month (Rs. 3 per day).
In an order dated May 7, 2016 the LPA was preferred by the Department against which the High Court refused to entertain and passed the impugned order.
the Jammu and Kashmir High Court vide order dated May 7, 2016 confirmed the earlier order and again directed those minimum wages to be paid by the sweeper is to the extent of Rs. 4500 per month. Thereafter the order dated 06.11.2015 was not being implemented However in the contempt petition and since the Contempt Petition was preferred by the sweepers.
On 06.11.2015, the Single Judge of High Court directed in their favor for the release of the unpaid minimum wages.
the part time sweepers with wages of Rs 4500 each which has been done without any approval and authorization from any authority as accordingly in an order passed by the Chief Medical Officer The sweepers were aggrieved by the clubbing of plan grants into non plan which was done on the account.
For challenging the grant of same wage irrespective of the enhancement Part Time Sweepers in different Health Centers in District Kupwara by the then District/Block Level Officers who were entitled to monthly wages @Rs.100/- had approached High Court, a case before Jammu & Kashmir High Court.
It is being noticed by the bench in the impugned judgement that the sweepers continued to be paid meagre wages of INR 100 per month despite of repeated directions.
In an order dated 05.15.2019, the Top Court issued the directions while considering SLP assailing Jammu and Kashmir High Court’s, the top court further observed and refused to entertain the LPA.
The directions issued by the Top Court while considering an order dated May 15, 2019 as in the said order the SLP assaulted Jammu and Kashmir High Court’s while refusing to entertain the LPA furthermore the Court observed that the same was an abuse of the process of law.
In an order dated 15.05.2019, while considering SLP assailing Jammu and Kashmir High Court’s by which it further observed while refusing to entertain the LPA that the same was an abuse of the process of law, the directions issued by the Top Court.
The bench comprising of Justice BR Gavai and the Justice AS Bopanna observed and further directed for paying the monthly payment to the sweepers from the month of May, 2022 and which is to be paid a regularly without any break.
In an order dated 05.15.2019, the Top Court issued the directions while considering SLP assailing Jammu and Kashmir High Court’s, the top court further observed and refused to entertain the LPA.
Supreme Court: Asks Comptroller of Examinations to examine students grievances about differences in marks allotted by CBSE exam
The Supreme Court in the case Jay Dhande & ors vs Union of India & ors observed and directed the Comptroller of Examinations to reconsider grievances of the students and take appropriate decision as there is a difference in marks calculated by CBSE and the respondent School.
It was argued by the school that the CBSE is trying to cover up this inaccuracy and now the CBSE has used the opportunity to put the entire blame on the school.
According to the School Committee, it was submitted that the CBSE portal was an all-inclusive portal and the portal worked as per the algorithm/program as designed by CBSE and if there is a wrong or inaccurate moderation process, the onus and the responsibility of that lies with the CBSE and not the school, according to the School Committee.
Thereafter it was being argued that as per the CBSE instructions, the entire process was done precisely and as now the CBSE is putting the onus of its wrongs on the School as the School had no independent rule either in moderating or assigning the marks.
Further it was argued by the School Committee that the school did not have any power or any option to moderate or assign marks on its own and the school as mentioned in the CBSE portal, the school meticulously followed each and every instruction
It was further argued by the petitioner that the CBSE does not have any authority and the CBSE has changed the marks given by the School and the CBSE has awarded much less marks given by the school
In the present petition the main grievance is that the marks uploaded by CBSE are much less than the marks given by the school whereas the CBSE results that are uploaded reveal by the present petitioner school students is that according to their school, the school allotted them particular marks.
Further it being clarified by bench that it hasn’t expressed any opinion on the contentious issue.
No expressed opinion on the contention issue is being expressed by Bench, as bench clarified
In this case the main dispute is in regards with the marks allotted to the students as per 30:30:40 formula for class X, XI, XII respectively for the 2021 exams, where an alternative assessment is being restored by the Board in lieu of written exams due to.
The bench comprising of Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice JB Pardiwala has asked to explain the flow of algorithm and software which provides for different deduction of different marks student-wise to take assistance of technical team by the Comptroller of Examination
Supreme Court: Asks Petitioner On Plea Challenging Talaq-E-Hasan, To Mention Next Week
The Supreme Court observed the Muslim personal law practice of Talaq-E-Hasan which was mentioned before a vacation bench for urgent listing. A petition was filed before the Supreme Court challenging the Muslim Personal Law Practise.
The petitioner argued before the court that the practise is arbitrary and is a violation of Article 14, Article 15, Article 21 and Article 25 of the Constitution and is therefore unconstitutional as the practise is discriminatory since only men can exercise the same and seeks a declaration. As it is not an essential practice of Islamic faith, according to the petitioner.
the Chief Justice of India NV Ramana had refused to grant urgent listing for the plea on 09.05.2022.
by pronouncing “talaq” once a month for three months, a Muslim man can divorce his wife as per Talaq-E-Hasan.
