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Posted onMay 1, 2020

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Impact of COVID-19 on Labour Laws

Introduction

Apart from the health sector, the economy, the education sector and many others, the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has caused harm to the industrial sector worldwide also and thereby affecting both the employee and employer of the companies. Be it a corporate firm, a factory, or a small-sized business shop, everyone has to face the impact of the nation-wide lockdown which was necessary to stop the spread of this highly contagious virus.

Although the government has allowed the working of businesses providing essential-goods during the pandemic, they still have to face the inevitable impact of the supply chain being shut down. Due to all these reasons and pressure, employers also face difficulties in managing their employees and their workers. This gives birth to the need for reevaluating Labour Laws, analyzing the rights of employees and the obligations of employers.

In this article, we will understand the impact of COVID crisis on the labour laws by highlighting all the government orders, notifications and various relaxations provided by the Centre. In the end, we will highlight the challenges which will be faced regarding labour laws regardless of white-collar or blue-collar jobs.

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Source Image:- https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/coronavirus/impacts-and-responses/WCMS_739047/lang--en/index.htm

Analysis of the Government orders and notifications

To minimize the grave impacts faced by companies who are on the verge of shut down, endangering the lives of the employees, the government has taken various steps by releasing orders for the employers and employees with an aim to calm down the panic, anxiety and fear of unemployment persisting in the minds of people. Some of these notifications and orders, one must be aware of are:-

Working during the Lockdown

The employees of the companies which have been closed due to the lockdown can be made to work from home depending upon the nature of the work involved. Also, through a formal communication made on 20th March 2020 by the Ministry of Labour , it has been ordered that the establishments which have been completely shut down due to the lockdown, and the same is non-operational, then also the employees of the company shall be deemed to be ‘on duty’. The employers were also advised to acquaint themselves with the State Governments advisories/orders which have been released in their area of jurisdiction.

1. https://labour.gov.in/sites/default/files/file%201.pdf

Remuneration

The Ministry of Home Affairs has also issued an order wherein the point (iii) explicitly points out that the employers need to pay the salary or wages of their employees without any deduction. This applies to the employers’ of industries, shops or commercial outlets, to pay the remuneration of the employees on the due date.

Also, on 29th March 2020, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) took into consideration the migrant workers where it was necessary to mitigate their economic stress, and due to which the order restricting their movements said that they shall be paid the wages without any deductions.

Termination of Employment

Another important clarification made by the government via their advisories and directions is that the employer can not reduce or downsize the workforce due to the business slowdown, even in case the establishment has been completely non-operational during the lockdown . State governments of Gujrat, Haryana, Telangana and Karnataka had issued advisories stating that the employers should refrain from terminating the employment of their workers. Apart from the said States, Uttar Pradesh and the Labour Commissioner of Kanpur also released their notices. It is advisable for employers to check the State advisories of their place of establishments, and comply with the same.

However, in cases where no advisories or notices have been released by the respective State Governments, the employers of the companies can terminate or downsize their workforce as per the terms and conditions of the employment contracts entered between the employer and the employee.

2. https://www.mha.gov.in/sites/default/files/MHA%20Order%20restricting%20movement%20of%20migrants%20and%20strict%20enforement%20of%20lockdown%20measures%20-%2029.03.2020.pdf

3. https://www.mha.gov.in/sites/default/files/MHA%20Order%20restricting%20movement%20of%20migrants%20and%20strict%20enforement%20of%20lockdown%20measures%20-%2029.03.2020.pdf

4. https://labour.gov.in/sites/default/files/file%201.pdf

Exhausting the annual leaves

As earlier mentioned, the employees of the establishments which have been completely non-operational due to the lockdown are to be considered on duty. Thus the employers can’t compel the employees to exhaust their annual leaves and have to give paid leaves to its workers. According to the instructions dated 30th March 2020 by the Chief Labour Commissioner, the employers are advised not to terminate or exhaust the leaves of its employers who are unable to attend the offices.

This has been done so that the employees or the workers which have been showing symptoms of the novel coronavirus can self-isolate and quarantine themselves. Thus, the employer and the establishments can’t compel the employees to exhaust their annual leaves. Joint Statement by IOE and ITUC

The International Organisation of Employers(IOE) and the International Trade Union Confederation(ITUC) recently released a joint statement calling the authorities both national and international to take urgent action with a sense of responsibility. Some of these areas of actions which need attention as per IOE and ITUC are:-

❏ Protecting the livelihood by securing business continuity, providing income security and solidarity to the public.

❏ The need of the social partners and social dialogue to help in preventing massive job losses and unemployment by fostering stability.

❏ Making the policy coordination procedure an essence and bringing together organizations like WHO and ILO to tackle the social and economic consequences of the pandemic by the means of the collaboration of workforce and resources.

Relief package for employers

The Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) recently issued a notice announcing a package for the employers under the PMGY(Pradhan Mantri Garib Yojana) where the government will be paying 24% of the wages of the employees for the companies which have less than 100 employees and 90% of the employees of the establishments have a salary of not more than Rs. 15,000 per month.

The date of filing for the Unified Online Annual Returns as per the 8 labour laws has also been extended to 30th April 2020.

5. https://clc.gov.in/clc/sites/default/files/mygov_15855558681.pdf

6. https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---ed_dialogue/---actrav/documents/genericdocument/wcms_739522.pdf

7. https://www.epfindia.gov.in/site_docs/PDFs/EPFO_PRESS_RELEASES/PR_PMGKY.pdf

Impact on Labour Laws pre & post lockdown

The disruptions caused the legal fraternity to reassess the labour laws and evaluate the liability of the employers and the rights of an employee during this pandemic and after the crisis. The following are some laws which will be impacted pre and post the lockdown period:-

Employees Provident Funds (Amendment) Scheme 2020

To release some burden from companies and individuals affected due to the pandemic, the Finance Minister made some changes to the Employees' Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 ('EPF Act') by allowing an individual to withdraw a non-refundable provident fund. This has been made effective from 28th March 2020.

There is a limit also, which has been set, i.e. the employee or the member can withdraw the basic wage and dearness allowances of up to 3 months, or up to 75% of the amount which is available in the employees/member’s account, whichever is less.

