Tag Archives: COVID-19

Legality of the Lockdown

On 24 March, 2020, our hon’ble Prime Minsiter Narendra Modi declared 21 days lockdown which kept on extending further as the number of COVID 19 cases in India kept on increasing. Certain guidelines were laid down at both, centre and the state levels. As you would have observed that there were instances where some state governments issued guidelines in addition to what was issued by by the central government. Ever wondered whether imposing such a lockdown was legal or not? Well, by the time you get to the end of this article you will have a basic understanding of how it works. So keep reading.

The legality of such actions taken at different levels can be derived from the Disaster Management Act, 2005 (DMA) which aims “to provide for the effective management of disasters and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”

The Act provides for the establishment of Disaster Management Authorities at the Centre, State and District levels of which the Prime Minister, Chief Minister and the District Magistrate/Collector/Deputy
Commissioner respectively shall be the ex-officio Chairperson. Such authorities have the responsibility for laying down the policies, plans and guidelines for ensuring timely and effective response to disaster. But how does the law define the term “disaster”? Is the term “lockdown” defined in Indian Law? If yes, what does it mean and if no how and who gets to decide what it means? These are some of the obvious questions that might arise.

It is to be noted that, although, the term “Lockdown” has not been defined under Indian Law, it can be elucidated from the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1987 which “gives power to centre and state governments to take necessary actions to contain the outbreak of an epidemic even if such steps are not mentioned in the law practice or theory.” As we all know that scientists from around the world have still not found a credible vaccine for the same and considering India’s health care facilities, there would not have been enough resources to treat people if the number of people affected would have become large. Since the novel coronavirus is contagious, lockdown was a need of the hour to contain its outbreak.

But as mentioned earlier, the lockdown was inposed under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 , so it is essential to understand the meaning of the term “Disaster” which is defined as

a catastrophe, mishap, calamity or gave occurrence in any area arising from natural or man made causes, or by accident or negligence, which results in substantial loss of life or human suffering or damage to, and destruction of, property, or damage to, or degradation of, environment, and is of such a nature or mangnitude as to beyond the coping capacity of the community of the affected area.”

Section 2 (d), Disaster Management Act, 2005

Technically, if one goes by the definition, COVID-19 does not fall within the definition of “disaster” as per the Act, as it is a pandemic, not any calamity, mishap or catastrophe. So, as per the definition, lockdown which was imposed to contain its outbreak, cannot be imposed under the Act. But that happened; it was imposed under the Disaster Management Act. You might be by now contemplating as to how did that happen? How is that legal?

This was possible because the Ministry of Home Affairs declared COVID-19 as a “notified disaster” thus bringing it within the purview of section 2(d). This was done to increase the scope of its administrative powers so that quick actions could be taken.

You might also be aware that any action taken by the government must be in consonance with the Indian Constitution and some of you might have suffered from the restrictions on movement as a consequence of the lockdown. You might already have some idea about the fundamental rights that are guaranteed to every citizen by the Constitution of India. Yes, you are right! I am talking about Article 19 in Part III of the Indian Constitution. Many might have felt that the lockdown infringed their right to assemble peacefully wothout arms [Article 19 (1) (b) )] ; right to move freely throughout the territory of India [Article 19 (1) (d)] ; right to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business [Article 19 (1) (g)]. Many of you might thus say that its against the constitution, hence, illegal. But it is important to note that, these rights aren’t absolute, they are subject to reasonable restrictions as per the latter part of the Article. Hence, lockdown being a reasonable restriction, for public health and safety, is legal.

IMPRESSION OF COVID-19 ON EDUCATION IN INDIA

What our Prime Minister’s Campaign “ Digital India ”could not  achieve , the Pandemic has done it. Covid-19 has led to the closure of schools , affecting the learning of  around 230 million students. It started in the month of March, when the schools were shut down, but now owing to the present scenario there is no assurance when it would open again.

My Firsthand Experience

It was that time of the year, when my beautiful journey of two years in Institute of Management ,Nirma University  was about to end in March , 2020.With just fifteen days left  in hand for our final goodbye, we’re trying our level best  to  save our tears  for the last days.Just then when the new of increase of cases started coming , we officially received  the mail stating  our journey have come to an halt, keeping in mind the seriousness of the issue. In a span of few seconds, the memories of  last couple of  years  splashed in our minds.  Everyone  was shocked, as they ‘d no clue it would end like this. The feeling of not having been able to take the exams for probably the last time in our lives, didn’t sink much. However, the proverb, “Everything Happens For A Reason”, started  making all the more sense when  the number of  cases started rising, while all of us had reached home safely. Had it not been for the strong decision of our College authorities , we  would’ve bear the brunt.