Ms. Anand submitted that as on April 19, first noticed was issued and Now second notice has been issued and he further submitted that we are challenging the proceedings and hence for Talaq E Hasan, a notice have been issued through lawyer.
The bench led by Justice Chandrachud further remarked that “Why under Article 32?”.
Ms. Anand submitted that the Talaq-E-Hasan was left out and the only issue of Talaq E Biddat was considered was considered in Shayra Bano.
Justice Chandrchud further remarked that there is no urgency and We will keep it on the re-opening day after vacations.
As it will be over, she has received the second notice on 05.19.2022 and on 06.20.2022.
She has received the second notice on May 19 and on June 20 it will be over”
on May 19 and on June 20 she has received the second notice and by the time it will be over as by that time everything third talaq will be given and everything will be over.
The bench led by Justice Chandrachud further remarked that there is no urgency as the first notice issued was on April 19 and wait for a period to come here.
Ms. Anand submitted further submitted that it is about a woman being abused and by reopening everything will be over.
On which Justice Chandrachud further remarked to take his chance and mention it next week.
The Vacation Bench comprising of Justice DY Chandrachud and the Justice Bela Trived contended that the petitioner has received the second notice of talq as the Public Interest Litigation petition filed by Senior Advocate Pinky Anand
KERALA HIGH COURT: NO QUARRYING OR CONSTRUCTION WORK ON LANDS ASSIGNED FOR CULTIVATION
The Kerala High Court directed the State Government to take steps for the resumption of such land, notify and exempt the provisions of required and further the court directed that no quarrying activities are permitted on the land assigned for cultivation in the case Raphy John v. Land Revenue Commissioner & connected matter.
It was being contended that through the rule the authorities had made a conscious decision not to grant or renew any quarrying lease if the land was assigned for a specific purpose. The revenue authorities would be incapacitated from verifying if the land was assigned for cultivation as the appellants had argued that if quarrying permits are sought for such lands. The amendment was brought in since it was impossible to distinguish between assigned lands in an appeal moved by the State while citing and the week after the judgment was delivered and lands sold to third parties, The impugned decision was, however, put on hold by the Court.
It was mandate by the impugned rule made that for granting or renewing any quarrying lease a Certificate is required from Village Officer and if such lands are assigned for any specific purpose, the village officer has to certify it.
It was being observed by the bench led by a Single Judge that since a quarrying lease was executed by the State and the bench further stated that the State has given sanction to conduct quarrying on assigned land, it can be presumed
In January 2018, the bench comprising of Single Judge had interfered with the amendment in the Kerala Minor Mineral Concession Rules brought in by the State to prevent quarrying on assigned lands and then sold it to third parties through assignees.
once an application for the same is received, the State may take a decision on the land classification, in furtherance with the decision made.
The order issued by the Revenue Department barring other constructions on agricultural land shall be strictly enforced was also being emphasized by the Bench And it has also been established under the Kerala Land Assignment Rules, 1964 and that there will be a violation of the Land Acquisition Act if there are any other construction activities on assigned lands and that assigned lands could not be used for any other purpose.
It has also opined that the Revenue authorities are empowered to take action to suspend all quarries that are currently operating on such lands the Court all the work assigned on lands including the other constructions and has also stayed of all resorts and petrol pumps while emphasizing that quarries are not allowed on such land.
A division bench comprising of Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Shaji P. Chaly, while ruling a single Judge Decision, in a batch of petitions moved by filed by the quarry owners and the Stated related to quarrying in lands assigned for rubber cultivation at the State’s capital.
DIGITAL TRACKER WATCHES AND THE SURVEILLANCE CONUNDRUM: A DAILY DEHUMANISATION OF INDIA’S MUNICIPAL WORKERS
The issue around digital privacy, or rather the lack of it, has been a hot topic of debate in India and has even made its way to the Parliamentary lobbies. In India, personal data is collected and stored by various merchants, big tech companies and other entities through the innumerable digital applications and devices that people use. From digital payment and ecommerce applications to social media platforms, personal data collection and storage is happening en masse, all while individuals still scramble to understand its repercussions. What’s worse — this personal, often sensitive information including financial and medical records, of millions of Indians is available for sale online through “data brokers” who have put a price tag to these records.
WHAT’S HAPPENING WITH MUNICIPAL WORKERS IN INDIA
Going a step further, there is an urgent need to look into this invasion of digital privacy from the lens of India’s municipal workers. Over the past few years, there have been several news pieces buried amid the bulk of eye-catching headlines, about municipal workers across several Indian cities being made to wear smartwatches to track their daily working hours. As per news reports, municipal corporations in cities like Nagpur and Chandigarh have made it mandatory for sanitation workers to wear GPS-enabled watches that are used to monitor their arrival at work, attendance record, number of hours clocked at work and the end of their shifts. The reports suggest that some of these watches have in-built cameras and microphones to allow the supervisors to monitor them by the minute. To make things worse, any discrepancy in the recorded number of hours at work is reportedly manifesting itself in the form of workers’ salary deductions. Thus, workers have been protesting the use of these digital trackers as being humiliating and violating their privacy in the garb of improving work efficiency.
