CURRENT AFFAIRS – 30/09/2023
Global dispute settlement, India and appellate review
Source : The Hindu
The recently concluded G-20 Declaration, among its many commitments, reiterated the need to pursue reform of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to improve all its functions and conduct proactive discussions “to ensure a fully and well-functioning dispute settlement system accessible to all members by 2024”.
The WTO’s dispute settlement system, conceived as a two-tier panel cum appellate body structure, has been dysfunctional since 2019, because the United States has blocked the appointment of appellate body members. Hailed as the crown jewel of the WTO, the dispute settlement system, with the scope for appellate review and mechanisms to enforce rulings, has issued over 493 rulings since its establishment in 1995. To put this in context, the International Court of Justice has dealt with only around 190 cases since 1947. The appellate body has been crucial in ensuring coherence and predictability in rulings, ensuring confidence in the WTO dispute settlement process.
While the commitment expressed in the G-20 Declaration is heartening, whether it will have an appellate process or just be a one-stage panel process, given Washington’s continued opposition to an appellate review process, remains to be seen. The U.S. seems inclined towards the dejudicialisation of international trade law — an approach whereby countries take back control from international courts and tribunals. However, as with adjudication in national courts, the appellate review process at the international level serves as an essential check on the interpretation and application of law and ensures consistency.
On the ISDS
While the future of the WTO’s appellate process is uncertain, another area of international law witnessing the formative stages for an appellate process is international investment law through investor-state-dispute settlement (ISDS), an ubiquitous component of Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs). The ISDS today is the principal means to settle international investment law disputes. Till January 1, 2023, 1,257 ISDS cases have been initiated. India has had a chequered history with ISDS, with five adverse awards: four in favour, and several pending claims.
Benefits of an appellate review
A critical structural facet of the ISDS mechanism (also present in India’s BITs and a few free trade agreements) is that it operates through ad hoc or one-off arbitration tribunals without any appellate review. In international investment law, hundreds of ISDS tribunals operating under different arbitral institutions have, on several occasions, offered diverging interpretations of the same treaty provision. Likewise, these tribunals have reached opposite conclusions despite interpreting and applying the same treaty to the same facts.
The absence of an appellate review mechanism has meant that inconsistent and incoherent decisions and legal reasoning dot the landscape of international investment law. This has caused instability and improbability for states and foreign investors, making the regime chaotic.
An appellate review mechanism will allow for rectifying errors of law and harmonising diverging interpretations. It will have the power to uphold, modify, or reverse the decision of a first-tier tribunal and thus bring coherence and consistency, which, in turn, will infuse predictability and certainty into the ISDS system. An appellate mechanism will also be better than existing mechanisms such as the annulment proceedings, which only apply to arbitrations administered by the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes — an institution India is not a member of. Further, such annulment proceedings can only address limited issues, such as the improper constitution of an arbitration tribunal or corruption but cannot correct errors in legal interpretation. The appellate mechanism will also be superior to getting an ISDS award set aside on limited procedural grounds in a court at the seat of arbitration.
Discussions on creating an appellate review mechanism are ongoing at the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law or UNCITRAL’s working group III, deliberating on ISDS reforms. There are several critical issues in creating an appellate review, such as what form it should take — an ad hoc appellate mechanism (a body constituted by the disputing parties on a case-by-case basis) or a standing appellate mechanism; what the standard to review the decisions of the first-tier tribunal should be; and what the time frame and the effect of the decision should be. These issues will, hopefully, be thrashed out at UNCITRAL.
Although India has not made a formal statement on this issue, India, presumably, supports the idea of an appellate review in the ISDS because Article 29 of the Indian model BIT talks of it. Given India’s concerns about inconsistency and incoherence in the ISDS system, supporting the creation of an appellate review mechanism will be in India’s interest.
In any case, India will have to take a stand on this issue as part of the ongoing investment treaty negotiations with the European Union, which is championing the creation of an appellate review mechanism for investment disputes. Since India’s quest has always been to establish a rule-based global order, it should support an appellate review which will usher in greater confidence for states and investors in international investment law. For those same reasons, India should also push for the restoration of the WTO appellate body towards achieving the goal of a fully and well-functioning dispute settlement system at the WTO.
The views expressed are personal
Since India’s quest has been to establish a rule-based global order, its support for an appellate review will ensure more state and investor confidence in international investment law.
POCSO : Law panel says keep consent age 18, but take less sever look when kids in 16-18
Source : The Indian Express
Manaskhand Temple Circuit
Source : The Indian Express
Caring for the old
Source : The Hindu
India must attune its policies to ensure the elderly live a life of dignity
A good part of the world’s population is growing older, and India mirrors this trend as well. The reality, according to the United Nations Population Fund’s India Ageing Report 2023, is that the population above 60 years will double from 10.5% or 14.9 crore (as on July 1, 2022) to 20.8% or 34.7 crore by 2050. With one in five individuals set to be a senior citizen, there will be implications for health, economy, and society. In Kerala and West Bengal for instance, there is a growing population of the elderly who live alone as children migrate for better opportunities. With life expectancy increasing, thanks to better ways to fight disease, and decreasing fertility rates in many countries, including India, there are challenges in nurturing an expanding elderly population. Within this macro phenomenon, there are myriad other data of importance. For instance, women elderly citizens outnumber their male counterparts. At 60 years, a person in India may expect to live another 18.3 years, which is higher in the case of women at 19 years compared to men at 17.5 years. If women in India, where labour force participation is low at 24%, do not have economic and social security, they will become more vulnerable in old age.