8. https://clc.gov.in/clc/sites/default/files/mygov_15846889651.pdf

9. https://www.epfindia.gov.in/site_docs/PDFs/Downloads_PDFs/EPFAct1952.pdf

Reimbursement of stipend under NAPS during the lockdown

The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship released an office memorandum where clarifications were made on the payment of stipend under the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme and it was stated that the government will be paying a stipend for the lockdown period.

Challenges ahead

The labour market has surely been impacted by the subsequent shocks to the economic sector. As per the International Labour Organization(ILO), there will be grave consequences to the employment sector due to the nationwide lockdowns being imposed in every other country.

The preliminary reports of ILO as per Annexure 1 state that there will be a surge in unemployment across the globe once the lockdowns are released, and this can be of around 5.3 millions as a low scenario and 24.7 million as a high scenario.

Most Vulnerable sections of the society are the women workers, the unprotected workers such as the medical workers, or those involved in the disposing process of biomedical waste, etc who are exposed to the virus and also the migrant workers who are mostly the ‘daily wage labourers’.

10. http://apprenticeship.gov.in/Pages/FileDownload.aspx?fileId=701

11. https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/coronavirus/impacts-and-responses/WCMS_739050/lang--en/index.htm

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Image Source:https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---dgreports/---dcomm/documents/image/wcms_739053.svg

Conclusion

Taking into consideration the unprecedented situation, and the nature of circumstances faced across the globe, there is a need to reform the labour laws, but not just to protect the interest of the employees or workers, but also the employers. The reason being the unknown time period of the pandemic caused due to the spread of the virus, whose vaccine still hasn’t been prepared.

It has been a critical matter and the need of the hour is to provide support to the workforce in all possible manners. Also, it is more likely that the lockdown period would be extended on 03.04.2020 with some relaxations, which makes it reasonable to carefully observe the legislative changes made by the Government.

FDI Policy Amendment: An in-depth Analysis

Introduction

The central government of India amended the consolidated FDI Policy of 2017 on 18th April 2020, with the stated view of curbing ‘opportunistic takeovers/acquisitions of Indian companies’ due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a major change to its Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy, the government over the weekend has mandated that all the investments from neighboring countries including China would now require government approval. This will close automatic routes for the nations investing in India. In this article, we will analyze the reason behind this new policy change, and what would this mean for the Indian economy and for its trait.

Restrictions & Modifications

Press Note No. 3 of 2020, issued by the Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade(DPIIT) amends paragraph 3.1.1 of the FDI Policy to introduce the following two new restrictions while leaving prior restrictions intact.

Restriction 1: -

An entity of a country that shares a land border with India or where the beneficial owner of investment into India is situated in or is a citizen of any such country can invest in India only under the Government route.

Restriction 2: -

Government approval will also be required by subsequent changes in beneficial ownership whether by way of direct or indirect transfers of any existing or future FDI would result in such beneficial ownership falling within the purview of the first restriction.

The revised policy and the amendments made in the FDI policy of 2017 has now brought Chinese companies under the govt route-filter. However, earlier, the policy limited only Bangladesh and Pakistan to go through the government route of go-ahead.

Impacts

One of the major questions that come in mind is whether the action taken by the government with respect to tightening the curbs of FDI is a timely move or not?

At a time like this, we’re not only susceptible to fear of acquisitions from countries that share a border but all over that the government should have specified on not just certain countries but maybe made the spectrum a little broader?

Well, it is clear that the move is more aimed at our neighbours because right since the inception, the FDI Policy of 2017 had restricted the investments coming in from Bangladesh where it was already a part of the prior government approval and the same was also true of Pakistan, so all that has been clarified is that it should extend to every country where a common border has been shared.

What needs to be understood here is that the approval doesn’t mean the prohibition of investments. There are already may sectors where this approval has been required. And countries like Italy, Germany, Australia and Spain are also tightening their foreign investment policies.

Thus, India is not the only country which is erecting barriers for cross-border investments being made from China. The European Union is considering a plan through which it can empower the states to block the unfair competition being originated from enterprises, which are backed up by the governments. This plan is aimed at China too.

The main motive is to prevent any hostile takeovers by overseas investors amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Curbing opportunistic takeovers

The government has revised its FDI policy to curb the opportunistic takeovers or acquisitions of Indian companies. This means that companies of the 7 nations i.e. Bangladesh, China, Pakistan, Nepal, Myanmar, Bhutan and Afghanistan will have to approach the government for a go-ahead for investing in India, rather than going via the automatic route.

The amended policy is applicable in cases of large shareholdings of 10% and above. Sectors including defense, pharmaceuticals and telecom, etc. will need prior government approval if any company from abroad sharing boundaries with India, wants to invest beyond the specified percentage.

The Centre’s concern was that Chinese firms including mammoth state-run companies might take over Indian companies at a time when their financial strength and valuations have taken a massive hit due to the economic recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The move has been warranted especially during this time when India Inc. has to recover and stand on its feet as soon as possible. The FDI being subjected to government approval will help in monitoring India’s FDI in cases where the acquisitions and takeovers of the Indian entities are done at low valuations.

How will this affect the Indian economy

India is already vulnerable in areas like pharmaceutical industries as the Chinese competitors have manipulated the domestic manufacturing of key pharma ingredients and chemicals. A transfer for ownership in an FDI deal that benefits any country that shares a border with India will need prior approval from the government.

The move has been aimed to stop overseas countries and investors from exploiting the domestic markets of our country using cheap-valuations amid the economic depression conditions in the country. It will act as a safeguard against the investors which are fishing for the distressed entities in need of cash due to the lockdown and post- COVID-19 scenarios.

Impact of FDI policy amendments on startups

There has been a sudden upsurge of China’s investments in India, in the last five years. Currently, there are 23 unicorns in India. The term ‘unicorn’ is used for startups with more than $1 billion in value. And out of these 23 unicorns, 18 of them have some investments from China. Some of these startups are OYO, BYJU’s, Paytm, Swiggy, etc.