Did The Pandemic Have A Positive Spin-Offs?

With everything  on stake, Online education  takes off the old saying  “Learning Anywhere, Anytime”. Schools and Companies  have switched to apps like Class Dojo, Zoom, Google Classroom which have made the learning experience convenient and flexible. Teacher’s at all point are making the full use of app like Whatsapp, YouTube for online tuition  classes  in order to reach out to students in their doorsteps. Machine learning has led to the calculation to data driven tools, which  is why Multiple Choice Questions(MCQs) are preferred over Fill in the Blanks for the online test assessment. Apps like Dreambox makes students abide to the subject Mathematics, at their own pace and adapts itself  to every child needs. Blended Learning will be the new cool nowadays. This would ensure transparency and openness in Academics.Collaborating teaching and learning would take new forms and would be monetized.

Let’s Have A Look At The Unfavourable Spill-Overs

The Pandemic have surely brought us to an unplanned situation, not been imagined in anyone’s worst nightmares. The students who were studying abroad in Universities of UK,US New Zealand, Canada had to suffer in terms of their invested money and time. Their careers are at stake. The cross-border movement have surely taken a hit for the next two days. Since in most of the Universities, students were specially from India and China, it would adversely effect them .In order for the education sector to have a digital revolution, it’s very important that the teachers and the students are ready to accept the change . Teacher’s refused to get used to the online methodology leading to Passive learners. Students  who studied in Govt. Schools, are the worst affected  as going to school is the best policy tool available to raise skills.

Covid-19 emergency has changed the teaching style been followed by generations. It’s time to reinvent ourselves and adopt  ourselves to digital transformation .This upgradation to e-learning would not only cut the costs, risks and efforts , but would create the need for the educational sector to invest immediately in educational app development.

RECESSION AFTER CORONA

The global economy will contract by 3% this year as countries around the world shrink at the fastest pace in decades, the International Monetary Fund says. The IMF described the global decline as the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s. It said the pandemic had plunged the world into a “crisis like no other”. The Fund added that a prolonged outbreak would test the ability of governments and central banks to control the crisis. Gita Gopinath, the IMF’s chief economist, said the crisis could knock $9 trillion (£7.2 trillion) off global GDP over the next two years.

An economic consequence of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the first major sign of the coronavirus recession was the 2020 stock market crash on 20 February. IMF projects suggest that the coronavirus recession will be the most severe global economic downturn since the Great Depression, and that it will be “far worse” than the Great Recession of 2009. The United Nations (UN) predicted in April 2020 that global unemployment will wipe out 6.7 per cent of working hours globally in the second quarter of 2020—equivalent to 195 million full-time workers. In western nations, unemployment is expected to be at around 10%, with more severely affected nations from the COVID-19 pandemic having higher unemployment rates. The developing world is also being affected by a drop in remittances.

The recession saw the collapse of the price of oil triggered by the 2020 Russia–Saudi Arabia oil price war, the collapse of tourism, the hospitality industry, the energy industry and a significant downturn in consumer activity in comparison to the previous decade. Global stock markets crashed around 20 to 30% during late February and March 2020, respectively. During the crash, global stock markets made unprecedented and volatile swings, mainly due to extreme uncertainty in the markets.

2019 Global Economic Slowdown

During 2019, the IMF reported that the world economy was going through a “synchronized slowdown”, which entered into its slowest pace since the Great Financial Crisis. ‘Cracks’ were showing in the consumer market as global markets began to suffer through a ‘sharp deterioration’ of manufacturing activity.  Global growth was believed to have peaked in 2017, when the world’s total industrial output began to start a sustained decline in early 2018. The IMF blamed ‘heightened trade and geopolitical tensions’ as the main reason for the slowdown, citing Brexit and the China–United States trade war as primary reasons for slowdown in 2019, while other economists blamed liquidity issues.