There are also significant inter-State variations. Most States in the south reported a higher share of the elderly population than the national average in 2021, a gap that is expected to widen by 2036. While States with higher fertility rates, such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, expect to see an increase in the share of the elderly population too by 2036, the level will remain lower than the Indian average. Overall, more than two-fifths of the elderly are in the poorest wealth quintile — ranging from 5% in Punjab to 47% in Chhattisgarh; also, 18.7% of the elderly do not have any income. A high proportion of the rural population is among the elderly and often economically deprived. To meet the challenges, physical and mental health, basic needs of food and shelter, income security, and social care, a ‘whole-of-society’ approach is required. Geriatric care must be fine-tuned to their unique health-care needs. There are several schemes targeting the elderly but many are unaware of them or find it too cumbersome to sign up. The National Policy on Older Persons, 1999 and the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 lay down the care of the elderly but to ensure that senior citizens live in dignity, public and private policies must provide a more supportive environment.
Architect of India’s Green Revolution departs
Source : The Hindu
M.S. SWAMINATHAN: 1925-2023
Mankombu Sambasivan Swaminathan, popularly known as M.S. Swaminathan, the legendary agricultural scientist and a key architect of the country’s Green Revolution, passed away at his residence in Chennai on Thursday, following age-related issues. He was 98.
It was the back-to-back severe drought in the mid-1960s that compelled the political leadership and scientific fraternity to look for solutions to overcome the “ship-to-mouth” existence. The country was dependent on foodgrains imported from the U.S. then. Dr. Swaminathan worked closely with two Agriculture Ministers, C. Subramaniam (1964-67) and Jagjivan Ram (1967-70 & 1974-77) for the success of the Green Revolution, a programme that paved the way for a quantum jump in productivity and production of wheat and rice through adoption of chemical-biological technology.
A spokesperson for the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) said the funeral will take place on Saturday. His mortal remains will be kept on the MSSRF campus in Taramani on Friday for the public to pay respects.
Recalling his contributions towards ensuring food security, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin said the funeral will be held with police honours.
Dr. Swaminathan is survived by three daughters — Soumya Swaminathan, former Chief Scientist, World Health Organization; Madhura Swaminathan, Professor, Economic Analysis Unit, Indian Statistical Institute, Bengaluru; and Nitya Rao, Director, NISD, University of East Anglia, the U.K. His wife, Mina Swaminathan, who was Distinguished Chair, Gender and Development, MSSRF, died in March 2022.
Born in Kumbakonam on August 7, 1925 to M.K. Sambasivan, a surgeon, and Parvati Thangammal, Swaminathan had his schooling there. His keen interest in agricultural science coupled with his father’s participation in the freedom movement and Mahatma Gandhi’s influence inspired him to pursue higher studies in the subject. Otherwise, he would have become a police officer, for which he got qualified in the late 1940s. By then, he got two undergraduate degrees, including one from the Agricultural College, Coimbatore
On obtaining a postgraduate degree in cytogenetics in 1949 from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi, he earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the Cambridge, where he met his wife, who was also pursuing higher studies there. He did his post-doctoral research at the University of Wisconsin. In 1954, Dr. Swaminathan joined the Central Rice Research Institute (CRRI), Cuttack and later, IARI. In July 1966, he became IARI Director, the post he held till 1972. It was during this stint in his long career that he shot to fame.
Awards and recognitions
Dr. Swaminathan, who was a recipient of the Padma Shri in 1967, was chosen for the Ramon Magsaysay award for community leadership in 1971. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in January 1972. He became Director-General of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), and in 1979, was made the Principal Secretary, Union Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation. When Indira Gandhi became the Prime Minister again in 1980, he was appointed Member (Agriculture, Rural Development, Science and Education), Union Planning Commission, and, for a few months, he served as the Deputy Chairman of the body.
Between 1982 and 1988, he headed the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Philippines. In 1987, he became the first to get the World Food Prize and the first foreigner to receive the Golden Heart Presidential Award of Philippines. Two years later, he was conferred with Padma Vibushan.
Immediately after returning to India in 1988, the veteran agriculture scientist established a not-for-profit trust — MSSRF — with the proceeds he got from the Food Prize. The Foundation, which began functioning in Chennai since 1989, aims to accelerate use of modern science and technology for agricultural and rural development to improve lives and livelihoods of communities.
In November 2004, the Union government made Dr. Swaminathan chairman of the National Commission on Farmers. Popularly known as the Swaminathan Commission, the panel’s main recommendation to the Centre was that minimum support price should be at least 50% more than the weighted average cost of production.
Dr. Swaminathan was a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha from 2007 to 2013. The first World Agriculture Prize, instituted by the Indian Council of Food and Agriculture, was bestowed to him in October 2018.
He had his share of controversies. As head of the ICAR, he had to bear the brunt of the attack when a senior agronomist of the IARI reportedly died by suicide following his non-selection as professor.
In March 1978, Jyotirmoy Bosu, a tall Leftist leader and a member of the governing body of the ICAR, publicly accused the Institute of having a “one-man show,” a charge promptly refuted by the Janata government. More than these instances, Dr. Swaminathan’s critics hold him responsible for certain ill effects of the “Green Revolution”, including ecological damage and benefits of high-yield technology eluding small and marginal farmers. To this, he responded with the idea of “evergreen revolution,” with emphasis on crop and livestock productivity in perpetuity without ecological or social harm.