The Chinese capital and investments in the tech- startups have helped India to increase the use of digital payments across the country. So, now that the wall has been raised, it must be kept in mind that the approvals in the tech start-up space should be quick in cases where the investors are tapped for a ‘top-up investment’ and ‘cash burn’ is high.

Investors and startup founders have highly criticized the Centre’s move pointing out the capital deficiency already faced by them in the country. It is an undisputed fact that there isn’t enough domestic capital for these startups to sustain, and this move will not hurt the investors but the economy of India.

Thus, the amendment will surely impact the startups as their biggest backers will be going through prior governmental approval as per the new FDI policy. As of now, the startup ecosystem is waiting for detailed notification and further clarifications as per the FEMA (Foreign Exchange Management Act) and the RBI.

The central government of India amended the consolidated FDI Policy of 2017 on 18th April 2020, with the stated view of curbing ‘opportunistic takeovers/acquisitions of Indian companies’ due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a major change to its Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy, the government over the weekend has mandated that all the investments from neighboring countries including China would now require government approval. This will close automatic routes for the nations investing in India. In this article, we will analyze the reason behind this new policy change, and what would this mean for the Indian economy and for its trait.

the startup ecosystem is waiting for detailed notification and further clarifications as per the FEMA (Foreign Exchange Management Act) and the RBI.

How has China responded to FDI’s policy revision?

On 20th April, China asked India to revise the amendments made in the Foreign Direct Investment regulations and called the changes to be ‘discriminatory’, aimed at preventing opportunistic takeovers of Indian firms amid the COVID-19 crisis. The revised policy is not applicable to the recent 1.01% sale by mortgage lender HDFC, to the People’s Bank of China (PBC), as the deal was less than the strategic 10%.

The official statement of Ji Rong, who is the spokesperson of the Chinese embassy said “We hope India would revise relevant discriminatory practices, treat investments from different countries equally, and foster an open, fair and equitable business environment. These additional barriers set by India for investors from specific countries violate WTO’s principle of non-discrimination and go against the general trend of liberalisation and facilitation of trade and investment.”

Chinese cumulative investment in India is more than $8 Billion, which is a lot more than the total investments made in India, by other neighbouring countries. This amendment will act as a barrier for companies sharing land borders with India, to invest in the country.

It has also been contended that these changes do not conform to the consensus of G20 leaders and trade ministers to have a free, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent, predictable environment of trading and investments, and to keep the markets open.

Although there hasn’t been any official response to the statements of Ji Rong, the people who are aware of the matter are of the view that the Centre can’t allow any vulnerabilities created by the COVID-19 pandemic to be further exploited by any country, including China.

Are these changes violative of the WTO principals?

The move is said to be a pre-emptive action that was needed to protect the assets of India from any hostile takeovers, especially in case of startups that have limited financial resources. In an unofficial statement and on the condition of anonymity, it has been said that the move was felt to be necessary not just by India, but many other powerful countries who are a part of the G20 nations. These countries have also expressed their serious concerns about Chinese designs.

China has itself put restrictions for entry of firms including from India in an effort to protect its own interest. Similarly, the FDI policy change made by India is aimed at deterring foreign investors, like China from distressing the Indian businesses or the investments in enterprises that are facing financial crunch due to the pandemic.

The need to protect domestic interests has been highlighted saying that due to the actions of Chinese investors, and such actions being backed from the China government are not fair business as usual. The Indian government is not entirely closing the doors to Chinese FDI, as is pronounced in cases of tech-startups. However, prior govt. approval is mandatory even if its a minuscule amount of transaction.

A nuanced understanding of the announcements made by the Central government will show that the step has been taken in an effort of prioritizing national security. The vulnerabilities faced by the country need a recalculation based on a perceptible change that has been made in China’s strategic policies.

What else could have been done?

At a time of a global pandemic, and unforeseeable crisis due to COVID-19, it is a time when countries need to come together and create a favorable investment environment which will help in the redemption of losses being faced by the production, supply chain and other industrial sectors of the country. Does a question arise that this erection of firewall against China might hurt India and thus resulting in a backfire?

There is no doubt that India is in a dire and desperate need for additional investments from every possible source. These, panic restrictions might appear as a defense in the short run but can be ridiculous in the longer run. We must not forget that India owed its transition to a miracle economy in the 2000s to the increased inflow of FDI’s and FPI’s(Foreign Portfolio investments). Back then, the valuations of Indian companies were done at a far cheaper rate than today, still, the economy had a growth rate of 8 percent annually.

Also, the ‘opportunistic takeovers’ which the government is trying to curb, can be doubtful due to the fact that no one knows when falling stocks become bargains. As the stock market saying goes ‘Never catch an old knife’, it is important for the Centre to carefully analyze the implications of the FDI policy amendments.

Almost every fortune 500 company now has some of the other operations in India, for eg Microsoft, Amazon, Ford, Suzuki, Nestle, GE, etc. They have successfully dominated the production and other sectors of the market, but have not threatened India’s security not made it a puppet.

Thus, a nuanced approach to Chinese investments using automatic route only may have been a better solution. Also, India may seek favor from all foreign investors, including China, and still, have a strategy for boundaries preventing hostile takeovers.

A very successful way of doing this could be by keeping Greenfield investments out of the purview of this policy change. The reason being that such investments don’t impose any major threat of takeovers of the existing business or companies, rather it eventually helps in creating new opportunities and building capacities of the business sector of the country.

Conclusion

A major factor that determines the amount of investment and the operation of industries is the economic policies, business environment and other fundamentals like international relations of the country (in this case, India). It is true that the development of Indian industries such as that in the telecom sector, aviation sector, infrastructure and the automobile sector, etc. is influenced and driven by the investors of China and other neighbouring countries of India.

But India has compelling reasons to take such actions. It’s not only because of the unresolved border issues with China, or the country’s support to Pakistan undermining India’s fight against cross-border terrorism, but also because of the disquiet about the role that China played in releasing warnings to other countries in a time-bound manner and containing the further spread of this highly contagious virus.

There are still many unanswered questions like what will happen to investments that come through the market route? How will they be regulated? Also, what about the FDI’s that come via countries not sharing boundaries with India, but trace their beneficiary ownership to China or any other neighbouring country?