In April 2019, the U.S yield curve inverted, which sparked fears of a 2020 recession across the world. The inverted yield curve and trade war fears prompted a sell-off in global stock markets during March 2019, which prompted more fears that a recession was imminent. Rising debt levels in the European Union and the United States had always been a concern for economists. However, in 2019, that concern was heightened during the economic slowdown, and economists began warning of a ‘debt bomb’ occurring during the next economic crisis. Debt in 2019 was 50% higher than that during the height of the Great Financial Crisis.  Economists have argued that this increased debt is what led to debt defaults in economies and businesses across the world during the recession. The first signs of trouble leading up to the recession occurred in September 2019, when the US Federal Reserve began intervening in the role of investor to provide funds in the repo markets; the overnight repo rate spiked above 6% during that time, which would play a crucial factor in triggering the events that led up to the crash.

Sino-American Trade War

The China–United States trade war occurred during 2018 to early 2020, and caused significant damage across global economies. President Donald Trump in 2018 began setting tariffs and other trade barriers on China with the goal of forcing it to make changes to what the U.S. says are “unfair trade practices”. Among those trade practices and their effects are the growing trade deficit, the alleged theft of intellectual property, and the alleged forced transfer of American technology to China.

In the United States, the trade war brought struggles for farmers and manufacturers and higher prices for consumers, which resulted in the U.S manufacturing industry entering into a ‘mild recession’ during 2019. In other countries it has also caused economic damage, including violent protests in Chile and Ecuador due to transport and energy price surges, though some countries have benefited from increased manufacturing to fill the gaps. It has also led to stock market instability. The governments of several countries, including China and the United States, have taken steps to address some of the damage caused by deterioration in China–United States relations and tit-for-tat tariffs. During the recession, the downturn of consumerism and manufacturing from the trade war is believed to have inflated the economic crisis

Financial Crisis

The global stock market crash began on 20 February 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, global markets, banks and businesses were all facing crises not seen since the Great Depression in 1929.

From 24 to 28 February, stock markets worldwide reported their largest one-week declines since the 2008 financial crisis, thus entering a correction. Global markets into early March became extremely volatile, with large swings occurring in global markets. On 9 March, most global markets reported severe contractions, mainly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and oil price war between Russia and the OPEC countries led by Saudi Arabia. This became colloquially known as Black Monday I, and at the time was the worst drop since the Great Recession in 2008.

Three days after Black Monday I there was another drop, Black Thursday, where stocks across Europe and North America fell more than 9%. Wall Street experienced its largest single-day percentage drop since Black Monday in 1987, and the FTSE MIB of the Borsa Italiana fell nearly 17%, becoming the worst-hit market during Black Thursday. Despite a temporary rally on 13 March (with markets posting their best day since 2008), all three Wall Street indexes fell more than 12% when markets re-opened on 16 March. During this time, one benchmark stock market index in all G7 countries and 14 of the G20 countries had been declared to be in Bear markets.

Conclusion

With the lockdown still in hand and the consistent fall in economy, it seems we have a tough time ahead. The recession, as predicted by the various agencies across the word, is going to be very hash upon us. A lot of people are going to lose their jobs with nowhere to go. Companies may go bankrupt and entire nations will be in debts. We all have no choice but to face the crisis.

“This too shall pass.”

Artificial Intelligence in Legal Process Outsourcing

Will AI be the next big disruption in the Legal Scenario amidst COVID 19 crisis?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a simulation of human intelligence programmed in computers to mimic human thinking and actions. Whereas, Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO) is process in which legal firms, publishing or corporate houses hire an onshore or offshore legal firm or a legal service provider company for their in-house legal works which are voluminous, reiterating, taxing and routine.

AI is the new buzzword which is slowly permeating the Indian Legal System. It is expected to have a significant impact by solving the major problem of “access to justice” in the system by mitigating the problem of inability to secure legal representation by vast majority of individuals and businesses. It will reduce costs and time involved in high-volume low-value work resulting in cheaper services.

Traditional law firm model is no longer aligned with customer expectation, hence, demand for law firm services are flat while that of legal services is still increasing. Lately, the legal industry has started to recognize the fact that technology shall be preferred over labour arbitrage. Legal expertise clubbed with process management and technology is essential for effective delivery of legal services. AI will enable firms providing LPO services to make best of everything by incorporating latest technology. It can be used in reviewing and standardizing documents, due diligence, transactional practices, cross-border contract drafting, judgement prediction, risk assessment etc. It will help in improving quality, efficiency, accuracy and cost of work by streamlining its workforce, saving money spent on providing salaries to such workforce and spending it on AI tools. It will save time spent on mundane, routine work so that lawyer’s role is limited to core functions that are beyond the scope of AI.