INFRINGEMENT OF WORKERS’ RIGHT TO PRIVACY
The fact that sanitation workers are often unaware of the ramifications of surveillance of this kind, as is enabled by these digital trackers, goes to show how their informed and aware consent is not likely sought while implementing this technology. In this case in particular, the employer being the State, these rules amount to digital snooping on citizens by a government. This form of a ‘surveillance state’ directly impinges on citizens’ right to privacy, a fundamental right that flows from Article 21 of the Indian Constitution (K.S. Puttaswamy & Anr. v. Union of India & Ors.). While one can argue that this right is not absolute and there can be certain grounds for restricting the same (legitimate state interest, necessary and proportionate to achieve the interest, among other things), this is a justification that would hold up when a comprehensive and well-defined legislation is in place to regulate the collection and storage of such personal data of citizens.
EXISTING LEGAL FRAMEWORK ON PERSONAL DATA PROTECTION
At present, the only legislation that to some extent deals with the handling of personal data of individuals is the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2008, and the subsequent rules framed by the government. However, the coverage of this law is very limited in that it does not apply to collection and use of personal data by various entities (Section 43A of the IT Act 2000 recognises personal data dealings by a ‘body corporate’ and the compensation in that regard). It primarily focusses on information security as opposed to personal data protection. There exist other sectoral, subject-specific laws that regulate data dissemination in the respective segments, however, these are very narrow in their scope of protection. Further, while the Privacy Rules 2011 define what comes under the meaning of personal information and sensitive personal data, but how far the data collecting entities adhere to compliance standards and rules on storage and disclosure, grievance redressal and user safety is a big question mark.
The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, can be viewed as a step in the direction of chalking out the contours of digital privacy and collection, storage and dissemination of personal data of individuals in India. To begin with, the bill seeks to define what all would come within the ambit of ‘personal data’, and would govern the processing of personal data by governments, Indian and foreign companies. This is especially significant as it would plug the gaps that exist in the IT Act and rules subsequent thereof. Further, it would also outline the rights of individuals with respect to their personal data and the remedies available. However, it has been in the pipeline for some time, with objections having been raised over several aspects of the proposed law.
THE WHYS AND HOWS BEHIND THIS DIGITAL SURVEILLANCE
The recent mandate by city municipal corporations requiring workers to wear the digital trackers (Human Efficiency Tracking Systems, as they’re being referred to) takes on another hue when viewed from the lens of worker exploitation. Reports suggest that the trackers are being used to map the daily hours of every employee, and failure to wear the watch at all times or getting disconnected could result in salary deductions. Also, in the event of device malfunction, the workers would have to bear the brunt of the pay cut despite having clocked their daily hours. How and when such grievances would be addressed and dealt with is not very clear. Thus, workers’ woes take a backseat in the productivity and efficiency-focused surveillance work environment. Since municipal workers and sanitation staff employed by city corporations are usually not very tech-savvy or comfortable with tech-based gadgets, they are wary of how the system works. It can result in unnecessary anxiety regarding loss of earnings due to technical glitches.
Another issue is the alleged in-built cameras and microphones in these trackers. For workers who are not very well versed in such gadgets, the fear of being watched constantly could be debilitating, more so in the case of female workers. Their movement at work is tracked down to minutes, even seconds, linking the same to productivity targets and goals. Failure to meet these targets and minute-to-minute monitoring requirements could lead to reduction in the month-end salary payments. Automated workplace management is a concern that is prevalent across countries, and a parallel can be seen in the surveillance systems implemented by tech giant Amazon at its warehouses across the United States. The hazards of this surveillance system, like higher rate of injuries at workplace or even leaving workers without bathroom breaks, is similar to what is being witnessed in the case of India’s digitally-tracked municipal workers. The only major difference in the above-mentioned sets of scenarios is the place of occurrence and the entity engaging in worker surveillance. In India, the State is the data collector, often times undertaking this feat with the help of a third-party IT services firm. This makes the workers’ situation more precarious as their personal, sensitive information could be easily accessible to such contractual firms, especially in the absence of a data privacy law to regulate the same.
With increasing technological advancement and innovation, the cost of such surveillance methods has dropped, thus making it easier and more convenient for employers to adopt and implement. In contrast, this weakens the position of workers and the unions advocating for them as there is limited knowledge and legal recourse in this regard.
Thus, these GPS trackers are problematic on various fronts- they infringe individual privacy, operate in regulatory grey areas (as there is no proper oversight) and finally and most importantly, they constantly dehumanize the workers by treating them in a manner similar to bonded labour and robots. The human element of taking into account genuine issues being faced by employees or the context as to why they may not have been available on the tracking systems throughout the day (like poor internet connection, device malfunction, etc.) is completely ignored and disregarded.
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