Another major unanswered question is that the PN3 uses the terms “beneficial owners” and “beneficial ownership”. However, the same has not been defined anywhere. As per the Companies Act, 2013, or the RBI’s Master Direction- KYC, 2016, these terms have very different meanings, creating a difficulty of determining the ambit of restrictions.

Thus, we can say that this move to end automatic entry of neighbouring country’s investments in India, is a prudent step ensuring the existence of the domestic industries of our country. Otherwise, the foreign investments can be used as a vehicle for political takeovers, and the history could repeat itself like in the case of the East India Company.

However, a more nuanced approach is required and clarifications need to be made in the implementation and the ambit of the restrictions being made via the FDI policy revisions.





Role of Group Admins of Social Media Platforms

More than 3.8 billion people use social media these days and that too actively. Spreading information, news, and rumours is not an uncommon thing to notice on these messaging platforms. Apps like WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook are some of the most-used social media and messaging tools these days.

Everything has pros and cons. And so, has the widespread use of technology these days. On one hand, sharing information, making the society aware of what’s happening around has benefitted the world by bringing transparency in the system. However, on the other hand, there are people who intentionally or sometimes unintentionally without the knowledge of the content, share information, news, reports with other users. The quote “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” of Mark Twain is also applicable to the fake news spread via social media.

But before we understand the legal ramifications related to fake news being circulated on social media platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, etc, it is more reasonable to know what ‘fake news’ actually means. It’s a form of news consisting of disinformation or a report, presented as authoritative, of an event that never actually occurred. It is a menace not only because of the motive behind it to deceive and misinform people but also because people tend to take it seriously and act on such information.

Group Conversations

Almost every messaging platform these days come with a feature of ‘group conversations. The idea behind this feature was to enable users to have a conversation with more than 1 person at the same time. However, you might not notice this, but slowly and steadily you have become a member of a lot of these WhatsApp or Telegram groups.

Every online messaging group has an admin or sometimes more than one admin. Usually, these are the ones who have created the group conversation and can add/remove the members. The Group Admins thus have the responsibility and the liability to ensure that the content being shared in these groups is not of obscene nature, fake, irrelevant, offensive, or inciting.

Through this article, we will analyse the legal aspect and laws associated with the content which should be shared in these group conversations and the role of group admins of these social messaging platforms.

Responsibility & Liability of Group Admins

The first question that comes in mind is why should a group admin be held responsible for the acts of a member of the group?

Well, there is still not any rock-solid argument that could give the answer and explain why do the admins end up taking the blame? However, in the majority of cases, it becomes difficult to locate the person who is responsible for generating such information. However, the fact is undisputed that it is the admins who have more power to regulate the content and the action of members of the group.

It is not an offense to receive any information. However, if the person forwards, transmits, distributes — without knowing its genuineness or otherwise — resulting in a loss or wrong done to someone, he/she may come under investigation and can also be made a party or the accused.

What you must do as an admin of messaging platforms?

• Make sure that every group member is reliable and responsible enough to share only verified news.

• Inform all the group members about the foundations of posting within the group.

• Warn all the members and forestall them from sharing objectionable content.

• Actively and frequently monitor the content that's being shared on the group.

• It's advisable that if the group is uncontrollable, then the group settings will be changed to only where admins have the proper to post.

• Inform the police if any members resort to mischief and share objectionable content.

Being an administrator of a WhatsApp or any other messaging group means that you have taken the responsibility to ensure regulation of the information being shared. Thus, it is advisable to allow only those members in a group who are less likely to spread any such information which might be offensive, invoke hatred, or panic amongst other members of the group.

Role of group members of messaging platforms

What you must do as a member of groups in messaging platforms?

• Don't post fake news, hate speech, or misinformation in groups.

• Don't further forward or circulate any such news you get from other members of the group.

• Immediately delete any post, if you discover it objectionable or the admin notified you.

• Check the source and veracity of any news/image/video/meme you receive, before posting it on the group.

• Never share any content that's violent, pornographic, and discriminative against any religion/community.

Laws in India

Indian Penal Code

Section 505(1):- The Section talks about the statements which conduce to public mischief. The punishment under this Section may extend to a maximum of 3 years, or a fine, or both. Such offenses are non-bailable and non-cognizable.

Case Laws

Recently the Supreme Court of India struck down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 is the case of Shreya Singhal v. Union of India (AIR 2015 SC 1523). The judgment had found that Section 66A was contrary to both Articles 19 (2) (free speech) and 21 (right to life) of the Constitution.

The entire provision was struck down by the court. The petition said the judgment rendered Section 66A extinct from the very date of its insertion into the IT Act, i.e. October 27, 2009. However, despite the clear and unequivocal judgment by the SC, Section 66A still somehow finds a place in police FIR’s.

Suggestions

These measures include:

1. Ascertaining the source and origin of the message. If one isn't sure of the authenticity and correctness of the message or its content, one may make attempts to make certain of the veracity of the matter before forwarding it to others.

2. Just in case of any claims made within the message one has received, conduct secondary checks on google or other sites before disseminating it.

3. If the message incites strong emotions, it's likely to be sent for such purposes. Any shocking or outrageous claim made has to be verified before it's sent to others who may believe it completely.

4. Just in case of the message containing videos or pictures, there's a break of them being edited or used out of context to mislead unsuspecting recipients. a straightforward reverse image search on Google can reveal the first source and context of the image.Any harm resulting from such forwarding can make the person doing so susceptible to legal consequences.

5. Use fact-checking services, there are many reputed fact-checking sites, which help people to verify claims made on social media or messages which have gone viral.

6. Sometimes there would be obvious spelling, punctuation mistakes, or other grammatical errors that may suggest the inauthenticity of the message. One has to develop a healthy scepticism towards the content on social media.

Conclusion

Thus, before you create, share, or forward any message, you must be aware of the content of the message and must realize the implication of the same. Any kind of information that might create panic, fear, or anxiety amongst the public must be avoided. In our everyday life, we are being exposed to an ‘infodemic’ which the World Health Organization defines as ‘overabundance’ of information. Due to this, a lot of times, we forget to check the veracity of the facts of the content.