Legal Professionals believe that AI will replace their jobs resulting in large scale unemployment, however, it will only alter the way services are delivered by them, redefine tasks and functions as well as business models defining them. It is to be noted that it will only compress the case disposition time helping them improve client access and quality of legal solutions provided in optimum time. As rightly said by Michio Kaku, a noted theoretical physicist and futurist,

“The job market of the future will consist of those jobs that robots cannot perform.”

Michio Kaku, American theoritical physicist, futurist and popularizer of science.

Despite numerous advantages, AI is uncommon in the Indian Legal Industry as compared to other sectors and countries because it requires a comprehensive legal database which is in the nasent stages in the Indian Judicial Scenario. Another drawback is the integration of continuously developing information and digitalization of infotmation (i.e. feeding them into the system ) which is a time intensive process. Not only this, AI models have also failed to explain the outcomes predicted by it.

Every new technological idea has its pros and cons along with a section of people retaliating its implementation. What needs to be considered is whether a few disadvantages, some of which are difficult but not impossible to overcome in the current Indian Legal System, are sufficient to compromise with the greater benefits that AI has to offer in mitigating the key problem of “access to justice” in the Indian Legal Scenario.

The Big R Or The Invisible C?

Amidst the raging Corona pandemic, another widespread form of a virus known as racism has resurfaced and come to light and is making waves amidst the global community currently under lockdown. George Floyd, a black 46-year-old man died after a white police officer Derek Chauvin put his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes leading to his untimely death. This incident took place in Minneapolis, Minnesota leading to mass protests throughout the US and soon leading to global protests with around 50 countries like UK, Australia, Germany, Austria etc joining in the protests.

The protests are taking place whilst the corona pandemic is raging throughout the globe. People have been flouting social distancing norms with no regard for their personal safety. People have been protesting throughout the globe through mass gatherings. So the big question that needs to be answered is what do the people fight? An invisible enemy that takes lives or the grave discrimination that profiles humans based on skin colour?

Darren Sammy, a West Indies cricketer pointed out that he had been racially profiled as “Kalu” in India which he had mistaken as a compliment during his stay as an IPL cricketer. The tendency amongst humans to judge their superiority based on their skin colour is foolhardy. Kids grow up emulating those around them and observing blatant racist jibes and practices which mould them into toxic human beings from their tender years. Often black children are bullied in schools and mistreated leading to them suffer from depression, low self-esteem and some eventually succumbing to the emotional abuse through suicide.

On the other hand, over 70 lakh people have been globally infected with Covid-19 as on 8th June 2020 with over 4 lakh deaths. Thus one may question as to why people would have mass protests with thousands huddled together, flouting the social distancing norms and risk personal safety and pose a public hazard.  The answer may lie in the repetitive instances of insensitive discrimination based on race and skin colour. People are frustrated with already having to deal with a deadly virus and then tolerating gruesome racist treatment from people who are no less than the human incarnation of viruses. The wrath of the people could be visible in Bristol where they pulled down the statue of a controversial slave trader named Edward Colston who worked for a company that had transported 80,000 men, women and children to America.

We need to work towards eradicating Corona from our planet yet such sad incidents like the George Floyd murder impedes our progress in doing so. The wrath and intolerance of people towards such incidents are totally justifiable yet the mass protests, devoid of social distancing may have laid seeds for an even bigger monster and may end up costing the global community more lives than just one. We need a community devoid of prejudice towards our fellow beings. We are one and black lives do matter. However, we have to be wise in fighting and combatting both these grave impediments to a flourishing global community.

While the fight against Covid-19 may have an eventual end with a vaccine but the fight against racism will continue for ages to come. The seeds of racial profiling and discrimination have been embedded in our global culture through our ancestors and put into practice by our society. A deeper psychological evaluation may lead one to discover that the constant need to feel superior from other races may evolve from deep-seated insecurity of one’s own culture and race. The big R or the invisible C? We can’t choose one over the other. We have to fight both of them wisely.