Law enforcement agencies and cyber law experts say that existing laws in India are vague as far as fixing responsibility for such messages. Till now, the cases are decided on the basis of the previous judgment. Thus, there is a need to have a law that explicitly protects the interest of a group admin of a messaging platform but still ensures that the person spreading such information is located and punished accordingly.





COVID-19 and Biomedical Waste

Introduction

The COVID-19 pandemic is spreading throughout the world. It has led to various health repercussions and has created fear and panic throughout the world. India is also struggling with this widespread disease and is doing everything possible to stop the spread of this highly contagious novel coronavirus.

A major contribution in this fight is made by the sanitation workers, doctors, police officers and many other organisations, who are risking their lives to protect others. In the process of treatment and quarantine period, a lot of medical equipment and personal protective items like face masks, gloves, sanitizers are used.

Through this article, we will learn about the biomedical waste which is generated during this period and the importance of proper disposal of such waste.

Bio-medical waste

Biomedical waste refers to any kind of waste which contains infectious or potentially infectious materials. It may be solid, or liquid. They have the propensity to further spread the infection if anyone comes into contact with it.

These biomedical wastes include face masks, protective suits, goggles and sterile surgical gloves. Such biomedical waste must be taken to a separate disposal facility and should be immediately incinerated upon its arrival. Handling biomedical waste safely and promoting a safer environment for everyone is more important than ever.

Challenges

1).Suppliers:

As the corona-virus hits India, the demand for preventive items like masks, gloves and sanitizers skyrocketed, and the suppliers are facing difficulties in keeping pace with this sudden rise.

The sale of masks across India has almost tripled in the country and in order to fulfil the demand, the government of India had put a ban on 8th February on the export of N-95 masks. The demand for mask-making machines has also increased by 250% within one month.

One of the major factors influencing this gap of demand and supply of protective materials is the panic-buying amongst the customers. With the rise in coronavirus cases, there is also a rise in false information and circulation of rumours on the social media, which leaves an impact on the psychology of the viewers forcing them to be anxious and thus creating panic amongst them.

Panic-buying of such essential products can’t be justified with the excuse of being “extra-cautious” or preparing for what ‘might’ come in future. Proactively adopting hygiene products is necessary for everyone. However, due to the stock-piling practices by everyone, the ones who are in actual deficiency of such products suffer the most.

Recently, when the air quality deteriorated in some cities, suppliers had managed to get adequate stocks of N-95 masks. However, the unpredicted COVID-19 pandemic will sooner or later result in a ‘stock-out’ situation amongst the suppliers.

2).Risk of Sanitation Workers:

These people are at risk when they handle unmarked medical wastes like masks, gloves, etc emerging from hospitals and homes where there may be COVID-19 patients under home-quarantine. There have been instances where no mechanism of proper collection and disposal of these bio-medical wastes were found.

These discarded masks, tissue papers, and gloves can spread the highly contagious virus and could become a source of infection. These wastes can infect rag pickers, cleaning staff, children or the poor people who live on the streets.

When the sales of masks and other preventive items like gloves saw a surge in the market, there wasn’t any attention towards the fact that these products do not come with instructions and guides related to their hygienic disposal.

The lives of sanitation workers and the environment, both are endangered when the contaminated waste if thrown into household garbage bags, without properly disinfecting them. These workers must have the required safety gears and then only they should incinerate the waste.

The medical professionals, police and community health workers are the ones who are in close contact with a suspect/confirmed COVID-19 patient and are at high risk of getting infected. Thus, using personal protective equipment and regular cleaning and sanitizing the frequently-touched surface is important so that the risk of spread of the infectious virus can be reduced.

3).Lack of Awareness:

Adherence to even the basic rules of waste disposal and segregation is still low in the country. There is a lack of awareness amongst households about the importance and need for separate disposal of biomedical waste. Sanitation workers are frightened while handling domestic wastes which are mixed with used gloves and face masks.

According to experts, the government needs to have a better implementation of waste management systems in the country and needs to come up with more stringent policies related to collection and disposal of such biomedical waste which possesses threats to both the health of the people and to the environment.

Impact on the Environment

These medical wastes like discarded face masks, tunics, caps, gowns and syringes need to be disposed of with proper precautions ensuring that they don’t become the reason for environmental degradation.

There is a lack of awareness amongst people about this issue, and this can expose the environment with detrimental effects because of the solid waste, or other biomedical waste being generated. We need to follow the CPCB rules and guidelines rigorously so that the biomedical waste treatment process can be done effectively without any damage to the environment.

The waste generated from COVID-19 is stored in double bags before it is transported to the treatment facility. The transportation system should be done with the help of separate designated vehicles which have a dual chamber and can operate at a temperature of 1050 degree Celsius.

Suggestions

❖ The waste must be decontaminated with alcohol-based sanitizers before we throw them or put them in garbage bags.

❖ Using reusable cloth masks, which can be washed and reused.

❖ The Sanitary Staff should be provided with Personal Protective Equipment’s (PPE’s) such as face masks, gloves, sanitizers, etc.

❖ Common Biomedical Waste Treatment and Disposal Facilities (CBWTFs) are being set up where the priority treatment and incrimination of biomedical waste can be done upon receipt.

❖ Apart from the Government, it is important for the community to act responsibly and sensibly when it comes to the disposal of household waste.

❖ The Regulated Medical waste, also known as “Red Bag Waste” must be handled in red bags.

❖ Items like Contaminated Gloves, Plastic Tubing, Blood contaminated items, and other pathological wastes, etc generated from the Hospitals, must be disposed of in the red bags.

Guidelines Released

▪ The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) released a set of guidelines related to the handling, treatment and proper disposal of waste which is generated during the treatment and during the quarantine period of COVID-19 patients.

o As per these guidelines, the isolation wards of Hospitals and other quarantine centres made by the government, need to have separate bins on a colour-coded basis system which will ensure segregation of different types of wastes, thus helping in proper disposal of such bio-medical waste.

o Hospitals need to have a separate bin, labelled as “COVID-19”, and all the biomedical waste generated from the isolation wards and treatment centres must be disposed of here. A record of such waste generated is also recommended to be prepared by the Hospital authorities.

o A separate sanitation worker staff may be appointed who would be the only one responsible for the disposal of such wastes.

o For Quarantine centres and camps, where potential COVID-19 patients are being quarantined, it was advised for such centres to use ‘yellow coloured bags’ containing the biomedical waste for disposal.

▪ Bio-medical Waste Management (BMWM) Rules, 2016

o Many hospitals are rigorously following these rules and guidelines to minimize the risk of spread of the contagious virus.

▪ Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016

o According to these rules of waste segregation in India, the waste generators are required to segregate the waste before handing it over to the concerned authorities. However, the adherence to these rules has been minimal, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Conclusion

Thus, it is very critical to manage the waste generated from hospitals or households where COVID-19 patients are quarantined. Apart from this, we need to make sure that the waste generated doesn’t get disposed of at the common dumping grounds as it may result in environmental degradation and spread of the novel coronavirus. The same has been recommended by the World Resources Institute of India.

We need to make sure that there is the safe and proper handling of infectious, hazardous bio-medical waste. The virus gets transmitted through direct touch or if a person comes into contact with a contaminated surface and object. Only then, we will be able to limit the risk associated and faced by the sanitation workers and ensure the containment of COVID-19 virus.





IBC- A game-changer for Corporates or not?

INTRODUCTION TO IBC,2016

The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 is the bankruptcy law of India, which came into force on 28th May 2016, after it received assent from the President. The law was passed with an aim to consolidate the existing framework and creating a single law for insolvency and bankruptcy. It is considered to be a ‘one-stop solution’ for resolving the cases of insolvency, which previously was a long and complex process and didn’t have any economic viability.

There are four key features to the Code, these are: -

1. Insolvency Resolution- There is a separate insolvency resolution process outlined by the law, for individuals, partnership firms and companies. A maximum time limit has also been set for completing the resolution process.

As per the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Act, 2019- There was an increase in the upper Time Limit of 330 days, which includes the time which will be spent in the legal process in order to complete the whole resolution procedure.

2. Insolvency Regulator- An Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) has been established to oversee the insolvency proceedings in the country.

3. Insolvency Professionals- During the insolvency process, there needs to be someone who could control the assets of the debtor. This management work is done by licensed professionals appointed in accordance with this Code.

4. Bankruptcy and Insolvency Adjudicator- The Code proposed to establish two tribunals who would oversee the process of the insolvency resolution process. For Companies and Limited Liability Partnerships (LLP), it is National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) and for Individuals and Partnership Firms it is Debt Recovering Tribunals (DRT).

After the implementation of IBC, India’s ranking in the World Ease of Doing Business improved. And it was just a minor change. The rank skyrocketed from 108 to 52 in just one year, as per the World Bank’s Doing Business Report in “Resolving Insolvency” category.

Many cases were resolved, and money was recovered. However, most of them were big cases. So, the question still persists whether the proceedings will continue to be uninterrupted in 2019 with the help of 2019? To find the answer to this, we will analyze various aspects, and then conclude whether or not IBC is a game-changer for Corporates?

THE NEW IBC: AMENDMENTS TO IBC

1\RRThe new amendment has spurred the judicial authorities, legal professionals and Institutions concerned with the resolution process of insolvency, to thrust their working speed. The 330 days limit to complete the procedure including the litigation time has been a real challenge for courts to complete the hearing process and, give ‘time’ and ‘value’ of justice the same consideration.

There is a need for a system with which the cases can be quickly disposed and filtered if they are against the letter and spirit of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016. Also, the judiciary needs to ensure that they consider the commercial and economic implications of the 2019 amendment.

It is true to state that IBC has matured over the last two years. The Supreme Court, High Courts and National Company Law Tribunals have settled several critical legal issues and brought clarity to the roles of various stakeholders in the resolution process. It appears that IBC is going to the largest body of case laws.

The amendment and the time limitation proposed has strengthened the working system of institutions and improvement in the IBC ecosystem. This can be observed from the fact that there has been an increase in the NCLT benches from 16 to 27, and the Insolvency professionals have also increased from 1,107 to 2,800 in one year.

IMPACT OF IBC ON THE CORPORATES

The IBC has been amended thrice in the last 3 year, and the last being in July 2019. Each time an attempt is made to strengthen the law. The SC verdict on Essar Steel was the one case that made all the difference. It serves as a precedent to all other bankruptcy cases as it has raised the bar and the legal parameters of IBC.

The Recent amendment has provided immunity to the successful bidders by removing the threat of attachment of assets due to any kind of sins of previous promoters of the company. These new owners of bankrupt companies are shielded from all the criminal liabilities which might arise due to the offences committed by the previous managers/promoters of the company.

THE NEED TO RECODE IBC

The objective of the IBC was of faster resolution and value maximization. However, this bankruptcy law has failed to live by its expectations. The following are some points highlighting the failure of IBC, despite the several amendments, clarifications, by the government to resolve the issue: -

❖ Minor impact on Corporates- The powerful corporate organization which are deep-pocketed are able to manage the delay and extend it for an indefinite period. Thus, the process of Corporate insolvency resolution has been challenged and has put the IBC to test in the court of law.

❖ Infrastructure Challenges: - The efficiency of the working of tribunals is affected by the delay in changes which are being made towards the strengthening of NCLT and other concerned institutions.

❖ The 27 National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) benches have more than 15,000 pending cases, which is distributed equally would mean more than 555 cases per bench.

❖ Undermining the Aim of providing a fresh start: - There have been instances in the past where the assets have been included in the information memorandum and are then made available to the potential buyers. The bids have been made on this basis only, but before the plan is to be executed, the ED starts attaching the property and upsets the bargain.The effect is on the bidding process and undermines the objectives of IBC which are: maximization of value’ and giving companies an opportunity to have a ‘fresh start’ and a ‘clean slate’.

❖ Value Discovery: - For every one case resolved, there are 4 cases which end up in the liquidation, and the recovery falls by 15 to 20% in the books. This raises doubt over the quality of assets which are entered into the recovery process and also raises a question over the ability of professionals involved in the resolution process, whose job is to preserve the quality of the assets until the resolution process ends.

FUTURE OF IBC

The government is planning to introduce a system of ‘e-bidding’ with an aim to reduce the timeline, bring transparency and reduce the potential litigation in the system. The system has already been implemented in the coal mine, solar and wind power auctions, but its introduction and implementation in the quasi-legal process such as Insolvency and Bankruptcy will be first of its kind.

It needs to be recognized that IBC has already undertaken the top category of the cases. Now it is time that the middle and bottom of the cases also come under the purview of IBC. The challenge is that these cases won’t be able to find investors who would be willing to invest in these companies and the same would be with foreign investors.

MORE REALISTIC APPROACH

Experts and other legal professionals strongly believe that the government and legislative and executive authorities of the country should come up with changes and modification in the law. These changes should most importantly allow cross-border insolvency and group-insolvency and give them a priority in the amendment.

The efficiency in terms of resolution and outcomes has surely improved in 2020 with the help of IBC amendments cleared by SC. It is going to become the most robust law especially with the recent changes which has given hope to the new entrepreneurs looking forwards to bid for resolution of the stressed assets.

CONCLUSION

The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code,2016 can be said to be “half game-changer”. For IBC to be a game-changer, there needs to be adherence to the timelines and there shouldn’t be inordinate delay in the process. It is a matter of deep concern and even though the Apex Court continues to lay emphasis on the sanctity of the timeline, there are still a total of 12 big cases involving huge amounts of bad loans are locked up in the unending litigation process. This is the reason why experts believe that IBC Law falls short in the implementation part.

Clearly, the Centre has learnt the lesson from the experience of single-home buyer who were misusing the framework and dragging an entire real estate company to the NCLT. The new amendment has surely paved the way for bidders and resolution applicants to come forward and bid for the stressed assets of the insolvent companies in the country.

Apart from time-bound disposal being a fundamental theme, we also need a behavioral change in the other stakeholders like the creditors, the bidders, debtors and the judiciary who contribute to the process of resolution under IBC. These people need to strongly believe in the potential of IBC Law.





Impact of Corona virus on global law firms

Introduction

Be it the 19th century or the 21st century, the requirement of physical interaction in the corporate or the legal world has never reduced. Even after the unparallel development in the tech systems of the world, lawyers and other professional prefer in-person meeting to discuss even the smallest detail of a transaction.

However, the time has come where the whole legal community needs to adopt new practice like work from home, e-conferencing and an agile working system programmed to protect itself from the problems created by crises, like that of COVID-19 pandemic.

Impact of Coronavirus on law firms

Amid COVID-19 pandemic, its time for law firms to adopt technology and move towards a virtual law firm. However, there are various barrier to have a developed system in such law firms. Some of them are:-

1. Security:- The advent of technology also invites threats to the security and privacy of data, many of which are confidential. Thus, it is highly advisable for law firms that they start reviewing their security systems to ensure the safety of data. Using software and tools with end-to-end encryption is one of the very basic things to keep in mind while switching over and moving towards a remote-working programme.

If the return filed or taxable income is Rs 5 lakh, then their tax liability will be nil because we will be giving a rebate of the total tax which is due on Rs 5 lakh of taxable income."

2. Accountability:- Law firms need to make sure that setting up a virtual law firm doesn't cost them a lack of accountability. For this, they must keep a proper track of employees’ work, which again brings up the requirement of some kind of software and tools

3. Miscellaneous issues

a. Lawyers who work from home need to make sure they have proper and ample internet data and a good network speed because almost every task needs to be synchronized with the servers of the firm. For this, the employees can check their bandwidth network and speed online with online internet speed testing software like Ookla.

b. Proper home office setup is also required for lawyers to be able to work properly at home, as they may be required to do video-conferencing meetings from time to time.

There are many other issues which haven’t been discussed yet and need proper study so as to clear the ambiguity present in the legal system. Some of these issues which are faced by companies and law firms are based on the following questions:-

1) Giving more validity to Electronic Digital Signatures:-Since people across the world have begun to adopt the practice of work from home, there needs to be more recognition given to e-signatures, for instance, giving them cross-border validity so that people or organisations from two different countries don’t face problems in entering Into transaction amid the quarantine laws and lockdown imposed in their countries.

2) Issues in the Insurance Sector: - The losses faced by companies during this time are often covered by some of the other insurance policies. However, disputes may arise regarding the applicability and relevancy of such risk and losses covering insurance policy.

3) Uncertainty of the legal implications: - Even if we discuss and plan out many strategies and analyse its effect on the law firms, we need to understand the fact that the impact of COVID-19 is uncertain. No plan is tried and tested. There are critical questions which law firms are finding answers to, like for instance, how long will it take for them to get back at their earlier pace? When will the courts and the judicial system be back on the tracks?

Thus, to have a successful virtual law firm, there are a lot of software applications and tools available. Firms need to assess their needs and determine which technology to invest in. Bottom line is that the end result would be efficiency and effectiveness in the working of the law firm.

Impact on Litigation Area

It is the most affected area of legal practice during this time. For a hearing to take place, the witnesses, judges, lawyers and court staff are required to be physically present. Hearings tend to be postponed because of unavailability of one or more such people. This impedes the working of the court and also the work of firms to work for their clients. Due to the global outbreak of novel coronavirus, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to postpone the hearing until further notice, and hearing on urgent matters will be done in Court. Many other jurisdictions including that of India’s have decided to close the courts until and further notice.

Effect of Corona on the Recruitment Prospectus

When we talk about the financial difficulties faced by global law firms and various other impacts of this pandemic, we should also need to look upon how the lawyers, paralegals and any other legal professional are affected due to the chaos occurring within the firm. Although law firms are currently coy about their plan of action with regards to any hiring freeze, it can easily be predicted that the sooner or later, law firms will start considering pay cuts of partners and even associates. The most vulnerable are the underperforming attorneys and the lawyers who are close to their retirement age.

Impact on Law Students

But due to the devastating impact caused by the spread of the novel virus, everyone has been quarantined in their homes. It has also resulted in a sudden increase in the usage of technology in an attempt to bridge the gap. The work-from-home programme has gained popularity across the world. Even universities have started to provide online lectures to their students. Online Platforms and even Law firms are providing opportunities to law students at this point so that their education is not affected because of the nationwide shutdown. However, there are many law students confused about how they can make the most of this lockdown and what are the strategies they may implement, in order to develop their skills and gain knowledge while being quarantined at home. Law students are suggested to use this time effectively and efficiently. This can be done in many ways. Some of it could be to do remote internships, writing research papers, improving your networking via LinkedIn, etc.

Conclusion

In the end, you must remember not to sit idle. It is a time which if used effectively and in the best possible manner, will boost your legal career to a whole new level. Maintaining a decent work-personal life balance is something which becomes difficult for those who enter the world of the legal profession. They don’t get to spend time with their families and live a relaxed lifestyle. This is an opportunity you should also use to spend time with your family, and focus on your lifestyle too. Also, don’t be afraid to start something new, or explore a new opportunity. In the end, remember one thing: “Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still”- Chinese Proverb

blog-post blog-post
FEBRUARY26-27

Posted In: VAPL News

VAPL News

We have successfully attended 43rd India Japan Business Cooperation Committee Meeting held on 26th -27th February, 2019 at Pacifico Yokohama, convention and exhibition center in Japan. Where we jumped to fruitful meetings. The entire business trip was good exposure to Japanese business culture. The opportunity would have not been possible without FICCI. It organised an event for Japanese delegation in AMA center, Ahmedabad where we got chance to interact with Japan International Cooperation Agency.

blog-post
FEBRUARY26-27

Posted In: VAPL News

VAPL News

Self-Development is a never ending process. It is an ongoing activity and a lack of focus on personal development activities makes people stagnate in their life. Considering development of our team we have organized an interactive soft skill training workshop “Talk right - elements of effective communication” - This is belief of our MD Mr. Joshi and at our office we do such activities at regular interval.

Source: First Post April 1,2019

Sales of renewable energy certificates decline over 22% to 1.25 crore units this fiscal

Sales of renewable energy certificates declined over 22 percent to 1.25 crore units this fiscal on ndian Energy Exchange (IEX) and Power Exchange of India (PXIL) as compared to 1.61 crore in 2017-18, mainly due to lower inventory (supply), according to official data.

The trading of renewable energy certificates (RECs) is conducted on the last Wednesday of every month. Under the renewable purchase obligation (RPO), bulk purchasers like discoms, open access consumers and capacitive users are required to buy certain proportion of renewable energy or RECs.

They can buy RECs from renewable energy producers to meet the RPO norms. The proportion of renewable energy for utilities are fixed by the central and state electricity regulatory commissions. ,An official said that the IEX saw a total trade of 9.34 lakh in March compared to 20.79 lakh in the same month last year.

Source: First Post April 1,2019

India levies anti-dumping duty on solar cell component from four nations

India has imposed an anti-dumping duty of up to $1,559 per tonne on imports of a certain type of sheet used in solar cell making from China, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Thailand for five years to safeguard domestic players against cheap shipments.

In a notification, the Department of Revenue has said that after considering the recommendations of the commerce ministry's investigation arm DGTR, it is imposing the duty, which is in the range of $537 to $1,559 per tonne, on imports of "Ethylene Vinyl Acetate sheet for solar module" being exported by these four nations.

"The anti-dumping duty imposed shall be effective for a period of five years (unless revoked, superseded or amended earlier)," it has said.

it had concluded that imposition of the duty is required to offset dumping and injury caused by dumped imports from China, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, and Thailand.

The product is a polymer-based component used in the manufacturing of solar PV (Photo Voltaic) modules.

Imports of components used in solar industry have increased as India launched an ambitious national solar policy named Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission in January 2010.

Under this, the country has a target of generating 20,000 megawatt (MW) of solar power by 2022. Several countries are interested in supplying solar equipment to tap into the growing sector in India.

Countries carry out anti-dumping probes to determine whether their domestic industries have been hurt because of a surge in cheap imports.

As a counter measure, they impose duties under the multilateral regime of WTO.

The duty is aimed at ensuring fair trading practices and creating a level-playing field for domestic producers with regard to foreign producers and exporters.

Source: First Post April 1,2019

From GST on under-construction flats to income tax rebate, key changes kick in today; all you need to know

New norms related to income tax and Goods and Service Tax (GST) will come into effect from Monday.

As announced in the interim budget by former finance minister Piyush Goyal, the income tax department will give a 'straight rebate' of Rs 12,500 to people having an annual income of Rs 5 lakh from the beginning of the financial year 2019-20 beginning, i.e. 1 April.

Income tax

For people earning more than Rs 5 lakh annually, the 'old' tax rates will continue. However, people having taxable income of Rs 6.5 lakh per annum too can avail 'tax rebate' provided they invest Rs 1.5 lakh in specified investments such as PPF, General Provident Fund (GPF) and insurances.

If the return filed or taxable income is Rs 5 lakh, then their tax liability will be nil because we will be giving a rebate of the total tax which is due on Rs 5 lakh of taxable income."

About three crore taxpayers would be benefitted from this enhanced standard deduction and revenue forgone for this would be about Rs 4,700 crore, the CBDT Chairman had said.

GST slashes rates for realty

To boost demand in the real estate sector, the GST Council slashed tax rates for under-construction flats to 5 percent and affordable homes to 1 percent, effective 1 April.

Earlier, the GST was levied at 12 percent with an input tax credit (ITC) on payments made for under-construction property or ready-to-move-in flats where completion certificate is not issued at the time of sale.

The council had also expanded the definition of affordable housing for the purpose of availing GST benefits to those flats costing up to Rs 45 lakh and measuring 60 sq metre carpet area in metros (Delhi-NCR, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai-MMR and Kolkata) and 90 sq metre carpet area in non-metros.

TDS threshold

Effective 1 April, tax deducted at source (TDS) limit on rent income has been increased to Rs 2.4 lakh from the earlier Rs 1.80 lakh. The TDS threshold on interest from bank and post office deposits would be raised from Rs 10,000 to Rs 40,000. The government also exempted tax on notional rent for unsold units for two years.